Thursday, October 20, 2016

Daniel Pratt - Part 2

SCV Camp 1524 Dragoons Compatriot Tyrone Crowley addressed the October 2016 camp meeting as Daniel Pratt presenting an autobiographical history of the life of this important 19th century industrialist. 

Found my own property to continue my enterprises.  The spot that is now Prattville had good water power and yellow pine, but low, swampy, and viney.  Friends thought "poor purchase" when in 1835 I promised to pay Joseph May $21,000 in cash and cotton gins for 2,000 acres of land[1] that some called a "dismal swamp".
 (Slave complaint. Massa Pratt was not satisfied with the way God made the earth; he was always "diggin' down the hills and fillin' up the hollers".)
From the beginning, our undertaking with the "poor purchase" was a continual success, so that by 1842 I had completed my home on Autauga Creek and in 1845 added an art gallery.  I also helped William Montgomery build his house about the same time.  Mr. Montgomery was my friend and associate, and gave me the right-of-way through his property when I built the public plank road down to Washington Landing in the 1840s.  One of your members, Sam Reid, is a descendant of Mr. Montgomery, and I understand that you hold a Christmas Social in this home each December.  (Dragoons Communications Officer Larry Spears's wife Sue's great-grandfather, Wilcox County plantation owner James Asbury Tait, had a high opinion of my gins, said they were the best on the market[2].) 
In the 1840s then, my vision of a fine New-England-style village was taking shape.  I should say a word here about my concern for religion to be an essential part of life in Prattville.  I built the first Methodist church here, and subsidized the building of the Baptist and Presbyterian churches.  Mac A Smith and his brother Alfred (A.Y., buried out at Indian Hill) were in my Union Sabbath School group when they were boys; A.Y. was later an officer in the Prattville Dragoons. 
By late 1840s I was encouraged by articles in national publications such as DeBow's Review, articles in local newspapers, and an honorary Master's Degree in Mechanical and Useful Arts.  In January 1847, I was almost brought to tears by the following praise from Dr. Basil Manly of the University of Alabama:
"Without having devoted your life to literary pursuits, you have attained, in an eminent degree, that which is the end of all letters and all study---the art of making men around you wiser, better and happier. ... Above all, you have shown that you discern what is the great source of all virtue and happiness, of all knowledge and success, by your efficient maintenance of the Institutions of the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, among your people."
Dr. Manly understood me very well, for that is precisely what I had in mind in all my years of working to improve the village of Prattville:  to make men wiser, better, and happier, to give dignity to labor, and to promote a Christian life among my fellow citizens. I'm not an artist but love art, hence my friendship with and patronage of George Cook (two-floor art gallery in New Orleans, later beautiful paintings in my own gallery); not a poet, but love poetry, hence my appreciation of the poetry of Francis Orray Ticknor, my wife's cousin, a physician but also a poet who became famous for his poem about a young Confederate, "Little Giffen".  In 1854, he dedicated the following poem to me, another great encouragement in my efforts to help my fellow man.  Preface to poem:  First paragraph alludes to Revolutions of 1848, ongoing in Europe.  There were terrible times there, while on this continent our ancestors were building a fine new world of peace and prosperity--therein lies the meaning of "the conquest of labor".

by Francis Orray Ticknor, Esther's cousin

Inscribed to Daniel Pratt, Esq., of Prattville (Alabama)

There's a sound on the air of an army in motion,
The thunder of war and the battles' loud boom;
Each breeze that is borne o'er the wide-rolling ocean
Is sad with its terror and dark with its gloom.

But the sun that goes down on the blood-dripping sabre
Shall rise on a scene that is lovelier far,
Where the olive grows green and the Laurels of Labor
Are won in the wild 'neath our own western star.

From the stormy Atlantic their hosts are advancing;
On the far Rocky Mountains their legions are seen;
Down the wilderness valleys their watch-lights are glancing,
And the broad blue Pacific exults in their sheen.

Ever around them rich blessings are springing,
Ever before them the darkness retires;
Peace lends her song to their reveille's ringing,
And Plenty reclines by their bivouac fires.

Where round the dark anvil the red forge is gleaming,
Where the swift shuttle flies, where the plow cleaves the sod;
Round the hearth-stones of Toil rise the ramparts of Freemen,
The Altars of Home and the Temples of God.

And still may they rise, till their victories speeding,
Shall circle the earth with their mission sublime,
Till the world that was fair in the morning of Eden
Shall blossom again in the sunset of Time.

And honor to him who shall honor his station,
In the land where his labor its earnest may find;
Where the works of his hands are the pride of a nation,
And the worth of his heart is the hope of mankind.

Torch Hill, Ga.,
December 14, 1854
This poem and the diploma from the University of Alabama, together with praise I received in DeBow's Review and other publications, gave me a new confidence in myself as a public figure (I had always been a bit uncomfortable in public situations, given my limited education), so I began to write letters and on occasion make speeches in support of my ideas and positions.  In 1855, fabric from Prattville Manufacturing Company won the prize for "best osnaburg" at the Alabama State Fair in Montgomery.[3]

[1] Evans, Curt.  The Conquest of Labor, p. 19.
[2] Evans, op. cit., p. 19.
[3] MacMillan, M.C.  Essay "Daniel Pratt:  Ante-bellum Southern Industrialist", p. 8.

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