THE ADVENTURES OF MARSHALL PRATT
Submitted by Martha J. Kounse
I now know it to be a fact that Marshall Pratt was my great-great-grandfather, and that he took part in the Battle of “Great Meadows”’ or “Fort Necessity” which was fought by Virginia Colonial troops under George Washington, on the 3rd day of July in 1754. 1 also now know it to be a fact that Marshall Pratt was one of sixty (60) soldiers, veterans of that battle, who received a grant of 28,627 acres as a reward for their part in that battle. The said grant was named “The Savage Grant” for Captain John Savage, who was a Captain in command of the Virginia colonial soldiers during the battle. The Savage Grant encompasses not only all the land now included in the City of Huntington, West Virginia, but other municipalities as follows: Ceredo, W.Va; Kenova, W.Va; Guyandotte, W.Va; Barboursville, W.Va; and Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
Strangely enough, although he was my great-great-grandfather and was the friend and companion of George Washington (at Great Meadows, Washington was 22 and Marshall Pratt was 19), 1 had never heard of Marshall Pratt until I was at least 60 years old. And I am certain that my father and his brother and sister lived and died without ever having learned of the prominence of Marshall Pratt, or about his association with George Washington.
Since learning about the facts related in the two paragraphs above, I think that I have determined the reason for the gross and apparent ignorance of the family about these important facts. The chief reason is the fact that Marshall Pratt died before Joshua Pratt was born. And Joshua Pratt was my great-grandfather, and was the first of this particular Pratt family to come to Ohio from Virginia. We all knew that Joshua Pratt was a post-natal child; and you would never guess how we learned it. This fact was disclosed to us through an ignorant superstition which existed among the poor people in the nineteenth century.
There was, and perhaps still is, an affliction known as the “thrush”, chiefly affecting babies and small children. It was an infection which caused a breaking-out inside the mouth. The doctors had no remedy for the affliction, so the people resorted to superstition, similar to witchcraft. The superstition was that if a post-natal child blew his breath into the mouth of a child afflicted with the “thrush”, the disease would be cured.
Well, the parents of Windsor Township, Lawrence County, Ohio, having learned that Joshua Pratt was a post-natal child (that is, he was born after his father died) brought their children from miles around to have Joshua blow his breath in their mouths when they had contracted the “thrush”.
The date that Joshua Pratt was born is cut into his tombstone in the old graveyard on the hill back of his home (1784). The fact that the family knows about his supposed curative powers in cases of “thrush” tells us a great many things that we would not know otherwise. It tells us about the year that Marshall Pratt died (1783 or 1784); it tells us why we cannot find the name Marshall Pratt in the 1790 census records ( he was already dead); and above all it tells us why Joshua Pratt and his children knew so little about Marshall Pratt. Joshua never saw his father; probably grew up with a stepfather or even a stranger.
I am sure that my grandfather, John Pratt, son of Joshua, learned the facts about the association of Marshall Pratt with Washington, and tried to tell me about it. But he goofed, because I did not understand what he was saying to me, and never did learn until about fifty years later. My grandfather, whom we all called “Pap”, was quite a student or history and current events. As hereafter explained, he had fought in both the Confederate Army and the Union Army of the Civil War. Even before I was a teenager, he seemed to be proud of my interest in history and of my historical knowledge. Pap had some relatives out in Indiana; Uncles named Forgey, who were brothers of his mother, Sarah Forgey Pratt. Once when I was about ten years old he went out to Indiana to visit these relatives. When he returned home, he told me some things that the uncles had told him about his family in Virginia. One thing he said was something like this: “They told me that Grandpap was with Washington at Great Meadows.” But I had never heard of Great Meadows. The battlefield, which is sometimes known as Great Meadows, was in all my history books as “Fort Necessity”. So, what should I do? Though I was only ten years old or less, “Pap” thought me a “Whiz Kid”. Should I demolish that notion by asking him “What is Great Meadows?” or “Where is Great Meadows?” I do not remember just what I said, but I probably just said, “Uh-Huh.”
