Letters from Parley O. Pratt to His Mother, Brighamine Pratt During World War I


1917, Sept. 23 postal, Monday

Dear Mother,

Haven’t heard from you as yet but have had a letter from both Emma and Una.  All indications point to the fact that we will leave here very shortly possibly by the 1st of Oct.  58 cars of surplus equipment left here tonight for New Port News Virginia to be loaded on our transports which are waiting for us.  I try and get word to you just before we leave and a cablegram as soon as we land.  Im in fine health having gained 12 lbs. since leaving Cal.  Give all the girls my love.  Mail will be forwarded.



1917, October 4.

My dear Mother,

Sunday was the most pleasant day I have spent since leaving Salt Lake.  I went to church both in the morning and evening to the oldest Presbyterian Church in the United States.  There are quite a number of soldier of other denominations go there so it was all right for me to attend.  In the evening before the services they had a roll call of all states who have sent soldiers to the Rainbow Division.  When they were finished the pastor asked if any one had been forgotten.  I arose and told him I was from Utah.  After the services we gathered in the YMCA the church has next door for refreshments, there the pastor sought me and asked if I was from Salt Lake and if I knew any thing about the Mormons.  When I told him he was talking to one he was very much surprised and asked me all about it.  I told him all I knew and left the Doctrine and Covenants that William Morton gave me for him to read.  He was a very pleasant old man and didn’t try to argue with me like some of them do.

Yesterday after coming in from morning drill we received orders to pack everything and be ready for forced march.  We surely thot that we were on our way but after marching us for six and one half hours with full equipment and packs weighing about sixty pounds they brought us back.  We are however ready to leave in a few minutes notice.  All our horses and heavy equipment are now on there way.  Two men from every company in the division left here yesterday morning to take care of the stock.

We are being drilled from morn till night without much leisure time but Im interested and enjoy it. 

Im happy and healthy and hope you are all the same.

Love, Parl


1917, Oct. 14 Camp Mills

Dear Mother and girls,

Your letter came a few days ago and I was very glad to hear from you.  I think when there are so many of you home I ought to get more letters than I do.  You know Im along ways from home and your letters help make things easier and break the monotony of camp life.

Today we are going to have a review from the Gov. of North Caroline and our General.  We had one last Sunday and we stood two and one half hours in line before our turn came to march past the reviewing point.

I think we will leave very soon everything has been packed up sent away but our personal equipment and belongings.

I sent you a photo I had taken on Broadway, New York.  I hope you will like it. 

Its been very cold and we have had several bad rain storms but I like this kind of crisp weather it makes me feel fine.  When we take our long hikes out thro the level country roads I see a great deal that reminds me of home.  The autumn trees and shrubs are just like those in City Creek.  The flowers are different.  There is goldenrod I always heard so much about in school and the Foxgloves or whatever you call them which we had so much trouble trying to grow along Hanson’s fence.

It if wasn’t for a bad cold I wouldn’t have a complaint in the world.  We are drilling long and hard every day.  Learning to shoot on our stomachs to run, hike and last but not lest to be manly.  I have taken good care of my self so far and Im always going for I relize now that this army life and its surrounding can either make or break a fellow.  Its going to make me I feel sure and when I return its going to be as a real honest to goodness man.  Early to bed and early to rise is sure a wonderful thing except when your in love – and then the best thing to do is to get married I guess.

Well, I must hurry down to mess or Ill get left.  Believe me the food sure tasts good.

Hoping you are all well and happy.

I am
Your Soldier Boy,


1917, October 15

Dear Folks,

Im on my way.  Good Bye for a few weeks until I can write again.  You will receive a card if I arrive safely at my distination.  Dont stop writing as the mail will follow me anywhere.

No time for any more.

Love, Parley


1917, October 15 Camp Mills

Dear Mother,

Cora’s letter came today and I was very glad to get it for she writes the kind of letters that makes a fellow think seriously of life and those at home.  Im here in the YMCA tent tonight because we are all mussed up and are sleeping on the ground tonight.

Cora didn’t say any thing about how Oscar is getting along.  I think a great deal about Cora and her boys and Oscar.

I have had one letter from Leone.  She wanted me to send her a box of candy and a pair of shoes from Bob Jr.  I suppose she doesn’t relize how much money a soldier has to spend every month.

