Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Pratt Family - A Refresher Course

I am going to serialize a short history of our Pratt family as a sort of refresher course for those of us who have been interested in our genealogy. For the younger generation this may be a new exposure to their antecedents. This is mostly from my Pratt Family of North Berrien booklet.
Wilmer Marshall Pratt, who was born in Philadelphia in 1858, was but a toddler when his parents, together with his two brothers and one sisiter, left home and headed west. His father, William Bond Pratt (b. 1824-Rutland, Vermont) had been told by his doctor that he would live but a short time without a change of climate. The family wandered as far as Omaha but returned east to live for while in Cass County and finally settled in Hagar Township "...in order to have the benefit of the bracing climate occasioned by the proximity of Lake Michigan." The change of climate must have been beneficial since William lived to the age of 82, although he was blind the last five years of his life. Wilmer's mother  was Elizabeth King (b. 1830-Germantown, Pennsylvania) who was of German extraction on her father's side. William was a carpenter and contractor who built numerous homes in the Riverside area.*
Wilmer learned carpentry from his father and at the age of 22 began a cooperage business with his brother** which eventually became profitable enough for him to start buying land and planting fruit trees. Begining about 1893, he expanded his fruit growing business by purchasing orchards in Hagar and Watervliet Townships until about 1915, in partnership with his two eldest sons, he was harvesting and packing fruit from over 400 acres and shipping fruit by the boatload to Chicago. In 1918 the Pratt fruit business suffered a blow from which it never recovered. Charlie and Burr, the two eldest sons and by that time the driving forces in the business, died within a month of each other in that year's dreadful influenza epidemic.
The Pratt family's immigrant ancestor was Phineas Pratt, who arrived in America in 1622 as part of a doomed-to-failure colonizing effort at a place called Wessagauset (modern Weymouth, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb). He is known to history for his 20-mile winter-time run through the snow to Plymouth to warn the Pilgrims of an Indian plot to attack that struggling colony. After Miles Standish and his small military company disposed of the plot by disposing of the leading plotters, Phineas settled down in Plymouth and in 1630 married the daughter of Degory Priest, a Mayflower Pilgrim who died during the colony's first terrible winter.
* I have one of his carpenter tools, a large wooden plane.
** Don Pratt has some of the cooper's tools.
Emailed August 30

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