Brief Sketch of Mathoni W. Pratt
by Mathoni W. Pratt
Mathoni Wood Pratt, son of Parley Parker Pratt, who was the member of the first council of Apostles chosen in this last Dispensation; and Mary Wood Pratt.
I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 6, 1856, on the spot now occupied by the Vermont and Sharon Buildings, opposite the Bureau of Information. Salt Lake City was only nine years old when I arrived. My early childhood, until the age of twelve years, was spent at this family home. I have played many times on the foundation of the great Salt Lake Temple, before they had reached the surface of the earth. I have seen that building grow from year to year until it was completed, and saw the capstone placed. It was my good privilege to attend the dedicatory services, and have been privileged to receive my own sacred blessings in that house, as well as to perform the work for many of my dead ancestors thereof.
Before I was one year old my father was murdered in cold blood, for the gospel’s sake; so I have never known the great blessing of a father, but my good mother acted as both father and mother, and through the pure and wholesome example and teachings of her life I have been able to shun many of the ills and temptations incident to mortal life. Her teachings made me know that she would rather I would come home with a limb severed from my body than with a stain upon my honor or virtue. Such training has enabled me to resist many temptations and avoid many of the vices which beset one in this life. I was taught also to believe implicitly in a personal God, and in a personal Redeemer—His son. In fact these Heavenly Beings were so real to me that I could, with faith and confidence, approach the Father in prayer in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, with the assurance that the prayer of faith would be heard and answered. During my many years of mortal life I have experienced many immediate answers to my prayers. My opportunities for schooling were meager indeed; most of the education I have acquired has come through practical experience. At the age of twelve years I moved with my mother to the 17th Ward, Salt Lake City, where I attended church and Sunday School, and acted as a Ward Teacher, etc. Under the Bishopric of John Henry Smith and John Tingey, I assisted in establishing the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement in the Church, and presided over the first association organized in the 17th Ward. I was also a member and treasurer of the Central Committee which was established to formulate methods, etc. for the local organization of the M.I.A. of the Church. At sixteen years of age, I was employed in the 13th Ward, Coop. Store, under the superintendency of James F. Freeze. Here I continued my service until I was nineteen years old. While in this service I was called on a mission to the United States. This call came during the October General Conference, 1875. November 1 of this same year I started for my mission headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. Here I, with several other young elders were “mothered” by Sister Sarah Kershaw, and were treated with the treatest kindness and consideration. During my brief mission in Missouri and Illinois I made many friends and we brought some people into the Church, notwithstanding there was much prejudice and slight interest in general in our message.
In July, 1876, in company with our mission president, David M. Stewart, of Ogden, Utah, I took steamer up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, then took rail to Montrose. I rowed a boat one and a quarter miles across the Mississippi River to the City of Nauvoo, Ill. Here we spent two days, slept in a bed prepared by Emma Hale Smith, and partook of a meal prepared by her in the Nauvoo House. Emma Hale Smith was the first wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith—who was then the wife of a Mr. Bedeman. Here we held two meetings—the first there by L.D.S. people since they were driven from Illinois.
We visited the home built by my father, Parley P. Pratt. It was in good preserve and was being occupied by a Catholic Priest, the Catholic Church having built a Church building on my father’s lot.
We also visited Carthage Jail, where Joseph Smith and the Prophet’s brother, Hyrum, were savagely murdered by a blood-thirsty mob. We saw the blood stains in the floor and the marks of the bullets in the walls as was left by the assassin mob.
After this missionary tour in Illinois, I was released to visit Washington D.C. and the Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia, and other eastern points. I spent a week in Washington, D.C. as special guest of Presidenr George Q. Cannon and his good wife Elizabeth P. Cannon. He was Representative in Congress at the time. I had the pleasure of occupying a desk next to that of President Cannon during one session of the House and was shown the entire Capitol by President Cannon. I spent a week in the Centennial in Philadelphia, and few days in New York City. While in the east I received my release to return home. I sailed up the Hudson River in a steamer and on my way home I spent a few days with the Saints at our Canten, Illinois Branch, and was royally treated by them.
