Sketch of Life of Dora W. Pratt

Dora W. Pratt, the oldest child of Charles Henry Wilcken and Eliza Rieche, was born in Echorst, Germany, July 25, 1854. While the child was still small, her father was forced to leave Germany or serve the rest of his life as bodyguard to the king.

Thus deprived of the love and protection of a husband and father, the mother disposed of the home and with her two children lived part time in the homes of both grandparents. The grandfathers and uncles were especially indulgent to the little girl.

In 1860 with her mother and little brother Carl, Dora said goodbye to her relatives and left her native land to come to America. Some incidents of the journey impressed themselves indelibly upon the child’s mind. There is a vivid picture of a school of golden backed fish following the ship. Another vivid picture is of a child dying and being placed in canvas bag and being buried at sea. One day as the mother was sitting on deck and the children playing at her knees, the mother became sick and the porters carried her in her chair to the deck railing. The little girl was filled with fear and clung to her mother’s skirts, begging them not to throw her mother overboard as they had the child.

The mother had plenty of money to see her to her destination when she left Germany. Not being able to speak English and also being rather tied with her two small children, the mother entrusted enough of her money for first class fare and state room to the captain of the emigrant company. However, she found herself and children in the storage with no food but a few knickknacks for the children to eat between meals. They had not sailed far until the mother was taken sick. Though a German-speaking member of the ship’s crew, who interceded for her, she was provided with better quarters. In their new location they came in contact with three sisters who had joined the Church in Sweden. These girls were very kind to the sick woman and took full charge of the children. One of them, years later, became a member of the family. Mary married Dora’s father and bore him three daughters.

The sea voyage had been a long, tiresome one. Everything seemed to smell and taste of the sea. No wonder the children coaxed and begged for Mother to buy the lovely-looking, golden cornbread and round, shiny red tomatoes from the little black Negro vender who peddled his wares at the entrance port. The mother protested they would not like the food. However, she relented and bought them. The child first bit into the cornbread, expecting that it would be nice, sweet cake; instead she had a mouth full of dry, sawdusty stuff. She next bit into the tomato and then wept bitterly at the insipid tasting things she had in each hand.

Upon reaching the Western frontier, a wagon, team, cow and provisions were purchased for the westward journey. After the children had been given their milk in the morning, the remainder was put in a bucket with a tight lid. The bucket was then hung under the wagon. When the camp was made at night and the evening meal prepared, the morning milk was served in the form of butter and buttermilk.

News reached the emigrant train one morning that a company of men from Salt Lake were coming to meet them. The father of this little family was among the number. He had been away from them so long, however, that the children had no idea of his looks. As the men approached the wagon, the children standing in the corner repeatedly asked, “Is that my daddy? Is that my daddy?” Of course when the daddy did come, there was no doubt about his being the right daddy for this group of three.

The first home of the family in Salt Lake was at the old Chase Mill, then owned by President Brigham Young, now known as Liberty Park. Here the father resumed his trade and was the first miller of Chase Mill. From this home the children were first started in their school work. The little girl had a double purpose in learning, the second purpose being that of teaching her mother the English language. Through her primers and readers, the mother also learned to read and speak.

In 1865, C. H. Wilcken in company with R. T. Burton was called to Heber City, Provo Valley. Here they built the first grist mill in the vicinity. While living in Heber City, the father was called on a mission to England for the Latter-day Saint Church. The little German girl had now grown to young womanhood and was willing and capable of helping support the family during the father’s absence. This she did by teaching school, taking most of her pay in produce such as pork, molasses, beans, etc. While living here in Heber City, twin girls came to the family, so a double responsibility fell upon this young women, that of helping her invalid mother care for these infants as well as partially providing for the family and supporting a missionary father.

Several years later the family moved back to Salt Lake and again took up their abode at Chase Mill.

Dora Wilcken received her education in the common schools of Salt Lake. She later went to “Miss May Cook’s Select School for Young Ladies.” After finishing her course, she assisted Miss Cook in primary school work. She also taught one year under Prof. K. G. Maeser in the old 20th Ward School.

In 1874 Dora Wilcken was married to Helaman Pratt, son of Parley P. and Mary Wood Pratt. The Wilcken family were then living in what is at present the carekeeper’s house in Liberty Park. The wedding reception was held on a grassy square across the road and directly east of the house. Helaman Pratt declares that it was the corn meal mush of Dora’s make that he fell in love with first and then later with her.

A call came from this young couple to settle in Sevier County. After a year or so of pioneer life and helping to establish the settlement, they again made their home in Salt Lake, prior to the husband going to the Mexican Mission. In 1876, at the home of her parents in Liberty Park, her first child, a little girl, was born.

Upon the return of the husband, a home was purchased up City Creek Canyon, almost directly east of the present State Capitol building. They were well established on a small dairy and fruit farm when a letter from Box B informed the father he was to shape his affairs and leave soon to preside over the Mexican Mission. Here the little family lived and the mother uncomplainingly supported her little family and husband on the farm and dairy products. Here twins came to the home, a girl and a boy.

In 1887 Helaman Pratt was notified that he was released from presiding over the Mission in the interior but that he was called on a life mission to the Mexican Colonies. He went directly to the Colonies. Hence the responsibility of disposing of the property, packing and getting ready for a long journey and new home rested upon the mother of this family.

They took up their abode, the second country by adoption for the character of this sketch, as Mormon colonists and pioneers in the state of Chihuahua, Old Mexico. Dora W. Pratt endured bravely and cheerfully the hardships of pioneer life, always making the best of conditions she was placed under. It was literally true that she could make a real home out of the poorest hovel. Her doors were always open to the poor lone wayfarer as well as the Church, state and national officials. All received hospitality at her hands.

She was chosen to be the first president of the Young Ladies Association in the Colony of Juarez. In 1893, after the death of Sister Tilly Teasdale, she was made stake president of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association, which position she held in 1912, the time of the exodus of the colonists. During this period she spent many happy hours in M. I. A. work and traveled many miles by team and train visiting associations, giving advice, council and inspiration in their work.

Dora W. Pratt is the mother of nine children, seven girls and two boys; forty grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Up to date, all of her children and grandchildren are workers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She lost a boy and a girl in infancy and two daughters after they had married and had families of their own. She has been and is a mother to not only her own children but to the children of the other two families of her husband. In fact children of both the other families have said if they had not been told they would scarcely have known which was their own mother. The grandchildren of the family, not her own, call her Grandma Dora. She is loved, revered and respected by all the family and hundreds upon hundreds of friends and benefactors.

She resides now at 74 years in her old home in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Since this sketch was written, mother has passed on. She died in her old home at Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, June 22, 1929. She is mourned by hundreds of friends and loved ones.

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