Brief Autobiography of Belinda Marden Pratt
Salt Lake City, Feb. 17th, 1884
I Belinda Marden Pratt was born in Chichester Merrimack County, State of New Hampshire on December 24th 1820. Was the youngest child of my parents John Marden and Rachel Shaw Marden. Was the fourteenth child there being seven boys and seven girls. My parents were strictly moral and members of the Congregational Church. My father died just before I was fourteen years of age, aged sixty-one. My mother lived to the age of eighty-three.
At nineteen years of age I was married to Benjamin Abbot Hilton. We were married in Nashua, New Hampshire. A Baptist minister named Pratt performing the Ceremony. Our first home was in Annoskeag, then Manchester. And from there we moved to the city of Boston. My husband was an infidel on … — believeing in most things pertaining to religion. While I was continuably ambitious to find the right kind of religion, never feeling assured that those I was acquainted with were right.
In the winter of 1843 we were attracted by a handbill stating that a Mormon Preacher would hold three meetings in the Boylston Hall. Not having any particular thing to hinder we thought we would go in and hear him. The Elder was at prayer. And such a prayer! We stood in the aisle till he finished. I think the light of heaven rested down upon me, for the joy and peace I experienced was inexpressible. We attended the three meetings morning, afternoon, and evening. I had an overwhelming testimony that what he preached was true and was so rejoiced that I seemed to myself light as air, as though my feet scarcely touched the ground. Mr. Hilton felt different, thought it was a splendid doctrine to whip the secreterians but said I was too enthusiastic. I prayed after and much and felt great concern because my husband took so different views of it from what I did. I wrote my sisters, they thought I must be crazy. All opposed me and all I could do was to continually cry to the Lord. We continued to attend the meetings and one day in March my husband came home at an unusual hour and told me he was so wrought upon that he could not work or sleep and he would have to go and get baptized. Didn’t my heart rejoice? Then I could go and Oh what joy! We were baptized in Boston. It was so cold the ice had to be broken and held back with poles while we went in. I think it was near the last of March 1843. Don’t know the exact date. Every thing went on well for a time but it was no long before my husband began to doubt and feel ill towards the church and the brethren. He and some of his associates joined the Odd Fellows and he thought that better than Mormonism. We were baptized by Elder Ira P. Magin and I think confirmed by the same. I had a sorrowful heart all the time as Mr. Hilton got more and more bitter against the church. I was so conversant with the scriptures that with the testimony of the spirit I knew the doctrine preached by the Elders was true and I so much wished I could gather with the Saints at Nauvoo. In the spring of 1844 there were quite a number of the Elders from Nauvoo and the branch then in Boston was quite large. Parley P. Pratt and Erastus Snow, George Adams, and others were there. I did not mingle much with the Saints for fear of displeasing my husband. In the month of June eight of the twelve came east to electioneer for Joseph Smith for president of the United States. They were Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Lyman Wight. The rest I do not remember. An Elder invited Brigham Young to come to see me telling him my husband had apostized. He came and I told him I was about to go on a visit for some weeks in the country to see my husbands relations and mine also. He said, “When you go go to the clerk of this branch and get a letter of recommendation and I will call and see you again.” This was some time in July. He did not call again for they, the Twelve, got news of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and made immediate arrangements to go home to Nauvoo.
To be continued.
I went according to the council of President Young fearing and trembling for fear Mr. Hilton would know it for he had got so bitter and so filled with the spirit of persecution; he let me have no peace day or night forbid me going to meeting or having any association with the Mormons as he chose to call them. I did not know what I was going to do or how I could live under the pressure for all my relatives were as bitter as he was. All I could do was to pray continually to the Lord and he surely heard my prayers. Without the thought ever having entered my heart to leave my husband I went to the clerk for my letter of recommendation although I could not see what good it would do to get it when I was just going on a visit. But to be obedient to the council of Pres. Young I went. Now see Gods hand. The clerk proceeded to write and turned round and asked me how Mr. Hilton felt now about Mormonism. I told him he was going to have his name taken off the books for he did not believe anything in it etc. Lyman Wight stood by and heard the conversation and turning to me said privately, “Why don’t you go to Nauvoo?” I said, “How can I?” He said, “we, that is the Twelve, start in the morning, you could go with us.” I said, “My husband would not let me and I was not going to start for the country till the next day after.” I said too, “I should not have money to go so long a journey.” Lyman Wight finally told me in the name of the Lord God of Israel if I would leave I would never see the day I would be sorry for it. I said I would go. He told me there was a sister in Utica New York he thought would help me to money for my journey. He would go there if he could, if not he would write to her. He gave me her address, and I accordingly got my letter, went home and began my preparations to leave. When the morning came for me to start on my visit Mr. Hilton went with me to the depot and waited till the train started. Of course I had to start north instead of west to visit our friends. When I found my self alone at the first station I ordered my trunk and told the conductor I would have to go back to Boston. When I got back it was only nine o’clock and I took a carriage and went to the United States Hotel because this was the nearest to the Western depot. I found I would have to wait till five o’clock in the afternoon before the western train started. I had not the least compunction of conscience or one thought I was doing wrong in leaving my husband. My heart was filled with joy and thanksgiving for I never doubted for one moment but what I should get along alright and that God would bless me. All the sorrow I had was for him and I pitied him more than I can express on paper.
