The earliest newspaper clipping in our collection dealing directly with Church History, is taken from “The Wayne Sentinel”, September 29, 1824.
Alvin Smith (1798-1823) was the oldest brother of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. During his youth, Alvin worked as a carpenter’s helper to assist the Smith family in saving sufficient funds to make a down payment on a farm in Manchester Township, south of Palmyra, New York. He also helped his father in clearing timber, planting wheat and tapping maple trees for making syrup. In 1823, Alvin took the lead in building the family’s new home and worked hard to help get the family out of debt.
But on November 19, 1823, at age 25, Alvin died of mercury poisoning from calomel, which had been administered to cure a case of bilious colic. His death occurred just two months after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s first visit to the Hill Cumorah to meet the Angel Moroni. According to Lucy Mack Smith, as Alvin lay dying he called each member of his family to his bedside to give them counsel. To his brother Hyrum, Alvin said “I have done all I could to make our dear parents comfortable. I want you to go on and finish the house.” Alvin urged his brother Joseph to complete all the requirements to obtain the record of the Nephites.
The Smith family later heard a rumor that Alvin’s body had been exhumed and dissected. Fearing it to be true, Joseph Smith, Sr. uncovered the grave on September 25, 1824, and inspected his son’s corpse. Following the exhumation, Joseph Smith, Sr. prepared this notice which was published in “The Wayne Sentinel” a local newspaper, on September 29, 1824.
TO THE PUBLIC
Whereas reports have been industriously put in circulation, that my son Alvin had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected, which reports every person possessed of human sensibility must know, are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations–therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports, I, with some of my neighbors, this morning repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body which had not been disturbed.
This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who may have heard the report, and of informing those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested they would desist therefrom; and that it is believed by some, that they have been stimulated more by a desire to injure the reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends. JOSEPH SMITH Palmyra, Sept. 25, 1824.
For those over the generations who have said there is no evidence of persecution of the Prophet Joseph Smith or his family prior to the organization of the Church in 1830, this little 1824 newspaper notice from our collection begs to differ!