History of Prattsburg, NY
From: Landmarks of Steuben County, New York
Edited by: Hon. Harlo Hakes
Assisted By: L. C. Aldrich and Others
D. Mason & Company, Publishers,
Syracuse, New York, 1896

PRATTSBURG. - Captain Joel Pratt little thought that his original extensive purchase of land in the Genesee county would some time become a part of one of the most progressive towns in the region. Tradition furnishes us little information as to the reason of Captain Pratt's first visit here in 1799, yet we know that this doughty pioneer was a man of firm determination, of strong character, and equally firm in his puritanic ideas of Christian propriety and observance. He had in mind the idea of establishing a settlement somewhat in the nature of a religious colony, yet without the fanatical elements which generally accompany such enterprises.

Joel Pratt, so all writers agree, first visited this region on horseback in the year 1799. and in the year following came with his son Harvey, and other assistants, and cleared and sowed with wheat 110 acres of land. In the course of time the grain was harvested, threshed and shipped to market, via the Canisteo, Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers, where it brought the handsome return of $8,000 cash. Thus encouraged by his first efforts, Captain Pratt made all necessary preparations, and in 1801 brought several members of his family to the region where all became permanent settlers and useful residents. However, the honor of being the first settler in what is now Prattsbutg must be accorded to Jared Pratt, who came with his young wife from Spencertown, Columbia county, in February, 1801, traveling the entire distance on an ox sled. He settled on the road leading to Bath. Uriah Chapin also came from Columbia county, though not until 1802, and located on the Wheeler part of the territory. Rev. John Niles came in 1803, for the purpose of opening a farm, and in connection therewith to do such work of a missionary character as his enfeebled health would permit. He conducted the first religious services in the town and was treated with great consideration by the scattered inhabitants, and was presented with an eighty acre tract of land by Captain Pratt.

In 1802, June 16, Joel Pratt and William Root became the qualified owners, or agents, of a large tract of land, and took upon themselves the task of developing and settling township No. 6, of the 3d range. The agreement was made with Col. Robert Troup, the agent of the Pulteney estate in New York. Captain Pratt engaged in this enterprise with the worthy intention of settling and improving the land, while his associate, Mr. Root, only sought to increase his wealth. Hence it was only natural that a disagreement should follow, and the final result was that Mr. Root retired from the partnership, if such it was. In 1806 the Pulteney proprietary made a new agreement for the land, the purchasers being Joel Pratt, Joel Pratt, jr., and Ira Pratt, who took the unsold portion of the township. However, notwithstanding his best efforts, Captain Pratt found himself unable to meet his obligations to the Pulteney agents, hence in 1811 was obliged to surrender the unsold lands to his vendors.

During his proprietorship, Captain Pratt did much to improve and settle the town, and had he been less generous his venture would have been more successful from a speculative point of view. Through his influence the town was settled with a class of pioneers not found in every community, and whose residence and society was very desirable from every standpoint. They were chiefly Congregationalists, and were devoted to religious observances in a noticeable degree. They were not bigots in any sense, but upright Christian men and women. However, let us recall the names of some of the pioneers and learn to whom the present generation is indebted for the substantial foundation upon which this town and its institutions have been built and maintained.

In 1804, so near as can be ascertained, the settlers were William P. Curtis, Pomeroy Hull, Samuel Tuthill and Salisbury Burton, while the year 1806 witnessed the arrival of a number of families, among them those of Enoch Niles, Rufus Blodgett, Jesse Waldo, Judge Hopkins, John Hopkins. Ebenezer Rice, Robert Porter, Gameliel Loomis, Samuel Hayes, Abiel Lindsley, Moses Lyon, Urial Chapin, Asher Bull, Roban Hillis and Stephen Prentiss Other early settlers were Warham Parsons, Aaron Cook, Michael Keith, Thomas Riker, William Drake, and others whose names have been lost with the lapse of years.

Some of these settlers were identified with "first events" of town history, without a mention of which no record is deemed complete. In 1804 Joel Pratt erected the first framed barn in the town, and Joel Pratt, jr., and Ira Pratt were the first merchants. Aaron Bull kept the first public house. The first white child born was Marietta, daughter of Jared Pratt. The first marriage was that of Isaac Pardee and the daughter of Deacon Waldo. The first male child born was Charles Waldo. A post route was established between Geneva and Bath, through Prattsburg, in 1808, and mails were carried on horseback once each week. In that year a post office was established at Prattsburg, and Joel Pratt, jr., was the first postmaster. Judge Robert Porter built the first grist mill about 1807, and the second was built On the road to West Hill by Joel Pratt in 1818. Still later builders of mills were Horatio and Lewis Hopkins (the Cole mill), and they also built the fourth mill. The fifth mill was built by Henry and Ralph Hopkins, sons of Horatio, and was located in the village. It is a stone mill, and was built in 1887. Saw mills, too, have been numerous in the town in times past, located in various places, but chiefly on the main stream. Among the owners of such industries may be mentioned J. V. Stone, James Sturtevant, Wm. P. Curtis, J. H. Downs, Hopkins & Howe, H & L. Hopkins, A. and O. Waldo, H. Hodgkin, J. De Golier, J. Hervey Hodgkin and Messrs. Prentiss, Blodgett and Fay. As the forests were cleared these mills lost their usefulness and were abandoned, and the once heavily wooded tracts were turned into fine farms, and the result has been that Prattsburg became an agricultural town in the fullest sense, and one which has ever ranked well among the civil divisions of Steuben county.

