It has long been held in the Church that joseph murdock, infant adopted son of Joseph and Emma Smith, was the first martyr of this dispensation. In March 1832, he developed pneumonia through exposure after the mob dragged the Prophet Joseph Smith out of the Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. However, one particular individual has been forgotten and overlooked through the years whose life was stopped short just a couple months before the tragic death of the infant Joseph Murdock.
Joseph Brackenbury was bom 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, the Brackenburys moved to join with the Saints in northern Ohio.
At the October 1831 Amherst, Ohio conference; Joseph Brackenbury stated that he “consecrated all to God before he was baptized, he was also determined to go on to the end of his life.” At the conference, Oliver Cowdery ordained him to the High Priesthood and then called for elders desiring to preach the gospel. That December Joseph left with Edmund Durfee on a mission to the East
While proselytizing in the town of Pomfret, New York Elder Brackenbury was taken seriously ill which was later ascertained to be a case of lethal poisoning administered by the local mob. Elder Brackenbury was confined to bed at the Joel Johnson home where he “remained in great distress, which he bore with [the] fortitude of a saint for one week and expired with an unshaken confidence in the fullness of the gospel which he had preached, and a firm hope of a glorious resurrection among the just.” Joseph Brackenbury died the 7th of January, 1832.
Later in the evening following the burial of Brackenbury, at “about half past eleven o’clock” Joel Johnson “dreamed that some persons were digging up Brother Brackenbury’s body, and was so exercised about it that he called up some of the brethren” to go with him to the grave. Upon their arrival the brethren “found a party of doctors at work, who had nearly cleared the grave of earth” and that they were planning to either dissect or otherwise mutilate the body. The men fled but young David Johnson (who was large for his age) “took after the largest one who was caught.” The culprit was “bound over in one thousand dollar bonds for his appearance at court, but was never tried.”
On the death of Elder Brackenbury, Benjamin F. Johnson wrote in his journal:
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Now it seemed as though Satan was permitted to try both our faith and our fortitude, for after a few weeks of the most powerful and successful preaching, in the midst of ridicule, scoffing and persecution. Elder Brackenbury was taken sick and within a few days died Our enemies now felt they had a great triumph; for where now were the gifts of the gospel when our strongest man could die, and my sister, though she had embraced the gospel, was yet upon her crutches? These things seemed at the time a great trial, yet in no decree did it dampen the faith of any, and while listening to the ravings of our enemies, the truth, with the love of it became the more deeply planted in my heart.