Mapping the Acts of the Apostle Parley

I was recently commissioned by Terryl L. Givens, Matthew J. Grow, and Oxford University Press to produce a new series of maps for their upcoming biography, Parley P. Pratt: The St. Paul of Mormonism (scheduled for release in October of this year). There’s been no skimping on the maps — the volume will include ten full maps plus insets.

Parley P. Pratt's Early Life
Locations in the early life of Parley P. Pratt.

In keeping with the title, the bulk of the maps focus on the missionary journeys of the peripatetic Pratt. The vision of the authors, which I attempted to fulfill, was to produce a series of maps almost reminiscent of the maps at the back of LDS Bibles that show the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul.

Arguably early Mormonism’s most beloved apostle, Parley was a hard-working, well-traveled, and successful missionary — and the comparison with Paul seems apt.

Parley P. Pratt's Lamanite Mission
The Lamanite Mission

Parley P. Pratt's Shaker Mission
Parley P. Pratt’s Shaker Mission

Parley P. Pratt's Western Missions
Parley P. Pratt’s 1831 and 1833 Western Missions

Parley P. Pratt's Early Eastern Missions
Parley P. Pratt’s 1834 and 1835 Eastern Missions

Parley P. Pratt's Canadian and New York Missions
Parley P. Pratt’s Canadian and New York Missions

Parley P. Pratt's English Missions
Parley P. Pratt’s British Missions

Parley P. Pratt in Missouri
Parley P. Pratt’s Incarceration in Missouri

Parley P. Pratt's Pacific Missions
Parley P. Pratt’s California and Pacific Missions

Parley P. Pratt's Death
Parley P. Pratt’s Death

The authors were a pleasure to work with and the project was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to reading the completed volume — look for it this fall!


  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    Holy cow. I had no idea he got around so much.

  2. John, this is so cool. Thanks for giving BCC readers an early sneak peak, and as always, thanks for sharing your enormous talent with us. I love your posts.

  3. This is absolutely outstanding, John. Another reason to look forward to what promises to be an outstanding volume. And yet another reason to consider John the cartographer par excellence of Mormonism.

  4. Unfortunate title for their book — St. Paul was the St. Paul of Mormonism!

    Parley Pratt was a missionary in the mold of Paul, that might be true, but I’m not a fan of calling him the St. Paul of Mormonism, implying that Mormonism does not see itself as directly in the inheritance of the work of Paul.

    I will be interested to see if the authors intend a deeper comparison than just the wide travel portfolio.

  5. John, this is really fantastic. Well done.

    John F.—I think you’re overreacting just a tad.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Outstanding maps, as always, John. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  7. Thanks all!

    Julie (#1): It’s especially incredible how much he got around, especially considering the era! Once you throw Chile on there, you have to be impressed.

    John F (#4): I’m sure the authors don’t want to unclaim St. Paul for Mormonism. Their intent was probably to say “the St. Paul of the Restoration” or of the Restored Gospel — but a press has to get the word “Mormon” in there, otherwise people outside the Mormon community won’t get it.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    I took it as similar to calling Jared Pratt the Zebedee of the Restoration (each had two sons who served as prominent apostles in their respective eras).

  9. nice maps. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Hamertastic!

  11. good point, John H.!

  12. Great maps!

  13. Cool!

  14. Fabulous.

  15. My interest in these is rooted in my time living in Upstate. Thanks John Hamer. Glad to see that you are still posting here.

  16. Researcher says:

    Beautiful maps — very distinctive and elegant style.

  17. Let’s see some youth groups recreate THESE treks!

  18. #17: Ha!

  19. For a background on the appellation of St. Paul in Mormon historiography see The Saint Pauls of Mormonism and the subsequent comments.

  20. Beautiful stuff John!

    For those who haven’t read it, Rick Fish’s Master’s Thesis “The Southern Utah Expedition of Parley P. Pratt 1849-50” is really fascinating and has lots of geographic goodies in it.

    Cheers again John!

  21. Researcher says:

    There’s also the William and Donna Smart book Over the Rim: The Parley P. Pratt Exploring Expedition to Southern Utah, 1849-50 (1999) which covers some of the same territory as that thesis.

  22. Impressive work. Looking forward to the book…

  23. Thanks, aquinas (#19): That’s a nice look at different claimants. That makes me think someone should write a biography entitled, “Orson Hyde: The St. James-the-Lesser of Mormonism.”

    Tod (#20) and Researcher (#21): Thanks! Always enjoy geographical goodies.

  24. Really top-drawer! I hope John’s an example for all us publishing types, to strive for our finest aesthetic execution in print production, to equal the quality of scholarship to be published. Too often these graphic accoutrements have been reckoned almost as afterthoughts, I’ve found. Unfortunately books are (and should be) judged by their covers–and their type composition, layout, photo image quality, etc. etc.
    One tech query: which platforms/applications do you prefer for cartographic production?

  25. Thanks, Brent (#24): These maps were produced in Adobe Illustrator. I often use Illustrator in combination with Photoshop, where Photoshop is used to provide terrain details and special effects.

    All of my maps are hand-drawn, or mouse-hand-drawn in Illustrator, using pre-existing maps like the USGS and historical maps scanned as underlying templates which I then composite and hand trace.

  26. Wholeheartedly second Brent’s praise for the legibility of these maps as well as the need for aesthetic attention (it’s a battle I am unfortunately losing at work these days).

    But really…hand drawn!? Bring ArcGIS to your Adobe party next time. It will turn you into an unstoppable map-making juggernaut!

