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Nauvoo, Ill. • An archaeological dig is underway in a tiny western Illinois community for the possible location of a home built for the one-time patriarch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Searchers for the one-time dwelling of Joseph Smith Sr. and wife Lucy Mack — parents of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church — have uncovered what appears to be a structural support for the house that research indicates was a double log cabin, the Quincy Herald-Whig ( reported.

They've also found a small house key, along with thousands of bits of pottery, window glass, metal and buttons.

Those discoveries by volunteers over the past three years suggest that the site being sought is just south of the historic Joseph and Emma Smith Mansion House in 1,100-resident Nauvoo (nah-VOO') in Hancock County.

"This is a special spot," Bob Smith, a descendant, told the newspaper of the possible location of Joseph Smith Sr.'s home where archaeologists have unearthed a breezeway that Joseph Smith Jr. once linked with that of his father. "We found walkway all along here. You can see remnants."

"To discover, preserve and share. That's what we're about," Smith added of the search for the former digs of the elder Smith, who died in 1840. "Religion doesn't matter."

As part of the archaeological team headed by Paul DeBarthe, whose digging around Nauvoo dates to 1971, recent Utah State University graduate Michelle Murri called the work "a perfect opportunity to visit (Nauvoo) and get some professional experience."

"It's taught me a lot about the history of Nauvoo and my own family history, and it's also taught me a lot of skills that I can use in my further archaeology jobs," said Murri, of LeVerkin, Utah.

"Any time you can touch something, it just makes you more aware of history," added Synthia DeBarthe, another longtime volunteer. "It gets into your heart and your soul, and you never forget it."


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig,