Monday, May 13, 2013

Prattville Dragoons May Camp Meeting at the Prattaugan Museum Part 3

Rachel Deaile continued to host the Prattville Dragoons on a wonderful tour of the Prattaugan Museum for the camp meeting last Thursday moving thru each room of the museum.  Following the Dragoons Room, the group moved into the Pratt Room which is the other room across the foyer on the front of the house.  A number of photograph portraits of Pratt and his only surviving daughter Ellen Pratt DeBardeleben and her children were hung throughout the room. As was proper for the period, Ellen married into another wealthy family, the DeBardelebens of Birmingham who helped supply iron for Daniel Pratt's gin manufacturing operation. 

Daniel Pratt's own mother died when he was fourteen and he quit school at the age of twelve.  He moved to Georgia at the age of twenty and Sam Griswold taught him how to build cotton gins.  It is said that Sam dressed undercover as a woman to sneak into Eli Whitney's to steal his gin design - one of the first incidents of industrial espionage. In 1833 Pratt moved to the Autauga area and worked in the McNeal Mill until he left to build his gin shop on Autauga Creek, leasing 2064 acres for $21000.  A Crenshaw Gin sits in the middle of the Gin Room which was the final stop of our tour.  1890s blueprints of gin designs are hung about the room and one case provides samples of cotton cleaned to varying degrees in gins from "good ordinary" to "fair middling: from which the term fair to middling was coined. Within ten years Pratt had accumulated great wealth and besides the large manufacturing shop, Pratt also founded the Autauga Citizen newspaper and the Autauga Banking and Trust.  Pratt loved the arts and played the organ, one of which is found in the Pratt Room of the museum.  Daniel Pratt was a Methodist but helped build community churches of all denominations.  A number of additional buildings sprang up in addition to the gin shop including a huge cotton mill which burned down in 2002.  Continental Gin continued gin manufacturing operations in the facility until a few years later.  Developers have plans to preserve the historic gin manufacturing buildings including the old water turbine and convert the building to apartments.  This is wonderful news to preserve this historic structure which tells the story of the town of Prattville.
The Pratt Room in the Prattaugan Museum

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