--The Strange Death of Samuel H. Smith, Brother of Joseph Smith and Heir Apparent to the Assassination-Emptied Mormon Throne--
In another thread, RfM poster offers the following theory about the suspicious death of Samuel Harrison Smith:
". . . [A]young 36-year-old Samuel [Smith] . . . [died] . . . while being simultaneously sick with another who stopped taking his prescribed medicine, but Sam didn't, and Sam died but the other didn't. Sam's daughter later claims that his father was poisoned.
"Does my theory seem to far out there, or has anyone else
("Brigham Young May Have Killed the Smiths," by "ontheDownLow," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 13 April, 2011)
In a earlier thread, RfM poster “Charley” also mentioned the puzzling death of Samuel Harrison Smith, younger sibling of Joseph Smith.
As with circumstances surrounding the agonizing and mysterious death of Brigham Young, allegations have been made over the years that Samuel, too, was the victim of deliberate poisoning deviously administered by those angling for power in the time period following the assassination of Joseph Smith.
“There's . . . the rumor that Brigham Young was behind the suspicious death of Samuel Smith who is also believed to have been poisoned. Instant Karma's gonna get you.”
(“Re: Hard to Swallow: Mormon Apologists Refuse to Consider That Brigham Young May Have Been Deliberately Poisoned In His Own Household . . .,” posted by “Charley,” on “Recovery from Mormonism” board, 20 June 2011, 9:39 p.m.; see also, "Hard to Swallow: Mormon Apologists Refuse to Consider That Brigham Young May Have Been Deliberately Poisoned In His Own Household," by Steve Benson, on "Recovery from Mormonism" board, 20 June 2011, 2:08 p.m.)
That rumor appears to be well-grounded.
Samuel Harrison Smith was an early baptized member of the Mormon Church, one of its original founders and one of the so-called "Eight Witnesses." He was also one of the Church's first missionaries and served on the Kirtland, Ohio, High Council.
That apparently wasn't enough to protect him, however.
Samauel died under mysterious circumstances on 30 July 1844, at the age of 36, barely a month after Joseph and Hyrum Smith were shot to death in the jailhouse siege at Carthage, Illinois.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Joseph Smith had chosen his brother Samuel to take on the leadership mantle for the Church if both he and Hyrum were killed. According to Joseph Smith's private secretary William Clayton, Joseph had "said that if he and Hyrum were taken away, Samuel H. Smith would be his successor."
After their deaths in Carthage, Samuel personally transported Joseph's body by wagon--lain in a plain pine box covered with prairie grass--back to Nauvoo.
Soon thereafter, he became violently ill and was himself dead in a matter of weeks.
(see: H. Michael Marquardt, “The Rise of Mormonism: 1816-1844” [Longwood, Florida: Xulon Press, 2005], p. 635; Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, “Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith” (Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1976], p. 21); and Ernest H. Taves, “Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon” [Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books,1984], p. 216)
--Cries of Foul Play from Members of Joseph Smith's Family--
Despite efforts by the Mormon Church to dismiss allegations that Samuel Harrison Smith was a victim of a murder plot at the hands of LDS Church leaders conspiring to succeed Joseph Smith, members of the Smith family vigorously contended that Samuel had been purposely killed in a power grab that took place in the aftermath of Joseph's assassination.
Five years after Samuel's death, published media accounts by the only Smith brother to survive the Nauvoo period, William, charged that Samuel had been deliberately poisoned:
"In the October 1849 issue of his newspaper, the 'Melchisedek & Aaronic Herald,' William Smith publishe[d] a list of Mormon martyrs, including Samuel H. [Smith], 'who died from the effects of poison administered to him. He died within one month after the martyrdom of his brother.'"
("Martyrs of the Latter Day Saints," in 'Melchisedek & Aaronic Herald' [Covington, Kentucky] 1, no. 7, October 1849)
A few years later, in a letter to the “New York Tribune,” William Smith provided further details on the suspicious death of his brother, Samuel, pointing a direct finger at Brigham Young and Willard Richards, accusing them of orchestrating Samuel's murder:
"I have good reason for believing that my brother Samuel H. Smith, died of poison at Nauvoo, administered by order of Brigham Young and Willard Richards, only a few weeks subsequent to the unlawful murder of my other brothers, Joseph and Hiram Smith, while incarcerated in Carthage jail.