Speaking of money I had a little surprise for you but as Cora said you wanted to know what provision I had made for you Ill tell you now.  I have alloted $15 of my $30 to you and with my $15 the government adds $25 making $40 that will be sent to you every month.  I have also taken out $10,000 insurance so in case of my death in the war you will receive $10,000 in the rate of $57 dollars a month.  This is costing me quite a bit and not much of my $30 a month will be left ($9) how ever I am perfectly willing to make this small sacrifice because I now know what a lot of big ones you have made that I might live and I hope my life will be such that you need never regret them.  I know one of two of my sisters are going to open their eyes and change their opinion of me and take back what they have said about my not caring for you.  Not one of them have ever given me half a chance to make good.  Now, Mother, I don’t think you will need all of this money every month so Im going to tell you what I would like most of all to do if I return home safely and that is to go to school for a year or so and learn something that will fit me for things to come.  Say you should save half of it, in a year or two as long as I am in the service, when I return there will be qite a nest egg.  The time might come when I may need some little thing from home and I could without feeling dependent send home for it, but Mother, rememer that you are absolutely entitled to do with the money what you think is best.

You hadn’t better let the girls see what I have just written or they might say I was trying to take it back.  You know sometimes they jump to conclusions.

Well, Mother Dear, I suppose this will be the last letter I shall write to you for several weeks to come.  Im glad you are praying for me and Im trying to be worthy of your respect and love.  Hoping you are well and happy, I am,

Your loving Son,


1917, October 16 Camp Mills, N.Y.

Dear Mother,

I’m sending you a copy of the application I sent to the Bureau of War Risk Insurance at Washington D.C. so that if anything goes wrong you may have something to prove I took out the insurance.

One copy is kept on file in our company and two have been sent to Washington but our Captain thinks this added precaution is the proper thing.

Keep this but I don’t think you will ever have to use it as Im coming home some day.

Love, Parley


Application for Insurance to Bureau of War Risk Insurance
Treasury Department, Washington D.C.

I hereby certify that this is a true copy of the application mailed by me to the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, Washington D.C. October 16, 1917 (signed) Parley O. Pratt.

Oct. 16, 1917 Camp Williams L.I.N.Y.

(Excerpts): Ten Thousand dollars, premium to be withheld from my monthly pay.  “I was born 5th Sept. 1894.  Payable to Mrs. B.N. Pratt, beneficiary, mother.  Residence is 401 Constitution Bldg, Salt Lake City, Utah, and in the event of the death of said beneficiary to Miss Irene Pratt, sister, whose residence is 401 Constitution Bldg.

Signature, Parley O. Pratt.
Wagoner Rank, Organization,
Co.F., 117th Reg. Eng.
Approved and witnessed: Capt. E.B. Hayden.

*Correct birthdate is 1897, Parley wanted to appear older.


1917, Nov.  postal, France

Dear Mother,

If this card is received you will know I have arrived safely in France.  We are just embarking and this card will be mailed providing we reach our destination.  I will write you but dont expect any mail for several weeks as it will be that long before a letter will reach you.

Love, Parley


1917, Nov. 16 A French Port

Dear Mother,

Well, at last we are here “Somewhere in France.”

I had a fine trip across the Atlantic Ocean but can hardly relize that I am in Europe.

Im in the best of health and happy to be here.

I hope you wont forget to write often and I shall write to as often as I can if however it isnt much.

Wagoner Parley Pratt, Co.F., 117th A.E.F. Engineers, via. N.Y.


1917, Nov. 16 Somewhere in France

Dear Mother

At last our destination has been reached.  We have been very busy making things comfy and I have hardly had time to write before.  The Y.M. opened last evening with our entertainment so now we have a nice place to spend our evenings.

The boys have also organized a club and we have some nice time there.  The rent on our two club rooms costs one franc a day or about nineteen cents so you see living isnt quite so expensive over here.

I am working hard every day and in the best of health.

From our position you can very plainly hear the big guns bombing away but for the present we are safe.

If you want to send me anything for Xmas make it a big fruit cake as there are no sweets over here at all.

Love, Parley

Wagoner P.O. Pratt, 117th Engineers Co.F.,
A.E.F. via New York  France Expidionary.


