Helaman Pratt

By Bertha Pratt, his wife

Helaman Pratt was born May 31, 1846 at Mt. Pisgah, Pottawattamie County, Iowa. He was the son of Parley P. Pratt and Mary Wood Pratt. His father was born in Burlington, Osage county, New York, April 12, 1807. His mother, Mary Wood was born at Glasgow, Scotland. She was sealed September 9, 1844 to Parley P. Pratt as his wife for time and all eternity in the Nauvoo, Illinois temple by the hand of Brigham Young.

As the date shows, Helaman Pratt was born while his family was on the way to Utah. It was 1847 that the Pioneers entered the valley. (The Pratt Family, however, had stayed in Winter Quarters for a time.) I think his mother and father got to Utah in 1848. I have heard him tell that his birthplace was a wagon. He was his mother’s first child. After him came his sisters, Cornelia Pratt and Mary Pratt Young, and brother, Mathoni.

He grew up in Salt Lake City in his early days. He shared the herding, plowing, watering, etc. incident to the life in a new community where everything had to be wrestled from the soil. He attended the early school taught by Mrs. Dillworth and Mrs. Mellam, and when a young man played in the orchestra for the dances of that early period, taking part in all the fun as well as playing for the dances. I’ve heard him tell of a joke they played on a friend who was somewhat a hypochondriac. They would tell him he looked sick, ask him where it hurt, and kept it up among them until the boy really was sick and had to leave the dance.

They had a farm south of the city, now occupied by the city. Aunt Ellen lived on the farm and kept the boys, of whom there were several, while they worked the farm. Things were scarce in those days, especially those that had to be freighted across the plains. She used to say to the boys, “Boys, I have hidden the sugar on the top of the cupboard, and don’t any of you get into it.” She was a sweet soul and loved every one of the boys, though she herself only had one. Two of her daughters married Sam Russell and their descendants lived in Salt Lake. One, at least, has achieved fame as an educationalist. Sam Russell’s sister and Mrs. Johnson who lived together with Aunt Sis in Chuichupa.

Helaman Pratt was called to aid in setttling the Muddy, Nevada. He was engaged to be married to a Miss Parks, a beautiful girl from one of the first families in Salt Lake society. She refused to go with him on this mission so the engagement was broken and he went alone. While on this mission, he met Emeline Victoria Billingsly, who was sealed to him as his wife July 25, 1868. She was the mother of Rey, Leon, Gladys, and some others who have been dead for a long time.

Helaman, together with Billy Segmiller and others, founded Prattville, near Richfield in Swiss County. He was living there when he married Dora Wilcken, April 20, 1874. They were sealed by Apostle Wilford Woodruff. I remember their wedding very well. We were living in the big house in Liberty Park and we had so many people at the wedding. Both Helaman and Dora’s friends lived in Salt Lake. Those were the days when plural marriages were sanctioned by the church and there were no laws forbidding it, so they could celebrate as at any wedding.

About this time, possible a year later, Helaman Pratt and others, among them Anthony W. Ivins, were called to go to Mexico on a mission. They traveled by horseback and pack mule from Salt Lake City through Arizona and through El Paso, Texas into Mexico. They went as far south as Parral, Chihuahua. Dan Jones led the company and they had many hardships, but some firm friendships were made and some respect lost. Anthony W. Ivins and Helaman became lifelong friends.

The company returned to their homes. It was while Helaman was on this mission that Dora’s oldest child, Anna Pratt Romney, was born at the home of Dora’s father, C. H. Wilcken, in Liberty Park, where Dora came to live while Helaman was on the mission. Helaman moved back with his family and built a home in Salt Lake City and engaged in various occupations. He build a home in City Creek Canyon which is now one of the finest residential districts. He was an authorized member of the Salt Lake Police Force.

While living there, he was again called to go to Mexico on a mission. This time to the interior to preside over the Mexican Mission, and from that time on his destiny was in Mexico. He took Aunt Victoria to Mexico City and after a time they all moved to the colonies, to Juarez first, then to Pratt’s Ranch and then to Colonia Dublan.

On December 9, 1891, Helaman was ordained a High Priest and was set apart to be Second Councilor to Anthony W. Ivins as President of the Juarez Stake of Zion, a position that he occupied until death, November 26, 1909 – a period of fourteen years. During these years, he was actively engaged in working for the betterment of the Mexican colonies, both temporally and spiritually, and was considered one of the foremost citizens of the colonies.

Some of his ideals:

A man should work for himself rather than for a boss.
It is better to be a big toad in a little puddle than a little toad in a big puddle.
Blood tells.
It is better to be honest and poor than to be wealthy and dishonest.
Never be late.
All that you do, do well.
Bertha Wilcken was sealed to Helaman Pratt for time and all eternity May 14, 1898 with Anthony W. Ivins officiating. Three children blessed this union: Harold W., Emerson W., and Joseph W. Pratt.

Helaman Pratt was the father of twenty children – Victoria bearing him eight, Dora nine and Bertha three. Among these, two have been president of the Mexican Mission – Rey L. Pratt and Harold W. Pratt. The other are good Latter-day Saints, fulfilling faithfully the station in life that they occupy.

Helaman Pratt was President of the Mexican Mission from 1884 to 1887 and during this time resided in Mexico City.

He had a few trite sayings that he often repeated. One was:

“If you have to go to work before breakfast, be sure you eat your breakfast before you go to work.”

As I remember, he had one for almost every occasion, but I can’t remember them.

An outstanding experience came to him once while the family was living in the mountains. He went out to hunt the horses, took his gun along to get game if he saw any. He saw two cub bears alone lying in the bush. Almost immediately the mother bear appeared, enraged at what seemed a danger to her young. She came directly at them. He back away, tried to shoot, but the gun would not go off. In backing away, he stumbled over a dead tree that was lying in his backward track. As he fell, his legs flew up and his not-so-small feet. This unusual sight seemed to frighten the bear. As she trotted off in a different direction as fast as she could trot, Helaman was left to gather himself up, no doubt thankful for his escape.


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