"Several other persons who were presumed to stand between Brigham Young and the accomplishment of his ambitions and wicked designs, mysteriously disappeared from Nauvoo about the same time, and have never been heard from since."
(William Smith, "Mormonism," letter to the “New York Tribune,” 28 May 1857)
In private correspondence in 1892, William Smith further asserted that Willard Richards asked Hosea Stout (who happened to be Samuel's caretaker) to kill Samuel in order to prevent Samuel from taking office as Mormon Church president before the Quorum of the Twelve (which happened to be led by Brigham Young) could convene to handpick a successor.
(William Smith, letter to "Bro. [ . . . ] Kelley,” 1 June 1892)
Samuel H. Smith's own daughter, Mary B. Smith, expressed her belief that her father and her uncle Arthur Milliken were simultaneously poisoned through the administration of a powdery toxin purported to be medicine--noting, as well, that the same doctors attended both men.
According to Mary, Milliken stopped taking the fatal substance but Samuel continued to the last dose, which "he spit out and said he was poisoned. But it was too late--he died."
(Mary B. Smith Norman, letter to Ina Coolbrith, 27 March 1908; the above citations found in "Samuel H. Smith (1808-1844)," under “Death and Succession Crisis")
Moreover, Samuel H. Smith's wife, Levira Clark Smith, also concluded that her popular husband had, in reality, been murdered--and proceeded to name the murderer.
Writes author Richard Abanes:
"[In the wake of Josepsh Smith's death,] Samuel Smith . . . seemed a reasonable choice to many Saints [for the Church's next president]. In fact, he nearly took control of the Church before the Twelve had returned [to Nauvoo], much to the irritation of Willard Richards, who wanted no leader to be named until all the Apostles were present.
"Richards may have gone so far as to have Samuel murdered to prevent any succession. Samuel's wife believed this to be the case, naming as her husband's murderer the Chief of Police--Hosea Stout, a Danite widely known for having a violent streak and a cold-hearted disposition.
"Everyone knew he was more than capable of homicide. He had already been, and would continue to be, connected with several murders and assaults involving apostates and Church critics. . . .
"In the case of Samuel Smith, Stout had acted as Samuel's care-giver when he fell ill, and in that capacity had given Samuel 'white powder' medicine daily until his death. Samuel's wife, daughter, and brother . . . all believed the powder to be poison."
(Richard Abanes, "One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church" [New York, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002], p. 207)
--Brigham Young Denies Ordering the Murder of Samuel Smith--
Brigham Young hotly denied allegations that he had also been involved in the death of Samuel H. Smith, instead offering up a questionable alibi:
". . . William Smith has asserted that I was the cause of the death of his brother Samuel when brother Woodruff, who is here to day, knows that we were waiting at the depôt in Boston to take passage east at the very time when Joseph and Hyrum were killed.
"Brother Taylor was nearly killed at the time and Doctor Richards had his whiskers nearly singed off by the blaze from the guns. In a few weeks after, Samuel Smith died and I am blamed as the cause of his death.'"
(Brigham Young, "Journal of Discourses," vol. 5, July 1857, p.77)
--Dissecting Young's Shaky Denial--
Former “Recovery from Mormonism” poster "Perry Noid" raises serious questions about the truthfulness of Young's denial of involvement in the death of Samuel H. Smith:
" . . . I [am] struck at how weak [Young's] defense [is].
"He simply seem[s] to be relying on the 'Hey. I was out of town' alibi that Mafia types like to rely on after giving instructions to an agent who just happens to be 'in town.'
"It seems like he's counting on suckers not asking the next obvious question, i.e., '[S]ince [Young] and his pro-polygamy faction obviously were the prime beneficiaries of Sam[uel] Smith's untimely demise, doesn't it stand to reason that [Young] could have given instructions to a subordinate or have knowingly approved of the plan in advance?
"At the very least, isn't it possible that [Young] knew what happened after the fact and covered it up because it worked out so nicely for himself?'
