Parley Parker Pratt
Born: April 12, 1807 in Burlington, Otsega County, New York
Died: May 13, 1857 near Van Buren, Arkansas
Parley Parker Pratt was born to Jared and Charity Dickinson Pratt on April 12, 1807, in Burlington, Otsega, New York. He was the third son of the five sons born to this couple. His only sister, Mary, was a daughter of Mary Carpenter Pratt, a former wife of Jared, who died soon after the daughter, Mary, was born.
The children of this family were reared in an atmosphere of spirituality. They were hard working people; the father was generally occupied in agricu1tura1 pursuits. Although his education was limited, he sometimes taught school and even vocal music At about seven years of age, Parley was taught my his mother to read the scriptures. The following shows this trend: 1
“At about twelve years of age, I read of the first resurrection, as described by John the Apostle, in the 20th chapters of his Revelation; how they, martyrs of Jesus, and those who kept His commandments would live and reign with Christ a thousand years, while the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were ended. 0, what an impression this made on my sleep. I felt a longing desire and an inexpressible anxiety to secure to myself a part in a resurrection so glorious. I felt a weight of worlds — of eternal worlds resting upon me; for fear I might still remain in uncertainty, and at last fall short and still sleep on in the cold embrace of death; while the great, the good, the blessed, and the holy of this world would awake from the gloom of the grace and be renovated, filled with life and joy, and enter upon life with all its joys; while for a thousand years their busy, happy tribes should trample on my sleeping dust, and still my spirit wait in dread suspense, impatient of its doom. I tried to pray; but 0, how weak!”
Parley had worked hard as a boy, helping at farm work. He had cleared and lost two pieces of ground. Discouraged at his hard luck and losses, he bade farewell in August, 1826, to the civilized world and went to spend his days in the solitudes of the Great West. About thirty miles west of Cleveland, Ohio, in the month of November (with the weather very rainy), he found himself without much money, and among strangers in this frontier land. He purchased a Bible, procured a gun from a neighbor, worked to earn an axe, and some breadstuff and other little extras, and retired two miles into the dense forest. Here he prepared a small cabin for his winter abode, and he worked and studied the Scriptures. It. was the 4th of July, 1827, when he returned to his former home and sought out Thankful Halsey. Here is his proposal:
“In view of all these things,” said I to her, “If you still love me and desire to share my fortune, you are worthy to be my wife. If not, we will agree to be friends forever but part to meet no more in time.” “I have loved you during three years’ absence,” she said, “and I never can be happy without you.”
Thankful Halsey decided to share his life and returned to the West with Parley. They were not to live long uninterrupted, however, for soon the urge to preach came upon him. He was a Reformed Baptist. Their home and farm was sold and he and his wife started East. They had paid their boat passage through to Albany, but near Newark, about one hundred miles from Buffalo, he disembarked, telling his wife to go on and that when his work was done, he would come to her.
He left the boat at dawn, walked ten miles, and had breakfast with a Mr. Wells, who then sent with Parley to arrange for preaching. In the evening, he met a Mr. Hamlin, who told him of a strange book. Within five days’ time of first seeing the strange book, he had walked 115 miles, read the book, was baptized, confirmed a member of the church, and made an elder.
Parley proved to be a staunch supporter of the new religious movement; he gave of himself freely and of his talents toward its support and promulgation. He spent months in jail in Missouri with the Prophet and sway from him also. He was incarcerated for eight months at one time.
“As we conversed together on the deck, a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were lot loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow, I could hardly speak; and after pacing the deck for some time in silence, I turned to my brother William and exclaimed, “Brother William, this is a dark hour; the powers of darkness seen to triumph, and the spirit of murder which seems to pervade the whole land.” This was June 27, l844, in the afternoon, and as near as I can judge, it was the same hour that the Carthage mob was shedding the blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and John Taylor, near one thousand miles distant. My brother bid me farewell somewhere in Western New York, he being on his way to a conference in that quarter, and passing on to Buffalo, I took a steamer for Chicago, Illinois.
The steamer touched at a landing in Wisconsin, some fifty or sixty miles from Chicago, and here some new passengers came on board and brought the news of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
As I walked along over the plains of Illinois, lonely and solitary, I reflected as follows: I am now drawing near to the beloved city; in a day or two I shall be there. How shall I meet the sorrowing widows and orphans? How shall I meet the aged and widowed mother of these two martyrs? How shall I meet an entire community bowed down with grief and sorrow unutterable? What shall I say? Or how console and advise twenty-five thousand people who will throng about me in tears, and in the absence of my President and the older members of the now presiding council, will ask counsel at my hands? Shall I tell them to fly to the wilderness and deserts? Or, shall I tell them to stay at home and take care of themselves, and continue to built the Temple? With these reflections and inquiries, I walked onward, weighed down as it were unto death. When I could endure it no longer, I cried out aloud, saying: 0 Lord: in the name of Jesus Christ I pray Thee, show me what these things mean, and what I shall say to Thy people. On a sudden, the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable; and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire. The Spirit said unto me: ‘Lift up your head and rejoice; for behold! It is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum. My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfill that to which he is appointed. Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo.”
Parley’s missionary experiences were varied and many. He was one of the first called to the Lamanites and he walked most of the 1500 miles to Missouri. He was first to open up the mission in Canada converting John Taylor and the Fieldings. Through the connections of these families in England, the British mission proved very successful. He was the first to preach the restored Gospel in New York City and he filled several missions to England. He was first to edit the Millennial Star. He filled two missions to California and, opened up the mission in Chile in 1851.
He was asked by the council on the Westward Trek to travel ahead and locate places for temporary settlements, among them Mt. Pisgah and Winter Quarters. He reached the Valley of Great Salt Lake on September 19, l847, in the second largest contingent to enter. As recorded in his autobiography, he was sent out to explore and to locate suitable places for settlement in the Southern part of the territory. He opened up Parley’s Canyon. He was also asked to draft the Territorial Constitution and served in the legislature at Fillmore.
Parley had 12 wives, three of whom bore him no children. He was the father of 30 children. Though he gave up his life at 50 years, his posterity outnumbers that of his four brothers combined.
He was killed near Van Buren, Arkansas, on May 13, 1857, and was interred in a small cemetery. After many attempts, the family located his grave and is now in possession of the plot.