1918, March 8 censored

Dear Mother,

This is the first time in quite a few weeks that I have had a chance to write, having, under the circumstances only been able to send a printed field card which I hope you received.

I want to tell you that after passing thro what I have in the last three weeks life has growen more precious than ever before and many things I look forward to now I never thought of before.

I cant tell you much but I am in a town very close to the first line trenches where we go around with a steel helmet on and two gas masks over our shoulder.  You mustnt be alarmed at that for if you could see how the French civilian population goes about their business of ploughing and so forth even when big shells are threatening their homes I know you would understand.  You see they are so used to it that they know there isn’t much danger of the Germans finding their small village nestled here among the hills.

Off course once in a while somebody gets hurt but not often according to the amount of bursting shells.  I have seen anti-aircraft guns fire dozens of shots at Boche aeroplanes without a hit.  Even now I can hear somewhere above me a Boche plane and every few minutes the exploding shrapnel from our guns.

The American boys are certainly making a great name for them selves all along the front and we engineers are certainly doing our share.

I suppose I have written before about the Y.M.C.A.  These ‘y’ secretaries certainly deserve a lot of credit.  Even at the front they have dugouts where soldiers going in and especially coming out can get a warm drink of chocolate coffee or malted milk.

I have a small china soup bowl that I got in one of my trips to the front.  At this particular place a town is within easy rifle shot of the German trenches and has a large pottery works which are heavily reinforced over head with pine logs and cement to keep stray or other shrapnel out.  Thats where I got my souvenir and you see its quite a souvenir at that.

The town stands quite solidly and is in plain sight of the Germans big guns.  Why they dont tear it down is a mystery to me but I suppose they have a good reason tho.

I have driven my four horses and wagon thro houseless towns and its quite a desolate sight believe me.

Well, mother dear, dont worry over me because Im not taking any more chances than necessary.

Tell Emma I got her letter from San Diego and let them all read this for an answer.  I havent had a letter from you since I wrote last but hope to get one soon.

Your loving son, P.


1918, March 17.  Soldier’s Mail censored.

To Mrs. B.N. Pratt
401 Constitution Bldg. (crossed out)
525 Constitution Bldg. (crossed out)
621 Wilmington Ave.

Dear Mother,

Just a line let you know Im feeling fine.  I haven’t heard from  home for some time now, but expect a letter any day.

Up here a great many things happen every day and we are constantly talking about little incidents that happened thro the days work as we sit here in my room at night.  Im in charge of the stock up here at present and my helper and I have a room with two beds and a stove.  We each have a couple of friends up here every night for supper and an hours talk before bedtime.  Off course we talk of other things than war, mostly of home and the time when peace comes.

Well, mother, this is a very short letter but it lets you know how I am.

I wish you would send me some papers and magazines for once in a while I have some spare time that I hardly know what to do with.

I hope you will be enjoying this wonderful weather we’re having over here and also the best of health.

Your Loving Son,


1918, April 2 “Somewhere in Frnace”  Soldier’s Mail U.S. Army

Dear Mother,

Letter came from Una last night.  First one I have had for several weeks so you can imagine how glad I was to read it.  Una says that you haven’t heard from me for a long time.  This I can’t understand because I have written regularly but to know one but you except one letter to Una and one to Emma.  I also wrote a long letter to Cora.  I know by now that you must of heard from me tho.

There is not much to write about.  I could tell you about some of my experiences but it might be censored so whats the use.

I enjoying the best of health and have nothing to kick about.  I think of home a great deal and especially about you.  Have you received the insurance yet.  Its for ten thousand I suppose a hole lot more than Im worth.  You will also get more money every month too.

Well, dear, dont worry about me and hoping to hear from you soon.  I am,

Your Loving son,


1918, April 14  “Somewhere in France”

Dear Mother,

Its a beautiful Sunday morning up here in the woods where I am at present.  There are many beautiful wild flowers and singing birds.  The trees are taking on there spring cloths and all the place is covered with long green grass.  Altogether it’s a beautiful day.  One would hardly suspect a war was going on.

Your second box reached me yesterday, and, Oh, you don’t know how glad I was to have it.  I only wish you would send me a few magazines once in awhile.

