By Mary Pratt Parrish
HELAMAN PRATT — 1846 – 1909
- 1846 — Born May 31, 1846 just a few miles this side of Mt. Pisgah.
- 1854 — Baptized and confirmed a member of the church.
- 1866 — Served in the Black Hawk War. Accompanied General Daniel H. Wells in his tour through the settlements of Sanpete and Sevier Counties.
- 1867 — At the October Conference was called to go on a mission to the Muddy
- 1868 — Married Emaline Victoria Billingsly. Went to the Muddy and was called to preside over the Overton settlement.
- 1871 — Released from the Muddy Mission. Called to find a location where the saints of the Muddy could settle.
- 1872 — Settled in Long Valley in Sevier County and was called to preside as bishop over the Glenwood Ward.
- 1873 — Called to preside over the Prattsville Ward.
- 1874 — Was baptized into the United Order. Married Dora Johanna Wilcken as his second wife.
- 1875 — Released to go on an exploration mission into Arizona and Mexico.
- 1876 — Arrived home July 1876. Left on proselytizing mission over same territory October 17, 1876.
- 1877 — Released to return home. Established his families in Salt Lake.
- 1878 — Appointed Chaplain of the Utah Legislature. Next five years worked on the police force.
- 1883 — Called to be president of the City of Mexico Mission.
- 1887 — Released as mission president and called to help the saints colonize in Mexico. He was to stay until death released him.
- 1891 — Death of his children Aurelia and Parley.
- 1893 — Set apart on the 25 of February to be the second counselor in the Juarez Stake Presidency.
- 1898 — Married his third wife, Bertha Wilcken.
- 1902 — Set apart as first counselor to Henry W. Eyring when President Ivins was called to be an Apostle.
- 1908 — Resigned because of ill health.
- 1909 — November 26 Helaman died.
- 1910 — 13 September Victoria died.
- 1929 — 22 June Dora died.
- 1947 — 10 September Bertha died.
HELAMAN PRATT — Early Years — 1846 – 1868
Helaman was a frontiersman. Even at the time of his birth he was beyond the reach of civilization for the wagon in which his mother was riding had to stop a few miles out from Mt. Pisgah while the rest of the company went one. Helaman was born about an hour later and his mother’s wagon joined those at Mt. Pisgah that same afternoon. Mary proudly showed off her newborn son. The date was May 31, 1846.
Mary, Helaman’s mother did not stay in Mt. Pisgah very long. She moved on the Winter Quarters to spend the winter. In late spring of 1847 she joined with her husband, Parley P. Pratt, as he led a group of Saints across the plains to the Great Salt Lake Valley. They arrived in September, about six weeks after the original company.
Helaman, of course, was too young to remember the trek across the plains, but he did remember some things that happened in those early days in the valley. He remembered that for along time his ration for a meal was one half slice of bread. He remembered digging sego roots and bringing them home for his mother to cook. He remembered herding cows out by the Hot Springs and he remembered hiding his lunch so the Indians wouldn’t find it. Sometimes they found it anyway and Helaman had nothing to eat until he got home that night. He remembered fighting the crickets, and the joy that he knew when the seagulls came. These experiences conditioned Helaman for the pioneer life he was to lead — times when he would conquer frontiers that he had not even dreamed of. And so he grew in knowledge and wisdom and love of the Lord.
HELAMAN PRATT — The Muddy Mission
At the October conference of 1867, Helaman was called to the Muddy Mission. The Muddy was a tributary of the Rio Virgen River on which the town of St. George had been established some years before. In 1865 the Church Authorities, after much investigation, decided that the Muddy, which was even lower in altitude than St. George would be a fertile field for the growing of cotton and other semi tropical products. For this reason the Muddy settlements were established. Thomas S. Smith and his company of saints arrived there in 1865. Other followed him until the new colony numbered fifty families. These colonists located in St. Thomas and St. Joseph. Helaman and his group located in Overton in 1868.
When Helaman was called he was told that he must take a wife with him. His choice was Victoria Billingsley, a beautiful refined young lady of sixteen years of age. She consented and soon after their marriage on July 25, 1868, they started out for the Muddy. Upon their arrival Helaman was called to be the presiding elder over the settlement of Overton.
At first they had trouble with the Indians, and one day Helaman caught two of them stealing what little wheat the settlers had. Helaman locked them up. He expected trouble and he got it for the whole tribe descended upon him with bows drawn. The settlers gathered around with their pistols cocked. It was a dramatic moment. Helaman stood by the chief who was demanding that his men be released. Helaman looked over his shoulder and saw his little sixteen-year-old bride at the window with the old Flintlock gun. He spoke boldly,
“The wheat your men have taken was our winter supply. Without it we have no food for the winter months. If your men will return the wheat they will go free; if they do not, they won’t. If your men pull their bows and let their arrows fly, I will press the trigger on this pistol and as I fall, you will fall also.”
With this the chief was much more willing to negotiate and after that Helaman had very little trouble with the Indians stealing foods stuffs. However, Helaman was generous with the Indians and often gave them of their supplies.
To build homes in which to live was of the first priority after arriving at the Muddy. To do this they had to go to nearby hills to get lumber. Always they were followed by a few friendly Indians. One time when Helaman was cutting wood, a persistent crow insisted on pestering him. The Indians, who were very curious about guns, shouted, “Shoot, shoot.” Helaman in a spirit of fun raised his gun and without aiming particularly, pressed the trigger. The crow fell to the ground and when the Indians picked it up they saw it had been shot right through the head. Helaman was as surprised as they were. He said, “I will never shoot again before an Indian. I have a reputation to uphold and I intend to uphold it.”