My own pride had led me into one of the worst goofs of a lifetime. I believe that it was about fifty years before I finally learned just what and where Great Meadows was. Then it was almost too late.
ft seems almost incredible that when “Pap” was talking to me about his grandpap, I did not at least ask him what was his grandpap’s name. But, if I did, I have no recollection of it now.
The fact is that even today the entire Pratt family in Ohio is woe-fully ignorant about the ancestry of Joshua Pratt. We do not even know the name of his mother, either family name or Christian name. But there have been certain family traditions which I assume to be true, but I do not know where they came from. It must be remembered as hereafter told that Joshua Pratt and Sarah Forgey Pratt had seven children, and that they all, or most of them, grew up and raised children of their own in Lawrence County. And when I say that there was a certain tradition, that there were certain traditions in the family, I do not necessarily mean that the tradition was that of a fact which came from Joshua Pratt or Sarah Pratt, his wife, direct to Averill Pratt, my father, or to members of his family. It may have come to us through some of the other Pratts, descendants of Joshua. Or it may even have come from some of the Paul family, descendants of Surdine Paul, who came from Virginia to Ohio with Joshua, and who married his wife’s sister. The Pauls probably knew as much about the Pratt family in Virginia as did the Pratts themselves.
What were some of these traditions?
Well, there was one tradition that the father of Joshua Pratt had been in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, and that he had walked 100 miles of the way to get there.
There was a tradition that Joshua Pratt had two brothers; that one of them settled in what is now West Virginia, and one settled in the State of Kentucky. But I never did hear the name of the one who settled in Kentucky.
The most interesting tradition that ever came down to us regarding the family of Joshua Pratt was that one about Jesse Pratt, the brother who settled in West Virginia. I have so much proof of the truth of this story regarding Jesse that it can no longer be considered a tradition, but must be taken as fact. The story is that one morning Jesse’s mother asked him to go out to the woodyard and bring in a load of stovewood. Well, Jesse went out the door, but he never came back; yes, he did come back, but not until eight years had passed; and when he did come back he came in carrying a load of stovewood! This story came direct to us from Jesse’s brother, Joshua. It must undoubtedly be true. We tell the story not so much to show that there were some odd-balls in the family, but to show that they lived in the country, burned stovewood, and were probably very poor.
The next time I heard the story about Jesse Pratt was when I was 17 years of age. I was teaching a country school on Trace Fork about five miles from Branchfield on the Guyan River, about forty miles from Huntington. One day someone introduced me to an old man named Adkins who lived in the neighborhood. When he heard that my name was Pratt he asked, “Are you any relation to Jesse Pratt?” I answered, “No, I think not. Where does he live?” Then he said, “Oh, I have heard a story all my life about Jesse Pratt leaving home when his mother sent him after a sack of meal. He did not return home for ten years, but when he did return he came in carrying a sack of meal.” It was essentially the same story, except that there were two differences. Was it meal or stovewood? And was it eight years or was it ten years?
Just hold your seats, for I have not yet told you all that I know about the life and doings of Jesse Pratt. Some 25 or more years after Mr. Adkins of Trace Fork had told me the story as related above, a lady client of mine from South Point, Ohio, who was a great genealogist (she had traced her own ancestry back to the time of Noah’s Ark — maybe not quite that far, but at least in that general direction), met me on the streets of Ironton one day, and she said, too, I have wanted to tell you for some time that I was looking through the records at the Huntington Court House and I found something about your relieves.” I said, “What were their names?” She said, “It was Jesse Pratt, and he married Sally Forgey.” Then she said, “It is the first marriage recorded in Cabell County, West Virginia.” The first chance that! got, I went to the Huntington Court House and examined the record. Sure enough, it was our Uncle Jesse. He had married S~lie Forgey on November 30, 1809. Jesse had signed his name, but he did not even spell the name Pratt correctly. He spelled it “Prat”. My great-grandfather Joshua, as you already know, also married a Forgey, and her name was Sarah Forgey. But that marriage did not take place until the year 1832.
