Pratt Family Re-Union
Liberty Park
Friday, July 21st, 1933
5 to 8 o’clock p.m.

Basket Lunch at Six Sharp,
Bowery, East of the Band Stand.

Oscar Van Cott, President
Mrs. Mollie Wood Lambert, Vice-President
Mrs. Una Pratt Giles, Secretary-Treasurer


Apostle Orson Pratt

The important position occupied by Apostle Orson Pratt in the early history and development of Utah, is not generally known, and it is only fitting that on the occasion of the erection of the marker for the Salt Lake Base and Meridian that some recognition be made of the great and important work accomplished by this leading pioneer of the original company, who surveyed and established this Base line from which all local surveys have been made.


Pratt Family Re-Union
Liberty Park
July 21st, 1933 6:00 p.m. Sharp

Music by King Driggs Family and Victor White

Each of the following will, in a three minute talk, relate an interesting historic even in the life of the Pratt brothers;
Parker Pratt Robinson
William Parker Pratt
Archie B. Kesler
Mrs. Jean R. Driggs
Dr. John Z. Brown
Oscar Van Cott

All descendants are cordially invited to bring their basket picnic and enjoy this family re-union.

Punch Will Be Served by the Committee.


Orson Pratt
Pioneer of the Utah Pioneers

Written especially for this occasion by B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy

Elder Orson Pratt, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Latter-day Saint Church, worthily deserves this title, for to him fell the honor of being in the lead of the Pioneer Company from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley.  He was perhaps the only scientific man among the original 124 Pioneers of the 1847 Company, a circumstance which gave him the prestige generally a little in advance of the whole company.

The year before three Apostles, viz. John Taylor, Orson Hyde and Parley P. Pratt had been sent on a mission as a delegation to regulate the affairs and set in order the British Mission; and this gave to Elder John Taylor an opportunity to visit Paris where he took occasion to purchase a set of scientific instruments for making astronomical observations by which longitude, latitude and altitude could be ascertained.  Also a set of surveying instruments.  Besides these the list included: two sextants, two barometers, two artificial horizons, one circular reflector, several thermometers and a telescope.  These instruments were of the finest quality made in Paris at that period.

Parley P. Pratt of this Apostolic Mission returned to Winter Quarters just on the eve of the departure of the Pioneers; in fact they were already encamped on the Elk Horn, some twenty or thirty miles west of Winter Quarters.  He reported that Elder John Taylor was but a day or two behind with these instruments.  Whereupon the departure of the Pioneer encampment was delayed until Elder Taylor could arrive and place the instruments in the possession of the Company.  They were given into the charge of Elder Orson Pratt, who thence onward, through the thousand-mile journey westward, made use of them from time to time in establishing the strategic points of scientific facts which could only be obtained through them.

This constituted Elder Orson Pratt, as already designated—the Pioneer of the Pioneers.  When the Pioneer Company which made the journey across the plains and through the mountains in an undivided encampment crossed Bear River, President Young was stricken with mountain fever and halted with the others who were stricken for recovery, the main part of the Company passed on, but at the end of the first day’s drive, sent two messengers back to learn of the condition of President Young.  This on the 13th of July.  It was decided by the Apostles in this encampment that Orson Pratt should form an advance company of twenty-three wagons with forty-two men and make his way through the mountains to Salt Lake Valley.  Seven days later his company arrived at the mouth of Emigration canyon; and here on the 21st of July, leaving his company to cut a roadway along Emigration Creek, he, with Erastus Snow, emerged into the valley of Great Salt Lake, passing to the left of Emigration Creek, to the Kane brakes on what is now called Mill Creek, whence Erastus Snow returned eastward to the mouth of Emigration canyon, while Orson Pratt went northward until he reached City Creek near the northeast corner of what is now Temple Square, and here in the solitude of the place he ruminated on the future possibilities of the city which might be built there through the coming years.

“I gazed on the surrounding scenery with peculiar feelings in my heart,” he said some years later.  “I felt as though it was the place for which we had so long sought.”

The following day the entire advance company of Orson Pratt debouched into the valley at Mill Creek and formed its first encampment in the valley.  On the 23rd this company joined by the second division of the Pioneer encampment, moved to the banks of City Creek, the present site of Salt lake City, and the day following—24th of July, 1847—President Brigham Young with others who had been delayed by sickness, arrived at the encampment on City Creek and the Mormon Pioneer journey had accomplished its triumphant objective, the settlement of the Latter-day Saints “in the midst of the Rocky Mountains,” on the east side of the Great Basin of the Western plateau region of the United States.