The Saints worked hard to build up their little settlement. In addition to building homes, they also built roads, canals and ditches. They erected a Church and were in the process of building a schoolhouse when word came from Brigham Young to abandon the Muddy Mission. The western part of Utah, including the settlements on the Muddy was transferred to Nevada and the taxes levied by the new state of Nevada against the struggling Mormon colonies were so excessive that Brigham Young released all who were participating in the Muddy Mission.
While living in Overton, Helaman Jr. was born on the 22nd of April 1870. He died March 24, 1871. When word came from Brigham Young to abandon the settlement, the hardest part of leaving was to leave a lonely little grave in that dry dust ridden graveyard.
Helaman was then called to go with Joseph W. Young and other to search out a place where the Muddy saints could settle. It was apparent that Victoria went to Salt Lake during this period of time. Her parents lived there and it is a matter of record that her baby, Lona Mae, was born there April 15, 1872. Later hat same year she went to Long Valley, which had been chosen by the commissioners a desirable place for the displaced saints to settle.
Helaman was called to settle in the little town of Glenwood in Long Valley and was set apart to be the presiding elder. In 1873 Helaman was called to preside over the little settlement called Prattsville, which was located between Richfield and Glenwood. It was in Prattsville that Aurelia was born on 224 January 1874; and it was there that Lona Mae died on October 30. 1874. In the years to come Victoria often thought of those two little ones, each less than a year old, whose bodied lay in dry dusty graves with no marker to mark the place. “I wonder,” she said to herself, “If I could find them if I went back there.” But she knew there was no way she could go back and even if she could how could she find them in that vast dust ridden area.
On April 20, 18774, Helaman on the advice of Brigham Young married Dora Johanna Dorothy Wilcken as his second wife. Helaman met Dora on a business trip to Salt Lake. He was staying with his friend Billie Segmiller at whose home Dora was boarding. Sister Segmiller asked Dora if she would make some corn meal mush for their evening meal. She did so and then retired to her room. Helaman complimented his hostess on the excellence of the dish and she said that a young lady who was boarding with them made it. Of course Helaman insisted on meeting the young lady. They did not meet again until Dora went to Long Valley, as a member of the United Order, to teach school. There she and Helaman became better acquainted and Helaman asked for her hand in marriage. This he did with the full consent of his wife Victoria. The two wives understood and loved each other and helped each other with their families during the long months and years that Helaman was away on his many missionary endeavors.
HELAMAN PRATT — Exploration Mission — 1875 – 1876
In 1875 Helaman was called to go on an exploration mission into Arizona and Mexico. The purpose of the mission was to find suitable places for Mormon colonization and to determine whether or not the time was ripe for missionary work. His companions were James Z. Stewart, R. H. Smith, Daniel W. Jones and Wiley, his son, A.W. Ivins and Ammon S. Tenney. Jacob Hamblin accompanied them as a guide and an interpreter until they crossed the Big Colorado River. By the time they returned home they had traveled 4000 miles — a long distance on horseback through unexplored territory.
It can be assumed that while Helaman was gone on this mission and on the following mission, which began two months after his return that Victoria stayed in Long Valley. Helaman confirms this when upon the completion of his second mission he recorded in his diary that he met Victoria in Long Valley where he stayed for a while and then went on to Salt Lake. Dora was in all likelihood in Salt Lake where her parents lived.
There were few trails and no roads through much of the wastelands through which Helaman and his companions would travel. They had to depend largely on their own sense of direction and the Spirit of the Lord to guide them. Sometimes it was necessary to wander aimlessly in search of water and often one or more of them would be on the verge of collapse before they found it. But the miracle was that they always found it in time to avert tragedy. For this they were very grateful.
After much searching the elders found the Little Colorado River and made extensive explorations up and down the river to ascertain its possibility as a site for settlement. The report to Brigham Young was favorable and within six months he had sent out Mormon Colonists to the region.
The next point of exploration was the Salt River Valley. They found it to be a fertile land, and in general a flat land with large spaces framed by desert hills. The ground was covered with Mesquite bushes, too small to use for anything but firewood and very difficult to dig out. This of course, would add to the expense of an irrigation project were it to be undertaken at some future time. Nevertheless, the elders recommended that Brigham Young consider this area for colonization purposes.
From the Salt River Valley, the elders passed through the villages of the Papago and Pima Indians. When the elders told them about the book of their forefathers, they said that they knew nothing about their forebears, but had always been told that someone would come to them at length and inform them of these things.
From there the elder went by way of Lees Ferry, across the Great American Desert to Tucson, and from there east to El Paso where they crossed over the border into Mexico, the first Mormon missionaries to enter the Republic of Mexico. However the people there did not greet them with open arms. They had heard bad things about the Mormons and eyed the elders with suspicion and fear, and the fiery Catholic priest did not help matter any. After the preliminaries of the Church services were over he got up and said:
“Of all the plagues that have ever visited the earth to curse and destroy mankind, the worst has just come to us. Mormon missionaries represent all that is low and depraved. They have destroyed the moral of their own people, and now have come to pollute the people in this place.”
He then turned to the elders and denounced them as the most fearful curses of all since they had come to destroy not only the body of man, but his very soul also.
“Already,” he said, “There are those among us who have succumbed to their viscous doctrines. Shun them as you would the plague.”
After this the people in the street were terrorized by the very presence of the elders. This fear did not wear off quickly. It wasn’t until the priest became impressed with Elder Jones skill as a saddle maker, that he extended his hand in friendship. Soon after, the members of his parish did likewise.
While they were located in the vicinity of El Paso, Elder Pratt and Stewart made several trips to Isletas, a little Indian village about nine miles away. They finally made arrangements with the aged Indian Chief Alcade to call his people together that the elders might talk to them. But the old Chief had to inform them that his people had refused to come for fear of provoking the padre.
