The Pratt Family
Big Jubilee Reunion and a Permanent Organization
(an extract from the full 1897 reunion information)
The address of welcome by Parley P. Pratt was interesting and pathetic, a portion of which in brief ran about as follows,
“As president of this reunion, I bid you all a hearty welcome to our family gathering. All hail to this year of Pioneer Jubilee! I had greatly desired to meet with you and give to each one a personal kindly greeting, but as my Heavenly Father has suffered me to be brought down, at this time to the portals of death, I shall have to be satisfied to write from a sick couch a few broken sentences or thoughts, as they may be suggested to me by the Holy Spirit. I feel thankful that I have been born of goodly parents, and that my lot has been cast among a God-fearing, illustrious people. I feel thankful that my life has been spared to see this suspicious year of Pioneer Jubilee. I am in full sympathy with these family reunions, and take pleasure in contributing my mite for their success. This should be a time of interchange of thought, a day of rejoicing, a day long to be remembered. Theses walls should resound with oratory, with music and with songs of praise and thanksgiving, until every heart is softened and made glad.
“I was born March 25, 1837, at Kirtland, OH. Soon after my mother died. While being reared by other hands, my father for conscience sake lay in a ‘dungeon bound in chains;’ making his escape from prison, he fled to Nauvoo. My early boyhood was spent in Nauvoo. I was acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, and I have never had, during my life, a doubt in regard to their divine mission. When eight years old I was baptized in the Mississippi river by my Uncle Orson Pratt.
“Owing to the spirit of political and religious intolerance, my father and family, with many thousands of Saints, including myself, fled from Nauvoo. We crossed the Mississippi river on ice, in February, 1846. In our pilgrimage to the West through the wilderness of Iowa, under the leadership of Brigham Young, we suffered many hardships and privations. We had snow, hail and sleet, thunder, lightning and torrents of rain, being oftened drenched to the skin. Have often awakened in the night, when sleeping in a tent, or under a wagon, and found myself laying in pools of water. Spent the dreary winter of 1846 and 1847 at Winter Quarters, on this bank of the muddy Missouri, when for the want of the necessities of life, many of the Saints died with scurvy and fever. Marion Brady and myself were the “cow boys” of the camp at Winter Quarters in the spring of 1847. The Omaha Indians being hostile at times, when we were out in the rolling hills with our cows, they would take a shot at us with their bows and arrows. At one time an arrow struck in a bush one or two feet from my person.
“I was present in Winter Quarters when the great Pioneer company was organized, and saw them start out April 5, 1847, under the leadership of Brigham Young, on their perilous journey across the plains. Some weeks later three thousand Saints and about six hundred wagons followed in the wake of the Pioneers; Apostle John Taylor and my honored father having the general supervision of these first companies of emigrating pilgrims. The journey across the plains to the father and mother in Israel for the most part one of trial, hardship and sacrifice; to the young men and maidens, the ‘darkest clouds’ had their ‘silver lining.’ The trip to me, as young boy, although sorely vexed at times, was one of interest, novelty and pleasure. As the camps of Zion wended their way towards the land of promise, daily new scenes burst upon our view, and now and again we would meet the hunter and trapper or a band of Indians decked with beads, ornaments and feathers. The novelty and bustle of camp lie, the neighing of the horse, the lowing of the cows with their young calves, the deer antelope and buffalo and flocks of wild geese, the chase, and the crack of the hunter’s rifle, the fresh fish from the angler’s hook, the vast plains and sunburnt hills, the rocks, rills and caves; the lone tree by the way and the cold spring, the oasis in the desert, the Indian wicktup and grave, the wild flowers, and laughing children, the prairie fires and moonlight nights, the howling wolves and screeching night owls; the inspired Sabbath address and song of Zion, all filled my young heart with delight and inspiration.
“Being provided, by my father, with a good Indian pony, my boy companions and myself, drove cows most of the way across the Plains. We drove down through the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where we got a full view of the valley, Sept. 28, 1847. In my boyish dreams I had fancied we were coming to a choice land; to a land of timber, grass, flowers and gurgling springs; but when I saw the parched soil, the alkill beds, the sagebrush plain, the large black crickets, and half starved Indians, my heart sank within me, and I felt we had come to a land of desolation, instead of to a land of promise. How thankful we should be for our mountain home, for the Lord has changed the desert into a fruitful field.
“I have been acquainted with the leading men of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life; with the Prophet Joseph Smith, with that great and good man Brigham Young, the Apostle and Pioneer; with Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, John Taylor, Joseph Young, Orson Pratt, Erasmus Snow, Parley P. Pratt, and our venerable President Wilford Woodruff, whose life is still spared to lead Israel. These mighty, heroic, self-sacrificing, God-fearing men, with others, have laid the foundation, under God, of a theocracy which is to endure for time all eternity. It is expected that the sons and daughters of these early Pioneers of religion and the American desert will build upon the foundation laid by their parents, until the earth shall be redeemed and man shall be placed upon a higher plan of intellectual, moral and spiritual program.
“For the benefit more especially of the young, I desire to refer to an item of history in my father’s life never before published. In the fall of 1856 my father was stricken down with sickness, and said to his family gathered around him: ‘My time has come to die,’ when President Brigham Young, H.C. Kimball and others came to his bedside and said, ‘Brother Parley, we cannot spare you, we desire to have you live to assist us in the work of the Lord,’ when he replied, ‘Pray for me that I may be healed, and that my life may be prolonged.’ They then administered to him and he recovered rapidly, and spent the winter in preaching through the settlements. In the following spring, 1857, he was sent on a mission to the states, and died as a martyr in fulfillment of prophecy.”
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, July 26, 1897, 4]
[Deseret News, July 26, 1897]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Apr. 2006]