Kanesville, Iowa, was a settlement built in 1847 as the first group of Saints continued West to the Salt Lake Valley from Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Located just across the Missouri river from Winter Quarters, Kanesville was named in honor of Thomas L. Kane. The Saints continued to gather to Kanesville out of Nauvoo, Illinois, while Brigham Young led the first group of Saints to the Salt Lake Valley.
After the first group of Saints had managed to make it to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, Brigham Young returned to the Kanesville area with most of the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 31, 1847. After much discussion, the members of the Quorum were inspired to reorganize the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Brigham Young was set apart as the new president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Since the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, three years earlier, the Church had been successfully led by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostleswith no prophet at the head. They were able to accomplish a great deal by continuing to work together. They had completed the Nauvoo Temple before leaving Illinois, which meant that many Saints were able to receive their temple blessings before heading West. They had also led the evacuation of Nauvoo and had directed the building of the settlements in Iowa and Nebraska before finally settling in the Salt Lake Valley. Missionary work had successfully continued in Great Britain. However, the time had come for a prophet to again lead the Church, and when the Lord directed that the time was right, a new First Presidency was sustained with Brigham Young as the prophet and he called Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as his two counselors. More men were called to fill the vacancies left in the Quorum of the Twelve.
An official Church gathering was planned to have the members of the Church sustain their new leaders on December 27, 1847. A tabernacle was built in less than three weeks in Kanesville for this purpose. Henry W. Miller directed 200 men in the construction of the 60′ x 40′ building. It was built to accommodate about 1,000 people and was later used for many public functions. However, the sustaining of the new prophet was the most important event to take place there and was an extremely significant one in the history of the Mormon Church.
The original Kanesville Tabernacle stood for only two years. It was made of Green Cottonwood, which shrinks when it dries. The shrinking caused the roof to actually separate from the walls of the building by about fourteen inches. In addition, when the tabernacle was built, the ground was frozen. However, when spring came and the ground thawed, it was discovered that the tabernacle had been built on top of a spring. The building rapidly deteriorated and was eventually dismantled. A replica was built in 1996 very close to the original site (though not on top of the spring). Those in charge of the replication wanted the building to be as accurate as possible, so they even built it out of Green Cottonwood. Accounting for the shrinkage of the wood, they put in a jack system to lower the roof onto the walls after the wood had dried. The Kanesville Tabernacle stands as a reminder of the importance of recognizing the prophet and leader of the Lord’s church on the earth today.