Facebook Twitter

Picturing history: West Lebanon, New Hampshire

SHARE Picturing history: West Lebanon, New Hampshire

In 1811, the Joseph Smith Sr. family moved to Lebanon, now West Lebanon, New Hampshire. The Smith family stayed there for about two years. Young Joseph Jr. was about 6 or 7 years old.

The Smiths' rented home was close to the Mascoma River near the present-day intersection of Main and Benning Streets. The site is just east of the Connecticut River, which separates New Hampshire from the state of Vermont.

In 1812-1813, while the Smiths were living in West Lebanon, many people in the Connecticut River Valley were taken ill, and a significant number of those died of typhus fever. Most in the Smith family were taken ill as well.

Young Joseph suffered a number of puzzling and painful symptoms which subsequently morphed into an illness known as hematogenous osteomyelitis, a serious infection of the bone in his leg. Five miles away was Dr. Nathan Smith, founder of the Dartmouth Medical School at Hanover, New Hampshire. The doctor was a recognized specialist, decades ahead of his time with regard to this particular ailment. He was able to save Joseph’s leg, which otherwise would have required amputation. That notwithstanding, young Joseph suffered greatly, required some three years to heal and walked with a limp the rest of his life.

The rented home where the surgery and recovery took place no longer stands. The site is now occupied by a fast-food business.