History of Parley P. Pratt
I am the third son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson, of Columbia county, New York. I was born April 12, 1807, in Burlington, Otsego county, New York.
Of my childhood and youth I will say but little. I was raised to hard work on a farm—brought up in the strictest morals; was a believer in the Bible and Jesus Christ; received but a limited education in the common schools.
I was married September 9th, 1827, in Canaan, Columbia co., N. Y. My wife’s name was Thankful, daughter of William and Thankful Halsey; she was born in New Lebanon, Columbia county, N. Y., March 18, 1797.
On the 25th of March, 1837, she gave birth to my firstborn, whose name is Parley, and died the same day. This happened in Kirtland, Ohio.
About the first of September, A. D. 1830, I was baptized by the hand of an Apostle, named Oliver Cowdery. This took place in Seneca Lake. I was confirmed the same day and ordained an Elder at the house of Father Whitmer, Seneca county, N. Y. From that time forth I began to minister in the fulness of the gospel. My first mission was in Columbia county among my relatives and neighbors, where I baptized my brother Orson Pratt.
Returning to western New York the same autumn, I saw for the first time Joseph Smith, the Prophet, at his father’s house, in Manchester; heard him preach, and preached in his house, at the close of which meeting we baptized seven persons.
After this he enquired of the Lord and received a revelation appointing me a mission to the west, in company with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, jun., and Siba Peterson. We started this mission in October, 1830. From Father Whitmer’s in western New York, we traveled nearly fifteen hundred miles, mostly on foot, and arrived in Jackson county, Missouri, in the beginning of the year 1831, having preached the gospel and left the Book of Mormon with the Caterangus Indians near Buffalo, N. Y., and with the Wi-an-dots of Ohio. We also preached the gospel and established the church in Kirtland, Ohio, and the regions round about, consisting of several hundred members among whom were Sidney Rigdon, Isaac Morley, John Murdock, Lyman Wight and many others, whom we ordained Elders.
Passing the western bounds of Missouri amid the deep snows of January, 1831, we entered what is now called Kansas, and bore the Book of Mormon and our testimony to the Delaware Indians, who received it joyfully. We were soon ordered out by government agents and threatened with the military. We then returned to Jackson county, Missouri, and preached the gospel in several neighborhoods, baptizing a few.
On the 14th February same year, I took leave of my fellow laborers in Jackson county, and travelled, mostly on foot, to Kirtland, Ohio, nearly one thousand miles, where I arrived some time in March.
Here I met with President Joseph Smith, who enquired of the Lord and received commandment for me to preach the gospel and visit the churches in the regions around, which I did until the conference at Kirtland, held June 6, 1831, in which President Joseph Smith, by the word of God, ordained me with many others to the High Priesthood, and received a revelation for me and my brother Orson and many others, to journey two and two, to the western bounds of Missouri, preaching and baptizing by the way.
We started in June, performed this journey on foot, organized several churches by the way, and arrived in western Missouri in October of the same year.
From this time until February, 1832, I was very sick with fever and ague, during which I tarried with the churches there.
About the middle of February I attended conference in Jackson county, over which Bishop Edward Partridge presided. Here I was healed by the laying on of hands, and the next day started my return mission in company with John Murdock and others.
After a tedious journey of a thousand miles we arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in May, 1832, having preached by the way with some success.
After a short mission to Pittsburgh and back, on foot, distance 130 miles, I removed with my wife to Jackson county, Missouri, where I settled, opened a farm, and built a log cabin.
The next winter, in company with Elder W. E. McLellan, I performed a mission on foot through Missouri, and into Green county, Illinois, where we preached with much success; distance about six hundred miles in going and returning.
About the first of June I returned home; devoted my time among the churches and in presiding over a school of Elders in Zion, and in laboring with my hands.
In the autumn of 1833 I was driven out of Jackson county, with the rest of the church, at the loss of my home. I took refuge in Clay county, where I obtained a living by day labor, jobbing, &c.
On the first of February, 1834, being sent by a general conference, held in Clay county, I started in connexion with Elder Lyman Wight, on horseback, rode one thousand miles and arrived in Kirtland in March. President Joseph Smith enquired of the Lord, and by revelation our mission was still extended eastward in connexion with others.
President Joseph Smith and myself journeyed together as far as Gennessee county, New York, where we held conference, after which we separated, and I still continued eastward, visiting the churches in northern New York and my friends in Columbia county.
I again arrived in Kirtland in the latter part of April.
On the first of May, 1834, I started with President Smith and company for upper Missouri, where we arrived in July. In this journey I had traveled by land near four thousand miles. From this till October I spent the time in laboring with my hands.