"The pattern of denial by [Young] in this instance sure does feel similar to that used in the Mountain Meadows Massacre case.
"But it's also highly likely that [Young] literally got a 'taste of his own medicine' since his own death followed a prolonged episode of painful, violent vomiting and discomfort that may have been the result of a revenge poisoning."
"Perry Noid" offers additional intriguing and compelling information which makes it entirely possible to conclude that Samuel H. Smith could well have been seen as a dire threat to the interests of Young's conniving inner circle of power-mongering polygamists:
" . . . Samuel was probably the last best hope that the Smith clan had to maintain a dominant leadership position in the Church.
"If he had succeeded Hyrum to the office of Patriarch, that position could have been leveraged into a hereditary presidency that only Smiths were eligible to attain.
"Samuel probably wasn't capable of being a strong leader like Joseph, or even Hyrum, but the Smith clan was likely hoping that he would be able to hold things together long enough for Joe III to ascend to the throne.
"Samuel's claim, in addition to being supported by the fact that he was the eldest Smith male in line after Joe and Hyrum, was also supported by the fact that he was the third official convert to Mormonism, after Joe and Oliver.
"So, I believe that, first and foremost, he was a serious obstacle to the ambitions of the strong pro-polygamy faction that was coalescing behind Brigham.
"I don't know whether or not Samuel would have continued to go along with polygamy but my impression was that he was not an enthusiastic supporter and the remainder of the Smith clan would probably have intended to dump it all together, knowing that it would be a continuing source of trouble for their Church.
"One biography of Samuel indicates that he had no plural wives, but only married his second wife after his first wife had died."
“Perry Noid” further adds that Hosea Stout, former police chief of Nauvoo, may indeed have been the administrator of deadly toxins to Samuel Smith during a power struggle over the issue of polygamy:
“ . . . Samuel was possibly intentionally poisoned by an agent of Brigham Young in 1844. (Samuel was considered by many to be well ahead of Brigham Young in the contest for succession to Joseph Smith, but suddenly fell ill and died on July 30, 1844--barely a month after the deaths of his brothers, Joseph and Hyrum.) . . .
“[Historian D. Michael] Quinn argues that Willard Richards instructed Hosea Stout, a former Danite and police chief of Nauvoo, to poison Samuel Smith. He died not long after Joseph died. While most of the Church leaders were away from Nauvoo at the time, the Church leadership quickly split along the lines of polygamy. Those who favored the continued practice of polygamy and secret ordinances were partial to Brigham Young and wanted to wait until the Quorum of Twelve Apostles returned to Nauvoo before choosing a successor.
"Those who were opposed to the practice of polygamy and secret ordinances favored the leadership of William Marks. Sidney Rigdon quickly made a proposal to become guardian of the Church and Marks threw his support behind Rigdon. However, the day before the meeting to decide whether Rigdon should be appointed guardian, the Apostles returned to Nauvoo.” (Garn LeBaron, Jr., “'The Mormon Hierachy: Origins of Power'--A Review,” 1995, at: http://www.exmormon.org/hierarch.htm
("Thanks for the Re-post," by "Perry Noid," on"Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 5 June, year unknown; and "My understanding of the situation . . .," idem, RfM board, 5 June, year unknown, at http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon248.htm
--Further Reasons to Question Brigham Young's Attempts at Distancing Himself from the Dastardly Deed--
Noting the documentation amassed by historian D. Michael Quinn as well as others, avid student of Mormon history and former RfM poster "Deconstructor" asks, "Why would such an accusation be laid against Brigham Young?," then explains:
“This troubling piece of information came from a Church talk Brigham Young gave in 1857:
"'And William Smith has asserted that I was the cause of the death of his brother Samuel, when brother Woodruff, who is here to day, knows that we were waiting at the depôt in Boston to take passage east at the very time when Joseph and Hyrum were killed. Brother Taylor was nearly killed at the time, and Doctor Richards had his whiskers nearly singed off by the blaze from the guns. In a few weeks after, Samuel Smith died, and I am blamed as the cause of his death."