You mustn’t worry about me.  Im enjoying the best of health both morally physically and mentally and perfectly safe at present altho under shell fire in the last few days how it was nothing much.

I hope this may find you Happy and enjoying first class health.

Your Loving Son,


1918, April 21 “Somewhere on the Front”  Soldier’s Mail censored

Dearest Mother,

Youre letter came yesterday dated March 18 written by Emma. 

Im glad you are feeling better and I only hope you will continue that way.

I also received the papers today you sent on the eighteenth.  I have cut a piece from the 42nd Division of which we are a part.  Perhaps you saw it but at that its something to save as I was there.

From the papers it appears that the war is coming home to the people in the states more…..(censored, ½ page cut out).

The eighteenth was six months ago that we left New York.  We will soon get our service bars for six months service in France.

Perhaps I may be home for the Holidays but don’t place much faith in it I dont.

I also got a letter from Wallace and Dickey this morning.  They want me to send them some shell fragments or even a piece of some ruin.  That is impossible to do but I shall bring some souvenirs home with me.  I have a vase made from a shell which a Frenchman made it costs me 7 ½ Francs or about $1.50.

Well hope to hear from you again soon.  (Send some more magazines and papers) (stories).

Your loving Son,


1918, April 29 “American Front”

Dear Mother and Sisters,

Another week has passed.  I am writing to you every Sunday as I generally have that day to myself so I hope you have received my letter of a week ago.

Spring is about here by the looks of things and xcept for the havoc wrought by the big shells this region we are in is amazingly pretty.  The fruit trees are all inblowm and they are all along the roadways.  The country is one of rolling hills dotted with clumps of pine, white birch, and elm with frequently a large wood.  There are the biggest variety of singing birds I have ever known before.  In the early morning you would think they had turned a million canarys loose.

Yesterday I almost drove over a “210” German dude (about an eight inch shell which has failed to explode) near one of our batteries.  Perhaps it was harmless but goodness knows what would of happened if I have driven over it.

The front here has been very quiet lately.  A little artillery action once in a while is about all the action we have had.

We get the Paris edition of the New York Herald every morning.  Yesterday morning I saw a piece about David Keith of Salt Lake asking for information concerning his son David Keith who belonged to the A.E. Forces.

I want you to call up Mrs. Warick who lives on 9th East and Belmont not far from where Cora’s home used to be and tell her I met her son Gordon at L___ a nice town we were in for a month before leaving for the front.  He is the only fellow from Salt Lake I have met so far that I know.  We went to school together when I lived with Una.  It was sure good to see him.

I hope you are all enjoying good health.  I am well and happy.

Your loving Son,


1918, May 31 American Front  Soldiers Mail

Dear Mother,

Your letter came yesterday along with one from Irene and Cora.  It was sure good to read a letter written by you.  They are not hard to read.  You do fine.  I appreciate the fact that you write because I know how hard it is for you and especially now.

I was glad to hear your health has improved and hope it will continue to do so until you are entirely well.  Im also glad, Mother, that you have been paid the $15 every month and I have made arrangements for you to have more which you will receive shortly I hope.

Im in a field Hospital now with my eyes.  They are pretty bad but nothing to worry about.  I think it is the effects of the gas which the Germans are making frequent use of.  However, in a couple of weeks Ill be back on duty again.

It must be nice to have Cora back home with her boys and Oscar.

I received my picture the other day too with the letter.

I wish you would send me some magazines.  I dont care much for the papers for the news is a month or more old.  We get a paper every morning printed in Paris containing all the war news.

Give my love to all the girls and boys.  There is nothing more of interest to write this time.  I will write again in a few days.

Your loving Son,

Censor, Clk 1st Lt. Geo S Patton


June 4 “Advanced Area”

Dearest Mother O’ mine,

Its a beautiful evening in June one of those kind we enjoyed at home.  It’s sort of sending my heart back to you and this is the only way I can express it.  I’m afraid I’ll have to admit that I have never fully relized just what mother meant to until now and, oh, if you could only understand my feelings now.  But you must understand, mothers always do.

Im leaving in the morning for a Base Hospital.  I suppose where they have an eye specialist.  It will take considerable and perhaps a prolonged treatment.

The weather here abouts has been grand for the past month so that now I can see why they call her “Sunny France.”

