by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout
Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 23 published on August 12, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
The writer regrets having overlooked material for a short sketch left in his possession, and is unwilling that it shall be unnoticed, more especially as it relates to the early life of one whom his fellow citizens have delighted to honor.
The memoranda of the life of Col. Z. Pratt, *(The Reverend Pratt has used Chronological biography of the Hon. Zadock Pratt of Prattsville, N. Y., 1868. An earlier edition was published in 1866.) drawn up and printed in chronological order, noting events from year to year in his history, as that history is more or less identified with the progress of the country, form a document of much interest. It is a brief journal of an eventful life, and drawn up on a plan that others might well adopt. "Old Times" does not of course suggest any very definite limit, but it would remote from the present. The following is Col. Pratt’s sketch of a wolf hunt.
"When about eighteen years old, my father living at the little tannery bought of James Weares for two hundred dollars, the country covered with hemlock, except where a Connecticut settler had made a clearing, the wolves came one night and killed some of David Johnson’s sheep, it having snowed that night about 18 inches deep. We, that is, Z. Pratt, Miles, Johnson and Chaffee, packed up some eatables, and with our guns, full of fun and high mettle, took after the wolves about 8 o’clock in the morning, snow knee deep. The three wolves started for Hog Mountain. We soon learned to keep Indian file, as did they. Full of hope, we crossed the Eastkill, and at every turn hoped to get a shot to call them to account for killing Uncle David’s sheep. Eating our luncheon on the chase at two, we were full seven miles on and over the mountain. The wolves intuitively crossed their paths all ways, so we lost it, and taking the back track at midnight, a little the worse or tiring out, were glad to get an extra lunch at home. So much for attempting to tire out wolves—a lesson I shall never forget, that wild best know enough to keep out of young men’s way."
"A death struggle with an owl. He came and took, one dark night, one of my mother’s favorite fowls from the roost in the old saw mill, and devoured the half of it. The lad of fifteen baited a steel tarp with the other half, and was ready for him the next night, and caught him. But coming to take him out of the trap, the owl with his sharp claws—lion-like caught hold of his left hand, and seemed to have put his nails quite through it, while the lad took him by the throat to choke him off, Blood flowed freely, and pain like the toothache shot through the hand –no letup—and if one could measure time by pain endured, it must have been over five long minutes, and at last, when the owl was dead, I had to pull his claws out of my hand." Col. Pratt does not say so, but doubtless the owl left a lesson to be remembered as well as the wolves.
The following is a specimen of the printed memoranda of Col. Pratt’s life:
1809, Jan. 1st. Swam every month through summer and autumn, up to Jan. 1st, to test his endurance. He cut away the ice on the day and thought it as too cold to follow up these daily baths.
1809, June. Walked forty miles in one day without food or drink, as a matter of curiosity, to see what he could endure.1810. Apprenticed to Luther Hayes, a saddler in Durham. While apprenticed worked extra hours after nine o’clock at night, enough to buy a silver watch, the first he ever wore.
1810, October, 10. Was twenty-one years of age. Had $30 of his own savings.
1811. Worked one year as a journeyman saddler at ten dollars a month, Saved $100.
1812. Commenced business on his own account, as saddler and harness-maker, at Lexington, in one of the barn sheds or store houses, working from 14 to 16 hours a day, keeping a debit and credit account. And each year an inventory, which he has practiced ever since.
1813. Built a shop, 18 by 24, painted red: felt half rich.
1814. Added a store of goods, in addition to his saddlery, in one end of his shop, and slept under the counter at night.
The above is a specimen of a very interesting sketch of a remarkable life. The following anecdote is in print.
On the ten commandments. The Col. was applied to by a ragged orphan boy raised in the mountains which surround Prattsville, for a pair of boots. The boy was asked if he could say the ten commandments. "What are the commandments," said the boy. The Col. took the boy to a merchant, and told him, as soon as he had recited the ten commandments to give him a pair of boots on his account. The boy was on hand at daylight the next morning with the commandments on his tongue’s end.
The material out of which this very brief sketch is composed, was set to the writer a short time since, and has been laid aside, and in the pressure of other engagements, has been overlooked, and is now arranged and copies as the best apology he can make in the case.
The writer ventures to express the hope that those who have information relative to Old Times, will carefully arrange and preserve it, and forward such account as they may have, to the printer or to himself. It is his hope to resume the collection of reminiscences when leisure is afforded. He has no pecuniary interest in the matter whatever, and indeed no interest of any kind, except, such as may naturally be suppose to belong to a descendant of the early settlers.