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Poisoning was not uncommon in the 19th Century. The use of small doses of poison (particularly arsenic) to kill a victim, was well understood and utilized during the early 1800s. Indeed, the accusation that Joseph Smith used poison on his enemies is not a stretch when you understand that he acknowledged the use of this technique while writing the Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died” (Alma 47:18).

http://www.withoutend.org/early-mormons-mass-poisoning/