Reminiscences of Mrs. A. Agatha Pratt

I do not think it necessary to speak at this time of the public life of my husband, the late Apostle Parley P. Pratt, as that is a matter of history known to his descendants and the readers of his life and his works.

As an orator, author, poet, statesman, and able expounder of the Gospel and its principles, which he so dearly loved, will ever live in the memory of those who have heard him, and will become more precious as the years roll on.

For the sake of his descendants and injustice to his beloved and venerated memory, I wish to speak of his private life; as a husband, father, and friend.  He was a gentlemen, born so.  He had an innate reverence and respect for woman as the mother of the souls of men.  He loved his wives, not only as the beloved of his bosom, but as the mothers of his children, whom he loved very dearly.  I heard a lady ask him, “Brother Pratt, when did you first fall in love?”  He replied, “When I was a babe in my mother’s arms,” and looked up into her tender loving eyes.  “I fell in love, and have been in love ever since.”

Amid all our poverty, toil and care and the difficulties and perplexities and inexperiences, he would sometimes have occasion to reprove of admonish; he would do it in a manner to touch the heart—making a lasting impression, but never leave a humiliating sting.

His wives always knew that he respected them and cared for their feelings.  As a father, he was kind and gentle and hailed each new-comer with as much pleasure and delight as if it were the only one.  One of the greatest pleasures of his life was to gather them round his knees, holding as many as he could, and have them sing their sweet childish songs, often trying to join in with them, as he dearly loved music, and singing, and always, when possible, he would have his family gather together for family worship, we would always sing a suitable hymn, then kneel down and dedicate his family, himself, and all he had, to the Lord.

As a friend, he was true, sincere and very hospitable.  In times of famine and scarcity when sometimes we would not know where the next meal was coming from, he would say, “If any one comes in hungry, ask them to sit up and eat.”

His confidence in God was unbounded, and he would go to Him and ask Him for what he needed, as a child would go to its father, with the same childlike simplicity.  I have seen his prayers answered almost before he had finished his supplication.  He was very sociable, in these early days we used to visit a good deal, we seemed to have more time then than we have now.  Two or three of us would go with him to some friend’s house, where, in the course of conversation, he would be led to speak upon some interesting subject that would instruct and entertain all, and make the time pass very profitably, and pleasantly, and it still remains as a happy memory to the few of those dear old friends who still survive.

Mr. Pratt was the father of thirty children, fifteen sons and fifteen daughters, twenty-three of whom survived him.

I do not know how many descendants there are; I have myself over a hundred.

There were five brothers:–Anson, William, Parley, Orson and Nelson, the last named never received the Gospel, so never came to Utah.  When my husband was on his last mission, he visited him and he told me in one of his letters of his pleasant visit with him and his family, and that two of his daughters were very sweet singers.  I find by referring to his letter that he stayed with them about a week, and said they were quite favorable to the Gospel.  At the time of his visit they were living in Ohio.

I now wish to speak of his last mission.  Many have labored under the impression that he was not called, but sought to go.  There never was a greater mistake.  In the spring of ’56, he had a severe illness brought on by over-doing mentally and physically, and suffered more or less from the effects of it through the summer.  He came into my house one day about the middle of August, and said to me, “Agatha, I have bad news for you.”  I was just recovering from my confinement.  Our youngest child, Mrs. F.C. Woods, having been born on the 8th day of August.  His words and manner sent a strange thrill through me.  I said, “What is it!”  He replied, “I am called to go on a mission.”  I said, “Why do you call it bad news?  You have been on missions before.”  He said, “Because I feel as if I shall never come back.”  I said, “Why do you feel like that; you’ve been delivered from mob violence and from prison and been preserved till now—what do you think can happen to you.”  He replied, “I do not know; perhaps the Indians may kill me or some accident may happen.”  He said, “I asked Pres. Young what I was to do and why he sent me as there were already three of the twelve in the States.”  Elder John Taylor was publishing “The Mormon” in New York, Erastus Snow the “Luminary” in St. Louis, and Bro. George A. Smith was visiting the different branches of the Church in the East.  He said, “Brother Parley you need a rest, and a change; you can assist Brother Taylor and Snow and visit the Saints and instruct them by their firesides, and do much good in many ways.”

He went busily to work preparing for his mission.  In a few days he came in and said, “I have been to the President’s office and been set apart for my Mission.  The Presidency were Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Jedediah Grant, and they placed their hands upon my head, President Young being mouth.  He reconfirmed all former blessings and ordinations heretofore given, and promised many blessings for the future.  After he was through President Grant said, ‘Brother Parley, I would give a good deal for one clause in your blessings.’  ‘What was that, Brother Grant?’  He said, ‘Your children shall be preserved unto you.’”  He seemed to realize it in its fullest sense.

