Vessels chartered—Emigration—Sail for New Orleans on the “Emerald”—Passage—Land in New Orleans—Charter of a steamer—Historical letter—Journey and arrival at Nauvoo—Mission with Joseph Smith—Visit to Chester.
September 1842–December 31, 1843
Between the middle of September and my own embarkation in October, I chartered three vessels for New Orleans, and filled them with the emigrating Saints, viz:
The “Sidney,” with one hundred and eighty souls; the “Medford,” with two hundred and fourteen souls; and the “Henry,” with one hundred and fifty-seven.
I next chartered the “Emerald,” on which I placed about two hundred and fifty passengers, including myself and family.
Having finished my present mission in England and taken an affectionate leave of the Saints and friends there, I embarked on the “Emerald,” and sailed on the 29th of October. We had a tedious passage of ten weeks, and some difficulties, murmurings and rebellions; but the Saints on board were called together, and chastened and reproved sharply, which brought them to repentance. We then humbled ourselves and called on the Lord, and he sent a fair wind, and brought us into port in time to save us from starvation.
We landed in New Orleans early in January, 1843. Here I chartered a steamer called the “Goddess of Liberty,” and took passage with the company for St. Louis. Running up the river for about a week, I landed with my family in Chester, Illinois—eighty miles below St. Louis. 1 The company continued on to St. Louis. My reason for landing here was, that I would not venture into Missouri after the abuses I had experienced there in former times.
Here I wrote the following historical letter, which appeared in the Star of April 1, 1843.
Chester, State of Illinois
January 21, 1843.
Dear Brother Ward—I take this opportunity of communicating a few items of news which may be of use to your readers. I arrived here two weeks since with my family. We are all well, except my eldest daughter, Olivia, who has the whooping cough. 2 We are living here a few weeks, waiting for the river to open for Nauvoo. 3 We are comfortably situated, a few yards from the landing, in a stone house in a small village, eighty miles below St. Louis, and three hundred from Nauvoo. Provisions are cheaper than ever; Indian corn is 20 cents per bushel; wheat, 40 cents; flour, 31⁄2 dollars per barrel; oats, 15 cents per bushel; pork and beef, from 2 to 3 cents per lb.; butter, 10 cents; sugar, 5 cents; chickens, 8 cents each. Cows, from 8 to 10 and 12 dollars per head; good horses, from 25 to 50 dollars; land, from 11⁄4 to 4 dollars per acre.
We were ten weeks on the “Emerald,” and one in coming up the river. The weather was very fine until the day before we landed, when it became extremely cold and snowy; but after a week of severe weather, it became suddenly warm and pleasant, and it remains so yet—all ice and snow have disappeared, and the weather is like May.
I have not heard from Nauvoo, except by the public prints. From these I learn that brother Joseph Smith gave himself up to the authorities of Illinois, agreeably to the Governor’s writ of last fall to attempt to deliver him to the State of Missouri. He was brought by habeas corpus before the Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, and after a trial at Springfield, the seat of Government for Illinois, he was honorably discharged—the Judge deciding that he must not be delivered to the Missouri authorities, according to the demand of the Governors of the two States. 4 Thus, one more malicious lawsuit has terminated in which the rulers have been disappointed and bloodthirsty men have lost their prey—the prophet of the Lord having found protection under the wings of the eagle.
Brother William Smith, Joseph’s brother, is a member of the Legislature of Illinois, which is now in session. They have introduced two bills for the purpose of taking away all our Nauvoo charters, but they have both been lost without becoming a law, and the charters still stand good. The first was a bill for the repealing of all city charters in the State (for the avowed object of getting rid of Nauvoo), this bill was lost by a majority of one. Next a bill was introduced to repeal the Nauvoo charter alone. This was too barefaced to be countenanced, and was lost by an overwhelming majority; but not until some warm debating on Mormonism had occupied the house for some time. The fact is, it grieves the enemies of the Saints very much to see them enjoying political privileges in common with others, and every exertion is made to hinder the progress of a people and of principles which they consider as already becoming too formidable to be easily trampled under foot.
I have now been here two weeks, and have minded my own affairs as a private man, in no way seeking to be public, or even to be known. I have spent my time in providing for my family, getting wood for fire, bringing water, etc., together with reading papers, educating my children, etc., and have not mentioned “Mormonism,” or any other “ism,” or principle, till it was first mentioned to me. Mrs. Pratt and I attended a Presbyterian meeting last Sabbath, and listened in silence to a dry sermon.
But after all my endeavors to be quiet, it is noised abroad, through all parts of the town and surrounding country for twenty-five miles, that a “Mormon” is here. All parties are on tiptoe to hear him preach; the citizens have sent the postmaster to me with a request to hear me, and have opened their chapel for to-morrow, where we heard the Presbyterian last Sabbath. I have consented, and commence my public ministry to-morrow. In the meantime I have lent and sold several books, “Voice of Warning,” “Book of Mormon,” etc., and these are having the desired effect. The people here were greatly prejudiced against something called “Mormonism;” they knew not what, having never read or heard any of the Saints; indeed they had not the most distant idea of our holding to Christianity in any shape.
Yesterday a brother called here, from twenty-five miles in the country; he had heard of my coming and came to see me. He is a rich farmer, possessing two hundred acres of land well improved. He informed me of a small branch of the Church in his neighborhood, and made an appointment for me to go to George Town (sixteen miles distant), on Monday next, and another to his own house, nine miles further, for Tuesday evening, so you see I am getting into business fast. This man brought me two Nauvoo Wasps, 5 the latest of which was printed January 7th. From these I learned that all was peace, industry and prosperity there; a fine hard winter had set in so early that none of our ships’ companies which had sailed this season had been able to get up the river to Nauvoo; they are scattered from New Orleans to St. Louis, and are waiting to swarm Nauvoo in the spring. From the weather, I judge that the river is about opening that far; it is now open above St.