As “Pioneer of the Pioneers” Orson Pratt’s place was always in the van; and for the most of the journey even leading that van.  This from the very nature of the task required of him as being placed in charge and using the splendid set of scientific instruments carried in the camp.  Hence it will be found both in his own Journal and in the Journals of others of the Pioneers, that he was generally in advance of the company, and was consulted with reference to all the engineering problems that confronted the Pioneers in their westward journey.

It was Orson Pratt and his remarkable Journal which converted this Pioneer trek of Latter-day Saints into something very like a scientific expedition, which far exceeds in value the records of other companies that crossed the plains and mountains in those “Covered-Wagon” years of travel.  Not only did he take the longitude and latitude and altitude of prominent points in the journey, but also he made note of geological structure of the country, together with descriptions of the flora and fauna of it.  His Journal and the information of the route from the Missouri River to the Salt Lake Valley, which it discloses is not surpassed even by the published volumes of Fremont, all of which information was of highest value to the hundreds of caravans and thousands of the Latter-day Saints who in subsequent years followed over the same route.

At the time he was pioneering the way to the Salt Lake Valley, 1847, Orson Pratt was 36 years of age, in the very prime of his life.  He was capable of great physical endurance, intense and long application, tireless energy.  He gave absolute devotion to assigned duty.  Simple faith mingled with an absolute trust in God, marked the outlines of the character of this Pioneer of the Pioneers—this Apostle of Jesus Christ in the New Dispensation for the Gospel.

It should also be said that Elder Orson Pratt was the chief scholar and scientific man produced by the Church of the New Dispensation; and while self-taught he made such progress in his chosen profession of mathematics that he was recognized as making original contributions to science.  Two editions of the “A Key to the Universe,” is, for those of sufficient learning to comprehend it, a valuable treatise on the mysteries of the universe, just now occupying so much attention of the modern men of science.

B.H. Roberts


Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian and Astronomical Observatory
Salt Lake City, Utah
(Compiled from information supplied by Andrew Jensen, Assistant Church Historian)

The first company of Utah Pioneers, led by President Brigham Young, arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, July 24, 1847.

Four days later (July 28th) President Young designated the site for a Temple Block and it was decided that the city should be laid out perfectly square; north and south, east and west, ten acres in each block with streets eight rods wide. (Journal History, July 28, 1847.)

On Tuesday, August 3, 1847, Apostle Orson Pratt and Elder Henry G. Sherwood surveyed the base line beginning by establishing the north line of the Temple Square and commenced surveying the forty acre lot for the Temple grounds.  Professor Pratt reported the latitude of the north line of the Temple Block to be 40* 45’44”, Longitude 111* 26’34”.  Altitude 4300 feet. (J. H., Aug. 3, 1847)*

An observatory was erected in January, 1869, under the direction of George W. Dean, Esq. of the United States Coast Survey, inside the wall of the Temple Block and near the southeast corner from which to make astronomical observations, other such stations having been established at specified points across the continent from Cambridge, Massachusetts to San Francisco, California.  The finest instruments known at that period, including a first-class astronomical clock and one of Bond’s chronographic registers, by which time could be recorded to the 100th part of a second, added to the electric telegraph, which had already been extended east and west of Salt Lake City to connecting points, were used by Mr. Dean and his associates.

The late William B. Dougall, one of the first telegraph operators of Salt Lake city, had the duty of making a meridian observation of the sun daily at noon in order to keep in correct time a chronometer in the office of President Brigham Young, which chronometer set the time for Salt Lake City for many years.  Speaking of the observatory, Mr. Dougall said:

“A few years ago, there stood within and near the east side of the Temple Block, a little adobe house which was the Observatory, erected in 1869 by President Brigham Young.  It contained the stone base of the Salt Lake Meridian.  The first observation was taken September 30, 1869.  The building continued in use for the regulation of local time until December 30, 1897.

The longitude of Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs and other places on the Union Pacific Railroad was taken from this observatory in 1872 and 1873.  The Salt Lake Meridian is the base of all the government surveys in the State.  In 1847, Prof. Orson Pratt, one of the original Utah Pioneers, took measurements of latitude and longitude all the way west over the plains in the memorable journey to Utah.” (Utah, the Tourists’ Guide, published by the Bureau of Information, Temple Block.)

