Helaman Pratt

by his Great Granddaughter Marlene Call Walker

Parley Pratt and his wife, Mary Wood, were on their way to Utah with the pioneers. The wagon train that Mary was in stopped for one half hour for their first child’s, Helaman, birth near Mount Pisgah, Iowa. (A place Parley had named.)

Helaman was 16 months old when he entered the Salt Lake Valley because they stopped at Winter Quarters before coming west.

As a boy, Helaman was expected to herd cows. He was rationed 1/2 slice of bread a day. He had to hide his lunch from the Indians or go without. They dug bulbs of any kind for food. They also grew beets. He grew so sick of beets that he wouldn’t eat them even as an adult.

He lived with an aunt with a group of boys who all worked together herding cattle. They would trade jobs so they could each take turns catching fish. One day after a great catch, Helaman put his fish on a stick and put it in the nearest pond to keep. When they were ready to head home Helaman found only the heads on his stick the rest were floating in the warm spring. He had accidentally put them in a natural hot spring.

He remembers fighting the crickets and seeing the seagulls come. He attended school. Other jobs he had were plowing, and watering cattle and gardens.

His father, Parley P. Pratt, died when he was 10 years old. He developed the following ideals which he followed throughout his life: A man should work for himself rather than for a boss; it is better to be a big toad in a little puddle than a little toad in a big puddle; living up to the family name is important; it is better to be honest and poor than to be wealthy and dishonest; never be late; and, all that you do, do well.

At age 22 he was called by Brigham Young to help settle the Muddy, a mission, near Overton, Nevada. The girl to whom he was engaged refused to marry him because of his call, so he went alone to report for duty. That first night at a community dance, he met 16-year-old Emeline Victoria Billingsly, known as Victoria. He introduced her as his new bride-to-be. She accepted. Their first child, was born during the Muddy project. The project was abandoned after two years because pioneering in the region was very rigorous and trying. Drought and isolation plus constant trouble with the Indians tested their lives constantly.

Helaman was very busy one morning cutting trees and working them into logs to build his home. An Indian came along and sat on a log nearby. He wanted Helaman to talk to him. Helaman told the Indian not to bother him. The Indian then said, “I go, but first you show me how good you shoot.” Helaman jerked out his six-shooter and shot at a crow. Much to the surprise of everyone, especially to Helaman, the bullet went through the neck of the crow and the head dropped on one side of the limb and the body on the other. The Indian was so astonished that he fell backward from the log he was sitting on, did a summersault, came to his feet, and started running and calling, “You good shot! You good shot!” As long as anyone could see him he was still running. The Indians dispersed wagging their heads and mumbling, You shoot good!

One day Helaman caught two Indians stealing what little wheat they had stored for the winter. He locked them up in the barn. The whole tribe descended upon him with bows and arrows drawn. Helaman stood by the Chief who was demanding that his men be released. He told the Chief, “If your men will return the wheat, they will go free; if they don’t they won’t. If your men pull their bows, I will pull the trigger on this pistol that is touching your stomach and as I fall you will fall.” The Chief willingly gave up. After that Helaman had little trouble with the Indians stealing food. Helaman was generous with the Indians and gave them supplies. At the end after their two years there, they looked back and saw flames. The Indians had destroyed all that the group had built.

Their first child, Helaman Teancum, became very sick on the wagon ride and he died in Richfield when they were on their way back to find a place where the settlers could live. Victoria had a baby girl in Salt Lake just before they settled in Long Valley in Sevier County. Helaman was called to be bishop over the Glenwood Ward. The next year they established Prattsville and he was called to preside over the Prattsville Ward, east of Richfield, where their second child, Lorna May, died.

He was told by Brigham Young to choose another wife. On a trip to Salt Lake he met Dora Johanna Wilcken. She made an excellent dish of cornmeal mush. Dora did such a good job, Helaman courted and married Dora with the blessing of his first wife.

His marriage was performed by the Apostle Wilford Woodruff. Dora’s wedding celebration was at her parents’ Charles and Caroline Wilcken’s home, in Liberty Park.

Helaman was called to go on several different missions to Mexico. One was with a large party of men headed by Dan Jones. During this time he was in the company of Anthony W. Ivins, the two traveled on horseback together for six months. Another was among the Apaqui Indians of Sonora. He was blessed to escape with his life.

Helaman also had stomach problems and this caused him to have heart problems. He was finally so ill, it looked as though he would die. The family was called and he gave them his parting wishes. The elders were called in. Apparently he died, for his body was cold, his eyes glassy and his chin set. The whole family thought he was gone. While in that condition he saw a missionary companion, Erastus Snow, who told him that he should be made whole again, that he had a great work yet to perform. He was made better. His stomach and heart were made strong and he lived sixteen more years.

At the end of and between missions he lived in Sugarhouse. and then he built a home in City Creek Canyon. Helaman was appointed Chaplain of the Utah Legislature and worked on the police force for five years just prior to his departure to Mexico again.

Emeline Victoria, Helaman’s first wife, and Carl Lester, his oldest living son accompanied Helaman to Mexico City to preside and live as president of the Mexican Mission from 1884 to 1887.