On the 8th of October, in compliance with a revelation through the Prophet Joseph, I started with my wife for Kirtland, Ohio. After journeying near one thousand miles with a horse team, we stopped for the winter at New Portage, within fifty miles of Kirtland. Here I devoted my time diligently in the ministry and laboring with my hands until February, 1835, when I repaired to Kirtland.
February 21st, 1835, I was ordained one of the Twelve Apostles under the hands of Joseph Smith and others. I then immediately returned to New Portage, settled my affairs and returned again to Kirtland to join the Twelve on a mission eastward.
May 4th, we started this mission. The season was spent in preaching, visiting the churches, holding conferences, etc., in the eastern States. August found us in the state of Maine, and in September we returned to Kirtland. The winter was spent in the School of the Prophets in the House of the Lord. In April, 1836, I took a mission to Canada and labored through the season in the city of Toronto and round about, which mission resulted in the baptism and ordination of John Taylor, Joseph Fielding and others, and in the gathering into the church of many souls. In October of the same year I returned to Kirtland; spent the winter at home.
On the 25th of March, 1837, my son Parley was born, in fulfillment of a prophecy delivered on the head of my wife about eleven months previous by Elder H. C. Kimball. Having lived to see and embrace her child she died about two hours after his birth.
In the spring of 1837, soon after the death of my wife, I returned to Canada, on a short mission to the Saints, during which several of the Canadian Elders, viz., Joseph Fielding, Isaac Russell, John Snyder, and John Goodson were selected for a mission to England.
They were set apart, and performed that mission under the presidency of Elder H. C. Kimball and Orson Hyde; this being the first introduction of the fulness of the gospel in Europe.
May 9th, same year, I was again married, receiving the hand of Mary Ann Frost, daughter of Aaron Frost, of Maine. Soon after this marriage I went to the city of New York, where, at length, I succeeded in baptizing many, among whom was Addison Everett. Here I wrote and published the “Voice of Warning,” and here God manifested his power in many gifts and healings, causing the work to spread through the city and round about.
In April, 1838, I took leave of New York and with a small colony emigrated once more to Missouri. We settled in Caldwell county in May, where I built a house and made a farm with my own hands, besides devoting much of my time to the ministry. In autumn of the same year I was imprisoned with Br. Joseph and others, while my family and the whole church were robbed, plundered and driven from the State.
On the fourth of July, 1839, I gained my freedom by the power of God, after eight months and four days’ imprisonment, and escaped to Illinois. I found my family in Quincy, and gathering with them to Nauvoo, I again commenced to labor with my hands.
On the 29th of August, 1839, I started on a mission to England, in compliance with a revelation through Joseph Smith. We traveled by land in a carriage near six hundred miles, my brother Orson and my family accompanying me. We arrived at Detroit and tarried a few days with our brother Anson, and with our father and mother who then lived with him. My father, being about 70 years of age, was then laying low with a fever and soon after died.
Continuing our journey we arrived in New York some time in autumn, where I tarried for the winter, having great success in the ministry.
On the 9th of March, 1840, I sailed for Liverpool, England in company with Elders B. Young, H. C. Kimball, O. Pratt and others. We had a rough passage of twenty-eight days, and on the sixth day of April landed in Liverpool. We convened a general conference at Preston on the 15th of April, in which Elders B. Young, H. C. Kimball and myself were appointed a publishing committee for the church. I was also appointed editor and publisher of a monthly periodical to be called the Millennial Star, the first number of which was issued in May following.
I continued in this publishing department between two and three years, the last eighteen months of which I had the presidency of the church in the British Isles.
About the 20th of October, 1842, I took leave of England, and sailed for New Orleans, chartering a ship called the Emerald, and taking out with me several hundreds of the Saints. We landed in New Orleans after a tedious passage of ten weeks. Passing up the river for one week I landed with my family in Chester, Illinois, where we wintered on account of the ice. In the course of the winter I paid a visit to Nauvoo on horseback, and was welcomed by br. Joseph and my friends in general.
On the 12th of April, 1843, I landed in Nauvoo with my family. The remainder of the season was spent in building, &c.
The spring of 1844, I was sent out on a mission to the eastern States. I went as far as New York, held several meetings, but was constrained by the Holy Spirit to return home speedily. On arriving in Chicago, Illinois, I heard of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. I arrived home in time to console the Saints and assist in keeping them together until the return of President Young and others of the Twelve.
March 13, 1858—Prests. B. Young, H. C. Kimball, O. Hyde, O. Pratt, W. Woodruff, Geo. A. Smith and E. T. Benson heard this history read by R. L. Campbell and approved of it.
[Deseret News, May 19, 1858]
[transcribed by Harold W. Pratt Jr., Sept. 2006]