Pratt, James T. (Gen)
    GEN. JAMES T. PRATT (deceased.) Long prominent in the business life of Hartford and in the public affairs of the State, Gen. Pratt was one of the best-known men in Connecticut politics.
     A son of Capt. John Pratt, of Middletown, he was born in 1802, in that part of the town from which Cromwell has since been formed. As a boy he came to Hartford, and served as a clerk first in the dry-goods store of J. B. Hosmer, and later in that of Robert Watkinson. About 1824 young Pratt started in the jobbing and commission business, the pioneer of this branch of the dry-goods business, which has since grown to such proportions. He was associated with E. G. Howe and Rowland Mather, the firm name for a time being Pratt, Howe & Mather, and afterward becoming Howe, Mather & Co. Young Pratt was full of life, and a natural leader. In a private letter he wrote two years before his death, regretting his inability to attend the Foot Guard reception to the governor, he thus expressed himself: "I joined the Horse Guard about 1820, and attended the 'Election Ball' of that year; danced with Miss Boardman, of New Milford, a a sister of the late Hon. William W. Boardman, of New Haven, a lady of rare accomplishments. At that time Daniel Buck commanded the Horse, and Richard Goodwin the Foot. I was chosen commander of the Horse on the 4th of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence. The late Maj. James Goodwin (father of the Rev. Francis Goodwin) succeeded me in command of the company. His brother, Jonathan Goodwin, commanded the Foot at the same time. There is not a man living who was a member of the Horse when I enlisted or when I was elected Major. The world moves." Young Pratt served as major of the Horse Guard from 1826 to 1829; in 1834 he was elected major of the First Regiment of Cavalry; in 1836 he was colonel of the regiment; from 1837 to 1839 he was brigadier-general commanding the first brigade; from 1839 to 1846 he was major-general commanding the first division; and in 1846-47 quartermaster-general. His service with the State troops in various positions covered a period of more than a quarter of a century, and, largely owing to his efforts, the military force of the State was greatly increased in efficiency. There was no other man living at the time of Gen. Pratt's death who had given as much unselfish labor to this important part of the State's service. Before finishing his military service Gen. Pratt had acquired a fortune sufficient for his wants, and about this time he retired from business and purchased a farm in Rocky Hill, known as the John William place. Always a Democrat of the old-fashioned Jacksonian type, he was sure, with his temperament, to take an active interest in politics. He represented Rocky Hill in the Legislature in 1847, 1848 and 1850, and again in 1857 and 1862. In 1852 he served in the Senate, representing the old First District. He was a very frequent delegate to Democratic State Conventions, and with his white overcoat and his impetuous manner, both of which he retained as long as he lived, became a conspicuous and influential figure.  He was a representative from his district in the XXXIId Congress (1853-55), and in 1858 and 1859 was the Democratic candidate for governor, being defeated by Gov. Buckingham.  He confidently expected to be nominated in 1860, but in the meantime his old-time friend and companion, Thomas H. Seymour, for whom he had done very many acts of kindness and friendship, returned from the Russian mission, and was at once suggested as the man to be nominated in the emergency. Gen. Pratt at once wrote him, offering to withdraw in his favor from a canvass in the convention. Col. Seymour politely and positively declined to accept the sacrifice (says Dr. Rufus W. Griswold in his "History of Rocky Hill"), and wrote Gen. Pratt that he would not be a candidate under any circumstances. Nevertheless Seymour was nominated and accepted. This put an end for years at least, to an old friendship, for the General was as strong in his prejudices as in his friendships. The same convention which nominated Seymour elected Pratt a delegate to the National Convention of Charleston. This was at the time when the secession conspiracy was just beginning to lift its head. Gen. Pratt represented the old-type Democrat, who looked upon the Free-Soilers as impracticable cranks, and upon the Abolitionists as sons of Belial. He regarded slavery as a human patriarchal institution, which had always existed, and he regarded those at the North who were making a crusade against it as disturbers