Orson Pratt in Nauvoo

By Rick J. Fish

Prepared under the direction of Robert Grow,
President of the Jared Pratt Family Association

May 1993


Fall 1838, Orson and his family, who are with him on his mission to the Eastern States, go to New York City.  From here, Orson learns that he is to return to Zion.1

Nov.-Mar., Mormon families spend the winter and spring fleeing Missouri for Quincy, Illinois (50 miles south of their future home in Nauvoo).  Approximately 12,500 Mormons fled Missouri during this time.2

Mid. Nov., Orson and his family arrive in St. Louis.  The ice prevented their progress any further.3

Winter, Orson and his family remain in St. Louis, while Orson worked the winter to provide his stranded family.4

Dec. 17, Lydia Pratt is born to Orson and Sarah M. Pratt.  She is their second child [after Orson Pratt Jr.] and their first girl.



Mar. 9, A committee was organized by the saints in Quincy, Illinois, to call upon the people of St. Louis, to assist the saints in a relief operation.  Several members were appointed to go to St. Louis.  It was also, “proposed that Brother Orson Pratt (who is now in St. Louis) be appointed an assistant.”5

Spring, Orson and his family move from St. Louis, to a temporary dwelling in Quincy, Illinois.

Apr. 18, Wilford Woodruff says that he, Brigham Young, and Orson Pratt, accompanied him in his wagon as the Twelve set out for their journey to Far West.6

Apr. 18-26, Several of the Twelve, including Orson Pratt, and other members of the Church, spend these days traveling to Far West, Missouri.

Apr. 24, Elders Clark and Turley met Alpheus Cutler, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, John E. Page, Daniel Shearer, and others, going up from Quincy, to Far West, to fulfill the revelation in D&C 118.7

Apr. 24, Orson comes to visit Parley in the Richmond jail.  He is only allowed to stay a few moments.8

Apr. 26, At the Far West temple site, “…the following of the Twelve were present; Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, and John Taylor, who proceeded to ordain Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith, (who had been previously nominated by the First Presidency, accepted by the Twelve, and acknowledged by the Church), to the office of Apostles and members of the quorum of the Twelve, to fill the places of those who are fallen….The Twelve then offered up vocal prayer in the following order; Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith.  After which we sung Adam-ondi-Ahman, and then the Twelve took their leave…agreeable to the revelation…”9

May 2, Most of the Twelve return to Quincy, from Far West.

May 3, Upon their arrival home, the Twelve learn that Joseph and Hyrum Smith have escaped from jail and are safe at Mr. Cleveland’s home a few miles away.  Consequently, the Twelve, including Orson, go to visit Joseph and Hyrum and spend the day with them.

May 18, Possibly around this time, Orson moved his family from a temporary home in Quincy, to some old army barracks at Montrose, Iowa.  The barracks they moved into was recently vacated by Brigham Young and his family, but the small fourteen foot square room already housed Wilford Woodruff’s family.  The two families apparently remained here together at least through most of August (also see entries for July 10-22, 1839).10

May 26, On this Sabbath, Elders Orson Pratt and John Taylor preached in Joseph Smith’s temporary home in Quincy.11

July 1-4, Parley and his fellow prisoners, as of late May, were moved from the dungeon of Richmond Jail to a jail in Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, to await a final trial.  Here, they are visited by some friends and family members including Orson Pratt.  They devise an escape plan where Orson and Mrs. Phelps will assist the three prisoners.12

July 4, At sunset Parley and two other Mormon prisoners make their escape from the Columbia Jail to a thicket about a half mile away where Mrs. Phelps, Orson Pratt, and Hiram Clark are waiting with three horses.  Morris Phelps and Parley get away.  King Follet is recaptured and held in prison several more months until he is released.  Orson also escapes along with Bro. Clark.  Mrs. Phelps is captured but allowed to go free the following day.  Mr. Phelps rides a horse all the way to Illinois and freedom in two days.  Orson also arrives in Illinois two days later.13

July 10, Heber C. Kimball says that on July 10, he heard that Parley had just arrived in Quincy, from the Columbia Jail, so he leaves Commerce, and goes and helps Parley and Orson bring their families up to Commerce, from Quincy.14

July 13-16, “A few days afterwards [after arriving in Commerce] he [Parley] and I [Heber C. Kimball] purchased five acres each, of woodland, from Hyrum Kimball.  They lay adjoining each other, one mile from the river.  He and I went to work to cut each a set of logs fourteen by sixteen feet in length, which we cut in one day.  We then invited some of the old citizens, viz., Brother Bozier, D.H. wells.  Lewis Robinson and other to come and assist us to put them up; as our people were mostly prostrate by sickness.  We drew them and put them up the next day….In the meantime, brother Orson Pratt moved his family into the little shanty with me (probably shortly after mid-August.  Sarah will remain here in the Kimball cabin when Orson and the Twelve go on their mission to England.  Sarah and her small family will stay with the Kimballs until the following fall].”15

