Harmel Pratt and Mary Elizabeth Culin

by Paul DeBry

Harmel is the son of Orson Pratt one of the original apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His mother was Sarah Marinda Bates. Both Orson and Sarah were born in the state of New York.

Harmel was born on the north side of the Platt River east of Fort Laramie. Sarah was on her way to be with the Saints in Salt Lake City when Harmel was born on the trail. The Mormon pioneers endured great hardship after being driven from their homes in New York, Ohio, Missouri and lastly Nauvoo, Illinois. One of the greatest hardships would have been for a woman to walk or even ride in a wagon for a thousand miles from their stopping place in Winter Quarters, Nebraska to Salt Lake City. Add to that being pregnant and then having a baby along the trail. The wagon train could not stop for a few days while she recovered some. She had to go on with the rest of them. It is surprising that Sarah and Harmel lived through it. The hot summer days on the dusty trail with hoards of ubiquitous mosquitoes at every water hole and all along the river would have made life uncomfortable for everyone, especially a weak nursing mother and a defenseless newborn baby.

Harmel grew up in Salt Lake City, or Great Salt Lake City as it was then named. His future wife, Mary Elizabeth Culin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Either as a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or for some other reason she moved to Utah where they were married. They were the same age, both born in 1851, only four years after the first Saints entered the barren Sale Lake valley in July 19 1841. They were separated in age by only 7 months. Mary, the older was born January 30th while Harmel was born August 21st along the side of the Platt River.

It is interesting to note that Harmel’s father, Orson Pratt along with Erastus Snow, were the first of the pioneers to enter the Salt Lake valley. They arrived on horseback, as scouts, July 22nd, two days before Brigham Young and the main party of 143 men, 3 women and 2 children drove their wagons down from Little Mountain and into the valley. Sarah was not with Orson at that time.

Harmel and Mary were married on the 18th of November 1873 in Salt Lake City. They were both 22 years old. Two years later they had their first and only child. It was a daughter born on the last day of the year in 1875. What a way to end the year! They named her Ada May Pratt. She grew up in Salt Lake City and became a schoolteacher in the public schools where she taught for many years. She lived for 85 years but never married or had children. Thus the posterity of Harmel and Mary came to a sudden and abrupt end after just one generation.

Harmel died five days before Christmas in 1907, after 34 years of marriage. He was living at 709 9th East, in Salt Lake City. Ada lived with her mother until Mary died in 1932. Mary was never listed with an occupation on any of the US census records so apparently Ada’s salary from teaching supported them both. In those days people did a lot of "day work" as it was called, to make a little extra money to pay for the necessities. No one had luxuries in those days. Life was a fight for survival. Mary could have taken in sewing or spinning or some other type of work from time to time as was common.

We don’t know what happened to Ada after her mother died. We do know that she died in Provo, Utah 29 years later.

Harmel and Mary are buried next to each other in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Ada’s body was brought back to Salt Lake City and is buried with her parents.


Sources: IGI, Ancestral File, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1930 US Census, Jared Pratt Family Association, Salt Lake City Cemetery records, Utah Death Index, Ancestry.com Family Tree


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