About this time the party separated into two groups. Elders Smith and Tenney going north p the Ro Grande to preach to the Laguna and Zunie Indians, and Elders Stewart, Pratt, Ivins and Jones moving toward the City of Chihuahua. This route led them through an area where the Indians, raiders, and Mexican thieves were very active. Nor did they escape untouched. One morning when they awoke they found that all of their animals had been stolen during the night. It was only because of the efficient work of the commander and some soldiers that they got them back.
Chihuahua was the Capitol City of the state of Chihuahua. When the elders arrived there they approached the governor regarding land for colonization purposes. His response was that all desirable tracts were covered by old grants with titles and therefore must be purchased from individuals. This was reported to Brigham Young.
Their work in the city of Chihuahua finished, the elders decided to visit the western portion of the state. They traveled northward through the settled farmland, and found that the western portion of the state was very much better for farming, grazing and colonization purposes than the eastern part. They made diligent inquiries about land titles, water interests, etc. They reported their findings to Brigham Young and as a result of their hearty recommendations, and much more investigation, the Mormon Colonies eventually located there.
The elders then started home. As they neared the frontier they found that the Apache Indians under the brilliant leadership of Geronimo were on the warpath. Having defeated the soldiers at Camp Bowie, they were raiding the country in every direction. Whole villages had been abandoned and in some places all but two or three of the inhabitants had been killed. The elders, knowing that the Apaches would not travel by night, decided that they would travel by night and camp in the daytime.
The Indians, however, continued to be a persistent threat as they traveled through the central part of Arizona and New Mexico and crossed over the Prietta River and followed almost impassable military trail through the mountains to where Snowflake is now located. From there they went to where the Mormons had established a settlement on the Little Colorado. President Wells, Apostle Erastus Snow and Brigham Young Jr. met them there and traveled with them for the remainder of their journey. They arrived home ten months after leaving for their mission. Two short months after their arrival Helaman left again for a proselytizing mission over the same territory from which he had just returned.
HELAMAN PRATT — Proselytizing Mission to Arizona and Mexico
On this second mission to Arizona and Mexico, Helaman had as his companions, James Z. Stewart, Isaac J. Stewart, Louis Garff, and George Terry. Meliton G. Trejo joined them at Richfield.
Since this mission was to be of a missionary nature, they traveled with teams the route through southern Utah, up the Little Colorado, southwest to Prescott, thence to Phoenix. They made frequent stops to preach whenever an opportunity presented itself. When they arrived at Tucson, four of the elders went to work for the Yellow Jacket mine in order to have enough money to resume their journey.
In February 1877 they established their headquarters at Tuba and for several months they city was the hub of missionary work throughout Arizona among the Mexicans and Indians. It was at Tuba that Helaman and Brother Terry went to Sonora in search of the Yaqui Indians. On May 29, 1877 Helaman made the following entry in his diary.
May 29. Visited the American Consul, Mr. Willard, and was kindly received. At eleven o’clock we started in a boat for the Yaqui River, distance thirty or forty miles. Slept in the boat,
May 30. In the morning went up the river about four miles to the house of one of the Governors of the Yaquis. He sent immediately in search of the headman of the nation, Jose Mariah. We find the Indians farming here without irrigating their crops of corn, beans and melons and other crops look well. The Captain General sent for our Book of Mormon and after reading it an hour or two he returned it to us, but the Governor would not tell us where Jose Mariah, the Chief was. He said if you will go to the village you will see him and he volunteered to take us. We accordingly started and when we came to the village we found the Padre from the Guimas was there and the Indians were gathered from all over the country to a big fiesta. I must say that I never saw Catholics until I saw them here. They were having their processions, etc. They also had instruments of torture of various kinds. We were marched in the center of these and a counsel of their leading men was held and then we were called to the counsel and asked to state our business. We said we wished to talk with Jose Mariah and to present him with a book. We were told that he was at the upper village and that we could not see him and were advised to leave and an escort furnished to take us back to the boat that we came in.
After we returned, the captain of our boat told us that he had seen Jose Mariah and was with him while he was reading our book and that he was not at any of the towns, but was at a house near us but he did not want to see us and that the Indians had purposely led us off the track. We accordingly returned to the mouth of the river.
Helaman and his companion then returned to Guimas and reported to the American Consul who was quite astonished when he learned we had been to the River Yaqui and returned safely. He said that the Yaquis were in a state of rebellion and that it was not considered safe for anyone to go among them. Helaman said, “We certainly acknowledged the hand of God in our preservation, as we were completely in their hands and they were very much excited at our being among them, and nothing but the power of God could have delivered us. But thanks to Him, we were permitted to return in safety.”
In the meantime, Helaman’s companions whom they had left in Arizona were having some harrowing experiences with the Apaches. Climaxing a number of narrow escapes the brothers Stewart and their companions were fleeing from them with some soldiers and a mail rider when the wheel came off their wagon. They had no choice but to stop and fix it. Their companions without in the least slowing down, fled on leaving them alone. They had no choice but to get out and guns in hand, go through the ordeal of putting on a wagon tire, constantly expecting that the next minute would bring a horde of Indians upon them.
Their companions in the mean time, out of the zone of immediate danger stopped to see what had become of them. It was with amazement that they saw the Indians, very close to the brothers, suddenly leave their ambush and flee toward the mountain, leaving a trail of dust behind them for miles. The soldiers and the mail rider were completely at a loss to understand the situation, the elders questioned it not at all — they believed that their God had protected them.
The brothers reached San Elizario, Texas on June 13 and carried on their missionary work for the rest of the summer. They were joined by Elders Pratt, Garff and Terry in August. It was the opinion of all that owing to the Apache raids in Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico, colonization project at that time would be highly impractical.
