So, I bought an old house, in an old town. I could just study the history of the house, but then the story would have no context. I would not understand about the climate, the feeling of the town when the house was built. Knowledge about the era, about the Zeitgeist, leads to a better understanding of the people who lived there.
Inside the old church. Too bad this one was torn down.
The town of Pratt was established in 1905. It had a few names before it accepted “Pratt” as the name. The area was settled as early as 1781, and early settlers trickled in until about 1850. Two prominent families in the area settled here, the Hansford family and the Morris family. Dickinson Morris built his own home, “Harmony Hill”, and laid out the town in 1851, naming it Clifton. Prior to the establishment of Clifton, a church was formed. The Old Kanawha Baptist Church was established in 1796 by James Johnstone. The church is still around today, though only on the same lot, not in the same building. In the winter of 1861-62, Clifton served as the headquarters of the 37th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. The Marshall Hansford House was the headquarters of Union Colonel Siber.
After the Civil War, The town expanded, and adopted a new name “Dego”, used from 1873-1899. Obviously, when my
Mining Tents at Pratt, from the state archives
house was built, the town was “Dego”. The Town Hall was established in 1875. In the 1880s, coal companies became prominent in much of upper Kanawha Valley, and Dego was no exception. In 1889 the Charles Pratt Coal Company made Dego the home of their headquarters. This was kind of a big deal, as The Charles Pratt Coal Company owned an extensive amount of mines in Paint Creek, an area adjacent to Dego. the town was renamed “Pratt”, after the coal company, when it was incorporated in 1905. Many of the structures built by the coal company, including the clubhouse for miners and the company houses still stand in the town today.
Mother Jones, from the state archives
In 1912-13, Pratt gained notoriety as the place where “Mother” Jones was imprisoned during the “Mine Wars”. The Mine Wars were a series of confrontations between striking miners and the coal companies. After the Mine Wars were over, it was estimated that they cost nearly a million dollars and caused the violent deaths of 50 people, not including the miners that dies of malnutrition and starvation while on strike. Pratt served as the headquarters for the coal company guards, or “thugs”, and eventually became the headquarters of the WV National Guard when 3 separate times martial law was instituted during the mine wars. Martial law was necessary in Pratt and the surrounding areas because of the “state of lawlessness and insurrection” in the town. Because it was the headquarters to these factions, Pratt also served as the site for the “bullpens” where many striking miners were detained by “military tribunals”. Mother Mary Jones was a union organizer that was imprisoned in Pratt in Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House. She managed to smuggle a message to Indiana Senator John W. Kern, He read her message on the floor of the senate. Mother Jones was put on trial in the I.O.O.F. Building, but was released by Governor Henry D. Hatfield was able to instigate a settlement between the coal operators and miners.
The mine wars were probably Pratt’s most notable event in history. I will have to do a lot more research to find out what occurred between the end of the mine wars and now. Maybe I should contact my local historian again?
- The Train Station that use to stand in the town.