Arriving home in the early autumn of 1876, I again entered the service of the 13th Ward coop. and was there for one year, when through the kind help of my old employer, J.P. Freeze, I secured employment in the wholesale dry goods department of the Z.C.M.I. where I worked for a number of years.
About the age of 23 years I met in a remarkable way the sweetest, dearest girl I have ever known—Elizabeth Sheets, daughter of Bishop Elijah F. sheets, who after long months of uncertainty upon my part, kindly consented to become my wife. On November 17, 1860, we were sealed for time and eternity in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City by a servant of God who held the authority to perform this sacred ordinance. The first year of our married life was at my mother’s home in the 17th Ward, after which we built a home in the 18th Ward. We lived there happily until the birth of our 3rd child, at which time we made a move to the Teton Valley in Idaho, in company with a group of young friends and relatives.
We spent some years very happily in the Teton country. While there the Pratt Ward was organized and I was made its first Bishop. I accepted this position until serious financial difficulties arose, which made it necessary for me to move out of the Valley.
During our pioneer experience in the Teton Valley I will mention one incident of note. We had made several attempts to organize a Sunday School, but had been thwarted each time. At last all arrangements were made to make the organization on the following Sunday. I had a force of men putting up hay in the meadows north of Conant Creek. I started on Friday to take supplies to my haycamp, taking my eldest child, Pearl, and my wife’s sister, Eva Sheets, with me. On arriving at the creek, we were overtaken by a severe thunder storm which made it necessary for us to camp for the night. I hobbled my mares and turned them loose. Soon after midnight they came by the camp on a full run. As early as I could see I arose and examined the crossing to learn if they had crossed the creek for home, but finding they had not crossed I went to camp and we had breakfast and discussed which way we thought I best go in search of them—whether to walk six miles down the valley to a ranch of my cousin, William C. Pratt, to get a horse to search with or to hunt the wilderness on foot. Our judgment was in favor of securing the horse. As I left the girls I told the Lord about our purpose to organize the Sunday School next day, and asked him to direct me to find my team so we could get to the camp and back home in time. I started down the trail towards the ranch to get the horse, but was only a few steps away when I was made to understand that I should go up the valley. I found a bunch of horses and managed to catch a fine black mare. I mounted her and found the tracks of my mares going thru the timber towards our hay camp. They soon turned down towards the creek and I soon found them sunning themselves on the hill side. I caught them and released the good mare which had done me such good service, and thanked her and the Lord for the immediate answer to my prayer. The girls were much astonished when I reached our camp to see me come to soon with our team. We drove to the hay camp, delivered the supplies, had dinner and by driving late that night we reached home. The next morning we perfected the organization of the Pratt Ward Sunday School. The mare I caught on the range used to belong to my cousin, William C. Pratt, my foreman, and he was much surprised that I had caught her the way I did, as he said he had never been able to catch her without throwing a rape on her, even in a corral.
After our return to Salt Lake City we experienced much hardship in financial and other matters. My large ranch of 640 acres and full water right, my livestock and the merchandise in my thriving store, etc., were all disposed of at very great sacrifice prices to enable me to meet obligations which I had furnished the money over two years before to pay. This money had been used by a trusted relative to his own interests and had not been paid us as he reported to me it had been. However, the Lord was good to us and we finally built a good home in Forest Dale, Salt Lake City, where we lived until after the death of my wife, Libbie. The occupation of my early manhood was called to the other side, July 20, 1918.
I have been spared to reach the age of 78 years, I am in good health, and am thankful that the Lord had granted me another companion, Agnes Ure Pratt, and by these two wives I have been given six sons and three daughters.
Mathoni W. Pratt
July 6, 1934
[transcribed and proofread by Jeanne Groberg and David Grow, June 2007]