of the peace. But he was a Union man to the core, and, when he found the Charleston convention dividing upon lines looking toward disunion, he did not hesitate a moment, but planted himself fair and square on the Union side. When it came to the question of breaking with the Southern wing—or rather head—of the party, or of lending countenance to the infamous work of the conspirators, Gen. Pratt's views were not uncertain. He voted for Douglas, and when threatened treason became a reality in the secession movement he became one of the foremost leaders of the war Democrats of the State. Rufus W. Griswold, a long-time friend and neighbor of Gen. Pratt, writes especially of this period of his life: "I was much with Gen. Pratt at this time, and more fully in his confidence than any other person. I recall many long talks with him between the adjournment of the convention at Charleston and its meeting again at Baltimore, and especially just before the reassembling, when it was concluded that, as lovers of the common weal rather than as partisans, the patriotic Democrat had gone as far in support of the demands of the South as could be rationally expected, and that when more was demanded it could not be granted. Thereafter there was no more earnest supporter of the Union cause than this old Jacksonian Democrat." Elected to the House of Representatives in 1862, he no longer recorded himself a Democrat but a "Union" man, and for ten years he acted more with the Republicans than with the Democrats. Afterward, when in 1870 and 1871 he represented Wethersfield in the Legislature, he styled himself in politics an "Old-school Democrat." Recognizing his fidelity to the "Union," as well as his standing as a Democrat, Gov. Buckingham appointed him a delegate to the Peace Convention which was held at Baltimore, with the vain hope of preventing actual conflict.
     Some twenty years before his death Gen. Pratt removed from Rocky Hill to Wethersfield, where he afterward enjoyed a serene old age, taking an active interest in public affairs until near the end of life. Personally he was a firm friend, and a stanch but always open enemy. He was positive and opinionated, somewhat emphatic in expressing his views, especially if opposed or contradicted. But he was thoroughly honest, earnestly patriotic, straight-forward in all his courses, generous to the poor, liberal and public-spirited. He was probably the most prolific letter-writer in the State, corresponding with almost every one of any prominence in either party. And he was nearly as forcible in his manner of expressing himself on paper as in the convention or legislative hall. Fraternally he was a member of the F. & A. M., St. John's Lodge, No. 4, Hartford. He died April 11, 1887, and was buried at Indian Hill, Middletown.
    On Nov. 29, 1840, Gen. Pratt was married to Lutitia Juliette Hollister, of South Glastonbury, Conn., and children as follows were born to this union: James Elijah, deceased in infancy; Laura Louise, also deceased; James Timothy, sketch of whom follows; Elizabeth C., widow of Ernest Deming, late of Middletown; Ellen Woodward, living in Hartford; Fanny Wendell, deceased; and John, connected with the New York Herald, with residence in NewYork City.
     JAMES T. PRATT was born in Rocky Hill, Conn., in 1851,and there passed the earlier years of his life, his education being received mainly at St. Paul's School, Brookfield. For five years thereafter he clerked for Wetherby, Kneus & Pelton, dry-goods merchants, Hartford, passing the subsequent five years in the railway mail service. Returning to Hartford, twenty-one years ago, Mr. Pratt engaged in the undertaking business with W. R. Morgan, the firm being Morgan & Pratt, and upon the retire-ment of Mr. Morgan from the business Mr. Pratt conducted the concern alone for some eighteen months, since when the style of the firm has been Pratt & Johnson.
     In 1894, in Wethersfield, Conn., Mr. Pratt was married to Miss Mary L., daughter of Dr. Abner S. Warner, of that town, and they have two children: James T., Jr.; and Lucia Elizabeth. In his fraternal associations Mr. Pratt is a Thirty-second degree Mason, and a member of the Shrine; is also affiliated with the I. O. O. F., Connecticut Lodge, No. 93; and with the K. of P., Washington Lodge, No. 15.

(Photo attached.)
 
 

Commemorative
Biographical Record
of
Hartford County,
Connecticut

Illustrated

Chicago

J. H. Beers & Co.

1901

pgs 60 - 62

HARTFORD COUNTY BIOGRAPHIES
pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary
May 2002

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