Greetings: May God bless this house, and may God bless this assembly. Good evening. I assume you all know who I am, since your lovely village bears my name--I'm Daniel Pratt. As Jefferson Davis said to the people of Mississippi towards the end of his life, "The weight of many years admonishes me that my day of actual service has passed". Actually, I departed this earth 143 years ago last May, but thanks to the efforts of a member of your organization who admires my life and deeds, I am able to be revived and make this presentation of my life and times. Given my advanced age, this will require some use of notes and reading, if you will forgive me.
Here's a sketch of my life:
· NH - 2 decades - childhood, apprenticeship
· Savannah - 2 years - developed apprentice skills
· Milledgeville - 1 decade - success as builder
· Clinton - 2 years - beginning of career with cotton gins
· Elmore - 1 year - initial effort at manufacturing gins
· McNeill's Mill - 5 years - success on my own
· Prattville - 2 decades - 1840's, building my model village; 1850s, pinnacle of success, became public figure
· WBTS, Reconstruction - 1 decade plus 2 years - War Between States, political life, decline in health
NEW HAMPSHIRE (1799-1819)
I was born 20 July 1799 in Temple, New Hampshire. I am descended from Pratts who migrated from England to Massachusetts in 1643. They were Congregationalists, who did not want to be part of the Church of England. Their belief that all churches were autonomous made it easy for me to understand the principles of secession and local government, as mentioned on the Confederate monument at the Autauga County courthouse.
Childhood memories: Fourth of six children, named for grandfather Daniel Pratt. Worked hard, could only go to school a short term in winter, when there was no farmwork. Sundays were dedicated solely to "Sabbath school" and the worship of God--no frivolity.
Father, believing that I was a "mechanical genius" ended my scant education in 1815 and apprenticed me to Aaron Putnam, a house carpenter in nearby Wilton Township. After four years learning carpentry with Mr. Putnam, I left New Hampshire and came south to Savannah, Georgia.
Brought money given me by Grandfather Flint when I left Temple and tools that grandfather Daniel had bequeathed to me. Savannah was a beautiful city, and during the next two years I sharpened the skills I had learned as an apprentice in New Hampshire.
Kept "Bachelors' Hall" on Ocmulgee River, building houses and flatboats with four negro men (three slaves and one hired carpenter).
Was scolded by father for slaves, but wrote "Dear Father: To live in any country it is necessary to conform to the customs of that country in part (emphasis by DTC). I am only following the customs of the country in which I live. I have brought no man into bondage and I am in hopes I have rendered no man's situation more disagreeable than it was before; on the contrary I am in hopes I have bettered it".
I only had slaves because I got them in payment for building of houses and boats, since cash was scarce.
My misery as a bachelor didn't last long. I married my bosom companion for life, Esther Ticknor on 6 Sep 1827, who had come from Connecticut to visit relatives.
Went here to work with Samuel Griswold, from Connecticut, who became a friend and mentor to me. Within a year, I became a partner, and we made plans to go west into Alabama, then in its "flush times"--there was money to be made, due to the need for cotton gins which at that time came from Georgia or New England.
Religion: Became Methodist while at Clinton. Esther had been Presbyterian but became Methodist when I did, at the church in Clinton, Georgia. From that day forward, Christianity and the Methodist church remained a principal part of our lives.
ELMORE'S MILL (1833)
Griswold changed his mind about coming to Alabama after hearing of Indian trouble there (what is known as the Second Creek War), but supplied capital and advice.
First came to Elmore's Mill, where I used the materials for 50 gins I had brought with me, which I put together and sold quickly.
After a few months at Elmore, I went downriver to the junction of the Alabama River and Autauga Creek, to a town called Washington and rented the property at McNeill's Mill.
MCNEILL'S MILL (1833-1838)
First lived in log cabin with leaning chimney, then built two-story frame building with gin making below, Esther and I and operatives on second floor. McNeill wanted to raise the rent after five years, but I had already entered a contract to purchase my own property.