He felt more cheerful after he had received his blessing, and went on with his preparations for his journey.  He attended fast meeting the first Thursday in September.  Confirmed several of his children whom he had baptized; named and blessed the youngest and bore a faithful testimony.

He started for his mission about the fourteenth, and arrived in the States in November.  He wrote home to us frequently, and told us of his labors.  In one of his letters he spoke of the great darkness and utter indifference in the minds of the people regarding the Gospel, and made the remark that if it were not for the sake of the Gospel and his family, he could change worlds, with joy inexpressible.

When the news of his death reached Salt Lake City, the Presidency were spending the holiday, July 24th, in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  As soon as they reached home, they came to see us, and mingle their grief and sorrow with ours.

President Young said, referring to his death: “Nothing has happened so hard to reconcile my mind to since the death of Joseph; Brother Parley has done more good on this short mission than many Elders will do in their whole lives.”

Mr. Pratt was one of the busiest and hardest working men I ever knew.  When we were crossing the Plains, he drove the largest wagon we had, with three yoke of cattle; he would walk along side of them, and the first thing you knew you would see him three or four rods ahead.  The slow walk of the team could not keep pace with his active mind.  Often he would recollect, turn back to his team, see that all was all right, hurry them up, and do the same thing again.  When it came near camping time, he would go ahead and look up a good place for camping.  His mind was ever on the alert for the benefit of the company.  When we arrived here on the 28th of September, tired and worn out, for the last part of the journey was very hard on all.

With little or no rest, he went to work hunting up the resources of the country, making roads to the canons; getting out logs for building houses; getting fire wood and so on.

He built several good comfortable log rooms, a stable, put in a number of acres of wheat; in fact, kept busy all the time.  He built four adobe houses, two of them a story and a half, besides out buildings; made a road through Parley’s canyon; attended faithfully to every ecclesiastical duty.  He went on two mission to California, including Chili, South America, wrote and published “The Key to Theology,” wrote and compiled his autobiography, besides many other effusions in prose and verse.

After the foregoing had been read to one of y daughters, she said, “Why mother, you have not mentioned yourself.”  I replied, “No, I did not think of myself.  I was writing about your father.”  She said, “I think you ought to tell about being in the Canyon with father.”

Well, he commenced his work on the road in the summer of ’49.  There were a great many men in the east that had the gold fever so bad that they left no stone unturned to procure an outfit to get to the gold mines of California, which had been discovered by the Mormon Battalion boys.

Many of them arrived in Salt Lake, utterly worn out, and teams and wagons in bad condition.  They were obliged to stay a while to get lighter wagons, exchange their worn out horses (some were quite valuable) for fresh ones.  Some of them stayed over to make a little means wherewith to prosecute their journey.  Later on, these were the men my husband hired to help make the road through Parley’s Canyon.  I went with him to cook for them.  Each man had his own tin plate, cup, knife, fork, and spoon.  The food consisted mostly of bread baked in bake kettle, meat, coffee and a little butter.  We had a small tent and a wagon to sleep in.  These were at a distance from our quarters.  I could cook the food, and Mr. Pratt and Parley, his son, would take it to them.  We would make camp in a shady place near the creek.  We would stay there till about two miles of road was made, then move camp and make another mile or two, and so on through Parley’s Park to the Weber River, where the road was completed, which was some time in November.  When we reached the head of the canyon coming home, I said, “Now let me get out and walk over the bad places.”  He said, “No, I want to be able to say that a woman and baby came down in safety.”  (I forgot to say I had a babe a year and a half old.)  “I promise you no harm shall happen to either of you.”  I did as he wished, and he drove the two yoke of cattle with large wagons attached to the mouth of the canyon and home in perfect safety.

I saw no wild beasts while there, but often heard the wolves howl at night, and would see their tracks.  One day when the men were busy chopping down trees about a mile above the camp, a large grizzly bear came down the side of the canyon towards the choppers.  Each man grabbed his axe, and climbed the nearest tree in a lively manner.  Mr. Bruin sniffed leisurely around, looked at the men, then walked up the other side over the top, and was seen no more.

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Jan. 2007]

Ann Agatha Pratt, “Reminiscences of Mrs. A. Agatha Pratt, January 1907.” MS 278, online images, Church History Catalog, Ann Agatha W. Pratt Reminiscences and Letters, 1847-1907 ( : January 2014), p. 1; Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

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