(22 of July 1844) At five o’clock I started in a second class train thinking to save money by it but a drunken man was so insulting I was obliged to call the conductor and get on a first class car and pay full price. Got to Springfield Mass. the first night and staid at a hotel. At seven in the morning started for Utica arriving about seven in the evening, took a carriage and drove to Sister Monroes as Brother Lyman Wight directed. He was not there but had written to her asking her to help me to means to prosecute my journey to Nauvoo. I found her and her daughters and sisters a very agreeable family and we had a night of rejoicing but I never told them I had been married neither my right name for I feared I might get into trouble if I did. I never at any time made a confident of any person so no one could say I told them anything and so give a clue that my husband or relatives could trace me. Sister Monroe was a widow and said she had no immediate means she could pay. I told her I was a dress-maker and she set me plenty of work. I made dresses and satchels for two months and then her sister, now Sister Ruth Kimball and me started on our journey alone about fifteen hundred miles to Nauvoo. I need not say we had many adventures traveling as we were alone without a protector and some not very pleasant ones but the Great Father protected us and we accomplished our journey in safety arriving in Nauvoo the last of September. It was midnight when the boat on which we were traveling touched the landing at Nauvoo.
James Monroe, a sister to Ruth Reese came for us and escorted us to Sister Blasurous who was a sister to Ruth. I soon found employment at dressmaking and many kind friends. Pres. Young welcomed me and blessed me. In my mind I had accepted all the revelations of God, Polygamy included. But on account of the sayings and doings of some of the brethren and sisters I suffered the temptation of Satan to nearly overcome me so far that I thought I would have nothing to do with it. I mean Polygamy. A good sister where I was staying called in Pres. Young to talk to me. He instructed me in the principle and desiring with all my heart to understand the truth. I testify that the Holy Spirit of God rested down upon me and it was made plain to my understanding that it was a divine principle, and with great joy of heart I accepted it and never from that time to this, 1889, has there been a doubt in my mind concerning it.
My husband Mr. Hilton obtained a divorce from me by the false swearing of apostates.
I was sealed to Parley P. Pratt one or about the twentieth of November, 1844 in one of the chambers of the house of Erastus Snow. I was sealed to this one of the first apostles of this dispensation by Pres. Brigham Young, for time and all eternity. There was but one witness Bro. Erastus Snow.
On or about the first of December Mr. Pratt was appointed and set apart for a mission to the Eastern States to take charge of the churches in the Atlantic States. As I was without home or relatives in this part of the country he wished me to follow him. I will not attempt to tell the joy that filled my heart. I had never expected to have so great a privilege. He gave me means to go and accordingly I started a day or two after he did. After arriving at St. Louis went on the same boat with him to Pittsburg and Wheeling Virginia. From there we crossed the Allegania Mountains by stage to Willmington, there by rail to Philadelphia, here we were obliged to wait a few days for money and then we went on to the city of New York by mail and arrived Christmas Eve. He to visit some of the Saints and I to find a boarding place among strangers for it was not known that the sealing power was preached except by a few of the Saints. I found a boarding place and paid my expenses sewing. After a short time I rented a house and Mr. Pratt boarded with me. I commenced dress-making and knitting baby socks which I sold by the dozen earning from fifty cents to a dollar a day nearly all the time I was there, besides my house work and washing. Mr. Pratt was called home to Nauvoo in Aug. 18, 1845 and I started with him. We came home by the Erie Canal and Lakes, journeying from Chicago to Nauvoo by land. I went to Mr. Beach’s tavern to board while Mr. Pratt went his house. After a while it was arranged for his wife Mary and I to commence keeping house in rooms upstairs in Mr. Pratt’s house.
The temple was completed so far as to give endowments therein and sometime in December I received my endowments and blessings therein and was again sealed over the altar.
On January first, 1846 I had a son born who was named Nephi by his father. Sometime in this month or the first of February I received my second anointing in the temple.
The persecution of the saints became so great that the authorities of the church and many of the saints had to bid farewell to their homes in Feb. and we crossed the Mississippi river about the 14th of this month. It was extremely cold and my babe only six weeks old. I had not recovered my strength but a merciful Providence sustained me and by degrees I gained strength.
It was a terrible journey from Nauvoo to the Missouri river. It stormed almost continuously snow and rain and the earth was so soaked that the poor horses and cattle could drag us but a few miles in a day. We arrived in July to the Missouri river near Council Bluffs and camped for several weeks.
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Dec. 2005]