Life of Brighamine Pratt

by Cora Pratt Winkler, 1922

My mother, Brighamine Nielsen Pratt was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, March 8th, 1865.  She was the daughter of Maren Larsen and Hans Nielson.

She speaks of her mother as a refined little lady, with blue eyes and brown hair and an angelic temperament.  Maren lived on a country estate.  Hans was working for her father there when he persuaded her to elope with him to the big city.  This cut her off from her inheritance, though mother remembers of visiting her aunt in the country.

Hans was a jovial sandy complexioned man.  He could play the violin and yodel, which he loved to do.

Mother resembled her father in appearance and disposition by also had many of the finer characteristics of her mother.  There were four children: Mary, Lars, Christina and Brighamine, the youngest.

The father was not a good provider.  The burden became too heavy for the delicate mother.  She died at the age of 47, leaving her youngest only eight years of age.  The poor little girl sat on the doorstep all night because she was afraid to be alone with her dead mother.

After that life was indeed hard for the little girl.  She and her brother, who had been crippled by an accident, played and sang on the streets for a mere existence.  They would have sent her to an orphanage by this she would have none of, so she carefully dodged the officers.

The brother died so she went to work at a match factory and later as a domestic.

Mother’s parents had joined the Church before her birth.  She endured the taunts of the children and remained faithful to her Church.  She was a soloist in the choir, singing soprano, but was often asked to help the altos when they were weak.  The leader was a young Lieutenant and a fine violinist.  Once he wrote a song for her to sing on some special occasion.  It was called, “Denmark Is My Second Mother.”  The words started: “Early I lost my mother and it made me very sad, but Denmark is my second mother.”  I have heard my mother sing this song many times.  It was very sweet.  It was said that there were many eyes in tears when she sang it.

The young couple fell in love with each other.  He, however, was not yet a member of the Church, so mother did not marry him.

At the age of 20 her big chance came to sail for America and join the saints in the West.  She and her sweetheart promised to be true to each other for six months.  She was happy to be sailing to the Land of Promise but sad to leave her sweetheart.  He asked her come to his home to see his fancy work, of which she had heard so much.  Here he tried to prevent her from reaching the boat on time.  But her pleadings and her commands finally won her release.  Rushing down to the docks she had no sooner crossed the gangplank than it was drawn in.  As she leaned over the railing of the moving ship her salty tears mingled with the briny deep.

During a storm at sea some Swedish girls were frantically praying, “Lord Jesus, save us.” Then they turned to mother and said, “Why don’t you pray, Brighamine?”  She answered, “Because I said my prayers this morning.”

After a long, hard journey, mother arrived in Salt Lake city, where her sister Christina met her.  They lived for a time at Blythe’s United Order.  A little later she went to keep house for Parley P. Pratt Jr., whose wife had gone East to study medicine.  Here she found a real home.  There was the father, grandmother, and five boys.  The youngest were not much more than babies.  She learned to love them dearly.  She had such a great big mother heart.

The musician she left in the old country married in three months.  This, of course, left her free, although it was a great sorrow to her.  She had many beaux and came near marrying two of them.  One was Julius Larsen.  Her sister Christina, had married his brother.  The other man was in every way nice, as far as she could see.  When he proposed, he gave her three days to think it over.  She prayed that she might know if he was the right one.  At the end of the third day she was still undecided.  She had had no answer to her prayers.  When his knock came at the door, she wondered what she would tell him.  But when she opened it she knew.  She had vowed she would never marry a man that drank.  This suitor was dead drunk.  When he said he had come for his answer, mother said, “There’s the door, that’s my answer.”

While she was living at P.P. Pratts, mother had a chance to learn how good and noble and how kind and loving his was with his family.  She held him in very high respect and esteem.  So when he asked her to be his second wife, she accepted him, provided his wife, Romania, sent her written consent.  This they obtained.

They made the journey to St. George to be married in the Temple.  On arriving, they found that they had forgotten mother’s recommend.  When President Brigham Young heard that the young lady was named after him he said that that was recommend enough.

Three weeks later father left on a mission to the States.  I was born in due time, in Aunt Romania’s house.  She had but recently returned, and kept her promise to father she would take care of mother.

My mother worked very hard before I was born in order to get the things she needed and some nice clothes for her baby.

