First Pioneer to Be Honored
Monument Will Be Erected To Orson Pratt
Was Scholar and Scientist
Orson Pratt Was the First of the Pioneers to Enter Salt Lake Valley
The following appreciation of Orson Pratt, the noted scientist, whose connection with the Mormon church in the early days of its existence, kept him from the fame he merited, will be read with interest. It appeared in the Herald Republican last Sunday.
“In tardy memory of Utah’s first pioneer, who blazed the trail into Salt Lake valley and looked out upon the sagebrush wastes from the hill tops while the first band of Mormons were still toiling through the mountain passes for back, a monument is to be erected to Orson Pratt, the first sage of the Wasatch.
“Scientist, scholar and philosopher, beloved of his own people and recognized by the greatest scientific body in the world as an eminent genius, Orson Pratt has laid thirty years in an obscure grave in the City cemetery with only a wooden slab for headstone.
“Now, in belated recognition of their progenitor, his descendants, aided by the Mormon church, have planted a massive marble stone that will take the place of the little wooden board and will bear testimony to one of the greatest figures in Utah’s history.
“September 19, 1911, will be the one hundredth anniversary of this birth and if all plans go right the monument will be unveiled with official ceremony on that day. It will be of plain polished marble without decoration. On one side will be placed the legend, ‘Orson Pratt, the First Pioneer.’ On the other will read, ‘My body dieth for the moment, but my testimony endureth forever,” which were his last words pronounced on his death bed.
“Orson Pratt was born in Washington county, New York, September 19, 1811. He developed in early life a marked genius for astronomical and scientific studies of all sorts. Turning westward in quest of fortune he become identified with the early movements of the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois. A personal friend of Brigham Young and other leaders of the church, he assumed a high place in their councils and was one of the first advocates of the plan to cross the plains and build a home in the untracked wilderness that stretched beyond the Rocky mountains.
“When the first exodus began out of Nauvoo he was in the vanguard and as the westward march progressed he took upon himself the duties of pilot. He marked the way across the plains and by his excellent knowledge of engineering and surveying, provided remarkably apt in selecting the route that later become the trans continental highway and finally the roadbed of the Union Pacific.
“Together with Erastus Snow, Pratt found and entered the passes of the Rockies while the main body of emigrants were several days behind, following by means of stakes, blazed trees and notices left by the intrepid pair that went ahead. Down through Echo canyon into the valley of the Weber they came up East canyon and to the top of the divide, in Emigration canyon, from where they looked first upon this valley.
“The two scouts had one horse between them. They rode ‘ride and tie’ style, one man riding on, tying the animal to a tree and proceeding on foot until the other passed him and in turn tied the horse. In this fashion they entered the valley three days abroad of Brigham Young and his party, Pratt by chance entering first, Snow having lost his coat and returned to find it. Thus Orson Pratt became the pre pioneer.
“Then from his isolation and from many years of research he brought forth ideas and truths concerning the universe and its laws that startled the scientific world beyond the seas. His first published theories on scientific and philosophic questions drew the attention of the Academy of Science which at that time was recognized as the greatest body of thinkers on the globe. He was later invested with membership in that society and received many flattering offers to enter the great universities and laboratories of the east and lecture before men who have since received the stamp of fame.
“He chose otherwise. From a one-roomed log cabin that only recently was removed from within the Temple grounds, he studied the skies, carried on original research work and wrote the books that are now to be found in scientific and philosophic libraries the world over. Chief among these were ‘The Key to the Universe’ and ‘Bi-Quadratic Equations,’ one a philosophical survey of things as he saw them, and the other a masterly treatise on mathematics that has since been used as a textbook at the University of Utah and other institutions of learning.
“Soon after his arrival Orson Pratt surveyed the line of standard time, known as Salt Lake meridian. Many years later, when the government surveyors ran the line they found it varied with Pratt’s original by a matter of inches only.
“During his lifetime he devoted himself mostly to the study of his favorite scientific subjects and was a frequent contributor to the scientific journals in both Europe and America. The instruments with which he worked, many of them of his own make, and his laboratory apparatus, are now treasured at the State university as valuable relics.
“The movement to build a monument was started several weeks ago at a reunion of the Pratt family. The church officials willingly offered to donate half the necessary amount and the remainder is being collected from his descendants. The total cost of the monument will be $1,500.”
[Richfield Reaper, July 21, 1911]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Sept. 2006]
Crowds Gather for the Conference at Salt Lake.
Salt Lake, Oct. 4The great crowds already to be seen on the street and at the various attractions of fair week indicate that this will be one of the best attended of the many great conferences the Morman church has held. The fine weather of yesterday gave further promise to the same effect. People from all parts of the state are arriving on every train, and visitors are to be seen from the most remote of the Morman colonies in Canada and Mexico.
Among the features at the present conference will be the service in the Tabernacle Sunday morning in memory of Orson Pratt, one of the great men of the church, known as Utahs first pioneer. On Monday a monument will be unveiled over the dead leaders grave in the city cemetery.
[Carbon County, Oct. 6, 1911]