(Prophet Brigham Young, July 1857, 'Journal of Discourses,' vol. 5, p.c77)
“I checked Church history sources and found these clues about the death of Joseph Smith's brother [Samuel] in Navuoo, who died little over a month after Joseph was killed:
"'Samuel Harrison Smith, born in Tunbridge, Vt., March 13, 1808. Died July 30, 1844, broken-hearted and worn out with persecution. Aged 36. The righteous are removed from the evils to come.'
(“Times and Seasons,” Vol.5, No.24, p. 760)
"'Hyrum & Joseph w[ere] murdered in Carthage Jail in Hancock Co[,] Illinois. Samuel Smith died in Nauvoo, supposed to have been the subject of conspiricy by Brigham Young.' (“Joseph Smith Family Testimony, William Smith Notes,” circa 1875, in Vogel, “Early Mormon Documents,” p. 488)
"To understand the context, you have to remember that after Smith and Hyrum were killed, there was some conflict over who should be his successor.
"Brigham Young was not in Nauvoo when Smith was killed but started to head back as soon as he heard the news.
"Meanwhile in Nauvoo, several potential leaders were positioning to take the reins of leadership. The most popular replacement was Samuel Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith. William Clayton had recorded Joseph declaring his brother William his successor if both he and Hyrum were killed.
"But Brigham Young's first cousin and Church apostle, William Richards, insisted that nothing should be decided until Brigham Young could return to Nauvoo.
"However, many members did not want to wait, and more and more support was gathering behind Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith's brother, to become the next Prophet and leader of the Church.
"For a select few, this presented a problem because Samuel was violently against polygamy. It was looking like Samuel Smith would become the next prophet and promised to denounce the practice of plural marriage.
"Michael Quinn, from 'The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power,' explains what happened next:
"'Then Samuel Smith suddenly became violently ill and died on 30 July 1844. This added suspicion of murder to the escalating drama.
"'Council of Fifty member and physician John M. Bernhisel told William Smith that anti-Mormons had somehow poisoned his brother.
"'William learned from Samuel's widow that Hosea Stout, a Missouri Danite and senior officer of Nauvoo's police, had acted as his brother's nurse. Stout had given him "white powder" medicine daily until his death. Samuel became ill within days of the discussion of his succession right, and by 24 July was "very sick."
"'There had been enough talk about Samuel's succession claims that the newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, reported, "A son of Joe Smith [Sr.] it is said, had received the revelation that he was to be the successor of the prophet."
"'William Smith eventually concluded that Apostle Willard Richards asked [Hosea] Stout to murder (his brother) Samuel H. Smith.
"'The motive was to prevent Samuel from becoming Church president before Brigham Young and the full Quorum of Twelve arrived (in Nauvoo).
"William's suspicions about Stout are believable since Brigham Young allowed William Clayton to go with the pioneer company to Utah three years later only because Stout threatened to murder Clayton as soon as the apostles left.
"Clayton regarded Hosea Stout as capable of homicide and recorded no attempt by Young to dispute that assessment concerning the former Danite.
"One could dismiss William Smith's charge as a self-serving argument for his own succession claim, yet Samuel's daughter also believed her father was murdered.
"'My father was undoubtedly poisoned,' she wrote. 'Uncle Arthur Millikin was poisoned at the same time--the same doctors were treating my father and Uncle Arthur at the same time. Uncle Arthur discontinued the medicine-without letting them know that he was doing so. (Aunt Lucy [Smith Millikin] threw it in the fire).
"'Father continued taking it until the last dose [which] he spit out and said he was poisoned. But it was too late--he died.'
"Nauvoo's sexton recorded that Samuel Smith died of 'bilious fever,' [which was] the cause of death listed for two children but no other adults that summer.
"This troubling allegation should not be ignored but cannot be verified.
"Nevertheless, Clayton's diary confirms the efforts of Richards to avoid the appointment of a successor before his first cousin Brigham Young arrived.
"'Stout's diary also describes several occasions when Brigham Young and the apostles seriously discussed having Hosea "rid ourselves" of various Church members considered dangerous to the Church and the apostles. Stout referred to this as "cut him off--behind the ears--according to the law of God in such cases."