After a time, mother, being very independent, went to Brigham City to live with her sister Christina, whose husband was also on a mission.  Christina took care of the two children, her own and me, while mother went out to work to get their living.  When Uncle Eric came home things were not so pleasant, so mother confided her troubles to her dearest friend, Emma Lundgreen.  They had sung in the choir together, crossed the ocean together and Emma offered her a home.  She was a widow with a small boy.  She also had her millinery business to look after, so mother fit in there nicely to take care of the house and child.  This proved to be a happy arrangement.

After three years, father came home to find a little Danish daughter over two years of age.  I had always been frightened of men, but went to his arms and called him papa, which made him very happy.  I was his only living girl.

Father secured a piece of land on Canyon Road and 4th Ave.  It was in the wild state, being covered with rocks and sagebrush.  A little lumber house for a temporary shelter was built.  This mother soon made cozy and kept very clean.  By patience and hard work, the ground was cleared, trees and bushes planted.  A more substantial home of cobble stones and adobies was built.  Mother was a real home maker, so the place soon became very inviting.  We had a cow and chickens.  People came from quite a distance to get our delicious strawberries.

Otto, the second child, born in the new home, was a beautiful boy.  He had yellow curls and beautiful dark eyes, said to be like his grandfather’s P.P. Pratt Sr.  This child grew in strength and symmetry of body and intelligence of mind, until people noticed and remarked about him.  He used to look over those coming to the house and then remark: “I like you, you’re a good woman.  You can stay.”  To one he said the reverse.  She said, “I hate to come here.  I feel as if that boy can see clear through me.”  She was not such a good woman.

During these few years in the new home they were very happy.  But a great sorrow came to our home.  The nurse girl tipped the baby buggy over on the rocky hillside.  The precious boy’s spine was injured.  He was about two at the time.  For long months he was a helpless little invalid, having to be carried on a pillow.  He suffered a great deal and must have been a great care to my mother.

During this time a third child was born, Olga Irene.  Others had to care for Otto for a time.  Naturally he complained that everyone but mamma hurt him.  He was jealous of the new baby who seemed the cause of his discomfort.  One day he said, “Mamma, I don’t like that baby, let’s drown her.”  Mother wrapped a shawl around herself and baby and started down the walk toward City Creek.  She hadn’t gone far when he shouted, “No, don’t drown her, let’s just spank her.”

One day I came in crying because the big boys had kept my marbles after shooting them out of the ring.  Otto said, “Don’t you cry, Cora, when I get well, I’ll lick every one of those big boys that hurt you.”  I remember how cheered I was.  I thought he could really do it.

No doubt father and mother had kept the little fellow alive many months by fasting and prayer.  One day President Taylor said to father, “Parley, stop your fasting and praying for that child.  He is a choice spirit, and was not intended to stay here long.”  Father obeyed the counsel, and the little sufferer was soon released.  While it must have been a great grief to mother at the time, many years later she remarked that she was glad that Otto did not live to grow up a cripple.

Leone Anna was the next child.  She was well named as she grew to be strong and brave and very willful.

When she was but one year old, mother was again called to part with her husband.  In the Spring of 1885, father was sent to the Penitentiary for his religious belief and the practice of polygamy.  Mother was left behind to care for her home and three little children.  The Gentile officers had been very annoying and even bothered my mother after my father was gone.

She had the cow and fifty chickens to get a living from, but a mean neighbor, who had wanted our property, poisoned the chickens and shot our faithful watchdog.  Or so we believed.  We suffered real hardship at this time.

Aunt Romania was very nice to us.  She came and took us in her buggy several times a week to go to see father.  She also took him little dainties and flowers and supplied him with a cot and garden chair.

The time came when we were forbidden the pleasant visits with the brethren across the table in the dining room.  It was a sad day when we could only see my father from the top of the high wall.  After six months he returned to his loved ones.  He had been home once on sick leave.

The folks now decided it would be wise to move and take their second name, Parker.  They moved to the 17th Ward, while Aunt Mary, sister of Brighamine, lived in our house.

It was in the Swenson home that Una Viola was born.  She was a very beautiful baby.  Father jokingly called her the City Creek beauty, and said that he was going to charge 25 cents to see her.  Mother, however, was very disappointed that it was another girl, when she so much wanted a boy, to take the place of the one she had lost. 

After a time we moved back to the old home on Canyon Road.  There was a few years of peace and prosperity.  Father worked for the City as tax collector for ten years up until the time the Liberals took the city and all the Mormons were ousted.

Edna was born during these pleasant years.  She was the prettiest little thing with dark brown eyes and a wealth of reddish brown, curly hair.  She had a very sweet and happy disposition.  The three preceding girls had been blonds.

