by Willard Call, her husband
In May 1896 while filling a mission in England and presiding over the Norwich Conference, which at that time comprised Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge Counties I learned that my brother A.B. Call then living in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, was coming to England on a mission. I wrote to President Anthony H. Lund, describing the kind of an Elder that I thought we needed in Cambridge, one of the college centers of England. Of course I had my brother in mind, and I pictured him so well that when he arrived in Liverpool I think the President recognized him. At any rate Bowen came right on to Norwich. We had two months together, be being introduced around the Conference while I was saying farewell to the hundreds of splendid Latter-day Saints, who had endeared themselves to me during my two years Mission.
During the best visit which up to that time I had ever had with Bowen, he enthused me with a wish to go to Mexico. He described the country, the climate, the Mexican people, the social condition of the Mormon Colonists. Of the people themselves he never tired of saying good things. Some of these descriptions together with privileges peculiar to Old Mexico, I couldn’t quite get out of in mind. So after I had retrieved my finances, and served my Country’s flag the better part of a year I made a trip into Mexico to verify Bowen’s glowing descriptions. They hadn’t been overdrawn. In fact when I met his wife’s sister Leah and looked just a little way into her heart, I knew that Bowen had indeed been modest. Returning after a sixty day visit, I reminded my wife of a compact which had stood for sixteen years between us and I drew for her a picture into which I now admit that my powers of art were concentrated. Addie readily acquiesced, and after prayerful, thoughtful, serious contemplation, covering a period of a few months, I had not only her consent, I had her blessing and her oft expressed wish that I would be successful in winning Leah’s heart.
It is almost strange how things work out for a fellow when he works at them and sticks to his work. I secured a contract to open a set of books for a railroading company in Mexico; and after working there for about eight months, during which time I saw but little of Leah, I asked her Father to allow me to press my suit with her. Brother Pratt surprised and almost floored me by saying “No, a privilege such as you are looking towards will never be given by the authorities of our Church to any man who lives in the United States. If you are really in earnest, the first thing to do is to sell out in Utah and establish your permanent home in Mexico. So while I have no other objections to what you ask don’t feel at liberty to say a word of love to Leah.”
Addie had been to Mexico meanwhile with two of the babies. Willard our oldest boy had spent eight months there. We came home and tried to sell our city property. It just wouldn’t sell until Addie suggested: “Why don’t you show that you are really in earnest by offering our field property for sale? Don’t try to see the end from the beginning; take the step in sight and then you will see the next.” So, we sold our farm. Then we found a buyer for our city property. And with our family and effects were soon on the way to a new home in a foreign country. Once on the ground arrangements satisfactory were not slow in the making. But again Brother Pratt was very particular so the arrangements were all left to him. For he said: “There is a way to do this right and there is a way to do it wrong.” The apostles often come here and we will wait for one of them.
Very early in her married life Leah made a trip to the Salt Lake Temple. She had a nice visit with my dear Mother, und all of my brothers and sisters who lived in and around Bountiful. My Mother, bless her memory, to whom we had confided our reasons for stepping out from under the protection of the Stars and Stripes said: “Tell my lad that I don’t blame him, and that God will bless him for he has done the right thing.” My sisters were especially impressed with the lady whom I had married. Her next to perfect form, her abundance of brown hair, her keen perceptive powers, her unspoiled soul so near to nature at once won their admiration. They boasted of my judgment and tried to have me say that it was a family characteristic.
Leah’s family are large people; six footers are not uncommon. She is a little above the average size, five feet seven inches tall, weighing about 165 pounds and wearing a number seven shoe. She has a high school education and a lot of Parley P. Pratt natural tact, a keen grey eye, a memory to be envied, and a manner of expression peculiar to herself.
Leah’s father, Helaman Pratt, born in 1847 while the Pioneers were on the westward march might be expected to retaliate when his rights are infringed upon, was just the kind of man that the circumstances of his birth – might be expected to produce. He had his emotions under very good control. As his son-in-law I learned on very short acquaintance, that Brother Pratt liked to take care of his own business in his own way; and he was just as particular not to interfere in my business.