There is really not very much to write about here in the Hospital so wishing you may be enjoying the best of good health along with all the girls and give them my love.

Your loving Son,


1918, June 24 Soldiers Mail

Dearest Mother,

Just a line or two to let you know Im all right and feeling fine.  However I’m still in the hospital but will leave here in a day or two completely cured.  My eyes are as clear as crystal.  They certainly have some wonderful doctors and nurses here.

From here I go to a replacement camp where as soon as your in fit condition your  sent to some organization in need of men.  Quite often you get back to your old company but not always.  Im not worrying about that tho for there wont be any love lost.

Give my love to all,
I am,
Your loving Son,

I am sending you a copy of the Stars and Stripes the official AEF newspaper.  Hope you enjoy it.



1918, Sept. 23  France

Dear Sisters,

Three letters reached me from home this morning each with the same story about mother.  One from Cora, Irene and Una.  However it was old news.  I first heard of mother’s death on September fifth, my birthday and by a most beautiful letter.  I only wished you could have known for I fully relize how hard it must have been for you to write those three letters which I received this morning.

It was a great shock to me however expected but by this writing I have become fully reconciled to my loss of a man’s best friend, for I know our mother must be in a beautiful world free from care and pain and full of endless peace such as we mortals here on earth cannot enjoy.

There is one thing however that I shall greatly miss.  All these months I have been hopefully looking forward to my homeward journey.  To the little home out there in Forest Dale with mother there to welcome me, but now I must leave that welcome to you.

Cora, you must keep my books from mother if she wanted me to have them and especially the “Life of Parley P. Pratt.”

Una, I will always keep the picture of mother you are sending near my heart.

Dont worry about me I know Brother Lind’s promise will b e kept.

Hoping you are all well and enjoying the best of health.

With Love, Your Brother,

Col. P.O. Pratt
Co.D., 116th Engrs.
American Ex. Forces – France


1918, Oct. 18 France  Soldiers Mail

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 6th (Sept) received.  I was very glad to hear that you are once more contentedly settled in Salt Lake.

I had a letter from Una, with yours, dated the 16th telling me of her move.  I was glad to know she cared enough about Mother’s home to live there.  When I look back over the last few years I can say with out a doubt I spent my happiest times in Forest Dale and I want to some day have a home of my own there.

I can’t express the feeling that came over me on first learning of Mothers death.  As you perhaps all ready know a letter came from Naomi on my birthday.  It was handed to me just before I went in for mess at night.  I tore it open and it broke the news in a most beautiful manner.  Naomi thinking I had already been informed.  I got up and left the mess room quickly.  I read the letter over a half dozen times before its full dawned upon me.  I sat for a long time and then I felt like I was all alone.  I fell asleep that way but woke up on the night and suddenly it came to me that Mother was with our Father in Heaven and most likely very happy so with that thot in my mind I have been very comforted in my loss.  The worst will be when I return home with Mother gone.

I am glad you like Naomi.  Look for yourself, I intend to someday make her my wife so I want you to like her and treat her square.  She has a wonderful father and mother perhaps you know them.

Well, Cora dear, I will write you again soon.  I have two letters, one to Em, one to Una, to write so will close for this time.  I am enjoying the best of health and sincerely wish that this may find you and yours likewise.  Give my best to Oscar.

Love, Parl

P.S. get the right address:
Cpl. P.O. Pratt
Co.D., 116th Eng.
American Ex. Forces – France


Parley Pratt Serving His Flag in France
(his picture in uniform)

Among the Salt Lake boys who already have crossed to France to serve their flag is Parley Pratt, son of the late Parley P. and Brigamina Pratt.  The young soldier is serving in an engineering corps and for a time was stationed on the Pacific coast.  From there he went overland, sailing for France from an Atlantic port October 15.

Pratt is the only son of his widowed mother.  He served on the Mexican border a year agog and in his return from there re-enlisted.  He is 20 years of age.

Excerpts from letters written from a concentration camp near New York City just before he left for France follow:

“My Dear Mother

I am sitting here writing by candle light on my coat, thinking of home.

We have been drilling from morning till night for the past two weeks, hardly having time to wash our face and hands.  You see, we are expected to learn more in a month than most soldiers learn in a year and we are sure learning it.