While he was in Mexico, he gave President Diaz, the leader of Mexico, a Book of Mormon which he accepted as a record of his people. Because he made a friend, permission was given to set up the Mormon Colonies in Mexico.

When Helaman got better he returned to the mission, presided a few more months until his successor was established. He was released from the presidency of the mission at the same time being called to “go to the colonies and take up life there to reside with your families and remain until death releases you.” Helaman did not return to Salt Lake City but went straight to the Colonies in Chihuahua. Dora sold the home and went with her family to the Colonies. Emeline Victoria moved back with her family because she was expecting another child. Later she also went with her children to the colonies. Both wives had to take the train to Deming, New Mexico there to be met by Helaman and then travel by covered wagon over the desert one hundred and fifty miles to the new location of the permanent Mormon colonies in Chihuahua.

Converts were gathered from the lower part of Mexico and transported to Northern Chihuahua. They were settled within the sites of the Mormon Colonists that had come in from the States. An attempt was made to integrate them into the wards and branches but there was too much racial difference, customs, etc., to make this possible. Also the climate was a trial to the thinly clad immigrants. Cold winds blew through the winter and spring months and there was sleet and probably snow. These people from a semi-tropical climate were not prepared for what they were faced with. They returned home to Mexico City, most of them walking the fifteen hundred miles.

The Pratt and the Miles Romney families dwelt together on Cliff Ranch a 3,000 acre ranch high in the Madre Sierra Mountains southwest of Colonia Juarez, fifty miles away from Colonia Juarez. A romance ensued. Anna, Helaman’s daughter, married Gaskell Romney, son of Miles Romney. Their son, George, is Mill Romney’s father.

An outstanding experience came to Helaman while the family was living in the mountains. He went out to hunt the horses and took his gun along to get game if he saw any. He saw two cub bears alone lying in the bush. Almost immediately the mother bear appeared, enraged at what seemed a danger to her young. She came directly at him. He back away, tried to shoot, but the gun would not go off. In backing away, he stumbled over a dead tree. As he fell, his legs flew up. This unusual sight seemed to frighten the bear. We think it was his big feet. She trotted off in a different direction as fast as she could. Helaman was left to gather himself up, no doubt thankful for his escape.

Helaman’s wife, Victoria, lost a 16 and 17 year old boy and girl due to diphtheria the same week. She was so afraid all her children would die. A Mexican lady come to Victoria’s door and gave her Manzanita root and told her to boil them and give the broth to her other children, as much as they could drink. It worked like magic.

Carl came in from the fields one day draped over the back of his horse too sick to ride. Dora helped Victoria nurse her son, Carl. When he died, Dora took full charge of preparing his body for burial. When he was ready, she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks, “I gave him his first bath and now I have given him his last.” Victoria put her arms around Dora and said, “What would I ever do without you. Thank you.”

Helaman worked diligently to help secure land, and titles, establish water rights, construct roads, sidewalks, ditches and canals in Juarez and still managed the ranch. Then came a three year drought and they lost a lot of cattle that they were raising for Pres. Diaz. Renegade Apaches killed one of the families on the ranch. Helaman then moved his family from the ranch so that he could make up for the loss of the pure bred horses. All the family worked hard to make up for the cattle and horses that died during the three year drought. They had beautiful orchards and gardens and made and sold cheese, etc.

The school called The Academy was in Juarez and Helaman and his family moved there for a time for the kids to attend school. When the colonies were made into a stake and taken away from the mission, Brother Anthony W. Ivins was called to be the Stake President. He chose Helaman Pratt as one of his counselors, which position he held until President Ivins was called to the apostleship.

He married Bertha Wilcken his third wife and sister of his second wife. She was 35 years old and he was 52 years old. They had three children.

He was called as first counselor to President Henry W. Eyring. For 14 years he acted as advisor to the stake presidency in their dealings with the Mexican authorities.

During these years, he was actively engaged in working for the betterment of the Mexican colonies, both temporally and spiritually, and was considered one of the foremost citizens of the colonies.

Helaman died at Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, 26, November 1909, after an illness of four hours. He was greatly mourned by his family and by many Mexicans as well as white friends. Among his children, Rey and Harold have both been president of the Mexican Mission. There are over 4,700 descendants that we have records of today.

The two wives, Dora and Bertha, lived in the old home in Mexico until they were driven out by revolutionists. Victoria had her own home next door. She lived ten months after Helaman died. She was buried on 14 Sep 1910 in Colonia Dublan, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Information was taken from the Jared Pratt family association: Articles Helaman Pratt by Bertha Pratt, Incidents in the Life of Helaman and Emeline Victoria Billingsly Pratt by Gladys Pratt Young, about 1951, History of Helaman Pratt Pioneer of 1847 by Amy Pratt Romney, daughter, Helaman Pratt 1846-1909 by Mary Pratt Parrish, granddaughter, Helaman Pratt by Mary Pratt Parrish.

Other sources and thank yous: Heather Walker, Wayne Wylie, Marcella, Melody Liddle, Helaman Pratt by Elvira Blackburn, Farrell & Doratha Young, Helaman’s Journals.

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