Question: In 1832, while Joseph Brackenbury was serving a mission in New York, why did he suddenly became ill?
Answer: Joseph Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1788 and immigrated to the United States in 1818 to New York City where he met and married Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith, a widow, with whom he had six children.
In 1830 upon hearing about Joseph Smith and the recently organized Church of Christ (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Joseph moved with his wife and children to northern Ohio. The Church had moved to Ohio after its formal organization in Fayette, New York.
The Brackenbury’s were baptized in 1831 by John Corrill and Solomon Hancock. Soon thereafter, Joseph Brackenbury was ordained an Elder of the church and then a High Priest by Oliver Cowdery. He was then called to serve a mission to New York in December of the same year with Edmund Durfee.
In the beginning of April of 1832, while proselyting in the town of Pomfret, New York, Brackenbury suddenly became very ill and after suffering for three days, died on the 7th of January. It was at first believed he died of bilious colic until his missionary companions discovered a mob of a few men, upon hearing of the missionaries talk about faith and miracles, wanted to “test” the faith of these men and had secretly slipped poison into his food. When hearing that Brackenbury died, the mob paraded around that they “proved” that the Mormons really had no faith and could not perform miracles.
Joseph Brackenbury was the first Missionary in the Church to die as a martyr while serving a mission.
Joseph’s wife, Elizabeth Davis, was born In New York on March 11, 1791. She married Gilbert Goldsmith on April 13, 1811. He was a sailor. Together they had twin sons, Gilbert Davis and Issac (died as a baby). Her husband died when his boat capsized in New York harbor on December 24, 1811.
Elizabeth married Joseph Brackenbury in 1818 in New York. After Joseph died, Elizabeth and her children moved to Missouri in 1832, probably with Edmund Durfee. Tensions between Mormons and Missourians intensified in November 1833. Elizabeth and her children went to live with Joshua Lewis for protection. That evening Elizabeth and her sons hid in a corn field with Mrs. Lewis and her children for safety.
Elizabeth next married Jabez Durfee, in Clay, Missouri, March 3, 1834. This marriage ended in divorce. The family lived at a mill Jabez had built located three miles from Liberty on Shoal Creek in 1834. About 1835 they moved to Far West. The Saints were expelled from Far West in November 1838. Elizabeth’s son, John Brackenbury, remembered camping in mud during the trip as it snowed and rained. They arrived in Quincy, Illinois in late 1838, then moved to Nauvoo in 1839. Elizabeth received a patriarchal blessing on January 11, 1840 from Joseph Smith, Sr at her home. Elizabeth’s son, John, and Joseph Smith III were friends.
Elizabeth was reportedly with Emma when the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum arrived at Nauvoo. They were taken to the Mansion House, where Elizabeth’s son, Gilbert Goldsmith (from her first marriage), was doorkeeper while the bodies were prepared for burial.
Elizabeth married Cornelius Peter Lott on January 21, 1846, officiated by Brigham Young. Lott was a member of the Council of Fifty. Elizabeth and her husband, and some of her children started west with the Saints and arrived in Winter Quarters in 1846. Elizabeth’s son, John, said, “We stayed in Nauvoo until Brigham Young started for the West, and we went with him as far as the Missouri River…then we went back to Quincy.” Elizabeth then left Cornelius Lott at this time, as she made the decision not to go West with him in 1850. Elizabeth returned to Quincy where she later renewed her friendship with Emma Smith and her family.
Sometime before 1869, Elizabeth settled in White Cloud, Doniphan, Kansas. Here Elizabeth was baptized into the RLDS church on 14 November 14, 1869. Elizabeth’s RLDS obituary gives the following: “At White Cloud, Kansas, December 16th, 1876, sister Elizabeth Brackenbury, aged 85 years, 9 months and 5 days died.”
Source: Biography of Joseph Brackenbury, FamilySearch.org; Joseph Smith Papers, Biography of Elizabeth Davis.