In 1811, the family of Joseph Smith Sr. moved from Royalton Township in Vermont to West Lebanon, N.H. While the Smiths resided there, thousands of people in the area were afflicted with typhus (typhoid) fever and many died. Most in the Smith family were affected, but none of them passed away during that period. However, young Joseph experienced excruciating pain in his leg due to an affliction known as osteomyelitis.

Dr. Nathan Smith, founder of the Dartmouth Medical School just five miles away, was the only doctor known to operate for osteomyelitis rather than amputate a limb affected as was young Joseph's. A painful surgery was performed in their home. It took Joseph years to heal. A fast-food restaurant is now situated where that home once stood.