July 22, “In consequence of the persecutions of the saints in Missouri, and the exposures to which they were subjected, many of them (saints) were taken sick soon after their arrival at Commerce, afterwards called Nauvoo; and as there was but a small number of dwellings for them to occupy, Joseph had filled his house and tent with them, and through constantly attending to their wants, he soon fell sick himself.  After being confined to his house several days, and while meditating upon his situation, he had a great desire to attend to the duties of his office.  On the morning of the 22nd of July, 1839, he arose from his bed and commenced to administer to the sick in his own house and door-yard, and he commanded them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to arise and be made whole; and the sick were healed upon every side of him…Many lay sick along the bank of the river;…After healing all that lay sick upon the bank of the river as far as the stone house, he called upon Elder Kimball and some others [including Parley] to accompany him across the river to visit the sick at Montrose.  Many of the saints were living at the old military barracks.  Among the number were several of the Twelve.  On his arrival the first house he visited was that occupied by Elder Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, who lay sick.  Joseph healed him, then he arose and accompanied the Prophet on his visit to others who were in the same condition.  They visited Elder Wilford Woodruff, also Elders Orson Pratt, and John Taylor, all of whom were living in Montrose.  They also accompanied him.”16

Aug. 18, In the morning, “Orson Pratt preached upon the order and plan of creation.  Three were baptized.”17 Later that afternoon and evening, Lydia Pratt dies at Montrose, Iowa, at the age of eight months old.18

Aug. 29, Parley, his family,19 Orson Pratt, and a friend Hiram Clark left Nauvoo for their mission to England.  Orson will be gone 23 months from Nauvoo.

Sept. 1, Parley and family arrived at the home of his brother William.  Here Orson Pratt and Hyrum Clark were waiting for them having gone ahead to do some preaching.  William lived approx. 72 miles from Nauvoo.  Traveling by roads, in the 1840s, in an easterly direction, would place William’s home probably at or near Bryant, Illinois.20

Sept., Parley says that for approximately three to five weeks the small company journeyed from Illinois to Detroit, preaching along the way to anyone who would listen.  Parley says that Orson preached for two weeks in Michigan to large groups.21

Oct., “…we rode to Detroit [Hamtramck, now a suburb of Detroit], where I found my brother Anson Pratt and family; whom I had not seen for many years, and also my aged father and mother, who were now living with him.  My father was now about seventy years of age, and was on his death bed with a heavy fever.  We tarried with them two weeks; during which I preached in the City Hall of Detroit, and superintended some printing and publishing matters.

“While here we sold our horses and carriage, and at length took leave of our kindred and a last farewell of our sick father, and took passage on a steamboat down Lake Erie to Buffalo; distance three hundred miles.

“Previous to our departure from Detroit brothers O. Pratt and Clark took leave of us, and passed down the lake into Ohio; intending to meet us again at New York.”22

Nov. 13, Orson Pratt arrives in New York.  “I [Wilford Woodruff] visited Long Island and spent a number of days preaching, and was finally joined by Elder O. Pratt who had just arrived in New York.  We returned to the city and held a conference, and then Elder O. Pratt and myself accompanied Elder James to New Jersey.  Br. Pratt preached several times and proceeded on to Philadelphia, and also into the field in which Elder Barnes was laboring.”23

Nov., “Soon after my (Parley’s) arrival in New York City, Elders O. Pratt and Clark, who left us at Detroit, arrived, having performed a mission through some parts of Ohio and New York.”  They had much success.24

Nov. 19-20, Parley and Orson Pratt were present, along with Wilford Woodruff and several other leaders of the Church at a conference in NYC.25

Dec. 21, Orson travels to Philadelphia, from NYC.26

Dec. 21-30, Parley comes to NYC at Orson’s request.27

Dec. 30, “About this time I [Joseph Smith] left Philadelphia with Brother Orson Pratt, and visited a branch of the Church in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where I spent several days, and returned to Philadelphia [Orson returns to NYC].”28



Jan. 6, Orson is still preaching in NYC.29

Feb. 19, Orson wrote a letter to the saints in Commerce, explaining that Brigham Young, H.C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt had joined him in NYC, and that they were all preparing to sail to England soon.30 Parley had come from Washington D.C.