  27. Wait, so Parley twisted everything Joseph said in order to make the Gospel more palatable to Gentiles? Who knew? ;)

  28. JamesM (#26): It sounds hopelessly primitive, but to get comparable results, I find that most vector information exported from something like ArcGIS would need to be retraced (or at least massively cleaned up) by hand so that the final map has the best amount of information at your output scale (neither too simple nor too detailed). With history maps, you’re dealing with all sorts of historical information — from the political boundaries in South America in 1851 to the US counties in Missouri in 1838 —that may not be in the software’s database. I would argue that doing illustrations by hand allows you to show exactly what you want to portray in a custom way; and, fortunately, I’m extremely fast at my process.

  29. And what’s more, I believe Hamer already attained the level of “juggernaut” some time ago. He is only two more books away from getting experience enough to level-up, at which point he will be a “galactus.”

  30. Fantastic, John! Really excellent. Thanks for the sneak peek!

  31. Really great work, John.

  32. Yeah, the thought that historical political boundaries might be hard to come by did occur to me. No shortcuts.

  33. These are amazing…can’t wait to read the stories behind the trips. To think, I feel put out when I have to travel a couple miles for stake priesthood meeting!

  34. Beautiful! I think there might be a business opportunity to personalize these types of maps for anyone’s mission. Rendering my mission transfers in such a way would make it look much more exciting than the actual schlepping all my bags on the train that it was!

  35. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    more great work

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 34, great idea! I’d love to have a map showing my mission travels that looked like one of these.

  37. Left Field says:

    Love your maps. With historic maps like this, there is, as you say, a lot to be aware of with regard to boundaries. Not just obvious things like West Virginia, but more subtle stuff like whether Arlington is still part of DC, the disputed MI/OH boundary, the disputed Delaware wedge, innumerable county lines, and so forth. Too many mapmakers just throw in the towel and use modern boundaries. It’s interesting that most of the South American countries are nearly unrecognizable. Who knew that Bolivia once had a coastline?

    I have made maps for publication and faced the same problem you mentioned: it’s nearly impossible to find a preexisting map that shows what you want, while leaving off what you don’t want. I usually do the same thing you do, and look for a map that I can trace. Yours are much nicer looking that mine, though. I’ve wondered, though if tracing a published map might be a copyright violation?

    Have you read the Barry Lopez short story “The Mappist”?

  38. wamo (#34): Interesting thought. However, I think there may be much more cost-effective ways for returned missionaries to map their experience. And they could do it in a way that would be more integrated with their photos and other memories and possibly their current blogs by tagging their own google map module or something like that. Maps in the format I’ve rendered above are primarily designed to be printed in a one-color book and probably aren’t worth commissioning unless your publishing a memoir.

    Left Field (#37): I haven’t read that. Yes, the detail work is part of the challenge and part of the fun! (We were just visiting the both Arlington and the formerly disputed Delaware wedge last month and we often drive through the Toledo strip.)

    Most of the source maps I use are either USGS and therefore in the public domain, or are historical maps published before the 1920s and are therefore not in the general area of copyright concerns. However, my understanding is that because all the reference maps are just reference and all my drawings are hand-made (not auto-traced), there is no copyright infringement.

  39. Wow, John. Very impressive!

  40. Andrea R. says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Parley P. Pratt is my 3rd great grandfather and I was blessed to serve in Valparaiso, Chile as the last area on my mission. I was able to visit the grave where Omner Pratt was buried. It was a beautiful experience to walk the streets where he served.

  41. Thanks for posting these, John. The maps are a truly wonderful addition to the book.

  42. His 1857 murder is routinely characterized by critics as simply the work of a jealous husband angry that an adulterous Parley had seduced his wife into a polygamous relationship. She had left him and apparently considered herself single when she was later married to Parley P.

  43. Great maps, John. Thanks for sharing.

    I had always heard that Parley lived in Amherst at about the time he joined the Church (I think I got that from his Autobiography). I see you have Russia Township on the map, which apparently adjoins Amherst Township, but you haven’t shown Amherst. I think Amherst (the town) may straddle both townships. Has it been determined that Parley lived on the Russia side of the line? There was a branch of the Church in Amherst which I understood met at the home of Simeon Carter. Was that in Russia Township as well? Our D&C 75 was given there.

  44. Morris (#43): Good question, I’ll put that to the authors. In this case, they provided all the labels they wanted included and Amherst wasn’t on the list. However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be added. I’ll ask, thanks!

  45. Morris, thanks for asking such a good question. When he first moved to Ohio, PPP settled in Russia Township, which was near Amherst. Simeon Carter (in whose house Pratt was preaching when he was arrested before the famous “bulldog” incident) lived in nearby Amherst, not Russia Township. It might be helpful to list Amherst as well on the map.

  46. Thanks, Matt. This is particularly interesting to me because my own ancestor, Edson Barney, lived in Amherst at the time. He (and most of his family) were baptized by Simeon Carter in the spring of 1831. They may well have heard Parley preach there.

  47. David R. Pratt says:

    I am Parley’s 2nd great grandson by his fourth wife, Mary Wood. (Andrea R., Comment #40 above, is my daughter.)
    I was privileged to walk a few paces in Parley’s shoes, having served in East Cleveland and Kirtland on my mission (1964). I have always be grateful for the legacy he left me, but I despair ever measuring up to his standard. He accomplished far more in his 50 years than I have in my 67!
    Thanks for sharing these maps – I will look forward to the book.

  48. Very nice maps, John. How comprehensive are these? I don’t see one for an 1844 mission during the martyrdom, and wasn’t he on Lake Michigan, my favorite place?

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