Parley P. Pratt in Nauvoo


By Rick J. Fish

Prepared under the direction of Robert Grow,

President of the Jared Pratt Family Association

April 1993


Nauvoo was originally the site of an Indian village called Quashquema, which was home to nearly 500 members of the Sac-Fox tribe.  During the 1820s, several small tribes of Indians in Illinois and along the Mississippi River were being pushed off their traditional lands by an influx of white settlers.  Quashquema also experienced a small group of white emigrants settling in and near their home land.  The expulsion of many Indian tribes including the Sac-Fox in Quashquema, occurred during the Black Hawk War of 1832 by the Illinois militia.1

After the war, new settlers slowly began adding to the existing families already living in the area, and the fledgling community was renamed Commerce.  All the settlements along the Mississippi River were linked by a network of steamboats which brought supplies and news to these outposts in the wilderness.

During the Panic of 1837, many banks went out of business all across America making loans very difficult to secure.  This economic downturn suspended most of the emigration into Commerce.  However, this financial situation did have one positive effect for the Mormons.  Property values drastically declined making land in the area a buyer’s paradise.  By 1839, several merchants had established homes and stores in Commerce to serve the nearly one hundred farmers and traders who lived in the general area.

During the winter of 1838-39, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began fleeing from Far West, and surrounding communities in Missouri, into Quincy, Illinois, fifty miles south of Commerce.  Many families in Quincy manifested extraordinary compassion as they housed the destitute church members through the long winter months.  By April of 1839, Joseph Smith and other Mormon prisoners had escaped from Missouri and relocated with their followers in Quincy.  Shortly thereafter, Church leaders began looking for a less populated place where they could build a Mormon haven.

By May of 1839, Mormons began migrating north into Commerce, renamed Nauvoo, in 1840.  Here, they were able to find huge sections of cheap land covered in thickets and trees, with enough grasslands and rich farmland for anyone willing to work the soil.  By the summer of 1841, between two and three thousand people lived in Nauvoo.  By 1845, some estimates record as many as fifteen to twenty thousand people living in the bustling community.

After the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844, the idea of a haven or refuge for the saints in Nauvoo began to crumble.  The exodus of the Church from Nauvoo to Iowa began in the winter of 1845-46, and continued until after the Battle of Nauvoo (Sept. 12-17, 1846).

Consequently, members of the Church were located in Nauvoo a little more than 7 years.  During this time, Parley P. Pratt was actually only in Nauvoo approximately 2 years.

Actual or approximate time Parley P. Pratt visited or lived in Nauvoo, Illinois between the years 1838-1846.

[July 18, 1839—August 29, 1839]     Approximately 1.3 months

[Feb. 7, (?) 1843—Feb. 20, (?) 1843] Approximately 3 weeks

[April 12, 1843—Aug. 17, 1843]       Approximately 4 months

[Oct. 22, (?) 1843—March ?, 1844]   Approximately 6 months

[July 6, (?) 1844—Dec. 2, 1844]       Approximately 6 months

[August 26, 1845—Feb. 14, 1846]    Approximately 6 months

Total:  Approximately 2 years


Aug. 31, Nathan Pratt was born to Parley and Mary Ann Frost Pratt.  Nathan was the first of their four children.

Oct. 31, Betrayed by Col. George Hinkle into the hands of the Missouri Militia, the prisoners were taken to the militia camp on the outskirts of Far West.2

Nov. 1, General Alexander Doniphan interceded to save the prisoners’ lives.

Nov. 3, The prisoners were taken into the city of Far West to pick up some extra clothes and to say good-bye to their families and friends.

Nov. 3-5, The prisoners were transported by wagon to Jackson County, sixty miles south west.

Nov. 8-9, The prisoners were transported to Richmond Jail.

Nov. 11-28, A mock trial occurred.

Nov. 28, Judge Austin A. King found the prisoners guilty of various crimes (treason, etc.) and separated Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRay, and sent them to Liberty Jail in Clay County.3

Parley P. Pratt and four others were ordered to remain in Richmond and to begin serving time until a murder trial could be held concerning their participation in the Battle of Crooked River.


Nov.-Apr., Mormon families spent the winter and spring fleeing Missouri for Commerce (Nauvoo), and Quincy, Illinois (50 miles south of their future home in Nauvoo).

Parley’s family occasionally visited him spending part of the winter months with him in the Richmond Jail (between early December until March 17).4 By the end of April, Parley’s family were among the last families to leave Far West for Quincy, Illinois.  Approximately 12,500 Mormons fled Missouri during this time.

