45 years ago today - 45 years ago - Oct 8, 1974-Tuesday

[Leonard Arrington]
[Ninety-three-year-old] J. Winter Smith ... said that it is family tradition and lore that when the Smith family were going to Far West [Missouri] in 1837, they came across a massacre in which a family of white emigrants were massacred by a group of Indians. All persons had been killed, or they thought had been killed. Then one of the Smiths-he thought perhaps [Joseph's brother] William Smithheard a groaning in a bush nearby. It turned out to be a girl of perhaps ten years of age who had somehow miraculously survived the Indian attack. She was taken in by Mother Smith, presumably Lucy Mack Smith. She had been hit on the head with a tomahawk two or three times which impaired her memory, her speech, and her rationality. Mother Smith nursed her back to health. Because she was backward, not bright, and did not look presentable, she was kept in the background.

She had a crucifix around her neck when they found her. Joseph Smith and family simply called her the "Madonna." They never found out her name, and she was not able to tell them her name. At any rate, the Smiths raised her.

When she was older, according to family tradition, she was married as a plural wife to Joseph Smith and she gave birth to a child by Joseph Smith before his death.

After Joseph Smith's assassination, there were terrible times in Nauvoo and Hancock County [Illinois] as Mormons were burned out, killed and otherwise cruelly treated. During this period a mob killed the Madonna, beheaded her, and set her head on a fencepost as a warning to other Mormons. Her child was adopted by Mormons and was later taken to Utah. Some friendly person, out of regard for her, took her mother's head from the fencepost-the flesh had long since disappeared apparently-and gave her the skull. She kept the skull as a secret and sacred remembrance.

This girl, according to family tradition, later married one of the Youngs, so that her husband was a Young and her father was Joseph Smith. One of her children by one of the Young boys was Mary, who married a Jensen. She must have been a midwife or M.D. because she was always called Dr. Mary. She died approximately nine years ago.

J. Winter Smith was very friendly with her over many years. He says that her father-in-law, he thinks, a retired Army colonel, who is now in his 90s, has a little mysterious trunk in which a lot of letters and relics have been placed (or perhaps he was the husband of Dr. Mary and after her death inherited the trunk which was Mary's). At any rate, in his possession is a mysterious trunk in which this skeleton of her mother is placed. J. Winter says he has seen the skeleton. It was shown to him by Dr. Mary. The small head suggests that her mother was young when killed. (If she were ten in 1837 that would make her eighteen in 1845 or nineteen in 1846.) There are also supposed to be letters and diaries in that little trunk. J. Winter says if he outlives the old man, who is 98, he is to get the trunk with all of the things in it. These contain many Smith things apparently. If J. Winter does not get these, we don't know where they will go. The old colonel is apparently strongly anti-Mormon according to J. Winter. Two lady missionaries happened onto his home tracting, and when he found out they were Mormon missionaries he went to the house to get his gun and yelled threats to them. They ran off screaming. J. Winter says that he has letters to his father, Samuel H. B. Smith from Jesse N. Smith, from John L. Smith, George A. Smith, and Joseph Smith III. He said he would try to hunt for these and make these available to us. I strongly urged him to do so.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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