Smith homestead

Plaques mark early home of Prophet’s ancestors

TOPSFIELD, Mass. — Five generations of the progenitors of the Prophet Joseph Smith in this New England town now have two markers honoring their legacy, thanks to a partnership between the Topsfield Historical Society, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and the local Exeter New Hampshire Stake.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, himself a Smith descendant through the Prophet's brother, Hyrum, dedicated a monument Oct. 15 at 22 Boardman Lane, site of the Smith family homestead. Earlier in the day, Bishop Rob Fitzgerald of the Georgetown Ward dedicated a marker at the Congregational Church in Topsfield, where the five generations of Smiths had worshiped.

In remarks, Elder Ballard expressed appreciation to the historical society, the foundation and the Friends of the Congregational Church for jointly working together to bring about a significant remembrance of the Smith Family.

Norm Isler, president of the historical society, said his interest in the Smith sites was piqued some years ago when Latter-day Saint visitors to Topsfield would stop by the society inquiring about the location of the homestead. That prompted him to examine the society's historical records. "A rich history of generations of Smiths living there was disclosed," he said, "starting with Robert (1666-93), who emigrated from England in 1683, and ending with Joseph's father, Joseph I (1771-1840)."

Mr. Isler contacted the Church, offering to facilitate the placement of a marker by making arrangements with the landowner and the various town boards. "But nothing came of it until this year," he said.

Karen Bateman, a Church member from Idaho Falls, Idaho, contacted the society to request ancestral information. Learning of Mr. Isler's interest in placing a marker, she put him in touch with Fred E. Woods, BYU professor of Church history and executive director of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.

Landowners Brian and Kathy Rossano were enthusiastic about the placement of a marker, Mr. Isler said. Support and approvals were obtained from the town's Historic Commission, Congregational Church directors, the Park and Cemetery Department, and other bodies. With local contractors and suppliers donating services and products, the stage was set for placement of the markers. Elder Ballard dedicated the monument on the Rossano property, which sits in a significant position at the entrance of the driveway into their home and farm. With great interest, Mr. Rossanno showed family members the original well used by Asael Smith and his son Joseph Smith Sr.

The night before the dedications, a gathering was held in the Coolidge Hall of the Topsfield Fairgrounds, where the New England Latter-day Saints Choir performed and Joseph Fielding McConkie, BYU professor, spoke on "The Early Smiths of Topsfield." Brother McConkie, the son of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve, is a grandson of President Joseph Fielding Smith, who in turn was a grandson of Hyrum Smith.

"In honoring the Smiths, it seems to me that we honor the common man," Brother McConkie remarked. Then he added, "Yet somehow, by a divine covenant that we will understand only in a future world, we are bound to them and them to us. They, and the many that they represent in their 'commonness,' moved the rocks and first plowed the ground. They planted the seeds of liberty that we might feast on its fruits, and taught us how to protect the same with fences built of honor and virtue."