Jared Pratt Family Association Newsletter
1 February 2006
by Robert J. Grow
Dear Pratt Cousin,
I am writing on behalf of the Jared Pratt Family Association, one of the oldest family history organizations in the nation. Jared and his wife Charity raised five sons— Anson, William, Parley, Orson, and Nelson, born between 1801 and 1815. The first four sons joined the early Mormon Church, and the middle three crossed the plains to Utah. The Pratt brothers were brilliant, accomplished, and colorful. They helped blaze the western trails, settle the Intermountain West, lead the Latter-day Saints, and wrote highly influential theological and scientific pamphlets and books. Nineteenth-century Renaissance men, they were farmers, legislators, theologians, Apostles, missionaries, explorers, and scientists. They participated in some of the central events in Latter-day Saint Church, Utah, and western American history. Remember, Brigham Young was still languishing in the back of a buckboard somewhere up Emigration Canyon while Orson was planting the first crop in the Salt Lake Valley.
While Parley and Orson loomed largest on the stage, the other brothers—Anson, William, and Nelson—also led interesting, productive, and faithful lives. As the oldest son, Anson cared for his aging parents, and died from cholera in Missouri after nursing and then burying his mother. William, who was originally shocked that his brother Parley would leave a successful farm to seek after the gospel, later joined the Church himself and was serving a mission as Parley’s companion at the time of Joseph Smith’s death. Nelson, a farmer who settled in Ohio, never joined the Latter-day Saints nor came West, though he admired and kept in contact with his brothers. We can all be proud of these ancestors, and the stories of their lives can continue to be an influence for good among their descendants as we preserve and share them.
Interest in Pratt family history began with the five brothers. Both Orson and Parley researched their own ancestry and carefully kept personal family records. Orson participated in a major effort in the 1850s to identify and record nine generations of descendants of Lieutenant William Pratt, the first of the Pratt ancestors to migrate to America. An original settler of Connecticut, Lt. William arrived in America in the 1630s, just a few years after the Pilgrims. Before his death in 1881, Orson helped organize the Jared Pratt Family Association and gave his descendants a large, leather-bound book of remembrance. He charged the growing family as follows:
“This record is written, to be handed down to future generations, not only to preserve the genealogy of my forefathers, but to collect and register therein, from generation to generation, the dates of births, marriages, places of residence and deaths of all the descendants of my four brothers and myself. . . . It is to be hoped that all our posterity of whatever branch or name will be sufficiently interested to preserve their genealogy to the latest generation.”
Over the past 124 years, numerous members of the family have been “sufficiently interested” to hold reunions, keep records, and maintain and preserve the Pratt history and heritage. By the mid-1930s, the growth of the family outpaced their ability to keep a central record, and the large Pratt book of remembrance begun by Orson was given to the LDS Church Historian for safekeeping (and subsequently disappeared into the “dingy caverns” of the Church archives not to be rediscovered by the family for over half a century). In the intervening years, the Jared Pratt Family Association sponsored various initiatives to keep track of the rapidly expanding family.
Sixteen years ago, in 1989, under my direction, the effort to meet Orson’s charge was renewed by the Pratt family. New computer tools (though clumsy by today’s standards) once again made it possible to establish a central record of the Pratt descendants and ancestors. By the July 1991 reunion, thanks to the participation of many hundreds of Pratts, that central record contained nearly 6,000 ancestors of Jared and Charity Pratt, some 6,000 descendants of Lt. William Pratt (down to Orson’s day), and another 24,000 descendants of the five Pratt brothers.
During the past 16 years, wonderful family reunions have been held in Salt Lake City in 1991, in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1993, in Salt Lake City in 1998 (to dedicate a statue of Parley near the mouth of Parley’s Canyon), and again in Salt Lake City in 2001 (to dedicate the Orson Pratt Observatory at This is the Place Heritage Park).
