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                                        PAUL PRATT
                                    Cook County, Illinois


Information contributed for use in Cook County ILGenWeb by
        Sherri Hessick, added May 2001.


Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County,
Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended
(Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 61-62

PAUL PRATT  is the oldest resident of Evanston, and one of
the earliest surviving pioneers of Cook County.  Fifty years
ago and more he was one of the most familiar characters in
the northern part of the county, he and his ox-team being
well known to every family along the north shore.  He was
born in Weston, Middlesex county, Massachusetts, September
11, 1807, and is a son of Paul and Lydia (Gates) Pratt, both
of whom lived and died in Weston.  His father was one of the
sturdy Massachusetts “minute-men” who rushed from “every
Middlesex village and farm” when Paul Revere made his famous
ride, and did valiant service in defense of his country at
the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill.  He was a farmer,
following the occupation which had been pursued in the same
locality by many successive generations of his ancestors.
The subject of this notice grew to manhood in his native
place, and with the exception of two years spent in the
state of New York, continued to reside  there until 1839.
At that date, having married, he determined to seek his
fortune in the West, and started for Chicago.  He traveled
by stage as far as Albany, thence by way of the Erie Canal
and the Great Lakes to this port.  He located on the same
ground where he now resides in Evanston, and engaged in
farming and gardening; he also cut considerable timber,
which he rafted at the lake shore and floated to Chicago.  A
large share of the timber which entered into the
construction of the first Government pier was furnished by
him.  His brother, George, was drowned while assisting in
this work.

When he first arrived in Chicago the only means of crossing
the river was by a ferry-boat, by which a single team was
transported at each trip.  In the spring of the year the
country roads were often so miry that it was impossible to
drive a team into town, and he was often obliged to leave
the oxen at the present location of Lincoln Park and carry
his flour and other provisions to that point.  Even in the
present precincts of Evanston the roads were sometimes
impassable, but he improved them to some extent by cutting
brush and placing it across the way, thereby forming a rude
corduroy.  Some of this material is still found by workmen
making excavations for street improvements.
Mr. Pratt made a squatter’s claim to a large tract of land,
including the site of the North-western University, and when
this land was surveyed and offered for sale he purchased it
from the United States Government, paying $1.25 per acre.
There were but two houses within the present limits of the
city of Evanston when he located there.  These were occupied
by the Colvin and Hathaway families, both of whom long since
removed from that locality.  With those exceptions, his only
neighbors were Indians and French traders.  He built a log
house at the present intersection of Ridge Avenue and Leon
Street.  Ten years later this was replaced by a small frame
dwelling, which still stands there.  Another source of
income to Mr. Pratt was charcoal, of which he burned a
considerable quantity and sold it in the Chicago market.  He
continued his occupation as a gardener till the rapid march
of immigration made it necessary to subdivide his farm and
dispose of it for building lots.  In 1859 he went to Pike’s
Peak, spending eight weeks in crossing the plains from
Kansas City with ox-teams.  There was not a house on the
site of the present city of Denver at that time.  Not
finding the prospects for miners encouraging, he returned to
Evanston after a few weeks.

In 1838 Mr. Pratt was married to Miss Caroline Adams, whose
birthplace was Oxford, Massachusetts.  She was the daughter
of Rev. Ephraim Adams, a Presiding Elder of the Methodist
Church, who was stationed for some years at Truro, on Cape
Cod.  He sprang from the same family which included two
Presidents of the United States and a number of other
prominent statesmen among its members.  Mrs. Pratt was born
March 10, 1816, and died August 23, 1895.  She was quite
active until a short time before her death.  She was the
mother of four children, of whom the following is the
record: Adaline, Mrs. H. E. Peck, resides at Ottumwa, Iowa.
Susan, wife of Louis Leonhardt, of Evanston, is the first
white person born in that place, the date of that event
being September 18, 1840.  Charles E., who served three
years in the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, is now a resident of
Bushnell, Missouri.  The youngest, Willard Irvin, served two
years in Company C, Eighty-ninth Illinois Infantry.  After
taking part in many hard-fought battles, he was captured at
Dallas, Georgia, and incarcerated in Andersonville Prison,
where he languished for seven months.  When finally
exchanged, he was so reduced by starvation that he was
unable to walk to the boat which was to convey him to the
North.  The watch which he carried from home and secreted
beneath his blouse while in captivity he gave to one of his
comrades who assisted him to reach the vessel.  He was sent
to the hospital at Indianapolis, and the family, who had
given him up for dead, caused him to be brought home, where
he survived but five weeks.

Mr. Pratt has seventeen living grandchildren and eighteen
great-grandchildren.  He has been a life-long supporter of
the Democratic party, though never an aspirant for public
office.  Though advancing years have unfitted him for
further usefulness, he still retains an active mind, and his
memory concerning many of the occurrences of pioneer days is
as clear as if they had transpired but yesterday.

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