Mary Wood Pratt
The subject of this sketch is Mary Wood Pratt, daughter of Samuel and Margaret Orr Wood, born June 18, 1818, in Glasgow, Scotland. She had a sister, Elizabeth, and three brothers, Samuel, James and John.
Little is known of her early life, but we assume that she must have come from a very cultured, refined family, who had instilled into the children the principles of thrift, industry, frugality, and patience, kindness, gentleness, immaculateness and the love of truth.
Mary Wood was well-educated for that period of time, being an accomplished seamstress, especially skilled in men’s suits and women’s tailored clothing, millinery, and all kinds of needle work. We learn more of her after she had taken up her abode in Liverpool. Here she came in contact with the L.D.S. Church. She was baptized in the church March 29, 1839 in the Manchester Branch.
On April 15, 1840 a general conference of the church was convened at Temperance Hall, Preston, Lancashire, England, including a total of nearly 2,000 members. At this conference, Brighan Young, Heber C. Kimball and Parley P. Pratt were appointed as publishing committee for the church. Parley P. Pratt was to be editor and publisher of a new monthly periodical to be called the Millennial Star. He repaired to Manchester to prepare for his new appointment. The first issue of this publication appeared in May 1840. The hymn, “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee” was written especially for the introduction of this new publication and appeared on its cover. Parley P. Pratt’s wife, Mary Ann, their two children and the wife’s sister, a Miss Frost, were with him on this mission.
The foregoing paragraph seems a bit foreign to the subject of this sketch, but it does touch closely the life of Mary Wood. We are not advised as to just how Parley and Mary Wood met, but as he was in charge of the mission, and she was an ardent member, and both resided in the same district, they surely had much in common and evidently became fast friends.
The following is an excerpt from a letter written from Nauvoo on June 27, 1843 by Parley P. Pratt to Mary Wood, entreating her to come to Zion as soon as possible: “Mrs. Pratt wishes me to say particularly that she wants you to live with us and have one of our upper rooms to follow your trade, which she thinks will be good here; and I think myself that it would give me great pleasure to see two spirits so congenial, so like each other, live so near as to enjoy each other’s daily society.”
Suffice it to say, Mary Wood did come to America, and Nauvoo, March 1, 1844. On September 9, 1844 she became the second plural wife of Parley P. Pratt. She endured the hardships and persecutions with the Saints in the mobbing and slaying of their Prophet and Patriarch. She was among the first to leave her home on that historic February, 1845.
As Parley P. Pratt was one of the leaders, Mary had to be a “minutewoman”, ready to leave at any time. Parley had to locate a spot for a settlement and named it Mt. Pisgah, and had gone to locate other suitable places for settlement. His family was left to take care of themselves, while traveling in the company of the other Saints to establish the settlement of Mt. Pisgah. On May 31, 1846, about one hour before they reached their destination, the wagon in which Mary was riding halted for about half an hour, and Mary’s first born, a son whom they called Helaman, came into the world. They resumed their journey and rejoined the company that evening. The family wintered at Winter Quarters; leaving after the crops were planted in the spring. They reached the Great Salt Lake Valley September 19, 1847 — the second large contingent to reach the valley.
Quotations from Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt: “After we had arrived on the ground of Great Salt Lake, we pitched our tents by the side of a spring of water, and after resting a little, I devoted my time chiefly to building temporary houses, putting in crops, and obtaining fuel from the mountains. Having repented of our sins and renewed our covenants, President Taylor and I administered the ordinance of baptism, etc., to each other and to our families, according to the example set by the President and pioneers who had done the same on entering the valley. These solemnities took place with us and most of our families November 28, 1847. During the spring and summer of 1848, my friends and I, in common with many of the camp, suffered much for want of food. This was more severe on me and my family because we had lost nearly all our cows; and the few which were spared to us were dry, and therefore, we had no milk to help out our provisions. I had ploughed and subdued land to the amount of nearly forty acres and had cultivated the same in grain and vegetables. In this labor, every woman and child in my family, as far as they were of sufficient age and strength, had joined to help me and had toiled incessantly in the field, suffering every hardship which human nature could well endure. Myself and some of them were compelled to go bare feet for several months, reserving our Indian moccasins for extra occasions. We had sometimes a little flour and some cheese, and sometimes we were able to procure from our neighbors a little sour skimmed milk or buttermilk. In this way, we lived and raised our first crop in these valleys. And how great was our joy in partaking of the first fruits of our industry.
“On the tenth of August we held a public feast under a bowery in the center of our fort. This was called a harvest feast; we partook freely of a rich variety of bread, beef, butter, cheese, cakes, pastry, greens, melons, and almost every variety of vegetables. Large sheaves of wheat, rye, barley, oats, and other productions were hoisted on poles for public exhibition, and there was prayer and thanksgiving, congratulations, songs, speeches, music, dancing, smiling faces, and merry hearts. In short, it was a great day with the people of these valleys, and long to be remembered by those who had suffered and waited anxiously for the results of a first effort to redeem the interior deserts of America, and to make her hitherto known solitudes ‘blossom as the rose’.”
On September 5, 1848, Mary’s second child, Cornellia, came to gladden the home of the Pratts. Mary was blessed with two more children, Mary, born September 14, 1853 and Mathoni, born July 6, 1856. Mathoni was just an infant when Parley P. Pratt met his tragic death. Mathoni was the youngest son and next to the youngest child of Parley.
After the tragic death of her husband, Mary took over the full responsibility of rearing and providing for her four small children, the oldest being only ten years of age. Her training as a seamstress and milliner were invaluable to her at this time as she provided for her family through this means. It is said of her that she was meticulous, being able to go to any drawer or cupboard and find what she wanted almost with her eyes closed. She instilled into her children these habits of neatness, thrift, and industry; she also taught, not only her own children, but all of her husband’s daughters to sew and do fine needle work. A little home she built still stands, being located west of North Temple Street. Later she went to live in what was known as the Big Field (Forest Dale) to be near her daughters.
She is remembered as a very prim person, always neatly dressed in black, with a white apron, a little bonnet; her hair parted in the middle and smoothly combed, with a little bob in the back. She went about her work quickly, with precision in every move; she was thrifty and independent. One of her favorite sayings was “Patience is a virtue”. Her ideals were always high; and though she was tolerant, she could not endure vulgarity nor obscene language from anyone. A favorite story handed down to her grandchildren is of a prominent man whose habit it was to use a certain vulgar word. One day he used it in her presence. She looked at him squarely and said, “Brother, I have some good, strong soap, a scrubbing brush, and hot water. You had better use some of it to wash out your filthy mouth.”
In her young widowhood she received many proposals of marriage from prominent men, but always the face of Parley came to her and she could see no other. She reared her two sons and two daughters, saw them all married in the Temple and all active, energetic church workers. During her lifetime, she and her family did much work for the kindred dead in the Logan Temple. Her life came to a close March 5, 1898 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Interment was in the City Cemetery on March 8, 1898.