On November 19th Helaman received a letter from President Taylor releasing him to return home. At Long Valley he found his wife Victoria and their children. He remained there a few days and then started for Salt Lake where Dora was and found all was well.
The following year, 1878 Helaman was elected as chaplain of the Council of the Legislature, and for the next five years he worked as a policeman. He built a duplex for his families at the mouth of Memory Grove.
HELAMAN PRATT — Mission to Mexico City
On October 23, 1883 Helaman Pratt left Salt Lake City in company with Elders Morgan, Groesbeck, Frank R. Snow and Richardson for the Mexican Mission whose headquarters were located in Mexico City. En rout they passed Liberty Landing Station near Liberty Jail where Helaman’s father, Parley P. Pratt, had been held prisoner. In his diary he records:
“Arrived in Kansas City at 5:30 a.m. and started for St. Louis at 7:00 a.m. Brother Groesbeck and I went to Richmond and visited David Whitmer, who showed us the manuscript of the Book of Mormon and the copy of characters that was taken by Martin Harris to show to Professor Anthony.
“David Whitmer was born in January 7, 1805. He is quite feeble but has a clear bright eye and conversed with great freedom on the Book of Mormon and bore the same testimony to its being true that he did years ago, and which is published in the book. He also showed us the manuscript of the book and a paper which contained the characters which he said were copied by Joseph Smith’s own hand which were taken and shown to Professor Anthony by Martin Harris. His son also read to us a testimony of James T. Cobb of Salt Lake City in which Cobb says the Book of Mormon is not true and is a fraud; is the work of Sidney Rigdon taken from the Spaulding story, and says it is an imposition on the world. David Whitmer resented the same in the strongest language and said the book was true and he knew it for God had declared it to him and the Angel of the Lord had shown the plates from which it was translated, and he said, ‘If anything is true, that is true,’ and said that they Book of Mormon was published to the world before Sigdney Rigdon ever saw or heard of it.”
From Richmond Helaman went to New Orleans via Louisville, Cincinnati and Chattanooga. The trip was pleasant and they were able to visit some interesting sight. In Louisville they visited the Louisville Exposition, where Helaman said, “they had a continuous feast for hours.” From there they went to Cincinnati where they visited the Zoological Gardens. Then they boarded the Alabama, New Orleans, and Great Southern Railroad bound for New Orleans. They were delayed three hours by a disabled engine and failed to connect at Jackson. Arrived at New Orleans at 7 a.m. and boarded the “City of Mexico” at 8 a.m. The trip was unpleasant for the winds were high and the sea was rough, “the boat rolled terribly turning over the tables and benches.”
At Vera Cruz, Helaman boarded the train for Mexico City. He was met there by President Anthony W. Ivins and Elder Nelson R. Pratt who was assigned to be his missionary companion. They were to establish their headquarters in Ozumba. The first thing they did was to call on Phillip Sanches, the president of the municipality, who received them very kindly and assured them they would receive every protection in his power.
On March 27, Four months after arriving in the mission field, President Ivins set Helaman apart to be the president of the mission. President Ivins and Elder Nelson R. Pratt left the next day for Salt Lake City.
It was a difficult mission because of the strangle hold the Catholic Church had upon its members. Helaman contacted a family in Chimal, the members of which were very interested in the Gospel and anxious to learn more. But on the next visit, the man of the house met Helaman at the door and said, “Go to the priest with your doctrine.” He would not even let him come into the house. Helaman later learned that the priest had each member of the family come to the altar of the church and swear that he or she would have nothing more to do with the Mormons or with Mormonism. After that it was impossible to do any more with them.
In addition to the influence of the priest there was the influence of the religious festivals sponsored by the priest. These religious festivals were very effective in binding the allegiance of the people to the church. They not only provided entertainment, but they increased their religious fervor and released them, for a moment at least, from poverty and privation. The following is a description of one of these festivals that Helaman recorded in his diary.
“Went to Meca Meca and in company with Silvestre Lopez visited the plaza where from fifteen to twenty thousand people were crowded together buying and selling. In the crowd I had my pocket book taken from my pocket, but there was no money in it. In the afternoon we went to the bullfight which barbarous amusement is still greatly enjoyed by the Mexicans.
“In the evening we witnessed the grand procession of thousands of people with candles and lanterns bringing the saint down from the holy mount which was known as his home. It represented the Savior after his death, being conducted to the sepulchre. The saint was painted black and was put in a glass case, all of which was mounted on a platform and carried by four men. It was followed by the Virgin Mary with her face painted white — a striking contrast to the black one of her son. The Roman soldiers dressed in the gayest of costumes and wearing masks followed on horseback and on foot. There must have been 25,000 people singing and chanting along with many bands which played along the way.
“The procession moved slowly and continued for about two hours, going only a half a mile in that time. El Senor del Sierra Monte, amid admiring thousands was taken to the Church in the plaza of Meca Meca, there to remain until the “Semana Santiago” (holy week) ended the latter part of March. At that time the saint will be carried back to his holy habitat on the mount.”
These fiestas were very dear to the hearts of the Mexican people and were a big hurdle in preaching the gospel in Mexico.
In spite of the strong opposition, Helaman and other elders felt that the Lord was preparing the people to receive their message. There was a law in Mexico that no church ordinance could be performed outside of the Church building. Very often when the elders met at the river’s edge to baptize someone, a priest would meet them there and remind them of this law.
Helaman finally went to the “Jefe Politico” who was the headman in the government of the city and asked him what they could do about this. He simply said, “It is all right if you go to the river to bathe and then return home.” From this Helaman got the idea that the law would not be enforced and he would therefore pay no attention to the priest.