Since the original effort from 1989 to 1991, the descendancy record of the Pratt brothers has continued to expand and now numbers some 29,000 (about a 20% increase), while the number of descendants has undoubtedly grown at a much faster pace. Once again, new computer tools, far more sophisticated than those used earlier—e-mail, the Internet, powerful personal computers, improved genealogical programs—are now available to the entire family to seek out the descendants of the five Pratt brothers as Orson requested on their behalf. (Although the older generation, like me, may not be well-versed in the use of such tools, a new generation of brilliant young Pratts is mastering them all.)
Once again, we put before the family Orson’s charge. We ask for your individual and collective help. We are proposing that a major family reunion be held in 2007, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Parley, the middle of the five sons. While we hope to celebrate Parley, we will also use the events to commemorate the lives of all of the brothers and the heritage they left us. We ask you to begin now to help expand the family book of remembrance. Another article in this newsletter contains instructions on how you can help identify your branch of the Pratt descendants.
We are also commencing a renewed effort to preserve not only the Pratt family history, but the Pratt family “in” history. We are seeking to identify and make available to the family crucial records, such as diaries, letters, and photographs of Jared and Charity, their fives sons, their wives, and their children and spouses. Articles on the next few pages explain these efforts and contain ways in which you can help make this happen. More details, as well as a variety of resources on the Pratts, can also be found on our family website, www.pratt-family.org.
For many of us, the concept of our ancestors is not founded on a set of distant memories, fading through generations over time. Rather, we know our ancestors are alive, concerned about us and our families, and have eternal responsibilities for their growing posterity. If you believe Orson’s charge was inspired, so should be your response to his request. Let’s all begin today; 2007 will be here before we know it. Come join us in this great effort!
Call for Histories
by Ben Parkinson, Webmaster
and Matt Grow, Historian
The family is collecting and creating histories of the descendants of Jared Pratt. While a number of histories have circulated in the different branches of the family, our goal is to gather all of them and post them on the family website, where all family members can access them free of charge. Each grandchild of Jared Pratt will have his or her own part of the website to store photographs, histories, and related documents.
We are currently gathering histories through the third generation. This means Jared, Charity, the five brothers, their wives, and all their children and their spouses. We want to include every extant journal, letter, and autobiography, as well as all histories penned by a descendant, whether short or long.
With this project we hope to learn not just the names and dates of our ancestors but their stories as well. To help us understand and appreciate our heritage, we need to see our Pratt ancestors as real people, with struggles and triumphs of their own.
If you can help, please fill out the enclosed form, or use the form on the website at www.pratt-family.org. For questions concerning the history project, please contact:
1340 37th St.
Ogden, UT 84403
(801) 240-5522 email@example.com
2122 Inglewood Place
South Bend, IN 46616
Pratt Family Reunion in 2007
by Robin Parkinson,
Chair, Reunion Committee
July 20-21, 2007
“This Is the Place” Heritage Park
Salt Lake City, Utah
It’s time again for a Pratt Family Reunion to celebrate the lives and contributions of all our Pratt ancestors! We’re hoping family members will volunteer to help plan and carry out some of the following activities being considered:
1. Dinner and one-man show about Parley (Friday evening).
2. General assembly and President’s address (Saturday).
3. Presentations on the origins of the Pratt family in England and New England (Friday evening or Saturday).
4. Historical presentations on the Pratt brothers, commemorating the bicentennial of Parley’s birth (Saturday).
5. Reports and displays on the Pratt photo project, the Pratt history project, and various other family-related projects (Saturday).
6. Look-alike contest —awards for the descendant who most closely resembles each of the five brothers or another family member through the third generation (Saturday).
7. Finding and photographing the grave of each Pratt family member
buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery, as well as recording the street address and GPS coordinates (Saturday)
8. Children’s activities, including family stories and a Pratt family flag (Saturday).
9. Others (what would you suggest?)
Family members will also be able to visit the historical sites and experience the fun activities offered at Heritage Park.
To give suggestions or to volunteer, please write directly to:
1340 – 37th St.