After father lost his position with the City, times became very hard for us.  He was getting on in years and not very strong, so that he was unable to get work that he could do.  He tried several things himself, but met with little success financially.  The aftermath of the boom brought hard times for most people and especially for my parents.  They were forced to dispose of part of the old property including the old home.  They now built a little house on the last hillside corner of it.  This home was comfortable and well built and made us a pleasant home.  Mother saw to it that new trees were planted, and with flowers and shrubs it soon looked like a little garden of Eden.  Mother loved flowers so she always had blooming house plants.

Emmadell, a real brunette, was born in the new home.  She was a quiet, serious minded child.  After her birth, father went to Wyoming to take order s for his father’s Autobiography.   He met with very good success.  That year we had a very fine Christmas.  Father also compiled and published a little work called, “Home Economy” which he sold.

Six more years passed, years of struggle to keep six growing robust children in food and clothing.  Mother kept up he courage and helped all she could. 

The last year father took a lecture course, speaking on “Pioneer Life” which was of his own experiences.  Mother was again left alone with little to do with.  Father wrote of not feeling well and not being able to shake off a spell of La Grippe.  He finally returned home so sick that he took to his bed.  This was no time to tell him that there was another little one expected.  Mother bravely kept it to herself, and nursed her husband through three months of terrible illness, with all her natural ability as a nurse and no thought of herself.  It was only through others, that he learned to his great sorrow, how near his wife was to becoming a mother again.  He then told her she should be blessed with a little boy.  Mother felt like she just couldn’t let her husband go.  She needed him so much.  Twice her anguished cries brought him back, but after promising him she would let him go in peace she calmly and stoically went through this great ordeal.  Ten days later, the promised boy came, Parley Orson.  It hardly seems possible that a woman could go through so much and bear up under it.

The new baby was, of course, an added burden, and made it much harder for her to get along, but still he was a great joy and comfort to her.  He was a fine, healthy child with big brown eyes and yellow curls.  One day mother said to him, when he was about two years old, “Oh, Parley, if you hadn’t come to Earth I could have gotten along so much better.”  With a look of hurt in his eyes, he replied, “I left my happy home for you.”

She lived in fear of something happening to him.  One day he fell and cut his wrist on the butcher knife.  Nothing but the presence of a nurse next door saved him from bleeding to death.  As it was, blood poisoning set in, and there was a fight for his life.  He had several other accidents which so unnerved mother that she would almost swoon at the sound of a shrill cry when he was at play.

After father’s death, I went to live with Aunt Emma and work in her millinery store.  Irene, but sixteen years of age, got a job as a cook in a fine home, and made good there.  Leona helped the neighbors and Una went into the Paris Millinery store, where she stayed until she was married.

Aunt Emma was the true friend she had always been, helpful and encouraging.  She visited our home often, and we had many a good time at her place in Brigham City.

Mother managed to keep her home intact and her children pretty much together.  There were times when she had to go out and take a job to get money for her taxes.

When Oscar Winkler came to see me, he proved a great help and comfort to my mother.  We needed a man about the place so badly, and he was so handy with pant brush and tools.  He became like a son and big brother.  He made our first Christmas after father died.  After he had filled a mission to Denmark, we were married.

Mother now felt that she would like to do a little more for herself.  We rented her home while she took a larger house to keep boarders.  She was too generous so that it didn’t pay.  Her discouragement made her ill.  Oscar told her to come back home and he would build a room, so we could manage for a while.

After a time she again became restless to make a good living for herself and children.  She mortgaged her home to get a bigger, better place than she had had before, where she would get a higher class of people and better pay.  This was going along pretty well when Parley took smallpox.  He was only slightly sick, but the house had to be quarantined and the boarders all left.  As she could not recover from this calamity, she was obliged to sell her home.  This seemed a great shame.

By this time four of us had married but one came back to mother with a little baby.

The girls wanted to take mother to California where some of them had been before.  This she consented to do.  They went to San Francisco.  Irene and Emma got work and later Edna, while mother took care of the baby and Parley, and kept house for them.  She nursed the little baby Parley, back to health, and they were getting along nicely when Emma came down with a recurrence of inflammatory rheumatism.  She was very sick.  The Doctor said they would have to take her to a dryer climate.  When she was able to move, they went to Los Angeles.  When Emma finally regained her health, she went back to the Telephone Co.  She had become an expert operator.

