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Nauvoo, originally called Commerce City, was founded in 1839 by leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Joseph Smith. Smith renamed the town Nauvoo, an ancient biblical word meaning "How beautiful upon the mountains." The Mormons had purchased the land, much of which was covered by swamps, after they were expelled from Missouri.
The city of Nauvoo thrived for several years before conflicts with surrounding towns and internal disagreements resulted in the revocation of the city’s charter. In 1845 and 1846, the Mormons were forced to abandon the city and follow the Mormon Trail to the west. By the end of 1846, the first groups of Mormons had arrived in Utah.