Mar. 4, Parley and Orson Pratt attended a conference in New York, with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Geo. A. Smith, and the saints from the area.31

Mar. 9, New York City, “…we [Parley, Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith & Reuben Hedlock] embarked on board the ship ‘Patrick Henry,’ for Liverpool, England.  We were accompanied to the water by my family [Parley’s family], and by scores of the congregation, of both sexes.”32

Mar. 9—Apr. 6 is spent sailing to England on the Patrick Henry.

Apr. 6, The company arrived in England after a rough passage of 28 days.  After landing in Liverpool, Parley, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball went to the docks.  “Elders Orson Pratt and George A. Smith, and Reuben Hedlock stayed on board to look after the baggage.  About three p.m., Brother Young sent a small boat for them, and the boatmen piloted them to the same place, where they all met together, partook of the Sacrament, and returned thanks for their safe deliverance.”33

Apr. 7, Parley and Orson were among the Twelve who greeted Elder John Taylor.  They found Elder Taylor and others had already baptized about 30 souls in Liverpool.

Apr. 8, Parley and Orson were among the Twelve who journeyed by rail to Preston.34

Apr. 11, The Twelve met in Preston.  Seven of the quorum were present including Parley and Orson.35

Apr. 12, The Twelve met in the Cockpit in Preston, and preached to a large assembly.36

Apr. 14, “A council of the Twelve, namely, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith and John Taylor, was held at the house of Elder Willard Richards, in Preston, England, when the latter was ordained to the Apostleship, — agreeably to the revelation,– by President Young, under the hands of the quorum present.”37

In addition, this was the first day of a three day conference held in Preston.  Parley and Orson were in attendance all three days.38

Apr. 15, A general conference was convened in the Temperance Hall in Preston, where Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Parley were appointed a publishing committee for a monthly Church periodical to be called the Millennial Star.  Orson Pratt was also in attendance at this conference.39

Apr. 16, Last day of a three day conference held in Preston, England.  Orson and Parley were in attendance.40

Apr. 17, The Twelve met one more day in Preston, before embarking to their respective fields of labor.41

Apr. 18, Orson and Reuben Hedlock leave Preston, and travel to Alston, in Northumberland.42

Apr. 20, After staying in Alston, for a few days, Orson travels to Edinburgh, Scotland.43

Apr. 20, “Elders Young and Woodruff went to Wolverhampton.  About this time Elder Orson Pratt went to Edinburgh, Scotland (for about the next nine months, minus a few visits to England).  Elder Taylor returned to Liverpool.”44

Aug., Parley writes to the Times and Seasons saying, “By a recent letter from Elder O. Pratt, Edinburgh, we learn that the number of Saints is steadily increasing in that place.”45

Oct. 6, A General Conference of the Church was held on Carpenter’s Hall, Manchester, on Oct. 6, and Orson Pratt was in attendance and “was called to the chair,” or voted president of the Conference by Brigham Young and other apostles and members of the Church.46

Oct. 7-8, The Twelve met these two days in connection with the conference.  Both Parley and Orson were in attendance.47

Oct. 17, “Parley P. Pratt and family arrived in Manchester, and resumed the editorial labors of the Star.  Brother Orson Pratt has recently published a pamphlet, entitled, “An interesting account of several Remarkable Visions, and of the late Discovery of Ancient American Records,” comprising 31 pages giving a brief sketch of the rise of the Church.”48

Oct. 17, Orson writes from Scotland, informing the Saints in Nauvoo, that there are 74 members now in Edinburgh.49

Dec. 28, “There are ninety-five Saints in Edinburgh, Scotland, raised up by Elder Orson Pratt.  Elder George D. Watt is now laboring in that place.”50 One of Orson’s converts was named Richard Ballantyne, and he became the founder of the Sunday School program in the Church.  In Richard Ballantyne’s biography, it refers to an area near an old Abbey in Edinburgh, called “Pratt’s Hill” where Orson Pratt pleaded with the Lord for converts.  The book continues to say that this hill is still referred to by the Mormons in Edinburgh, as “Pratt’s Hill.”51


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1 Millennial Star, vol. 27, 88.

2 The Comprehensive History of the Church [CHC], by B.H. Roberts, says that by April 1839, as many as 12,000-15,000 saints had fled Missouri to Illinois and Iowa.  CHC, vol. 1, 511.

3 Millennial Star, vol. 27, 88.


4 Millennial Star, vol. 27, 88.

5 Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church [DHC], vol. 3, 275.

6 Wilford Woodruff Journals, 99-101.

7 DHC, vol. 3, 335.  Also see Doctrine & Covenants, Section 118, Verses 4-5, “And next spring let them depart to go over the great waters, and there promulgate my gospel, the fullness thereof, and bear record of my name.  Let them take leave of my saints in the city of Far West, on the twenty-sixth day of April next, on the building-spot of my house, saith the Lord.”