They finally came back to Salt Lake, and after a few more moves, Irene, who was now the head of the family, bought a little new house in Sugar House on Wilmington Ave. between 6th and 7th East.  For a few years mother was comfortable and happy here.  Emma had married Owen Sweeten, Irene had a good position, Edna worked with her and Parley worked and went to school.  Mother had her Relief Society and a little club of friends which she enjoyed.

Parley had been a good boy and a loving son.  He treated his mother like a sweetheart.  He used to have an evening a week to take her to a show.

This happy relationship was soon to end.  One day Parley came home in a soldier’s uniform and announced that he had joined the army, to go to the Mexican border to settle some trouble.  This was an awful blow to mother.  He was not yet nineteen.  She feared for his life but more for his morals.  Just as he had become of some little help and support to her, he was to be snatched away, and sent out into the wicked world, her innocent baby.  Mother’s tears and pleading prevailed.  Parley took off the uniform and we went with him up to the encampment to have him relieved because of his age.  The officer was not in sympathy with mother, said that if the boy had lied about his age it was a serious matter and he could be severely punished.  It ended with the boy staying with his bargain.

The trouble was soon settled. Parley came back alright except for an injury that necessitated an operation.

Before Parley reached twenty one the World War claimed him.  This time he avoided the fuss by leaving home and enlisted in California.  Only a mother can know what war really cost.

My mother had always been strong and active and accomplished a great deal, but hear health had begun to fail.  She had born the double burden of a father and a mother for over twenty years.  Through her illness she was patient and did not complain.  Her daughters who were near her were kind and considerate.  Parley wrote regularly, which was a comfort to her.  She was to learn, however, that he had had some narrow escapes and was finally gassed and laid up in a hospital.

After many months of suffering mother passed peacefully away one beautiful Sabbath morn.  An Elder had just prayed for her, and promised her that her boy would come home safe.

I would here like to go back and tell of some of the happier hours and the things that mother liked and did.

She was naturally of a happy, cheerful disposition.  She loved to dance and sing and entertain.  She belonged to the Danish choir and Prof. Stephen’s singing class.  She was gifted in music and learned to read songs by note.  She took part in Stephen’s Opera, when the presented the Bohemian Girl, in the Salt Lake Theatre.  She enjoyed dances, parties and plays.  Father, being so much older (19 years), preferred to stay at home with the little ones and read and write.  But he did not deny his young wife the amusements she craved.  She often took me for company.  Father would always come down the road to meet us.

Mother was generous and hospitable to a fault.  In the early days our house was a Mecca for immigrant girls.  They stayed as long as they needed to.  Often, mother paid them a little wage to help her, so that they might have a little money.  She and her sister, Christina, sent for their sister Mary and her four children and helped them to get started in the new world.

Father’s numerous family found a welcome at our home too.  Two brothers and a sister living neighbors to us.  Also two of Parley P. Pratt Sr.’s wives.

There were so many pleasant parties and dinners in the little home.  How we enjoyed the visit of a dear friend and all her children and then a visit and luncheon at her home.

Mother was happiest when she could make some else happy.  She was never so poor that she did not have something to share with someone less fortunate.  Widows and widowers, old people and orphans were her hobby.  Sometimes it was a well cooked meal, sometimes a new dress, or even a piece of furniture, and again a cheerful word or a little sympathy to one who was downhearted.  And always her kind deeds were down quietly and in secret, and as if it weren’t much.  She even comforted an erring woman, finding a good home for her baby, thus making another couple happy.

Mother was high strung and quick tempered.  But it was over in a moment.  She had a certain pride which was to her credit.

Brighamine Pratt was a good wife, a devoted mother, a real home maker; clean and tidy, a splendid cook and dressmaker.  She was a natural nurse, pulling us through many a serious illness with the help of the Lord.

Her faith and loyalty to her Church were superb.  She refused two offers of marriage, because the men were not of our faith.  She paid her tithing and many a time laid her last 50 cent piece on the table for the poor.  She attended her meetings faithfully.  She used to delight in taking her whole family and one or two others who might be visiting us, and filling the second bench of the chapel.

Mother was a Relief Society teacher for many years.  She also did a great deal of Temple work.  Although naturally practical, she was very spiritual, attaining to dreams and visions that gave her great comfort.

Mother raised her family of seven to maturity.  They have all been true to the Faith and most of the active Church workers.

She certainly lived a successful life.

Cora Pratt Walker

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

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Dec. 2006]

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