Ogden, UT 84403
Jared and Charity Pratt Descendancy Project
by Paul Debry, Vice President
for Descendancy Research
We are continuing our search for all of the descendants of Jared and Charity Pratt. Please help us by:
1. Tracing descendants of Jared and Charity that have not yet been identified.
If you have not previously submitted the records of your immediate family and/or your branch of the family to the Jared Pratt Family Association, you can send them by either e-mail or disk to Paul.
If you only have paper genealogy sheets, copy and mail them to Paul.
If you are unsure whether the family association has records for your branch of the family, please contact us.
2. If you have time to help trace other “lost” or “dead-end” lines, we would appreciate your help in doing the research. E-mail if you would be willing to help.
If you have questions or would like to contact Paul about the above matters, please use the following information:
2897 Cherokee Lane
Provo, UT 84604
firstname.lastname@example.org (note that there is a number 1 and not the letter L in “pau1d”)
The Letters of Parley P. Pratt
Family Historian Steve Pratt is compiling for publication the letters to or from Parley P. Pratt. The book will contain more than 400 letters, including many to or from Parley’s wives, his brothers, and early Church leaders. The goal is to preserve all of Parley’s surviving correspondence; if you know of any potential additional items, please contact Steve at email@example.com.
Parley’s letters are rich in insights about his personality, his family relationships, the history of early Mormonism, the settlement of the American West, and his deep spirituality. As an example, the following is an excerpt from a letter Parley wrote to John Taylor while on a mission to Canada in 1836. Writing about Joseph Smith’s account of his visions and revelations, Parley testified:
“Bid I must be content with conveying a few thoughts on paper– one of the most interesting meetings I ever attended was held in the Lord’s house Sunday before last. One week before word was publicly given that Br J Smith Jr. would give a relation of the coming forth of the records and also of the rise of the Church and of his experience. Accordingly a vast concourse assembled at an early hour. Every seat was crowded and 4 or 5 hundred people stood up in the aisles. Br S[mith] gave the history of these things relating many particulars of the manner of his first visions &c. The Spirit and power of God was upon him in bearing testimony insomuch that many if not most of the congregation were in tears—as for myself I can say that all the reasonings in uncertainty and all the conclusions drawn from the writings of others (who could only give a small sketch of what they saw and heard) however great in themselves dwindle into insignificance when compared with living testimony when your eyes see and your ears hear from the living oracles of God.”
Photo Project Update
by Ben Parkinson, Webmaster
For several years, the family has been gathering high-resolution scans of photos of all family members through the third generation. Many of you have allowed us to scan your photos, and we now have over 350 of family members, including William, Parley, Orson, Nelson, and many of their wives, children, and children’s spouses. We have provided copies to the LDS Church Archives, which will help preserve them, and in return they have contributed numerous photos of Pratt family members to our collection.
These photos are available on CD for all family members at low cost. Go to the Pratt family website (www.pratt-family.org) to see which photos are available. It will soon be necessary to move the collection to DVDs, as it now fills 13 CDs and is growing.
If you know of additional photos we should include, please fill out the enclosed form, or use the form on the website. For questions concerning the photo project, please contact Ben Parkinson (contact information above).
Kirtland Tour: Revisiting Parley’s Past
On behalf of the family, Ernest Robison recently traveled to Kirtland and visited the “Parley sites” with one of the foremost local experts on Parley’s life and history. These sites included where Parley was called on his missions, visited a community of Shakers, preached and baptized, resided, and experienced the famous “bulldog incident” (in which he escaped prison by outwitting a jailor and his ferocious dog). Ernest also visited the grave of Parley’s first wife, Thankful Halsey, ultimately ending his tour at the Kirtland temple. Thankful died while giving birth to their first child, Parley P. Pratt Jr. in 1837. The family is considering commemorating Thankful Halsey’s grave and perhaps other Pratt sites in the area.
Ernest is also considering organizing for the family a Pratt tour to Kirtland in April 2007 that would include a day and a half of touring the 12 or so Parley sites and an evening meeting at the Kirtland temple. If you are interested, please contact Ernest at firstname.lastname@example.org.