Nor was this they only testimony that the Lord was working with the Mexican people. The day that Helaman baptized Brother Esteban he told Helaman that his son, who had died six years before prophesied that one day some men would come who would preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and would have authority to baptize in His name.
When traveling around the mission Helaman made it a point to get acquainted with the Protestant ministers in the area. At an informal meeting at the house of Brother Sadislas Garcia, he met a Methodist minister by the name of Jose Oliva. After an animated conversation, the minister acknowledged that the Methodists did not have the truth in all its fullness, neither did they have the authority to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel and that the signs did not follow the believer in their church. “But,” said he, ” I am open to correction. If you have something more than I have, I want to hear about it.”
After explaining to him the first principles of the Gospel and how it was restored, Helaman gave him Voice of Warning, and arranged to meet him on the 10th of the following month. . When he returned at the appointed time, Brother Oliva said, “But,” he said, “I have no way of making a living for my family, therefore I will continue in my own church until November, then I will resign and be baptized.”
Later Helaman attended a Methodist meeting with a man named Cristobal de la Rosa. At the close of the meeting Helaman asked for the privilege of speaking which was granted. He spoke on the folly of infant baptism and on the necessity of all believers in Christ to be baptized in order to be saved. After the meeting the minister and Helaman had about a three hour discussion on the first principles of the gospel. All the male members of the congregation remained to hear what they had to say. The minister told his congregation that according to the Scriptures all must be baptized to be saved, “But,” said he, “I have no authority to baptize you, and I would advise you all to be baptized when this man comes here again.”
The market place where people would gather every five days from the small towns near by to sell their wares, was an ideal place for proselytizing. The people would seat themselves on the ground with their wares placed in front of them. They would arrange themselves in rows with sufficient room between them for people to pass. Thus several hundred Indians could be seen every five days. The elders could stop and talk to many people during the course of an afternoon. Many responded by attending the meeting they held in the evening. The caliber of those who attended could be judged by what they did to help the missionaries. After one of the meetings a brother gave Helaman 12 1/2 cents. Considering this was a full days wage, Helaman and the other elders were humbled by his willingness to give. Another brother responded by pawning his corn cutter to get bread for the elders to eat. When Helaman found out about this, he left enough money to retrieve the corn cutter.
Helaman worked hard and was not well. He had malaria and frequently had chills and high fever while touring the mission. This was made worse by the fact that he had to walk from town to town most of the time. For example, on November 8 he records: “Brothers Barco, Zuniga and others accompanied me to the Ranch del Barcanca del Cuarto, about three miles south where we held meeting, after which I baptized three persons, then walked six miles to Morales, took the train for Yautepec, and then walked nine miles to San Andres de la Cal.
Because of Helaman’s ill health, the brethren though it wise that one of his wives join him in the mission field. It was decided the Victoria would go and that Dora would remain and care for the children. She arrived in Mexico City on September 14, 1885, the day before her birthday. Helaman was surprised and delighted that she brought their little son Carl with her. Helaman loved his family and longed to be with them. In his diary he often referred to letters he had received from them. “I received a letter from Victoria,” he noted. Another time “I received a letter from Dora enclosing a photo of my twins and I could not realize that they were the same little babies I had left. “Another time” he said, “I received a letter from my little Cornelia, it was the first letter I received from one of my children. I could scarcely hold back the tears, I was so happy.”
Helaman was happy to have Victoria with him. In his diary he often referred to the good dinners Victoria prepared and was very appreciative of the fact that she was willing to invite the missionaries in for a meal. Often he took Victoria and Carl with him on a tour of the mission. Victoria stayed for about a year and then returned to Salt Lake where she awaited the birth of her son, Leon.
On June 18, 1885 Helaman received a letter from Moses Thatcher stating that Brother Erastus Snow, Brigham Young Jr., and he (Helaman) had been appointed by the President of the Church as an exploring commission to explore the land in Mexico and determine a site that would be suitable for a city of Refuge for the Saints. This was a starting point of a long and arduous effort to find a place where the Saints could live in peace and be free from persecution.
A year later, almost to the day a site was chosen and an inauguration ceremony was held, Helaman being the grand Marshall. The city was called Colonia Juarez. It was located in northern Mexico in the state of Chihuahua. As soon as the inauguration ceremonies were over the saints started to move in on the land, to make improvements and plant crops. They were totally unprepared for a telegram received from the governor of Chihuahua stating, “WILLL NOT ALLOW THE MORMONS TO SETTLE IN CHIHUAHUA. THEY CAN HARVEST THE CROPS THEY HAVE PLANTED, BUT THEN WILL HAVE TO LEAVE THE STATE.”
The saints, of course, were very disturbed about this for they had had the blessing of the Federal Government, and particularly the blessing of Porfirio Diaz, the President of Mexico. Elder Thatcher wired Salt Lake and the church authorities sent a telegram to Helaman in Mexico City, “EXPULSION OF MORMONS FROM CHIHUAHUA REFERRED TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. ASK FOR STAY OF DECISION UNTIL REPRESENTATIVES FROM HERE ARRIVE.”
At the time this telegram arrived Helaman was not at home. He was in Toluca holding conference. He expected to stay another week or so but after the conference meetings were over, he had a strong feeling that he must leave at once for home. It was only fifteen minutes before the train was to leave, but he made it and arrived home that night. He was surprised to receive the telegram. Knowing the urgency of the situation he took the telegram to the off ice of President Diaz early the following morning. The President received him kindly and voiced his displeasure over the action of the governor of Chihuahua. He sent the following telegram to the governor. “ALLOW THE MORMONS TO STAY AND THREAT THEM KINDLY.”