8 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 226.

9 DHC, vol. 3, 337-8.

10 Woodruff, Leaves from my Journal, 74-5.

11 DHC, vol. 3, 364.

12 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 244-258.

13 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 258.

14 Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City, Utah, Bookcraft, 1967, 260-261.

15 The Life of Heber C. Kimball, 260-261.  Orson probably moved in with the Kimball’s some time after Lydia dies in mid-August.  Lydia dies in Montrose, Iowa.  See the NRI records and also the Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 32.  In addition, NRI information indicates that the 1840 Lee County, Iowa, census for T, 68.4 (Montrose) shows that Orson and his family were in Montrose when the county was made in 1839.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, recalled one incident when she was a little girl, that occurred while Sarah Pratt shared the Kimball cabin during the winter of 1840.  “One Saturday evening she [Sarah] left a plate of large sweet cakes or buns, upon her table by the cupboard when she retired, and in the morning the plate being found empty caused quite an excitement; we [the Kimball family] thought maybe they had been taken to pa [Heber C. Kimball in England] or some of his brethren, who might be in want, as in Elijah’s case; but Sister Pratt, being more practical than religious, thought it more probable that they had been stolen by a rat than taken by a raven, and so made a search by having one of the planks of the floor taken up, and sure enough there we discovered the buns stowed away one upon the other, as neatly as if done by human hands.  The next fall, Sister Pratt having been provided with a house, Sisters Laura and Abigail Pitkin came to live with us, and remained until their house was built.”  Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, #4, July 15, 1881, 26.

16 The DHC quotes Wilford Woodruff’s Leaves from my Journal, 75-7, for their source.  However, there are several inconsistencies with the quote by Wilford Woodruff and the reference.  Upon investigation, I found three versions of this story as told by Bro. Woodruff, but none of these are exactly the same as the quote in the DHC.  One of the inconsistencies is regarding where Orson Pratt was staying at the time.  It appears from the DHC that Orson and his family were living in the barracks at Montrose.  Conversely, NRI records and Heber C. Kimball says at the time Orson was living in his cabin with his family.  All the other W. Woodruff sources except the DHC do not refer to Orson living at Montrose at the time of this healing experience.

17 DHC, vol. 4, 7.

18 Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 32.

19 The family consists of Parley and his wife Mary Ann Frost Stearns Pratt, and three children: Mary Ann’s daughter from a prior marriage named Mary Ann Stearns; two sons of Parley, Parley Parker from his marriage to Thankful Halsey; and Nathan, Parley’s and Mary Ann Frost Stern Pratt’s first child.

20 See Appendix 1.

21 The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt suggest it took them about five weeks, while his letter in the Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 43-44, says three weeks.

22 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 296-297.

23 Times and Seasons, vol. 2, 313, and also see Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, and The Life of Heber C. Kimball, 89.

24 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 299.

25 DHC, vol. 4, 22.

26 Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 61.

27 Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 61.

28 DHC, vol. 4, 49.  Also see Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 61.

29 Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 61.

30 Times and Seasons, vol. 1, 70.

31 Journals of Orson Pratt, 111.

32 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 300.  This was the first of sixteen trips Orson would make during his lifetime across the Atlantic Ocean.

33 DHC, vol. 4, 104.

34 Journals of Orson Pratt, 116.

35Times and Seasons, June 1840.

36 Journals of Orson Pratt, 116.

37 DHC, vol. 4, 114.

38 DHC, vol. 4, 115.

39 DHC, vol. 4, 115.

40 DHC, vol. 4, 115.

41 Journals of Orson Pratt, 120.

42 Journals of Orson Pratt, 116.

43 Journals of Orson Pratt, 120.

44 DHC, vol. 4, 120.

45 Times and Seasons, vol. 2, 230.

46 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 311.

47 Journals of Orson Pratt, 125.

48 DHC, vol. 4, 224-5.  In the DHC, vol. 4, 254, it suggests that the tract probably came out in September and not October.  This tract also contained the first version of what would become the Articles of Faith.

49 Millennial Star, vol. 1, 213-4.

50 DHC, vol. 4, 251.

51 Vadis B. Ballantyne, “I, Richard: A Biography of Richard Ballantyne,” Closure Project, Brigham Young University, 1974, 9.   Also see Richard L. Evans, A Century of Mormonism in Great Britain, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1937, 80-1, for a similar account and a picture of “Pratt’s Hill.”  Several other sources including Orson F. Whitney’s History of Utah, 27, and Andrew Jensen’s Biographical Encyclopedia, 89, state that Orson was responsible for converting more than 200 persons from Scotland.