Sketch of the Life of Parley P. Pratt, Jr.
by Cora May Pratt Winkler, 1922
Parley Parker Pratt, Jr. was the eldest son of P.P. Pratt, Sr., and Thankful Halsey. He was born under the most wonderful circumstances. His parents had been married for nearly nine years; six or seven of this time his mother had been in ill health, suffering with consumption.
Parley, Sr., had been called on a mission to Canada. He was in debt, and with his wife sick he was troubled in mind and spirit and debating with himself as to whether he should go or remain for awhile and work to take care of his invalid wife and pay off his debts. While reflecting thus one evening in his home in Kirtland, Ohio, a knock came to the door. It proved to be Heber C. Kimball and others of the Brethren. He unburdened his mind to them, and they laid their hands on his head and that of his wife and blessed them and pronounced a most wonderful blessing and prophesy upon them.
Among other things, he told Brother Pratt to go on this mission; that the way would be opened for him to pay his debts, and a great work would be done in Canada, that there were people there prepared and waiting for the Gospel, and that it would spread from there into England. His wife was promised that she should be healed, and bear him a son within a year, and that they should call his name Parley.
Much cheered, they began to prepare for this mission and immediately the Lord opened up the way for them. The opening up of the Canadian Mission makes a remarkable chapter in the life of the Apostle, Parley P. Pratt.
John Taylor and a large number of his society, who were studying the Scriptures with an open mind, received him and accepted his teachings.
After a few months he returned, and to his great joy found his wife healed. He took her back with him. Within the year they again returned to Kirtland when her only child was born, March 25, 1837.
Two days before his birth, she had a beautiful vision in which she seemed wrapped in fire, and it came to her that she was being baptized in fire and the Holy Ghost. It was made known to her that she would live to fill the measure of her creation and then be released from this life of pain and suffering. The vision was repeated again the next day at the same hour, high noon. Her husband says in his history: “She was overwhelmed with a joy and peace indescribable, and seemed changed in her whole nature from that time forth. She longed to be gone, and anticipated the time as a hireling counts the days of his servitude, or the prisoner the term of his imprisonment.
She lived long enough to see her babe dressed and hold him in her arms. She was buried in the churchyard near the Temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Many hundreds attended the funeral and wept sorely, for she was extensively known, her trials for the Gospel’s sake, while her husband had been absent from time to time on distant missions, her lingering sickness of years, her barrenness, her miraculous cure, her conception of the promised child, were all matters of note in the Church far and near. But she had gone behind the veil to rest, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest, while I was left to toil and struggle alone. My grief and sorrow and loneliness, I shall not attempt to describe.”
For the satisfaction of our posterity I will here attempt some description of my wife’s person and qualities:
She was tall, of a slender frame, her face of an oval form, eyes large and of a dark color, her forehead lofty, clear complexion, hair black, smooth and glossy. She was of a mind and affectionate disposition and full of energy, preseverence, industry and cheerfulness when not bowed down with sickness. In order, neatness and refinement of taste and habit she might be said to excel. She was an affectionate and dutiful wife, and exemplary Saint, and through much tribulation she has gone to the world of spirits to meet a glorious resurrection and an immortal crown and kingdoms. Farewell, my dear Thankful, thou wife of my youth and mother of my first-born, the beginning of my strength, Farewell. Yet a few more years of sorrow, toil and pain and I shall be with thee, and clasp thee to my bosom, and thou shalt sit down on my throne, as a Queen and Priestess unto thy lord, arrayed in white robes of dazzling splendor, and bedecked with precious stones and gold, while they queen sisters shall minister before thee, and thy sons and daughters innumerable shall call thee blessed and hold thy name in everlasting remembrance.”
After his father’s death in 1857, when twenty years old, he was left in charge of his father’s large family and affairs. In fact, he had carried part of this burden through his boyhood while his father was absent on Church duties.