No one landed here with me but sister Mary Aspen, and my family. Sister A. is with us now, she is well and much pleased with the country; most of our passengers went to St. Louis.
January 26th—Last Sunday, preached twice to an attentive audience. Monday, walked sixteen miles; preached in George Town; good attention. Tuesday, rode ten miles; preached twice among the Saints. Wednesday, baptized two young men; held confirmation meeting, then rode twenty-five miles to this place.
The river is now open, and is twelve feet higher than it was last week, the weather is like May. I start for Nauvoo on horseback tomorrow, my family will follow in two weeks by water. I shall write again soon.
Yours truly, in Christ,
P. P. Pratt
January 27th, 1843, I started for Nauvoo on horseback, and after a ride of some eight days I arrived there in safety—a distance of some two hundred and eighty miles.
I was astonished to see so large a city all created during my absence, and I felt to rejoice. I visited my brothers Orson and William and their families, by whom I was hospitably entertained. I also visited President Smith and family, who received me with the usual welcome and “God bless you, Bro. Parley.”
While on this visit to Nauvoo I was invited to Shockoquon, a small town up the river, a few miles above Nauvoo, in company with President Smith, Elder O. Hyde and others. We started February 15th; stayed over night at a Mr. Russel’s. On the next day we dined at McQueen’s Mills; visited Shockoquon and returned to the said mills at evening. Here President Smith spoke for about two hours. The crowded congregation seemed deeply interested—most of them being strangers to “Mormonism.” 6
After a few days I returned to my family in Chester County on horseback. The weather being extremely cold the Mississippi did not open till very late in the spring.
I at length sent my family per steamer to St. Louis, and stopped at a hotel myself on the opposite side of the river, in Illinois Town. In this situation we still had to remain for several days awaiting the opening of the river above.
A small steamer arrived, commanded by Captain Dan Jones, and was finally chartered for Nauvoo, and filled with Saints, including my family. I passed by land to Alton, and there went on board. 7
Captain Jones was a good and kind hearted Welshman, and was much interested in the fulness of the gospel. He soon joined the Church, and was finally ordained and appointed a mission to Wales, where he preached the fulness of the gospel and gathered thousands into the Church.
April 12th we landed in Nauvoo, and were kindly welcomed by President Smith and scores of others, who came down to the wharf to meet us.
My time, from my arrival until the last of the year, was spent in the ministry, 8 and in building, travelling, etc. 9
1 It appears they arrived in Chester, Illinois, on January 7, 1843.
2 Olivia Thankful Pratt had been born in Manchester, England, on June 1, 1841, and was now nineteen months old.
3 The Mississippi River was frozen solid in the stretches where there were no rapids.
4 This trial lasted from January 2 to 6, 1843 (see Smith, History of the Church, 5:216–45).
5 The first issue of the Wasp was published April 16, 1842. It was a “miscellaneous weekly newspaper” with William Smith (brother of the Prophet Joseph) as editor, and it was “devoted to the arts, sciences, literature, agriculture, manufacture, trade, commerce, and the general news of the day, on a small sheet, at $1.50 per annum” (Smith, History of the Church, 4:600). The paper’s name was later changed to the Nauvoo Neighbor.
6 Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo discourses were often lengthy and full of rich doctrine. His “173 separable discourses were recorded by some forty individuals. Probably still other contemporary records of the Prophet’s discourses have not yet found their way into the Church Archives” (Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, xii).
7 We learn more about the final leg of this voyage up the Mississippi from Parley’s family record: “Susan Pratt, daughter of P. and Mary Ann Pratt, born April 7, 1843 on the Steam Boat, ‘Maid of Iowa; on the Mississippi River, on her way to Nauvoo from St. Louis” (Pratt, Family Record). Parley and Mary Ann were caring for five little children: Mary Ann, ten; Parley Jr., six; Nathan, four; Olivia, twenty-two months; and Susan, newborn.
8 During the course of this summer, on or about July 1, 1843, Parley gave a lengthy deposition (eleven handwritten foolscap pages) concerning the injustices, illegal actions, and trials of the Missouri period, specifically the criminal actions of former Governor Lilburn W. Boggs and Generals Clark, Lucas, Wilson, and others. It is similar to the statement and deposition given by Hyrum Smith, a part of which appears in chapter 28. For Hyrum’s full statement, see Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 369–402.
9 Parley described this busy season in Nauvoo in a letter: “Although it may seem strange to you I have not seen 1/2 hour which it was in my power to devote to that purpose [returning a letter] till now on account of business, building, visiting and receiving company etc. And the unsettled state of my large family (consisting of wife and her sister, 5 children, hired girl, and hundreds of goens and comens) all huddled into one small room which we use for kitchen, parlour, dining room, bedrooms, and public office. You will therefore excuse [the] delay and accept of this short and imperfect communication. First, then, we are all well except our babe of one month old which has the whooping cough” (Parley P. Pratt to John Van Cott, May 1843). We learn of Parley’s first plural marriage at this period from the family record: “Elizabeth Brotherton, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Brotherton, born March 27, 1816 in Manchester, England, sealed to Parley P. Pratt as his wife for time and all eternity, June [then overwritten with July] 24, 1843. Done at the house of Brigham Young in Nauvoo, by the hand of Patriarch Hyrum Smith.” This was a great trial to Mary Ann Pratt. She faced another trial later that year when her five-year-old son, Nathan Pratt, passed away December 12 from “fever on the brain” (Pratt, Family Record).