Following in his Father’s footsteps he had done 25 years of missionary work among the Lamanites. He spoke the Spanish language very well. He was with the early Mormon pioneers who made their homes in Mexico. Before this he served on the police force of Salt Lake City. He pioneered the Muddy country. His experiences, his education, his natural ability and those out-of-the-ordinary endowments of his birth; made him a leader among men, lie was never heard to say “go and do this” it was always “come on boys”. In times of flood, which were not uncommon in Dublan, when canals were to be built, church houses or school houses were to be erected, when the community was in danger because of marauding rebel bunds, Helaman Pratt was usually first on the ground. He brought his shovel and he used it in case of a flood; and in case of a night alarm he always came with his rifle and plenty of ammunition. He loved music and encouraged it in the community. He played the violin and never was too old to enjoy the dance, or the social side of our community life. He was a favorite with the children. He liked a good horse; he knew a good cow; he enjoyed good clean wit.
Dora Wilcken Pratt, Leah’s mother is in no sense an ordinary woman. She was born in Germany at a time when her father, Charles Wilcken, familiarly known as “Charley” was in the military service of his country, as required of all Germans. Probably because he was six feet two inches tall and a very fine figure he was drawn as a body guard to the Kaizer. Though he was willing to fill the lawful requirements of his country, a military career didn’t measure up to his idea of a life of usefulness, so he took french leave of the German Army and of Germany. Mrs. Wilcken with her two children followed her husband from Germany out west in 1860 where instead of serving the Kaizer she found him serving as body guard to the Prophet Brigham Young. Our little seven year old German girl grew to be a large attractive woman and when Helaman Pratt courted her as a plural wife she was teaching school. She and brother Pratt were married and lived in Salt Lake City until 1886. This was during the worst of the Church’s polygamy problems.
When Leah was six years old, partly because of above mentioned problem and partly because of his interest in the Lamanite people among whom he had labored as a missionary her father moved to Colonia Juarez, Mexico. Here and on her father’s ranch in the mountains, and at Colonia Dublan, she spent her girlhood and received her education. Leah led her classes in school; learned to ride horses; to milk cows; to make butter and cheese; and to do the hundred and one other things which girls learn only on a farm or a ranch. She was genuine modesty personified, yet always on hand to serve in a public way.
During ten years of perfect happiness, the smoothness of which was hardly disturbed by a. domestic ripple, Leah and Addie and our little family lived in one house and ate at one table, –
Political conditions were too good to last and President He1aman Pratt warned me in the beginning, that when Porfirio Doaz was gone the old feeling of revolution, which for hundreds of years had ruled the Mexican heart might again be expected. Once again Mexico became a revolutionary country. One party after another gained the ascendancy, dictated terms to the people, collected taxes, imposed penalties, and declared themselves to be the government. Sometimes an established government would last a week, sometimes a few months, but there was always turmoil, strife, bloodshed, battles, war, death, destruction and waste. Every man armed and cared for himself and did what he could to care for this neighbor. For two years we carried our guns to our fields and like the religious services of our pilgrim fathers, our worshiping assemblies were punctuated by rifles.
Our property was taken from us on one pretext or another, and oftener without pretext. Reluctantly we gave up our holdings in this war stricken country. We were overpowered by great numbers of well armed, mounted Mexicans, who demanded our guns and our ammunition and whatever we had that they could use to carry on their war with. A futile show of resistance was all there was left to us. We complied and the following day at one o’clock A.M. we were at the depot, 600 of us hurrying to get into the United States. I went out in charge of this train load of women, children, old and sick men. Those who were able to bear arms were kept for the protection of other colonies who were hurrying to the trains. I would like to tell how these refugees were fed, housed, nursed and doctored for the next three weeks in El Paso Texas; but this is Leah’s story and she was only one of them.
We came to Bountiful. Our Church paid our railway fares. Our family met us at the train. They had furnished and provisioned a house for us. Aaron had a job awaiting me and the boys, and from that day I have never been able to subscribe myself as a merchant, but have just busied myself hunting a job.
In Bountiful, Leah’s services have been sought by, and efficiently, ungrudgingly given to, the Primary Association, the YL.M.I.A. and the Relief Society.
Leah Pratt Call, who was born July 31, 180, passed away in Bountiful, October 22, 1953. Services were held in the Bountiful First Ward. She was buried in the Bountiful Cemetery.
(From a book on Leah Pratt Call)