My problem. I know that Jesse Pratt and Joshua Pratt were brothers. I know that the name Sallie is a nickname for Sarah. I know that Jesse Pratt married Sallie Forgey in 1809. 1 know that Joshua Pratt married Sarah Forgey in 1832 when she was less than thirty years of age. Could it be that Sallie and Sarah Forgey were one and the same person? The answer is definitely “No”. How do I know? Well, for one thing, if Sarah Forgey had been previously married to Jesse Pratt, her name then would not have been Sarah Forgey, but it would have been Sarah Pratt. Furthermore, Sarah Forgey was a comparatively young woman when she married Joshua Pratt in 1832. If she had not been, then she and Joshua could not have reared to manhood and womanhood seven children as they did do.
In telling the story about Jesse Pratt, one or my purposes is to illustrate the very low financial status of the Marshall Pratt family; that they were very poor people.
If it were a great honor to be descended from the Nobility of England, then it would be rather easy to claim by dissembling a little that we are descended from the Nobility. I once read in the genealogy section of the Congressional Library in Washington, that there were three separate lines of Nobility, each of them started by a “John Pratt”. Most of my readers probably do not know it, but the famous actor, Boris Karloff, was in fact an Englishman, member of the English Nobility, and his surname was Pratt. Many of the early settlers of Virginia were members of the English Nobility. Under the law of primogeniture in England, the eldest son inherited the entire estate of the father. Many of the younger sons who were disinherited by this law were given estates in Virginia by the King.
On the Rappahannock River, three miles below Port Royal and about 23 miles below Fredericksburg, there is a 3000 acre estate called Camden, which was granted about 250 years ago either to a brother or to a son of the Earl of Camden. The Earl of Camden, back when this grant was made, was really a High Judge named Charles Pratt. The present owner is now or was about twelve years ago a man named Richard Pratt.
Right here I believe would be a good place to explain the origin of the name “Pratt. I am afraid that someone might get a wrong impression from the fact that when anyone gets a fall and lands on his bottom, he is said to have gotten a “Prattfall”. Well, the truth is that many family surnames in England were derived from the place where the family lived; and many of these names were derived from the Latin. If you lived on a mountain, you were some kind of a mountain; because a berg is a mountain. An iceberg is a mountain of ice. The Latin word for meadow is “Pratum”. The first Pratts lived in a meadow, and also a meadow is a “bottom”. Now do you understand?
As a matter of fact, most surnames undergo many changes over a period or two or three hundred years. Many people make slight changes in the spelling of their own names; some of them through illiteracy, some otherwise. I understand that the first Pratts who arrived in England were two brothers who called themselves “Prattellis”. One was a bodyguard for William the Conqueror, and the other was attached to his Staff in some manner. This may be the explanation for the fact that many Pratts later were of the Nobility. After all, William was a very powerful man after he shot out King Harold’s eye and killed him at the Battle of Hastings.
There are two thrilling stories of warfare that II wish to include in this paper, but first I think I should give a list as ear as I am able to, of the descendants of Joshua Pratt and Sarah Pratt.
Then 1 shall tell the story of Marshall Pratt, with his thrilling experiences in the French and Indian War.
Then I shall tell the story of the experiences of John Pratt and Nimrod Pratt, sons of Joshua and Sarah, in the Civil War, while serving in both the Confederate and the Union Armies in that war. In doing this, I shall relate in the best way I can their description of the great Battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing, in which they both took part
Joshua Pratt and Sarah Pratt were married sometime in early 1832. I do not have the exact date.
Their first child, James Pratt, was born November 21, 1832.
Their second child, Roxey Pratt, was born February IS, 1835.
Their third child, J? Pratt, was born March15, 1857.
Their fourth child, Andrew Pratt, was born January 25, 1839.
Their fifth child, Nimrod Pratt, was born May 2, 1841.
Their sixth child, William Pratt, was born June 9, 1845.
Their seventh child, Nancy Pratt, was born February 7, 1847.
James Pratt went away to Kansas when he was a young man, and never did return to live in Ohio. I do not know whether he married nor whom he married.
Roxey Pratt married Joel Earles (the elder Joel Earles). They had no children.
John Pratt married Charlotte Earles. I do not know the date of their marriage, but they had three children, as follows:
- Averill Pratt, my father, who married Maggie Holliday.
- Andrew Pratt, who married Anna Holliday, a sister of Maggie Holliday.
- Sarah Pratt, who married Henry Keeney.
