Life Sketch of Ann Agatha Walker Pratt
Compiled by Mary Lambert Taggart
Ann Agatha Walker was born in Leek, Stafforshire, England, the 11th of June, 1829, the eldest child of William Gibson Walker and Mary Godwin. The other children in the family were as follows: Dorcas Walker, born in 1831, who died at the age of 12 years, the 4th of June, 1843; Charles Lowell Walker, born the 17th of November, 1832, married Abigail Middlemass, and helped pioneer the St. George Country, leaving a large posterity; Mary Lois Walker, born the 19th of May, 1835, who came to American in 1850 with her parents, and married her first husband, John Thomas Morris, on the way to the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Her parents (Ann Agatha’s) were well educated, and trained their children in the highest code of morality; teaching them to despise and shun all that was low and debasing. Her father was a Methodist minister before he joined the L.D.S. Church, and was a man of splendid education. He taught Agatha to read when she was very young and by the time she was 6 years old, had read Plutarch, Lives of Great Men, and many other books including the Bible.
She was a very fine grammarian and an expert speller. She was reared in a very refined environment. She was always a stately looking, dignified and refined lady with a great sense of humor, always being able to see the funny side of life, and often making the great burdens she had to bear, lighter by this great gift of cheerfulness and humor.
When she was 8 years of age, her parents moved to Manchester, England, where between the ages of 10 and 11, she first heard of Mormonism, by attending a meeting with her father. In her own words, “The plain, common sense principles advocated by the elder who preached, sank deep in her heart, so tangible, so easy to understand. She drank them in as a thirsty child drinks water; so different from the conflicting doctrines she had been accustomed to hear. They permeated her whole being, and satisfied her whole soul, and the testimony she received then of the truth, of the everlasting Gospel remained with her through every trying vississitude of life, being her stay and comfort always.”
She was baptized on the 9th of July, 1843, by Elder Charles Miller in Manchester, England, and 3 ½ years later, she left home and friends with a small company of saints, crossing the sea, and arriving at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, early in April, 1847, having left England in January of that year. Her parents and brother and sister followed 3 years later, sailing from England on the ship the Josiah Bradley, through New Orleans, the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri, where they had to stay three years, saving and getting together their equipment for the final stage of their journey to Zion. During this stay in St. Louis, Agatha’s mother died, without having seen her daughter again. Her father made a business trip back to England after his wife’s passing, and before they could start west again.
President Young and the first body of Pioneers had just left Winter Quarters when Agatha’s company arrived, for their journey across the plains, and had appointed Parley P. Pratt, whom she married there, and John Taylor to organize and bring on the companies who were preparing to follow in their wake.
Ann Agatha Walker married Apostle Parley Parker Pratt there at Winter Quarters, the 28th of April, 1847, soon after her arrival from England. She was later endowed the 26th of February, 1851, and they were sealed to each other the same day.
Early in May, they left Winter Quarters and went as far as the Elk Horn River, where they camped and waited until the last that were going that year, arrived. After organizing into hundreds, fifties, and tens, they finally started about the middle of June.
After a long and toilsome journey, they arrived in the valley on the 28th of September, 1847, having been the first woman to drive an ox team all the way across the plains. This was truly a feat for Agatha who had such a gentle breeding and environment in her background.
She was also the first woman to pass up and down Parley’s Canyon, which was named for her husband, who explored it and built the first road through it. Being young and healthy and having no children, she assisted her husband, going with him to the canyons to cook for the men, while they were getting out house-logs and fuel. Early in the Spring of ’48 her husband built a dug-out and commenced his farming operations for the summer. She helped him, holding the plow while he drove, or vice versa. Dropping corn while he covered and cooking their scanty meals, principally thistle greens and often going 2 miles over plowed ground to get a little buttermilk to wash them down, and sometimes a little graham bread.
She was with her husband when he made the first road through Parley’s Canyon, cooking for the men whom he hired to assist him. In her own words, “It was hard and laborious work accomplished through much toil and privation.”
Agatha had learned the millinery trade in Manchester, England, and on the 24th of July, 1848, at the first celebration of the arrival of the Saints to the Valley, the wives of the general authorities and leading women of the community were seen in the parade wearing the hats that she made for the occasion, at the request of Brigham Young.
These hats were made for the occasion by her own hands, and in her own words: “The straw was prepared from the first crop of wheat grown in the Valley, and made of fine split straw, eleven strard, five inches high, from three and a half inches wide. A beautiful, light, becoming hat for a gentleman.” These hats were made and worn by the ladies in the procession, at the suggestion of Brigham Young, after he had seen one such hat, made by Agatha who was on the committee for the costuming for the 24th of July Procession.
Her description of the celebration is as follows: “We celebrated the event by grand processions with banners bearing appropriate mottoes, followed by all assembling in the large bowery erected for that purpose, where we had speeches, toasts, and songs suitable for the occasion. Composing these processions, or taking part in them was a company of 24 aged veterans. Grand old men who had stood the heat and burden of the day, many of them with silvery locks glistening in the sunshine, walking erect, some with bowed shoulders, but all full of thankfulness to God that their lives had been spared to see that day; the deliverance He wrought for His people. Next came 24 stalwart young men, ‘The Hope of Israel’ inscribed on their banner, then 24 dear, sweet old ladies inspired with the same happy feeling of thankfulness.
“Then came 24 young ladies, many of them young wives of the First Presidency and the Apostles, and after the young ladies, of course, there were Committees of Arrangements in Costume found of a suitable nature.”
Among the women that wore the hats Agatha made for that day, were Sister Emeline B. Wells, Lucy B. and Margaret P. Young, Sister Libbie Benson, Sister Mosetta Grant, Eliza R. Snow, Zina A. Young, and a number of others. Again from her account, “These grand noble women always set a noble example for their sisters in carrying out the council of President Young. There are but a few of those noble women left, but all have left a great record and are examples worthy for their children to follow down to the last generation of time.”
Agatha and Parley P. Pratt were the parents of five children; Agatha Pratt, who married Joseph Harris Ridges, who supervised the building of the tabernacle organ; Malone Pratt, who married Elnathan Eldredge, Jr.; Marion Pratt, who died as a babe; Moroni Pratt, who married 1st, Mary Chugg, and 2nd, Mary Owens, and who was an outstanding man, being called as the first bishop of Fairview, Idaho, and holding that position in love and esteem of all the many who knew him, until his death, which I think was a record 35 years as Bishop. He was the father of Mable Pratt Van Orden; then Evelyn Pratt who married Francis Charles Woods, a well known architect and builder, convert to the church from England, and assistant to Joseph Ridges in the building of the Tabernacle Organ. She was the mother of 13 fine children who all grew to maturity and each had at least one child. My mother, Mary A. A. Woods Lambert, was Evelyn’s third child.
Agatha Pratt’s father, William Gibson Walker, died at her home, in the Sugarhouse Ward, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 11th of March, 1875, of Asthma. Grandmother Pratt spent the late years of her life in Ogden, Weber Co. Utah and her home was at 3162 Adams Avenue. She died in Ogden, the 25th of June, 1908, just after her 79th Birthday, having left a very large and fine posterity of good members of the Church, and to whom she never hesitated to bear her testimony and encourage them in doing good.
[The information for the above sketch was taken from a sketch written by Ann Agatha Walker Pratt, herself, and the original is in my possession at this time, in her own handwriting, as is the account of the first 24th of July Celebration; information given me by my mother, and information gathered from the life of Mary Lois Walker Morris, Grandmother Pratt’s sister, to be found in the Treasures of Pioneer History.]