Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pratt Migration-VIII-Wilmer

My only memory of my grandfather Pratt was being escorted by my mother into a bedroom with an old man with a mustache lying in what I later learned was his deathbed. It was 1926, I was four years old, he was 68.
Wilmer Marshall Pratt was born in Philadelphia on May 29, 1858. He was married twice, first to Nellie Mynett Bartram, born April 10, 1858, died January 21, 1898; second to her sister Abigail Jennings Bartram, born December 8, 1861, died May 1942. I have covered their family in detail in my series "Pratt Stories-The Bartram Family".
Here is a story about my grandfather Pratt written and published in a Berrien County history in 1906:
"Wilmer M. Pratt was a young lad at the time of the removal of his family to the west and he remained under the parental roof until 22 years of age. His education was aquired in the public schools and by watching and assisting his father he gained a practical knowledge of the carpenter's trade. When 22 years of age he began to manufacture apple barrels, learning coopering of his brother (Horace) who had previously manufactured suet barrels. They were partners in this enterprise for 10 years and supplied all the barrels in Hagar Township, making 12,000 barrels in a single year. This proved a profitable business and with the capital thereby aquired Mr. Pratt made his first purchase of land, becoming the owner of 20 acres near Riverside. It was new land covered with timber. He built threreon and in eight years placed the tract under cultivation and improved it with good buildings.
 He then sold and bought his present farm, which is the old homestead of Joseph Dickerson (Dickinson). He has made excellent improvements here and has 80 acres a half mile from Lake Michigan, lying to the north and west in Hagar Township. He has continued to clear the land until it is now all under cultivation and he has here a valuable fruit farm of over 70 acres already set to fruit. He has planted peach orchards to the extent of 30 acres, while 8 acres are devoted to the raising of grapes, 12 acres to pears, 3 acres to cherries and the remainder to apples. He has planted all but 10 acres of the farm and is still setting out new trees. In one year he sold 4,000 bushels of peaches and his sales amount to about $5,000 annually. He employs four men to aid him in the care of his orchard and his crops and he has one of the best fruit farms in the state.
He keeps in touch with the State Agricultural College as to what is done in the line of horticultural development. He is also one of the officers of the State Horticultral Society and is active in all that works for the advancement and improvement in fruit culture. His results have far exceed his expectations and he is regarded as one of the most prominent fruit growers in Berrien County and has a firm faith in the future of this district as a fruit producing center. He realizes that the work is becoming more and more a profession, while study and investigation have aquainted its farmers with the great scientific principals which underlie the work, while broad experiment and labor are adding more and more largely to the practical knowledge.
He makes it his plan to to sell everything he produces under his own name. He harvests his own crop, the packing being done under his personal supervision and direction and his fruit arrives upon the city markets in excellent condition and finds a ready sale, for it is produced from excellent varieties of nursery stock.
Mr. Pratt was married on his present farm in the house which he now occupies, in 1881, to Miss Nellie Bartram, who was a sister of Mr. Dickinson, who formerly owned the farm.(This should be a half-sister of MRS. Dinkinson,  Hannah Davis, daughter of Freelove Mcintyre and Perry Davis)  She died in1894 leaving five children: Charles A., who is a graduate of the State Agricultural College and is now associated with his father in business; Burr B., a student in the State Agricultural College; Joseph M.,who is a student in Professor Egecomb's College; Helen C. and Genevieve, who are with their father. In 1900 Mr. Pratt again married, his second union being with Miss Abbie Bartram, the younger sister of his first wife and they have two children, Henry B. and Isadora.
Mr. Pratt is an active working Republican but does not aspire to public office. He regards it a duty as well as a privelege, however, to exercise his right of franchise in support of the men and measures in which he believes and he cooperates in many progressive movements that have resulted in benefit to the country. Otherwise his undivided attention is given to his business affairs which are bringing him success and which have already gained for him a prominent name in horticultural circles".
The last leg of the Pratt Migration was the move from Hagar Township  to the newly purchased farm and home in Watervliet Township. Charlie took over the Hagar operation and the Maple Lane house, Burr went to California, I think Joe had gone off on his own, and Helen was in college so I believe only Genevieve, Henry and Isadora were at home full time.
After Charlie and Burr died in the 1918 influenza epidemic everything started to go down hill for the Pratts. That sad story has been covered at length in the Henry Pratt's Memories series.
Wilmer died on January 11, 1926.
Here is an extract from a pencil draft of a letter I found in the Bartram Family Bible. I have always assumed it was written by Abigail:
"My Dear Cousin
        While I received your letter some time ago I was unable to answer it at that time  it was not so long after Mr. Pratt's death  but that I just could not write not so much the care of him as I had a nurse but the anxziety and the Dr. assured me he would recover until two months before he went. When able to write I had misplaced your letter and have only recently found it."
The Pratt migration in America which started with Phineas in Wessagausett in 1622 ended with the move of Wilmer and family to Watervliet Township in 1912, but Pratts continued to occupy the old family home until 2008 when Vincent, the last of the family to live there, happily sold it.
The 20th Century saw the start of a sort of Pratt diaspora leaving the descendents of Wilmer spread from Michigan to Ohio and Pennsylvania and New York and North Carolina and Tennessee and Georgia and Florida and Indiana and Illinois and Minnesota and California and Washington and Alaska and Afganistan and to where else I don't know.

Emailed Oct. 25

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