April 24, Two of Parley’s cell mates were allowed to go free while two others remained incarcerated.  The four still held in captivity were: Parley P. Pratt, King Follet, Morris Phelps, and Luman Gibbs, an angry apostate.

April 24, Orson came to visit Parley in jail.  He was only allowed to stay a few moments.5

Late May, The prisoners were given a change of venue from the dungeon of Richmond Jail to a jail in Columbia, Boone County Missouri, to await a final trial.

July 1-4, The prisoners were visited by some friends and family members including Orson Pratt.  They devised an escape plan where Orson and Mrs. Phelps would assist the three prisoners.  The apostate would be left to provide for himself.  By July 4, Parley had been held captive in Missouri for 8 months and 4 days.6

July 4, At sunset the three prisoners made their escape from Columbia Jail to a thicket about a half mile away where Mrs. Phelps and Orson Pratt were waiting with three horses.  Morris Phelps and Parley escaped.  King Follet was recaptured and held in prison several more months until he was later released.  Orson also escaped.  Mrs. Phelps was captured but allowed to go free the following day.

Mr. Phelps rode a horse all the way to Illinois and freedom in two days.  Orson also arrived in Illinois two days later.7

July 4-11, Parley lost his horse a few hours after the escape and was forced to walk almost the entire way to Quincy in eight days.  These eight days were arduous and exhausting.  Forced to travel mostly at night, Parley narrowed escaped search parties and rattle snakes arriving in Illinois July 9th, and finally reunited with his family in Quincy in the early morning hours of July 11, 1839.8

July 10, Heber C. Kimball said that on July 10, he heard that Parley had just arrived in Quincy, from the Columbia Jail, so he left Commerce, and went and helped Parley and Orson bring their families up to Commerce, from Quincy.9

July 13-16, “A few days afterwards [after arriving in Commerce] he [Parley] and I [Heber C. Kimball] purchased five acres each, of woodland, from Hyrum Kimball (see Parley’s reference to this event on July 23).  They lay adjoining each other, one mile from the river.  He and I went to work to cut each a set of logs fourteen by sixteen feet in length, which we cut in one day.  We then invited some of the old citizens, viz., Brother Bozier, D.H. Wells, Lewis Robinson and other to come and assist us to put them up; as our people were mostly prostrate by sickness.  We drew them and put them up the next day…In the meantime brother Orson Pratt moved his family into the little shanty with me. [Their moving in with the Kimballs probably occurred shortly after mid-August.  Sarah remained here in the Kimball cabin while Orson and the Twelve went on their missions to England.  Sarah and her small family stayed with the Kimballs off and on until the following fall].”10

July 15, Parley and his family moved to Nauvoo from Quincy (about 50 miles north up the Mississippi River).

July 18, After their arrival in Nauvoo, the family camped in the open air without any shelter what ever.  They probably lived in this condition only a few days.  The Times and Seasons reported that after removing to Nauvoo, Parley and his family resided in a small log cabin consisting of one room, already occupied by another family.11

July 22, “In consequence of the persecutions of the saints in Missouri, and the exposures to which they were subjected, many of them (saints) were taken sick soon after their arrival at Commerce, afterwards called Nauvoo; and as there was but a small number of dwellings for them to occupy, Joseph had filled his house and tent with them, and through constantly attending to their wants, he soon fell sick himself.  After being confined to his house several days, and while meditating upon his situation, he had a great desire to attend to the duties of his office.  On the morning of the 22nd of July, 1839, he arose from his bed and commenced to administer to the sick in his own house and door-yard, and he commanded them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to arise and be made whole; and the sick were healed upon every side of him…Many lay sick along the bank of the river;…After healing all that lay sick upon the bank of the river as far as the stone house, he called upon Elder Kimball and some others [including Parley] to accompany him across the river to visit the sick at Montrose.  Many of the saints were living at the old military barracks.  Among the number were several of the Twelve.  On his arrival the first house he visited was that occupied by Elder Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, who lay sick.  Joseph healed him, then he arose and accompanied the Prophet on his visit to others who were in the same condition.  They visited Elder Wilford Woodruff, also Elders Orson Pratt, and John Taylor, all of whom were living in Montrose.  They also accompanied him.”12

July 23-?, “After these things [healing the sick in Montrose] I joined with brother [Heber C.] Kimball in purchasing some land in the contemplated city of Nauvoo [the area was still called Commerce at this time], which was then a wilderness, and both of us went to work together with our own hands to build us a log house each.  After toiling a few days in this manner I sold out my improvement and prepared for a mission to England, as our quorum were now appointed to visit that country.”13