Andrew Pratt (the elder) lived and died in Lawrence County, Ohio. He married, but I do not know whom he married, nor when.
Nimrod Pratt married in Kentucky, but I do not know whom he married, nor when. I cannot name his children, but I did know that he had one son named Frank, and another son named Willie. Nimrod lived all his life in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
William Pratt, married _________ Mounts. They had one son, and two, perhaps three, daughters. One daughter married Fred Keeney; another daughter married a Hartwig. The son and both daughters have children and grandchildren.
Since this paper is being prepared particularly for the benefit of the children, the grandchildren, and possibly the great-grandchildren of Averill Pratt and Maggie Pratt, I shall try to get as many facts told accurately concerning this family as I possibly can.
Averill Pratt and Maggie Holiday were married in 1891, but I do not know what month and day they were married.
Their children, in order of births, were:
Pearl A. Pratt, born June 9, 1892, married Zelda Watters. They have four children; namely, Hilda, who married Dr. William Temple, and who lives at Covington, Kentucky. They have no children. Keith, who married Mary Green. They have four children (three boys, Pat, Mike and Rodney, and one girl, Jean Lee), and live at Marion, Ohio. Frank Pratt, who never married and lives with his parents at South Point, Ohio. Wanda Pratt, who married Joe Hoy, and lives at Kalamazoo, Michigan. They have four children; two boys and two girls; namely, Shelley, Thomas, Susan and Joseph. The father, Joseph Hoy, is Athletic Director at Western Michigan College at Kalamazoo.
Going back now to listing the children of Averill and Maggie Pratt:
Nellie Pratt, born April 2e, 1894, died April 25, 1964. Married John A. Ashworth, who survives her and is living at Ironton, Ohio. They had no children.
John Earl Pratt, who married Edna Dean on December 24, 1928. They have two children, Margaret Anne and Dean. Margaret Anne married Ralph R. Kelley, and they have four children, Kayc, Kara, Mark and Laura. Ralph is a Pharmacist and they live at Boynton Beach, Florida. Dean married Barbara Metzger. They live at Sewanee, Tennessee, where he is studying for the ministry. They have three children; namely, Jennifer, Melinda, and Eric.
Now back to the children of Averill and Maggie Pratt:
Charles M. Pratt, born August 3, 1899; died December 21, 1972. He married Stella Draper. They have no children.
James Cart Pratt, married to Eddie Lynd. They have one son, John Cart, a Veterinarian, and two grandchildren, David and Eddie. They operate a dairy farm in Lawrence County, Ohio, five miles north of Huntington, West Virginia.
Jnez Pratt is a retired school teacher. She never married. She lives at 923 South Seventh Street, Ironton, Ohio.
Seventh and last child of Averill and Maggie Pratt is Arno Pratt of Winter Haven, Florida. He was formerly a school teacher, and is now a Methodist Minister. Married first to Nellie Smith. Second to Ernestine Jones. They have six children.
Now I shall try to tell the story of Marshall Pratt of Virginia, and how it happened that I finally learned about his war record and his association with George Washington in the French and Indian War.
A man named Surdine Paul came with Joshua Pratt to Lawrence County, Ohio, and they married two sisters named Forgey. There is even a rumor that they were cousins already, but I do not know whether or not that is true. About 1950, the time that I am writing, at least three generations of the Pratts and the Pauls had grown up in Lawrence County, Ohio. I was a lawyer, with offices in Ironton, Ohio, the County seat. There was a James J. Paul, Justice of the Peace, with offices in Chesapeake, just across the Ohio River from Huntington, West Virginia. James J. Paul was a grandson of Burdine Paul, as I was a great-grandson of Joshua Pratt. My father and James J. Paul were of the same generation and were great friends. The two families never forgot their relationship through the two Forgey sisters. The Village Council of Chesapeake had written me or called me to appear before them to give legal advice about some matter to come before them on that particular night. Jim Paul was at the Council meeting as a visitor or a mere spectator. He was about 85 years of age then. Just after the Council adjourned, I went over to him, shook hands, and sat down beside him to talk. We started talking about the Pratt and Paul relationship, and I asked him a question of this general import:
“Jim,, can you tell me what part of the State of Virginia the Pratts came from?” Jim Paul answered, “No, I can’t, but I can tell you something that would enable you to find out, if you care to check it. They got a Soldier’s Land Grant from the State of Virginia.”