Elder Thatcher and Young arrived in a few days and the matter was settled amiable.
Helaman’s duties with the exploration commission did not release him from his duties as Mission President. It was not until after the trouble with the Governor of Chihuahua that he was released and set apart by President Taylor to help in the colonization of the Saints in Mexico. In this new calling he worked hard to help the Saints get land, secure land titles, water rights, spearhead the building of canals, and ditches and all that was necessary to make their new home a happy and prosperous one. At the time he set Helaman apart, President Taylor told him that he was called until death released him, and that he was to become a Mexican citizen and take part in the government. Helaman accepted the call and all its ramifications.
HELAMAN PRATT — The Colony Years.
When Helaman went on his mission to Mexico City, he left Victoria and Dora and their children very comfortable fixed in Salt Lake. There they had a fine duplex at the mouth of City Creek Canyon. In addition they had a nice little farm on which they could raise what food they needed, have a few cows, from which they could sell milk to their nearby neighbors, and could have a horse and a buggy so they could get around.
They had nine children between them, and they all got along very well. When Victoria and Carl joined Helaman in Mexico City, Dora took care of eight of the children. The three of Victoria’s were old enough to help with the chores. Rey, being the youngest delivered milk around the neighborhood in his little wagon. After Victoria was in the mission field for about a year she returned to Salt Lake to await the birth of her son, Leon.
Victoria and Dora received the news of Helaman’s new calling in a letter he sent to them. To Dora he wrote:
“I think it would be well if you were to come at once and bring your children. You can come as far as Deming by train, and I will meet you there with a covered wagon and we will go on to Juarez together.”
To Victoria he wrote:
“It would be safer if you were to stay there until after the baby is born. I want you to have every care you can get, so that you can come down here feeling well and prepared to meet the difficult problems ahead. When you are strong enough, and ready to come, let me know and I will meet you in Deming, and will bring you to your new home.”
Victoria and Dora followed Helaman’s suggestions and Dora with her five children left immediately for Deming. Helaman met them there with a covered wagon and took them on to Colonia Juarez. The trip was a happy one and Helaman laughed and joked with the children all the way. It was the first time they had an opportunity to get acquainted with their father for four years. When they arrives in Juarez, they camped out in the covered wagon and in a tent that Helaman erected by its side until Helaman could finish the house that he had started before leaving to get them.
It was a nice house, but they did not live there long for Helaman through some connection he had with Luis Terrassis, who owned most of the land in Chihuahua, bought a 3000 acre ranch about fifty miles up in the mountains. There he built two large log cabins, one for Dora and one for Victoria, and it was into this log cabin that Victoria moved when she arrived from the states.
When she arrived Victoria expected to see four bare walls, but instead, to her surprise it was attractive and homelike. Helaman and Dora had done their best to make it so. As Victoria entered her eyes rested on the large fireplace that nearly covered one end of the room. There she would cook. There she would sew by the firelight. There she would heat water in her iron teakettle to wash dishes, to wash clothing, to take the icy coldness off the bath water for her children. By it she would snuggle up close to keep warm on chill filled night. On the hearth were two dutch oven filed to the brim with venison and onions. Then her eyes fell on the old flintlock gun hanging over the fireplace. She was afraid of guns, but she knew that without a gun there could be no venison cooking, and so she was content.
On the wall opposite the fireplace, shelves were built on which cheeses were placed to ripen. She knew Dora was an expert cheese maker and since there was a good market for cheese in Mexico, she also would learn to make cheese and put them on these shelves to ripen.
In the corner by the shelves she saw a string bed, covered with a nice soft feather bed mattress. A long table made of split pine logs stood in the center of the room. Two peg leg benches were on each side of the table.
“It is beautiful,” Victoria said as her eyes feasted on the little expressions of love that Helaman and Dora had made evident as they fixed the room for her comfort. Helaman put his arm around her and said, “I know you are going to be very happy here.” And as Victoria looked out of the door onto the tall pines that fringed the landscape as it sloped toward the river, she said, “Yes. I know that I am.”
Even though Helaman’s ranch was fifty miles away from Juarez, Helaman was very much involved in helping the colonists get settled and establish new towns. He worked diligently and faithfully in helping them secure land, to secure titles to their land, establish water rights, construct road, side walks, ditches and canals. Nor did he neglect his church duties, he was chosen as second counselor to A. W. Ivins when the stake was organized. Later in 1902 he became the first counselor to Henry Erying when Brother Ivins was called to be an Apostle. He held this position until 1908 when he resigned because of ill health.
To Helaman, the ranch was a dream come true. There he could raise cattle for market, but more important he could raise horses — pure bred horses with impressive pedigrees. And this he did. It was not long until Helaman was known throughout Mexico to have the finest of horseflesh.
He was known also for his cheese. Porfirio Diaz gave him a gold medal and a certificate stating that he made the finest cheese in Mexico.
Before he was known for the excellence of his cheese, he took a load to Chihuahua, and officials there threw him in jail saying the he had stolen the cheese. There was no provision made for having anyone come in or getting any communication out. But Helaman made friend with the jailer. He got him to take a letter to his friend Luis Terrassis. When Mr. Terrassis found out that Helaman was in jail, things started to happen. He came in person and got him out of the prison, and Helaman was able to go ahead and sell his cheese.
Helaman always carried his Flintlock gun whenever he went out on the range. One night, the cows were making a terrible noise. He took his Flintlock gun and went out to the corral. He found his herd all out of the corral and the calves in the center. A bear was trying to get to the calves. When Helaman saw that it was a bear that was causing the trouble, he shot at it, but didn’t kill it. The bear started toward him, and Helaman backed off and as he did so he fell backwards over a large log. He landed with his feet straight up in the air. He lay there for a minute expecting the bear to pounce on him. When it didn’t, Helaman got up and looked around. He saw the bear running down the canyon and he concluded that when the bear saw his big feet sticking up in the air, it frightened him and he ran away.