Sunday Secretary of War Baker was out here to review us and that means we are very shortly to leave for France.  Tonight we had orders to put everything in our dunnage bags and have a pack ready to make up.  There is some talk of our being in England all winter, but you never can tell.

If you saw the Fort Douglas troops parade you can form some idea of a review of our troops here.  Imagine 40,000 marching by.  It took us from 7 a.m. to 12 o’clock to march by the auto in which Secy. Baker was seated.

I’m happy, well fed and in the best of health.”

[Deseret News, Oct. 1917]


Salt Lake Boy Tells of Being Target for Shells of Germans

Two letters received by Mrs. P.P. Pratt, 621 Wilmington Avenue, this city, gave strangely contrasting side lights on the life of an American soldier in France.  Mrs. Pratt’s son, Wagoner P.O. Pratt, Co. F. 117th U.S. Engineers, tells in the first of the excitement of being under shell fire and the direct target for German guns.  The second letter was written by Wagoner Pratt from an American base hospital, after he had suffered the tortures of being “gassed.”  It shows another of war’s strange contrasts, the suffering of thousands of men in the hospital, as contrasted with the beauty and quiet of an European bathing place and resort.

Under the date of May 16, Wagoner Pratt writes from a town some distance behind the front, which he describes as “a real town – however pretty badly damaged by shell fire – situated on the banks of a good sized river.

“Today,” continues the letter, “is like a midsummer’s day instead of early spring.  The trees have all their foliage and it is altogether a beautiful and pleasing sight that greets my eyes from the open window.

“There are a great many soldiers here, French, Italians, and mostly Yanks.

“We arrived here several days ago from ‘up front,’ and I was certainly glad to get away for a few days or weeks, whichever the case may be.  You will understand my feelings after reading the following:

“Some ten days ago I was driving along the road between the town containing our billets and the town at the communication trenches.  A big German captive balloon had a plain view of a couple of hundred yards of road at this point.  A lieutenant, a major and three orderlies passed me.  They had passed no more than a few feet up the road when I heard a distant boom-boom of a gun, a second of silence, then a far off whistle, growing more and more distinct each moment.  I jumped and hit the ditch just in time.  Then the concussion came.  I tried to crawl under my steel helmet, but it was too small.

“As soon as it was over, I started to unhitch.  I got my leaders off and tied to the wagon when again there came that distant boom-boom.  I knew it was guns again and that meant the ditch for me a second time.  These two came a great deal closer, covering me with mud.  They broke in between the party I mentioned and me, on the side of the road.  Unfortunately the lieutenant hadn’t gotten out of the way in time, and he died on the way to the hospital.  The major was wounded and an orderly was hit by flying shell splinters.  One of their horses was killed outright and one badly cut up.

“Both of my horses were over on one side of the tongue, having been knocked there by the force of the concussion.  I started to get them on their feet and here comes an ambulance.  One of the orderlies had rapidly ridden back on a horse for it and I never saw a ma ride like it before.  After above five minutes of feverish work I managed to get the horses out of the way so that the ambulance could get to the officers.  Then I jumped on my horse and, hiding the other three, rode back to town.  A few minutes later four more shells hit dangerously close to the wagon.  I went back later in the afternoon, when Mr. Balloon had disappeared, to get my wagon, and also a shell fragment, if I could.  I found it, and prize it as quite a souvenir.”

Four weeks later, Wagoner Pratt had already been in an American base hospital a week as a result of being “gassed”.  After telling how he is improving, his eyes being the slowest to recover the effects, he says:

“The boys are treated fine here.  I have a bed with mattress, sheets and a soft pillow, the first bed I’ve had in France.

“The hospital is situated in a town famous for its mineral baths and before the war was a resort for Americans.  It’s a picturesque little town, with beautiful parks and buildings.  The hospital has eight buildings and something like 3,000 beds.  The buildings were formerly hotels.

“There is a casino or theatre modeled after the famous Casino at Paris.  Last night we enjoyed a program given by three French artists and an American girl.  It was very fine.

“There are wounded soldiers here from almost every nation fighting with the Allies.  It’s a most interesting sight to see them all gathered together, out in the park, listening to a band concert.”

[Deseret News, May 1918]

[Parley Parker Pratt Jr. & Descendants, Cora S. Winkler, 1992]

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