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Parley Parker Pratt (12 April 1807 – 13 May 1857) was a leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and an original member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1835 until his murder in 1857. He served in the Quorum with his younger brother, Orson Pratt. He was a missionary, poet, religious writer and longtime editor of the religious publication The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star. Having explored, surveyed, built and maintained the first road for public transportation there, scenic Parley's Canyon in Salt Lake Citymarker, was named in his honor.

Pratt practiced plural marriage and had twelve wives. One of Pratt's great-great-grandsons is Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.



Parley Pratt was born in Burlingtonmarker, New Yorkmarker, the son of Jared Pratt (Canaan, New Yorkmarker, 25 November 1769 – Detroit, Michiganmarker, 5 November 1839) and wife (m. 7 July 1799) Charity Dickinson (Bolton, New Yorkmarker, 24 February 1776 – St. Joseph, Missouri, 20 May 1849), a descendant of Anne Hutchinson. He married Thankful Halsey in Canaan, New Yorkmarker on 9 September 1827. The young couple settled near Clevelandmarker, Ohiomarker on a plot of "wilderness" where Parley had constructed a crude home. In Ohio, Pratt became a member of the Reformed Baptist Society, also called Campbellites, through the preaching of Sidney Rigdon. Pratt soon decided to take up the Campbellite ministry as a profession, and sold his property.

LDS Church service

While traveling to visit family in western New York, Pratt had the opportunity to read a copy of the Book of Mormon owned by a Baptist deacon. Convinced of its authenticity, he traveled to Palmyra, New Yorkmarker and spoke to Hyrum Smith at the Smith home. He was baptized in Seneca Lakemarker by Oliver Cowdery on or about 1 September 1830, formally joining the Latter Day Saint church (Mormons). He was also ordained to the office of an elder in the church. Continuing on to his family's home, he introduced his younger brother, Orson Pratt, to Mormonism and baptized him on 19 September 1830.

Pratt then returned to Fayette, New Yorkmarker in October 1830, where he met Joseph Smith and was asked to join a missionary group assigned to preach to the Native American (Lamanite) tribes on the Missourimarker frontier. During the trip west, he and his companions stopped to visit Sidney Rigdon, and were instrumental in converting Rigdon and approximately 130 members of his congregation within two to three weeks.

Pratt was later assigned additional missions to Canadamarker, the Eastern United Statesmarker, the Southern United States, Englandmarker, the Pacific Islands, and to South America. He moved to Valparaiso, Chilemarker to begin the missionary work there. They left after not much success and the death of his child Omner in 1852. In addition to his brother, Orson Pratt and Sidney Rigdon, he was instrumental in introducing the Mormon faith to a number of future LDS leaders, including Frederick G. Williams, John Taylor and his wife Leonora, Isaac Morley and Joseph Fielding and his sisters, Mary and Mercy Fielding.

In addition to serving as an active missionary, Pratt entered the leadership of the early Latter Day Saint movement acting as an original member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. While on a mission to the British Isles in 1839, Pratt was editor of a newly created periodical, The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star. While presiding over the church's branches and interests in New England and the mid-Atlantic states, Pratt published a periodical entitled The Prophet from his headquarters in New York Citymarker. He was also a noted religious writer and poet. He produced an autobiography, as well as some poems which have become staple LDS hymns, some of which are included in the current LDS Church hymnal.

In Nauvoo, Illinoismarker on 9 September 1844 he married the fourth of his twelve wives Scottish Mary Wood (Glasgowmarker, Lanarkshiremarker, 18 June 1818 – Salt Lake City, Utahmarker, 5 March 1898), daughter of Samuel Wood (baptized Dumfriesmarker, Dumfriesshiremarker, 8 July 1798) and wife (m. Mungo, Dumfriesshiremarker, 18 July 1816) Margaret Orr (baptized Inverchaolin, Argyllshiremarker, 15 August 1793 – 1852), by whom he had Helaman Pratt.

After the death of Joseph Smith, Pratt and his family were among the Latter Day Saints who emigrated to Utah Territory and continued on as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) under the direction of Brigham Young. Pratt was involved in establishing the refugee settlements and fields at both Garden Grovemarker and Mt.marker Pisgah, Iowamarker and personally led a pioneer company along the Mormon Trail to the Salt Lake Valley. Sometime in the mid 1850s, working with George D. Watt, he helped develop the Deseret alphabet. In 1854, Pratt went to California to preside over the Pacific Mission of the LDS Church headquartered in San Francisco.


Parley P.
Pratt's grave
While returning from a horseback missionary trip to the southern United Statesmarker in 1857, Pratt was being tracked by Hector McLean. McLean was the legal husband of one of Pratt's plural wives, Eleanor McLean. Pratt had met Eleanor McLean in San Francisco, Californiamarker, where Pratt was presiding over a church mission. In San Francisco, Eleanor had joined the LDS Church and had also had her oldest sons baptized. Hector rejected Mormonism and opposed his wife's membership in the church. The dispute over the church led to the collapse of the marriage. Fearing that Eleanor would abscond to Utah Territory with their children, Hector sent his sons and his daughter to New Orleansmarker to live with their grandparents. Eleanor followed the children to New Orleans, where she lived with them for three months at her parents' house. Eventually, she and the children left for Utah Territory; she arrived in Salt Lake Citymarker on September 11, 1855. Eleanor McLean was employed in Pratt's home as a schoolteacher, and on November 14, 1855, she and Pratt underwent a "celestial marriage" sealing ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple. She was the twelfth woman to be sealed to Pratt. Though for religious reasons Eleanor considered herself "unmarried", she was not legally divorced from Hector at the time of her "celestial marriage" to Pratt..

