Parley P. Pratt Grave Site

This text is an excerpt from the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt that is available on the Jared Pratt Family Association website. Please check the More Information link if you are interested in obtaining your own copy of this book.

In 1856 President Brigham Young directed [Parley P. Pratt] to carry out an extended proselyting tour in the eastern states.

Leaving Salt Lake City on September 11, 1856, Elder Pratt traveled extensively among the branches in Philadelphia, New York City, Cincinnati, and elsewhere. While he was engaged in that calling, a man by the name of Hector McLean actively began to trace his whereabouts, blaming Elder Pratt for the estrangement between him (McLean) and his former wife, Eleanor. McLean nearly caught him in St. Louis. Fortunately, Elder Pratt eluded the man and managed to escape to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), where Elder George B. Higginson was working among the Indians of the Creek and Cherokee nations. Here Elder Pratt was arrested by a Captain Little of the U.S. Cavalry on a warrant emerging from the charges filed by Hector McLean at Fort Gibson (Oklahoma).

Elder Pratt was transferred under guard to Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas, where the nearest federal court convened. Judge John B. Ogden, U.S. Commissioner, presided over the examining session on Tuesday, May 12, 1857. Evidence presented against Elder Pratt was not considered sufficient to warrant holding him, and he was acquitted. However, the judge purposely did not announce the decision to release Elder Pratt at that time, hoping to dissuade McLean from his avowed determination to kill him. Elder Pratt was kept at the jailhouse overnight in protective custody. Early the next morning Judge Ogden brought his horse to him at the jail, saw that he was discharged, and at the same time offered him a knife and a pistol as a means of self-defense. But Elder Pratt declined, saying, “Gentlemen, I do not rely on weapons of that kind, my trust is in my God. Good-bye, gentlemen.”

Although Elder Pratt rode a circuitous route to escape his pursuers, a light rain allowed Hector McLean and two accomplices, James Cornell and Amasa Howell, to track him. They caught up with the fleeing man some twelve miles northeast of Van Buren (near Alma, Arkansas) in front of the Winn farm. Shots were fired by McLean, but they failed to take effect. Riding up to Elder Pratt, McLean stabbed him in the left breast with his bowie knife. The wounded man fell from his horse while his assailants rode off. About ten minutes later McLean returned and, placing a gun next to Elder Pratt’s neck, deliberately fired into the prostrate figure. Mr. Winn was a witness to the entire scene. He and some of his neighbors attended to the apostle in his dying moments. Before Elder Pratt died approximately two and a half hours later, he instructed those gathered about him on how to notify his family and the disposition of his personal effects. He then shared his final testimony: “I die a firm believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I wish you to carry this my dying testimony. I know that the Gospel is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the living God, I am dying a martyr to the faith.” (Steven Pratt, “Eleanor McLean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” BYU Studies 15 [Winter 1975]: 248.)

More information on Elder Pratt is available in the March 1993 issue of the Friend, as well as the October 1979 and the April 2007 issues of the Ensign. Also check out the More Information link.