July, As Elders Woodruff and Taylor were leaving for their mission to England, they passed by Parley and Heber C. Kimball working on their cabins.  “On their way they passed Parley P. Pratt, stripped [without a shirt], bareheaded and barefooted, hewing some logs for a house.  He hailed the brethren as they passed and gave them a purse, though he had nothing to put in it.  Elder Heber C. Kimball, who was but a short distance away, stripped as Elder Pratt was, came up and said, ‘As Brother Parley has given you a purse, I have a dollar I will give you to put in it.’  And mutually blessing each other, they separated to meet again in foreign lands.”14

July 28, “Meeting was held as usual.  Elder Parley P. Pratt preached on the gathering of Israel.  In the afternoon Orson Pratt addressed the Church on the necessity of keeping the commandments of God.”15

Aug. 29, Parley, his family,16 Orson Pratt, and a friend Hiram Clark left Nauvoo for their mission to England.

Sept. 1, Parley and family arrived at the home of his brother William.  Here Orson Pratt and Hyrum Clark were waiting for them having gone ahead to do some preaching.  William lived approx. 72 miles from Nauvoo.  Traveling by roads, in the 1840s, in an easterly direction, would place William’s home probably at or near Bryant, Illinois.17

Sep.-Oct., For approximately five weeks the small company journeyed from Illinois to Detroit, preaching along the way to anyone who would listen.

“…we rode to Detroit [Hamtramck, now a suburb of Detroit],18 where I found my brother Anson Pratt and family; whom I had not seen for many years, and also my aged father and mother, who were now living with him.  My father was now about seventy years of age, and was on his death bed with a heavy fever.  We tarried with them two weeks; during which I preached in the City Hall of Detroit, and superintended some printing and publishing matters.

“While here we sold our horses and carriage, and at length took leave of our kindred and a last farewell of our sick father, and took passage on a steamboat down Lake Erie to Buffalo; distance three hundred miles.

“Previous to our departure from Detroit brothers O. Pratt and Clark took leave of us, and passed down the lake into Ohio; intending to meet us again at New York.

“After landing safe in Buffalo, we took the Erie canal and railroad to Albany—distance three hundred and fifty miles; thence to New York by his steamer down the Hudson river—distance one hundred and fifty miles.  Here we arrived in safety after a journey of about one thousand four hundred miles.  We were received by the Saints in New York almost as one of the old saints risen from the dead.  I had been absent nearly two years, during which time I had lain eight months in prison.  Brother Addison Everett, a High Priest of the Church in that city and one of the first members I had baptized there, related to met that the Church in that city were assembled in prayer for me on the evening of the 4th of July previous, that I might be delivered from prison and from my enemies in Missouri.  When, on a sudden, the spirit of prophecy fell on him, and he arose and declared to the Church that they might cease their prayers on that subject; ‘For,’ said he, ‘on this moment brother Parley goes at liberty.’

“We found the Church in New York strong in the faith, and rejoicing in the truth.  They had become numerous in the city and in several parts of the country around.

“In this city I resided with my family some six months, during which I preached most of the time in the city, and also superintended the printing and publishing of several of our books.  I also performed occasional missions in the country; I visited Long Island, New Jersey, Philadelphia [In Philadelphia, Parley meets with Joseph Smith and learns about eternal marriage for the first time] and the City of Washington.  In this latter place I published an address in a printed circular to each member of Congress, and to the President of the United States and his Cabinet…”19

Oct., While in Detroit, Parley published an 84-page pamphlet entitled History of the Late Persecution….  He had written this while in prison of Missouri.

Nov., “Soon after my (Parley’s) arrival in New York City, Elders O. Pratt and Clark, who left us at Detroit, arrived, having performed a mission through some parts of Ohio and New York.”  They had much success.20

Nov. 19-20, Parley and Orson Pratt were present, along with Wilford Woodruff and several other leaders of the Church at a conference in NYC.21

Dec., Parley republished his earlier track he had published in Detroit, this time in book form titled Late Persecutions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dec. 21-30, Parley came to New York City at Orson’s request so the brothers could visit each other.22

Winter, Parley published “An address by a Minister of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to the People of the United States.”  This four page address was first published in New York.  The date for this address is 184?.  It is not known for sure which year during this decade it was published, but this address was almost identical to one he will publish in May of 1840, so I believe it was probably written while Parley was in New York and published after he left for England, during this year.

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1 Probably the most notable member of the Illinois militia who participated in this war was Abraham Lincoln.

2 All of the events catalogued in the year 1838 and nearly all from 1839 were taken from the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, edited by his son Parley P. Pratt and published by Deseret Book Company in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1980.  In addition, all marriages and births chronicled in the succeeding pages also came from the autobiography.