As now constituted Prattsburg has an area of 30,600 acres of land and is therefore among the larger towns of the county. As originally formed on the 12th of April, 1813, it was much larger in area, as nearly half of Wheeler was taken off in 1820. Within the original territory of Prattsburg in 1804 were 132 inhabitants, and as evidence of rapid growth under the direction of Captain Pratt the further statement may be made that in 1814 the population was 615. Therefore it is not surprising that a new town formation was desirable, and not less surprising or desirable that the name of the new creation should be given in honor of its founder and promoter, Capt. Joel Pratt. The first town meeting was held on the 1st day of March, 1814, and Joel Pratt, jr., was elected supervisor. A full board of town officers was also chosen, but from the fact that an unfortunate fire burned the early records the names of all first officers cannot be ascertained. However, gleaning facts from other records, the supervisors from 1827 to the the present time are as follows:

Supervisors: Robert Porter, 1827; Burrage Rice, 1828-34; Daniel Burroughs, 1835-36; Aaron Pinney, 1837-39; J. H. Hodgkin, jr., 1840; John L. Higby, 1841-44; John F. Williams, 1845; John C. Higby, 1846-48; Aaron Pinney, 1849-50; Joseph Lewis, 1851; John Anderson, 1852; John F. Williams, 1853; Joseph Lewis, 1854; G. Denniston, 1855-57; John F. Williams, 1858-63; Wm. B. Pratt, 1864-69; H. B. Williams, 1870; D. W. Baldwin, 1871; Martin Pinney, I872-75; Henry A. Hopkins, 1876-77; Martin Pinney, 1878-80; I. L. Turner, 1881-82; J. A. Middleton, 1883; Martin Pinney, 1884; W. W. Babcock, 1885; I. L. Turner, 1886; W. W. Babcock, 1887; G. W. Peck, 1888; W. M. Fulkerson, 1889-90; R. N. Van uyl, 1891-92; William M. Fulkérson, 1893-95.

To this succession we may properly add the present town officers, viz.: William M. Fulkerson, supervisor; R. E. Deighton, town clerk; Dr. James A. Bennett, Jay K. Smith, Henry E. Allis and Wm. E. Weld, justices of the peace; Robert A. Walker, M. V. Drake and Henry Horton assessors; Aaron H. Putnam, commissioner of highways; Philip Geiss and Freeman Avery, commissioners of highways; Stewart Dillenbeck, collector.

Prattsburg has a substantial and fixed population, yet, in years past the town has suffered a decrease in number of inhabitants in common with the interior towns of the State. When set off and organized the local population was 615, and in 1820 the number had increased to 1,387. In 1830 it was 2,402, and 2,455 in 1840, while the year 1850 witnessed a population in the town of 2,786. The maximum was reached in 1840, the number then being 2,790, but in 1870 the population had decreased to 2,479. In 1880 it was 2,349, and in 1890 was 2,170.

The pioneers and early settlers in Prattsburg were noted for their piety and Christian example, and were fully mindful of the spiritual and educational welfare of their children. As early as the year 1803 they organized a religious society which eventually became the Presbyterian church. However, a record of this and all other church organizations of the town will be found in another department of this work, hence needs no further mention here. Still, in the present connection the reader will pardon a brief allusion to one of the early residents of the town, Dr. and Preacher Marcus Whitman, whose life and works are still well remembered by our older inhabitants. Dr. Whitman lived for a time in Prattsburg and Wheeler. In 1835 he went as a missionary to what is now the State of Washington, and in Walla Walla valley he established a mission among the Indians. He made the journey across the continent on several occasions, and through his efforts the now State of Washington was saved from cession to Great Britain. Dr. Whitman and wife, also thirteen other whites, were massacred by the Indians in 1847.

One of the most troublesome periods in the early history of Prattsburg was that in which took pike the anti rent conflict; and although the inhabitants of this particular locality suffered less than many others, they were nevertheless much disturbed by the excitement of the time. The local delegates to the Bath, convention were men in whom the whole townspeople had every confidence and who guarded well all Prattsburg interests. They were Stephen Prentiss, Gameliel Loomis, Josiah Allis, Ira C. Clark and Joseph Potter.

The war of 1861-65 was another disturbed period for the people of our otherwise quiet and temperate townsfolk, but when the call for troops was made no town responded more nobly or generously than this. During the years of that great struggle Prattsburg is credited with having sent into the service a total of nearly two hundred men, 170 of whom enlisted directly from the town, while the others joined commands raised elsewhere than in this county.

The educational interests of Prattsburg have ever received the thoughtful attention of local authorities, and in the village there was established at an early day an academic institution of more than ordinary importance. In the village chapter further allusion will be made to the academy, and it only remains for us to here mention the town at large. When set off and organized as a town, the electors made necessary provision for the maintenance of schools and regularly divided the territory into convenient districts. These have been changed from time to time as necessity required, and a uniformly excellent standard has ever been demanded and upheld. As at present constituted, the town at large is divided into fifteen districts, in each of which a school is maintained. During the school year 1894-5, twenty teachers were employed and 535 children attended school. The school property of the town is valued at $18,500. In the year mentioned the town received public moneys to the extent of $2,390.62, while there was raised by local tax the further sum of $3,385.45. Twenty four trees were planted by pupils during the year 1894.

[Also see the Village of Prattsburg]


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