Sickness was not a stranger to the colonists. At one time it was reported that there were sixty cases of typhoid fever in Juarez. The mortality rate was high and the people were frantic. Nor did those living on the ranch escape the ravages of disease. Aurelia and Parley, Victoria’s two oldest living children came down with diphtheria, as did Dottie, Aunt Dora’s oldest daughter. Dottie lived, but Aurelia and Parley died within five days of each other. Victoria was frantic. What was to keep Rey and Carl and Leon from getting it.
It was at this time that a Mexican lady came to Victoria’s door and handed her a hand full of the Mansanita root. “Boil this,” she said, “And give the broth to your children, as much as they can drink.” Victoria did as she was told. The three children did not get the disease. It was not known then, nor is it now whether the root had some special curative power, or if it was the boiled water that worked the magic.
Victoria had now lost her four oldest children. Always in her mind was the question why? Why had she lost four children and Dora not any. It was hard when she buried her two babies, each less than a year old, but it was even harder to bury Aurelia and Parley, who were so nearly grown, Aurelia being 17 and Parley 16. And to bury them within five days of each other, Why? Her inability to resolve this question drove her deeper and deeper into her sorrow. She had a beautiful voice but she could not sing. She loved laughter, but she could not laugh. She loved young people, but the sound of their youthful voices tore at her heart. Rey and Carl and Leon looked on with puzzled expressions. They tried to comfort her, as did Helaman, but she shut them out. Then one day she saw their sad faces and awoke to the realization that it was she who was causing that sadness. “These my children are entitled to my smiles,” she said to herself. She then called them to her and said, “Let sing ‘Nigger, Nigger never die.” It was an old song that they all knew and smile covered their faces as they ran and threw their arms around her. Only then did she really realize the sorrow she had put them through. She said to herself, “It is finished. I will have no more of this grieving. We will pick up the pieces and have joy in this house.” And the house echoed with song, and laughter and good friends once more.
And then came the miracle. At an age when it was thought that Victoria was past the childbearing age, she gave birth to a little girl. They called her Gladys. All the love that Victoria had longed to shower on Lona Mae, and Aurelia and Helaman Jr. and Parley, she showered on Gladys. The boys and Helaman did the same and Victoria said that she was sent in recompense for those children she had lost. Victoria stated to sing out in public again. She had parties and invited the townspeople to her home. She served fabulous meals and served them with a delicate air. Her mashed potatoes were pure fluff and melted in your mouth. With the birth of Gladys, Victoria was reborn.
One of the parties Victoria gave was a birthday party for Rey on his twenty-first birthday. It was at that party that Rey met May who had come from Payson, Utah to visit her sister Minnie. From the moment he saw her, Rey knew that he wanted May for his wife. And May seemed to have the same feelings for they were married August 8, 1900. May lost her first two babies, and of course, this was almost as hard on Victoria as it was on May. Then the third little boy was born. His name was Rolfe, and oh how Victoria loved that child. She would hold him in her arms and rock him by the hour singing all the time. Rolfe inherited the haunting sweetness of her voice and throughout his life brought joy to all who heard him sing.
About the time Rey was married, Helaman turned the ranch over to his three oldest sons, Rey, Carl and Ira (Aunt Dora’s son.) They called it the 3P Ranch and were very successful in its operation. Soon after Rolfe was born in 1904 Carl got sick. They said he had consumption. Carl had never been entirely well, but was never confined to his bed. Carl was so kind and so sensitive to everybody’s need that everyone loved him. Especially Gladys and she felt a keen loss when he died. Rey took Carl to his mother’s home and there she, with the help of Dora nursed him. When he died Dora took full charge of preparing his body for burial. When he was nicely laid out, she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks, “I gave him his first bath and now I have given him his last. Victoria put her arms around Dora and said, “What would I ever do without you. Thank you.”
For the most part Mexicans worked on the big haciendas. Very few owned any land in their own right. Helaman was disturbed because their wages were so low that they could hardly buy enough beans and rice for one meal a day. Each hacienda had a commissary and the Mexicans were not allowed to buy anything anywhere else. They could charge what they bought at the commissary but they could not quit their job until the bill was paid. This made the Mexicans virtually slaves. Helaman knew this and he tried to help them by paying off their bills. Then they were free to work where they wanted to. Many worked for him. Helaman’s children used to jokingly say that he bought more land to hire more Mexicans to grow more corn to buy more land to hire more Mexicans. And this had a grain of truth in it for Helaman was always buying more land.
When Rey was seventeen years old, Helaman brought his families to Juarez so they could associate with the young people and go to school there at the academy. Then he went on to Dublan, a settlement, which was, then being colonized, and bought a large farm. He took Dora and her family there and left Victoria in Juarez to care for the children who would be going to the academy there. The next year Victoria moved to Dublan. Helaman built her a nice brick home next to Dora’s.
Dublan was the hub of Helaman’s farming activities. He brought the cows down from the ranch and let them stay in Dublan for the winter. Dora and Victoria used the milk from his 100 head of cows to make cheese. The children who were old enough to go to the academy would rent a house and board themselves.
On special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, Helaman would fill boxes or baskets with lots of good things to eat — a cheese, a ham, potatoes, flour, butter, and vegetables in season and fruit. When the boxes were filled, he would call his children, “Come now, we are ready to go,” and they would all climb into and they would all climb into the buckboard wagon and away they would go to the different houses in the town. Pearl Tenney’s husband was on a mission, and when they brought the box to her she said, “How did you know I had mixed my last batch of flour.” Helaman replied, “I didn’t know, but I did know that a missionaries wife could always use a little flour.”