At the age of 22 he married Romania Bunnell. Six sons and one daughter were the outcome of this union. (later Romania divorced P.P.P. Jr. and married Apostle Charles W. Penrose. She aspired to financial success and a husband with a position of recognition in the church). He married a third wife but the family prefers to not give it recognition.
At 24 years he performed a three years mission to England, and later two to the Eastern States, where his life was threatened, and it was only through a warning voice from heaven it was saved.
He presided over the 14th Quorum of the Seventies, and later over the 132nd Quorum. But perhaps the most important mission of his life was the compiling and editing of his father’s life and travels. About 1874 he says: “In publishing this volume I am discharging a duty solemnly imposed upon me by my lamented father, just before his departure on his last mission to the United States.”
He was aided in this work by President John Taylor.
In 1877 he obeyed the law of Plural Marriage, and married my mother, Brighamine Nielsen, who was then keeping house for him and helping to care for his five boys, while his first wife was East studying to be a Doctor. Soon after, he left for his last mission.
During his absence I was born, and I was two years old when I first beheld my father, but I went to him gladly and called him “Papa” although I had always been very much afraid of all other men.
This marriage produced two sons and six daughters. The daughters and the youngest son are now living (1922).
Parley P. Pratt Jr. was one of the first men to be cast into prison during the polygamy persecution. I think he gloried in the fact that he could do this for his religion.
Like many of our parents he went through many trying times and deep sorrows and disappointments. He was slandered, misrepresented, and misunderstood by some of his own people when he had done no wrong. When the “Liberals” took the City he lost his position of ten years, when he was getting old and could least stand it. After that, it was a struggle to live. He compiled a little book called “Home Economy” and sold it to himself, and finally in answer to days of fasting and prayer he was told by a voice from heaven “to take a lecture field” and the subject of pioneer life came to him. When he demurred, the voice repeated, “take a lecture field and be blessed.”
Thus he spent the last year of his life. It was not much of a success financially, but gave him a chance to bring before the younger generation this important subject, which up until that time, had not received much attention, and to bear a strong testimony of the truth.
I was privileged to go with him a few times and add my mite in signing.
Through all the trials of his latter life my mother suffered with him, and stuck to him through sorrow and sunshine, and nursed him through his last illness, although she was about to bear another child. She was blessed to witness the ministration of his father and others who conferred upon him a blessing denied him by the living, just before his death.
I was privileged to witness Aunt Zina D. Young speak in tongues in answer to my father’s prayers. She asked my mother, Brighamine, and me to kneel with her at his sick bed and pray for the interpretation, which she soon received. The main message was: “You shall not die one minute before your mission is finished.” His father’s visit afterward fulfilled this promise.
He died August 26, 1897, of cancer of the stomach. We felt that death to him was a glorious release. He had a large and beautiful funeral. President Smith spoke of their close companionship. He said that while he did not wish to criticize anyone, he had always felt and said that Brother Parley should have held a position in the Church where he could have exercised his highly spiritual nature in helping the cause of Truth, and not been compelled to worry over the material things of life which he was so little fitted for physically or otherwise.
He was a fine appearing man, standing six feet tall, but was of a slender, frail build. He had silky, black, curly hair and long auburn beard. His face was oval, refined and delicate in conture. His eyes were large and dreamy, hazel in color. His beautiful character shone in his face. He was kind and gently patient and long-suffering, a most affectionate husband and father. He was very humble and meek, but with it all had a firm will, which amounted at times to stubbornness. This trait sometimes got him into trouble. He was honest and truthful, almost to a fault. He was scrupulously clean in person, mind and habit.
He tried to instill these virtues unto others by example and precept. Parley P. Pratt r. was very much like his mother in looks and character. May his children prove worthy of the heritage he has left them.
Cora Pratt Winkler
[Parley Parker Pratt Jr. & Descendants, Cora S. Winkler, 1992]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Dec. 2006]