Joseph Brackenbury was a British immigrant who moved to New York City, then to northern Ohio upon hearing about the newly organized Church of Christ (later renamed the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Shortly after joining the church in 1831 he was called on a mission to the state of New York, when in early 1832, in the town of Pomfret, he died after three days of sickness. It was later discovered that he has been secretly poisoned by a mob wanting to test the faith of a Mormon. His death marks him as the first of many martyrs of the LDS church.


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 Goldsmith. In 1830 he moved to northern Ohio upon hearing about Joseph Smith and the recently organized Church of Christ (later The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) had moved to after its formal organization in Fayette, New York. 

The Brackenbury's were baptized in 1831 and soon thereafter, Joseph Brackenbury was ordained an Elder of the church and then a High Priest and called to serve a mission to New York in December of the same year with Edmund Durfee and later stopped by the Johnson home, locals in Pomfret. 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 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. It has been believed though not entirely confirmed that his companions tried blessing Brackenbury's body in an attempt to raise him from the dead, but failed. Sources of this apparent event are hazy as to its reality. 

A couple nights later Joel Johnson, of the same Johnson family where Brackenbury died (the home does not exist nor is the exact spot identified at this time) had a dream that Brackenbury's body was being disinterred. Moved strongly by this, he and brother David checked out the grave and found local doctors trying to dig out the body in what seemed to be a case of 'body kidnapping'. The Johnson's drove the men off, before capturing one of the men who was quickly released and acquitted of any crime. 

A number of newspaper articles reporting the murder of Brackenbury erroneously stated that he died in Pomfret, Vermont, when it was really New York

Joseph Branckenbury's body remains in Pomfret, but no photos can be found of it or any renderings of Brackenbury himself. 



"Brackenbury, Joseph Blanchett." The Church Historian's Press. Accessed September 10, 2015. http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/joseph-blanchett-brackenbury.

McBrayer, Carl. "Missionary Who Died While Serving." Findagrave.com. August 12, 2011.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/74814572.