Christmas time was a happy time at the Helaman Pratt home. The “mothers” would get together and make all sorts of good things to eat, which would be served on Christmas Eve. After the meal was over, Helaman would gather all the children around him and tell them stories of how Christmas used to be in the “olden days.” They didn’t have much snow in Mexico and so they liked to hear him tell stories of going sleigh riding when the snow was so deep they could not see the fence posts. After the stories were told Helaman would take the youngest child and they would all dance around the Christmas tree. The older girls had prepared a little box of goodies for each child, and as they danced around the tree Helaman would pick off a box for each.
When Helaman was released from the City of Mexico Mission and was called to help colonize the colonies, he was not well. In addition to having malaria, he had trouble with his stomach and heart. He worked hard in his public work as well as in providing for his family until he was finally confined to bed. He knew that his condition was serious and he asked that his children be called to his bedside that he might give them a few words of advice. Victoria and Dora were keeling at his side and the children were standing around the bed. A group of Priesthood holders were holding a prayer circle in the adjoining room. He uttered a few words and then apparently passed away. The brethren came in from the other room, and all were in great sorrow. Finally after several minutes, his eyelids began to quiver and his lips began to move. Dora and Victoria arose to their feet as Helaman spoke.
“I am all right,” he said, and then continued speaking. “My spirit left my body and was in the upper part of the room when I was met by Erastus Snow, my dear friend. Brother Snow said, ‘Brother Helaman, go back and take up your body. Your mission is not yet complete.'”
Helaman answered, “Brother Snow, my stomach and heart are completely worn out. I cannot go on.”
Brother Snow said, “you still have a great work to perform. Go back and take up your body and your stomach and heart will be made whole.”
For sometime Helaman was careful of his eating habits, but soon he recovered his strength and was a well man. He lived sixteen years after that, during which time he was called to the stake presidency of the Juarez Stake. He also took a third wife, Bertha Wilcken, who was Dora’s sister and had three fine boys.
The story of Betha’s marriage to Helaman is a strange one. She tells her own story as follows:
“While I was at the University I had a romance. I dressed a certain person up in all the characteristics and qualities that I admired and loved. I left Salt Lake City one cold winter day and traveled alone to Logan. It was dark when I got there and snowing hard. There I was married by the President of the Temple. I met him when he returned from his mission. When here turned home he sought me for his wife and I consented. I should not judge, but the evidence is that he was a moral coward who couldn’t live up to his convictions. After the ceremony, I went back to the hotel alone, and almost froze to death with insufficient cover. I got up before dawn and took the train for my home alone. My, what fools girls can be. I had ten years of just such a life. Married but not a wife in any sense. He sent me a beautiful pearl ring and gold handled pen, but he did not provide for my support. I lived at home, and my father provided me with my graduation expenses. I get a divorce after ten years. President Wilford Woodruff and President Smith of Cache Stake signed it, and that experience was over. . My romance was over. I was offered a home and a loving husband in Mexico. I accepted. One doesn’t enjoy the prospects of a lonely life to the end. I was just past thirty-six years of age when I came to the colonies in Mexico. Helaman Pratt and I were married on Mexican soil by one having authority. Now began a great contrast between this marriage and the other one. I have been recognized, respected, loved and esteemed, as much so as any wife could desire without infringing upon the right of others. Among the many fine qualities of Helaman Pratt was justice. He loved and honored every member of his family and treated them all as nearly alike as was humanly possible. I lived with my sister Dora from choice. I was offered a home alone, but I preferred to live with my sister’s family.”
Dublan was on the prairie. The Piedras Verde River ran through the center of Dublan and during the rainy season it used to flood. Because the water had no place to go it was lost. On the east were natural lakes and Helaman conceived the idea of harnessing the floodwaters by building a canal from the river out to the lakes so the water could be used in the dry season for irrigation purposes.
The whole town was enthusiastic about the project and worked hard until its completion. When the canal was finished, the town had a big celebration. Everyone took their dinner to the Church and spread it out on the floor. Everyone ate in their own family group. After the diner was over they had a program and dance for the children. Helaman led the grand march with his grandchildren. At night they had a dance for the adults. Dora and Victoria went to the dance but Helaman didn’t want to go. “I am too tired,” he said. Bertha stayed with home with him. The next day was Emerson’s eighth birthday and Helaman was going to baptize him in the lake. Also he had the tradition of giving each of his boys a female horse on their eighth birthday, the foals of which were to help with their schooling and missions, and Helaman and Bertha talked about which horse they would give Emerson. After they talked for awhile Helaman evidently went to sleep. Quite unexpectedly during the middle of the night Bertha heard Helaman give a funny little noise. She lit the lamp and the beads of perspiration were on his feet. He was seemingly unconscious. Bertha ran to Dora’s room and said, “Come quick. Helaman is very sick.” When Dora came she took hold of his hand. He closed his hand over hers. She did not know whether he was conscious or not. It might have been reflex action. Bertha went over and got Victoria. Helaman did not know anything from that time on. Three hours later he gave a funny little noise again and he was gone.
Sixteen years almost to the day since Erastus Snow appeared to him and told him his work was not finished. Now it had ended. There was not a task he had not completed.
After Helaman died Dora and Bertha lived on in the old home until they were driven out of Mexico by the revolutionist. They returned when the situation permitted and stayed in the house until Dora died. Bertha then went to live with her son Harold. Helaman’s children honored his name. Rey and Harold both became mission presidents of the mission over which he himself had presided. All of the other children were honorable men and women and added lustre to his name.
[Look to the Rock from Which Ye Are Hewn, about 1984, 18-54]