Herma Ethna Pratt History

by Paul Debry

Herma was born in Great Salt Lake City, just 9 years after Brigham Young and the first group of pioneers entered the valley. She was the daughter of Orson Pratt the Mormon apostle, and Sarah Marinda Bates. Herma married William Forsythe Belding February 18, 1874 in Salt Lake City. William, born in 1842 in Oswego County, New York was 14 years older than 17-year-old Herma. She would not live to see her 22nd birthday.

Their first child a little girl, was stillborn a year after their marriage. The family bible gives her name as Josephine. One year later, in 1876, their second child, a son named after his father, William Forsythe Belding, was born. He would be Herma’s only child to live to adulthood and have posterity. Their last child, Arthur, was born nine months later on December 4, 1877. He only lived until June of the following summer.

In less than 3 years Herma had borne 3 children. Maybe because of her youth and because of the strain of it all, she died. It was the day after Christmas, in 1877. She lived only three weeks after the birth of her last child, Arthur. Arthur passed away and joined his mother and his stillborn sister in the spirit world 6 months later in June of 1878. William Belding, Jr., Herma’s second child went to live with his Belding grandparents in San Francisco. He was 4 years old in 1880 when the census was taken there. Little William, known as “Willie,” lived with an interesting family in 1880 in San Francisco. Beside his 65-year-old grandfather, Orin Belding a millwright, and 63-year-old grandmother Jane, there was a 33-year aunt living there who was single and was a schoolteacher. Then there was another aunt, age 35 with her 5-year-old daughter. So grandpa and grandma, instead of living their later lives in peace and quiet, had 2 grown daughters and 2 young grandchildren to take care of. In addition to these family members, they had a 35-year-old male merchant clerk from Maine who also lived with them. He was apparently no relation but may have been paying rent to help support the 6 family members.

Herma’s husband, William Sr. went to work in the mines in Nevada after she died. The 1870 census for Hamilton, White Pine County, Nevada lists him as working as an "amalgamator." (someone who mixes metals). He was listed with a bunch of other miners, none with families. The 1880 Census for Belleville, Nevada lists William, age 38, who is apparently the supervisor of the Northern Belle Mine Co. He was a widower. Herma was dead as were 2 of his 3 children. His son Willie was 4 years old living with his parents in California. It was certainly a sad time for William.

Willie married Irene Learner Cheney of Contra Costa County, in northern California in about 1897. He was 20 years old at the time of the marriage and she was 18. Together they had one child, a son named Orrin, probably named after grandpa Belding who raised Willie. The 1900 Census in California shows them as having been married 2 years with 1 child. Irene is not listed with William in any census after 1900. Family tradition says that they were divorced and that she raised her son Orrin. About 1907 William married a 2nd time. His new wife, California born Jessie L. Culver was 3 years younger than William. He was 31 years old and she was 28. They had 3 children. The first they named Herma Glenn Belding, a daughter named after her Grandmother that neither she nor her father ever knew. It is touching to realize that William, Jr. named his first daughter after his mother who died when he was only 9 months old. He must have had her memory in his heart all his life. Their next child was William Belding III born in 1916, and then came Robert C. Belding born in 1919. William III died in Tuolumne County, California in 2003. It is interesting to note that there is also a William Forsythe Belding IV and a William Forsythe Belding V. For over 160 years there has been a William Forsythe Belding heading up the family. By the way, this is a genealogist’s worst nightmare, 5 generations each having three names, all the same.

Today there are twenty living descendants of Herma Pratt and William Belding the 1st. Almost all of them carry the last name of Belding. They all live on the other side of the continent from where William was born. It was he who left New York, and after a stop in Salt Lake City, Utah to find his bride and marry her, have 3 children and lose two of them to death and then lose her, he left for the mines of Nevada and then for the promises of the rich frontier of California.


*Jared Pratt Family Association records
*1870 Census for Hamilton, White Pine County, Nevada.
*1880 Census Belleville, Esmeralda, Nevada
*1900-1930 California Census
*Social Security Death Index
*California death index 1940-1997
*Salt Lake City Cemetery records
*Belding Family Bible, copy in possession of Kathryn Belding.
*William Belding III Obituary – Union Democrat, Sonora, California
*First hand family knowledge from Kathryn Belding.


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