Dying Remarks of Apostle Parley P. Pratt

Elder Frank T. Pomeroy, recently returned from a mission to the Southern States, on this 11th day of April, 1898, furnished to the Church Historian the following interesting particulars concerning the death of Elder Parley P. Pratt the Apostle; which he obtained from John A. Peel, at New Orleans, Feb. 14, 1896:

“A Conference having been arranged for in New Orleans, in company with Elder William M. Holt, I went to inspect the Hall which had been engaged for the conference meetings.  It was in charge of Mr. John A. Peel.  At his office we met with several gentlemen, and were very much surprised to hear him say that he was present at the death of Parley P. Pratt and heard his dying statement.

“When asked for the particulars, he recounted the circumstances as developed in the court at Van Buren, Ark., giving McLean’s testimony.  Said that McLean had a handsome wife and two children, and lived in San Francisco, Cal.; that Pratt became very intimate with the family, and Mrs. McLean became converted to the Mormon faith, and as her husband would not join, she desired to go to Salt Lake City, but he refusing, she went anyway, and he after closing up his business, took his children to Mississippi to her parents for them to raise.  A year or so after she wrote to her parents telling them she had repented of what she had done and wanted to come home to them; that she could not live without her children.  She went to them, and after about six months, she gained their confidence, and one day, having taken her children out for a walk, she boarded a train for the North, intending to join a Mormon train that was just starting across the Plains to Utah, through Arkansas.  She wrote a letter after starting to her parents, telling them what she had done; that she was a true Mormon, but loved her children and could not live without them and she had taken this course to get them into her possession again.  Her parents at once telegraphed to McLean, who was in St. Louis, and he at once started in pursuit.  In St. Louis he found a letter form Elder Pratt to her in cipher, telling her where to meet the Mormon train.  Mr. Peel had been in the Western part of the State and was returning to Van Buren.  Passing the Mormon train, some twenty miles from Van Buren, he noticed in the last wagon, drawn by a yoke of steers, a beautiful woman and two children.  A short time after passing the train he met Mr. McLean and a sheriff’s posse, with a writ for Mrs. McLean and Elder Pratt, charging Elder Pratt with abducting McLean’s wife, and soon they returned with them to Van Buren, the Mormon train camping about 30 miles away.  Elder Pratt was brought into Court and charged with abducting Mrs. McLean, Mr. McLean telling his story how Pratt was an intimate friend in California, but one evening upon coming home from business, found that his wife and Pratt had run away.  He closed out his business and followed them on this continent, then across the water to Europe; at times was quite close to them.  Finally he overtook them through a cipher letter at St. Louis and had them arrested.  After his statement the Judge asked Elder Pratt what he had to say, and he arose and said: “Your honor, I have done nothing towards this woman than I would to any respectable woman, or as a brother would not towards a sister.”  “Well,” said Mr. Peel, “the Judge could find nothing tangible against Pratt, so was compelled to turn him loose.  Public feeling ran pretty high against him.  When he was acquitted by the Judge, McLean attempted to draw his pistol, but was prevented by the sheriff.  For his safety, Pratt was placed in a wooden jail, and that night a large crowd gathered and there was strong talk of lynching him, but the officers kept them off.  In the evening I was sitting in company with Mr. McLean and several other gentlemen, in front of the hotel conversing, when a boy came running and told us that Pratt had gone.  The sheriff had put him on a horse and started him off for the Mormon train secretly.  Mr. McLean said never a word, but went across the street to where a horse was tied, and mounting him started in pursuit.  Several of us followed, obtaining horses from the livery stable nearby.  Pratt had taken the road leading South, intending to take a circuitous route and meet the Mormon train.  There had been alight rain the night previous and the road was sandy.  Both horses’ tracks could be seen very plainly.  We followed rapidly, and when within about half a mile of the parties we heard pistol shots and a few moments later met Mr. McLean returning.  He did not speak to any of us, but rode on into Van Buren and took a steamer down the river.  We went to where the shooting had taken place and found Pratt sitting against a tree, he having crawled some distance from the road.  We went up and conversed with him.  He said he knew he was going to die and desired us to communicate with the Mormon train and have some of them return and take his body to Utah, and he desired us to send his dying statement to Brigham Young and the Church.  “I die,” said he, “a firm believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I wish you to carry this my dying testimony.  I know that the Gospel is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Living God” and then added, “I am dying a martyr to the faith.”  His voice grew weaker and weaker and finally he breathed no more.  We returned to Van Buren and reported the killing.  Mrs. McLean hired an ambulance and went out and brought his dead body into Van Buren.  It was taken to the Mormon train and conveyed to Utah, Mrs. McLean and children accompanying it.”

We thanked Mr. Peel kindly, corrected a few points in McLean’s testimony and bade him goodbye.

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Apr. 11, 1898, 4-6]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Dec. 2006]

Return to Death and Martyrdom of Parley P. Pratt