*This spot, Orson Pratt’s point of Meridian base, was used as the initial point for the survey of Salt Lake Valley by Gen. David H. Burr, the first Surveyor-General for Utah in August, 1855, at which time he had a stone cut to place on the spot for a monument. (Letter Record Utah, No. 1 p. 6 at U.S. Land Office Federal Building, Salt Lake City, Utah.)


The Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association

The Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, joint sponsors with the Mutual Improvement Associations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the “Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian” marker, was organized September 2, 1930.  Its purpose, as expressed in the Constitution, include charting and marking the historic trails of the Indians and white pathfinders, the Pioneers and the Military forces; affiliating with the Oregon Trail Memorial Association and allied organizations in other states in the charting and marking of trails and landmarks outside the state that link with the development of Utah; preserving the historic landmarks and buildings of historical significance and securing of historical sites for preservation and development; assisting the Utah State Historical Society and affiliated organizations in the preservation and publication of important historical documents and in the preservation and educational use of relics of historical significance; reinforcing the schools in their efforts to organize, vitalize and enrich their teaching of the history of the West; encouraging artists, sculptors, authors, musicians, architects and others of artistic skill in the expression in truthful and beautiful forms of Utah’s epic story; enriching the libraries of the states with books and other publications that promote a fair and accurate knowledge and appreciative understanding of the history of Utah; stimulating the various communities to carry through projects to mark and preserve historical sites and landmarks; to coordinate the work of various organizations to the end of accomplishing the worthy purposes of this organization and to bring about such needed legislation as will give assistance to all worthy purposes in keeping with the objectives of this association.

The cooperation of the Mutual Improvement Associations in conducting a sale of Oregon Trail Memorial coins, minted by the Government for this purpose, and the financial assistance of many friends of the movement made possible the carrying forward of the program.  Distribution of thousands of pieces of literature in cooperation with other organizations, a state-wide educational campaign carried on with the cooperation of the public schools, public meetings and appearances of officers of the association before luncheon, literary and church groups have created a new and wide-spread interest in the historical resources of Utah and the West.

The marker now being placed, commemorating the determination of the Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian, by Orson Pratt, is the tenth to be placed since the organization of the association.  Photographs and historical data, elsewhere in the brochure, indicate their location and the events they commemorate.

The year 1932 will see as many more erected.  These will be located in four states in cooperation with organizations having similar purposes to our own. Projects listed for this year include the placing of markers commemorating the following:

The “Mormon” Pioneer Trail.  The first of the permanent markers of the association on this historic highway.  To be placed at Henefer, Utah, July 16.

Historic Pioneer Camp at Brighton.  July 24, 1857, to be commemorated by Cottonwood Stake of L.D.S. Church, July 24.

The old “Mormon” Ferry near Casper, Wyoming, established by Brigham Young in 1847.

Marin’s Hollow, near Devil’s Gate in Wyoming, scene of tragedy in the trek of the “Mormon” handcart emigrants in 1856.

Rock Creek Hollow, also in Wyoming, where the Willie handcart emigrants were rescued from certain death, after many had made the great sacrifice.

Little Sandy, in Eden Valley, Wyoming, where the historic meeting of Brigham Young and Jim Bridger occurred, June 28, 1847.

(These four markers in Wyoming are to be placed in cooperation with the Wyoming Historical Landmarks Commission, the Natrona County Historical Society and citizens of Casper and other cities in Wyoming).

The Pony Express in Mountain Dell Fork of Parley’s Canyon on the old “Mormon” Pioneer Trail near Little Mountain.

The coming of the Pioneer Catholic Sisters to Utah and the establishment by them of one of the first hospitals in the State.  To be placed on the grounds of the Holy Cross Hospital.

Pipe Springs, Arizona, one of the firs and most prominent Pioneer forts in the Southern country.  To be placed in cooperation with a special committee which made possible the preservation of this historic site as a National Monument.

Mountain Meadows, in Southern Utah, scene of the killing of a company of California-bound emigrants by Indians and whites in 1855.

Eagle Rock Crossing of the Snake River, at Idaho Falls, where the first wagon bridge and the first railroad bridge were built over the Snake River, the wagon bridge in 1865-66 and the railroad bridge in 1879.  To be placed in cooperation with the Teton Peaks Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Other markers, details of which are not yet complete, will be placed during the year.

[transribed from original and proofread by David Grow, Dec. 2006]

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