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The rich History of the Mix House and its owners

Since 1846 the Mix House has held a special place in Nauvoo.

The Mix House is a beautiful red-brick home with sweeping, iconic arches, that sits among lovely, quiet farms and fields on the historic Parley Street in Nauvoo, IL. The house has been locally known as “the Mix House” for generations, named after the builder and first owner, Phelps Mix.

Nauvoo Mix House
The Mix House and beatiful property as photographed December 2019.

The Land

The Land

The Mix House sits on a parcel of land that was originally purchased by Ethan Kimball of Vermont in 1838. It then passed to Daniel and Mary Ann Whitney in 1840.  From 1840 to 1846 the property had several owners including Heber C. and Vilate Kimball, John Downton and eventually Phelps and Ester Mix. 


The property that would eventually house the mix house has had many owners throughout the years including Ethan Kimball, Daniel and Mary Ann Whitney, Heber C. and Vilate Kimball, John Downton and eventually Phelps & Ester Mix.
Ruth Ann Mix, oldest child of Phelps & Ester
Picture of Ester Mix that hangs in the Mix House.
Early photo of Ester Mix.

Phelps & Ester Mix

Phelps & Ester Mix arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842 during the height of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) settlement of the area. A skilled carpenter and engineer, Phelps was immediately employed in the construction of the church’s original Nauvoo Temple.

After much hard work and saving money, Phelps & Ester were able to purchase a parcel of land on Parley Street, 10 acres to be exact, where the Mix House stands today. They were looking forward to building a house for their growing family — 1-year-old daughter Ruth Ann and newly arrived son Thomas.
Drawing of original Nauvoo Temple's and its three arches.
Early picture of the Mix House showcasing the three
arches that were inspired by the Nauvoo Temple.
In 1846 the Mixes constructed their new home on the land they owned. Both Phelps and his wife loved the tall arches that adorned the front of the newly-completed Nauvoo Temple and taking their inspiration from those arches they added their own to the front of their home. The couple built the home themselves. “She handed him the bricks, and he put them up,” one-time home owner Dr. Lillian M. Snyder recalled of the construction of the Mix House. “He said he didn’t want to leave Nauvoo. They were going to stay. So they did.”

Today, one of the remarkable features of the Mix House are the three beautiful arches on the front facade of the home.

Phelps Mix's Death

Along with the Gold Rush of 1849, tales of new communities needing housing followed. Phelps took advantage of this opportunity, and set out for California.

“He got on the train, went out there, and made a fortune because he was an excellent carpenter and built houses for people,” Lillian said. “He bought a farm out there. He did very well. He was out there two years and contracted yellow fever on the way home. Sadly, he had to be buried in the ocean.”

Ester found life hard as a widow.

“So here she was, a widow with two little kids, a little boy and a little girl, and her husband didn’t come home. She was trying to manage the two little kids, her chickens, and everything, and then she fell in love with a schoolteacher, Mr. Carey.”

The Land

The Mix House showing the westside addition added by Ester's new husband Mayor Melancton Carey.
Ester, Melancton & one of the daughters they shared.

Mix House Addition

In 1853 Esther married Melancton S. Carey, a school teacher from New York who had become the mayor of Nauvoo. When Melancton moved into the Mix House, he had a problem. Holding the office of mayor required him to live within city limits, and the Mix House was located just a few feet outside. To keep his position, Melancton had an additional bedroom added to the west side of the house, thus making it legitimately within city limits of Nauvoo.

In 1860 Melancton was elected sheriff of Hancock County, IL, and the family moved to Carthage where they resided in the notorious Carthage Jail, where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith had been martyred years before in 1844. Twenty-year-old Thomas Mix resided in Carthage for little more than a year before enlisting as a private with Company B, 118th Illinois Mounted Volunteer Infantry on the 7th of November, 1862.

Thomas Mix was the son of Phelps and Ester Mix.

He fought honorably with the regiment until he was killed in action on August 25th, 1864 at Redwood, Louisiana, during the Vicksburg campaign. His family had his remains transported back to Carthage in 1865 where a large funeral procession was held.

Mix House Falls on Hard times

The fine craftsmanship of the beautiful Mix House with its strong arches and columns has stood through the years – some years harder than others. One such year was when the property was nearly lost because owner could not pay her taxes. As the story goes, the woman — whom we do not know her name — had a husband who had died in the Civil War, leaving her without means. A kindly neighbor, H.G. Ferris, paid the tax bill of .90 cents for the portion of the house sitting in Nauvoo Township and the $1.98 tax for that portion of the house in Sonora Township. To this day, the property receives two tax bills, but the amount has increased just a bit over the years.

The Icarian Movement

In 1882 the property was purchased by Emil Baxter who came to Nauvoo as part of the Icarian Movement — a socialist, utopian society that existed in Nauvoo for a few years following the LDS exodus.

Emil was the patriarch of the famous Baxter Winery, just a two minute walk down Parley Street from the Mix House. (The winery is the oldest operating winery in Illinois.)
Emil Baxter establishes the oldest winery in Illinois.
Emil purchased the property for the land to plant his vineyard.

The Mix House remained in the Baxter family for several generations. Eventually Emil’s granddaughter Dr. Lillian M. Snyder — who is quoted earlier in this history — took over the property, putting her heart and soul into the restoration of the Mix House. She loving restored the house, and from 1990 till her passing in 2000, it was utilized as an Icarian Museum. Restoring the house was the crowning jewel of her life’s work, honoring her grandfather’s legacy.

The Nauvoo Mix House's Next Chapter

Mix House Restoration & Modernization

In 2011, Lon and Nancy Simpson acquired the Mix House and completed another major restoration of the home. Lon is a master woodworker who was able to bring much-needed restoration using his old-world carpentry skills. His skilled work and meticulous attention to detail has allowed the home to be modernized in ways that make it comfortable without taking away from the history and craftsmanship of the old, Pioneer era. Nancy also deserves credit for her loving touch that has made the Mix House truly a home. Her additions have made the property beautiful inside and out.

Nauvoo Mix House
The Mix House photographed in December 2019.

The Mix House's Next Chapter

Matthew and Heidi Russell are the current owners of the Mix House and are excited to write their own chapter of this historic home. Matt’s vision of owning a piece of Nauvoo, and Heidi’s attention to detail, make them the perfect caretakers of the Mix House. Both appreciate history and owning a piece of it has been a dream come true. Heidi has been lovingly adding period details to make the home a cozy haven for guests. Together, they are bringing new life to the home and the Nauvoo community. Both Matt and Heidi have never met a stranger, and guests not only feel at home at the Mix House, but like family. Learn more about Matt and Heidi.