Joseph Smith family home and the Typhoid Fever Outbreak
What is believed to be his home in West Lebanon as it looked in the 1960s before it was torn down so that a gas station could be constructed.
1826 portrait of Dr. Nathan Smith
Painting depicting Joseph Smith Jr. being held by his father before the surgery.
Backstory and Context
There were many attempts to reduce the swelling, yet all failed and it was suggested by many caring for the family that the leg should be amputated. Fearing this, the Smith family sought another means to end the infection, but spare the leg. That alternative arrived by the name of Dr. Nathan Smith (no relation), a prominent physician from Dartmouth Medical College in Hanover, NH. Older brother Hyrum Smith attended the same college around this time, so it is believed he had developed a friendship with Dr. Smith, which led to his arrival and suggestion that he could perform a new, and at the time controversial, procedure of removing the infection portions of the bone and binding it, rather than taking the whole leg. The family agreed, and at age seven, Joseph Smith Jr. would go under the knife in his home. He was offered whiskey to numb him, but he refused, only asking that his father hold him, while his mother left the house as to not see the procedure nor hear his discomfort.
However, the bone had to be broken in order for the procedure to work and having screamed, she ran in, only to be removed. In the end the surgery was a success. It was then advised that Joseph Jr. was to go to a relative's house in Massachusetts along the shore to recuperate. The healing and rehabilitation took an unknown number of weeks and months, but he healed and met his family in their new home in Norwich, VT. The surgery caused Smith to use crutches for most of his childhood and left him with a pronounced limp, yet he lived to be strong and in robust health. Before his prayer in a grove in 1820 while in Palmyra, New York, where he had a vision of God and Jesus Christ and was called to restore the church of Christ onto the earth, this sickness and surgery was really the only defining moment in his life.