"'Stout's daily diary also makes no reference whatever to his threat to murder Clayton in 1847. When the Salt Lake "municipal high council" tried Hosea Stout for attempted murder, he protested that "it has been my duty to hunt out the rotten spots in the Kingdom." He added that he had "tried not to handle a man's case until it was right."
"'Evidence does not exist to prove if the prophet's brother was such a "case" Stout handled."'
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1994], pp.152-53)."
(“Did Brigham Young Murder Joseph Smith's Brother? (References),” posted by “Deconstructor,” on “Recovery from Mormonism” board, 6 April, year unknown, at: http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon248.htm
In support of William Smith's charge that Samuel H. Smith was rubbed out on the orders of Brigham Young in order to prevent him from becoming head of the LDS Church, historian Dan Vogel repeats testimony from members of Joseph Smith's own family:
"'Hyrum & Joseph w[ere] murdered Carthage Jail in Hancock Co[,] Illinois. Samuel Smith died in Nauvoo, supposed to have been the subject of conspiracy by Brigham Young.'"
(Dan Vogel, "Joseph Smith Family Testimony, William Smith Notes," circa 1875, in "Early Mormon Documents," p. 488; and "Was Joseph Smith's brother Samuel Murdered?," by "Deconstructor," at: http://www.i4m.com/think/leaders/brigham_murder.htm
--Mormon Supporters Claim Samuel Smith's Death Was Due to Accidental Injury or Fever--
Despite numerous indications fueling deep suspicions that Samuel H. Smith may have died of deliberate poisoning at the hands of an inner Mormon circle cabal, the LDS Church-owned and -published "Encyclopedia of Mormonism" makes the suggestion that he actually died from a conveniently unidentified horse-riding injury, supposedly sustained during Samuel's dramatic effort to save the lives of his brothers Joseph and Hyrum:
"Upon hearing of the dangers to his brothers at Carthage, Samuel attempted to ride to their aid, but arrived too late to intervene. He died within the month, apparently of an injury sustained in that ride."
(Sydney Smith Reynolds, "Smith Family," in "Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scriptures, Doctrine, and Procedure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," vol. 3 (New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992], p. 1360)
--Other Mormon Historians Don't Parrot the LDS Apologist Spin--
LDS historian Donna Hill mentions nothing about Samuel suffering a riding injury, claiming instead that in his gallop to Carthage to save his brothers, he was chased by a mob, arrived too late to rescue them, carried the murdered bodies of Joseph and Hyrum back to Nauvoo and, amid this ordeal, "[c] ontracted a fever and survived his brothers by only a few weeks."
Fellow LDS historians Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton agree with Hill's explanation of Samuel Smith's death, adding only that the mob that chased Samuel on his ride to Nauvoo had "mud-daubed faces."
(Donna Hill, “Joseph Smith, the First Mormon: The Definitive Story of a Complex and Charismatic Man and the People Who Knew Him” [Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977], p. 448; and Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, “The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints” [New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979], p. 82)
--The Assessment of Samuel Harrison Smith's Death from Non-Mormon Historical Circles--
Other professional observers--notably the non-Mormon variety--aren't as willing to shrug off Samuel H. Smith's death to a riding injury or a fever.
Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, in their book, “The Power and the Promise: Mormon America,“ note that Joseph Smith designated his brother Samuel to be his successor, adding that Samuel "would have succeeded [his assassinated brother] Hyrum as [Church] Patriarch and thus had a claim [to succeed Joseph as prophet], but died just weeks after Joseph and Hyrum, amid rumors he had been poisoned."
(Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, “The Power and the Promise: Mormon America” [San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999], p. 337)
--Conclusion: In Mormonism, the Living Prophets Are More Important Than the Dead Prophets--
Could it be that some of the dead prophets became dead at the hands of those who wanted to become the living prophets?
You might be inclined to drink to that.
Just don't swallow.
For the possible poisoning death of Brigham Young, see: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1051678
For the possible poisoning of Joseph Smith by Emma Smith, see: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1051674
Edited 10 time(s). Last edit at 10/14/2013 12:37PM by steve benson.