Upon learning of his wife's actions, Hector McLean pressed criminal charges, accusing Pratt of assisting in the kidnapping of his children. Pratt managed to evade him and the legal charges, but was finally arrested in Indian Territory (now Oklahomamarker) in May 1857. He and Eleanor were charged only with theft of the clothing of McLean's children. (The laws of that time did not recognize the kidnapping of children by a parent as a crime.) Tried before Judge John B. Ogden, Pratt was acquitted of the charges because of a lack of evidence. However, shortly after being released, on May 13, 1857, Pratt was shot and stabbed by Hector McLean on a farm northeast of Van Buren, Arkansasmarker. As a result of the attack, Pratt died two and a half hours later from loss of blood. As he was bleeding to death, a farmer asked what he had done to provoke the attack. Pratt responded, "He accused me of taking his wife and children. I did not do it. They were oppressed, and I did for them what I would do for the oppressed any where." Pratt was buried near Alma, Arkansasmarker, despite his personal desire to be buried in Utahmarker.

Some historians view Pratt's death as simply the act of an jealous husband who was deeply angered by a man that had "run off" with his wife. A 2008 Provo Daily Herald newspaper article characterized McLean as a man that had "hunted down" Pratt in retribution for "ruining his marriage". A 2008 Deseret News article described McLean as a man that had "pursued Pratt across Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, angry that his estranged wife, Eleanor, had become Pratt's 12th wife." But many Mormons viewed Pratt's death as a martyrdom, a view first expressed in Pratt's dying words. (But according to LDS church records, his dying words were not recorded until 38 years after his death.) In the present day, Pratt's defenders still characterize the circumstances of Pratt's death as religious martyrdom. For example, a 2007 article in the Deseret Morning News stated that "Pratt was killed near Van Buren, Ark., in May 1857, by a small Arkansas band antagonistic toward his teachings." Brigham Young compared Pratt's death with those of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and many Mormons blamed the death on the state of Arkansas, or its people.

Due to his personal popularity and his position in the Council of the Twelve, Pratt's murder in Arkansas was a significant blow to the Latter-day Saint community in the Rocky Mountains, when they began hearing about it in June 1857. The violent death of Pratt may also have played a part in events leading up to the Mountain Meadows massacre five months later. This massacre resulted in the deaths of the majority of the Baker-Fancher Party travelling to Southern California along the Mormon Road (a portion of the Old Spanish Trail). After the massacre, some Mormons circulated rumors throughout the southern Utah Territory that one or more members of the party had murdered Pratt, poisoned creek water which subsequently sickened Paiute children, and allowed their cattle to graze on private property.

On April 3, 2008, a judge in Arkansas ruled that Pratt's remains could be moved to Utah for burial as long as other burial sites were not disturbed. Pratt's family planned to rebury Pratt's remains at the Salt Lake City Cemeterymarker in accordance with modern-day burial techniques. This effort was unfruitful, producing no discernible human remains, probably due to how long ago he was buried, the shallow grave, and a moist clay soil. No further search efforts for Pratt's burial site have been planned.


  • A Voice of Warning (1837)
  • The Millennium and Other Poems (1840)
  • Late Persecutions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: With a Sketch of Their Rise, Progress and Doctrine (1840)
  • Key to the Science of Theology (1855)
  • The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (1874, posthumous)

See also


  1. Dictionary of American Biography
  2. Associated Press, Romney Family Tree Has Polygamy Branch
  3. Ancestry of Mitt Romney
  4. .
  5. .
  6. Millennial Star 19:432. New York World, 23 November 1869, p.2). .
  8. .
  9. .
  10. Wayne Atilio Capurro, White Flag, p. 40
  13. ("I am dying a martyr to the faith").
  14. John A. Peel, “Dying Remarks of Parley P. Pratt,” Church Archives. "Peel was in Van Buren at the time of the murder, but his statement was not taken down by Frank Poneroy until 1895."
  16. Carrie A. Moore, "LDS-tied events to bisect in Arkansas", Deseret Morning News, 2007-04-14.
  17. "Reminiscences of Mrs. A. Agatha Pratt, January 7, F564, #16, LDS Church Archives (stating that Young said, "Nothing has happened so hard to reconcile my mind to since the death of Joseph.").
  18. ; ("It was in accordance with Mormon policy to hold every Arkansan accountable for Pratt's death, just as every Missourian was hated because of the expulsion of the church from that state.").
  19. Church leaders learned about the death on June 23, 1857 (Wilford Woodruff Journal). The murder was first reported in the Deseret News on July 1, 1857.
  20. .
  21. Bagley, p.98 (identification by the widow Pratt)
  22. Bagley, pp.105-110
  23. Bagley, p.102
  24. - Ark. judge: Remains of early LDS leader can be moved to Utah
  25. Daily Herald - No remains found in dig for Parley P. Pratt
  26. Search for Parley Pratt's remains yields nothing but Arkansas clay - Salt Lake Tribune


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