There was one other thing that Jim Paul told me that night, which I am not sure whether I had ever heard before. He said that Joshua Pratt and Burdine Paul had stopped and worked at the salt mines in the Kanawha Valley, somewhere near Charleston. They worked several years and saved their money, and then used the money when they reached Ohio to buy land. They both bought rich creek bottom land in Lawrence County. I now know that Alexander Forgey, a brother to the two Forgey sisters that Joshua and Surdine married, also worked at the salt mines near Charleston; also saved his money, and also came on to Ohio and purchased rich farm land with his savings.
It is almost inconceivable that as interested as I always was in history and public affairs, generally, that I would have failed to immediately check the tip that Jim Paul gave me about the Soldier’s Land Grant.
But I was very busy practicing law and trying to raise and support a family. I did not have time to waste in writing letters about my ancestors.
But if I had suspected what I would find out, I would have written a letter, or maybe a dozen letters.
Finally,, by mere accident, I saw a book on a shelf in the County Clerk’s office at Winfield, West Virginia. It was titled: “VIRGINIA MILITARY LAND GRANTS”, and the author was a man named Symmes.
Symmes was a former State Auditor of the State of West Virginia. I took down the book and examined the Index, remembering at the same time what Jim Paul had told me about the “Soldier’s Land Grant”. There was only one “Pratt’, and only one “Paul” named in this Index. (Among the hundreds of names.) The two names which interested me were “Marshall Pratt” and “Hugh Paul”. Listed under those two names and fifty-eight other names was one Land Grant. It was called “The Savage Land Grant”, and consisted of 28,627 acres, and was granted by the State of Virginia to sixty soldiers of the French and Indian War, to compensate them for their part in the Battle of Great Meadows. John Savage was the name of a Captain who had been in command during the battle, and his name had been used simply to give the Grant a title.
There was another land grant to Marshall Pratt listed in the Symmes Index. I never did know for what service Marshall Pratt was given this latter grant of fifty acres. But the fifty acres were sold by Marshall Pratt to George Washington on April 14, 1774. Later, on October 30, 1780, the then Governor of Virginia, Benjamin Harrison, issued one land grant to George Washington covering 587 acres, which included this fifty acres which he had purchased from Marshall Pratt.
The Savage Land Grant, which was not put in writing until 1769 (fifteen years after the Battle of Great Meadows), was not at first divided into so many acres to each soldier so that he could tell what land was his. The whole boundary of 28,627 acres surveyed as one large tract. The chief surveyor was Sir William Crawford, who was later captured by the Indians and burned at the stake at Chillicothe.
Sometime in the year 1774, however, the owners of the entire tract met at Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon and agreed on a division of the entire Savage Land Grant into sixty separate tracts.
The date of April 14, 1774, which is given as the date that Marshall Pratt assigned his fifty acre grant to Washington, is very probably the time that the Savage Grant owners were at Mount Vernon to make their division. By checking this item further I may be able to learn just where Marshall was living at that time. I know where Marshall Pratt was born. Accomac County, Virginia, and I know from what county he came when he joined the Virginia Militia, when he volunteered to go to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley. It was Northampton County.
But there was a period of about twenty-seven years, from 1757 to about 1784, that I lost track of the whereabouts of Marshall Pratt. This thought may enable me to determine it.
I was really stirred up and excited about the Great Meadows Land Grant; especially when I learned that Great Meadows was just another name for Fort Necessity. Another thing that excited me was the fact that the “Savage Land Grant” included what was then the City of Huntington, West Virginia, which was just across the Ohio River from where I was born and raised.
But I started writing letters furiously. I soon got a copy of the Savage Land Grant. Then my wife and I went to Richmond and spent three days in the Archives Division, Public Library (State Library). We not only found the record as to when Marshall Pratt enlisted, and a resume of all of the events leading to the battle of Great Meadows or Fort Necessity which took place July 3, 1754, but we found a roll call of Woodards Company serving in that same war three years later, dated September 25, 1757.
This roll call gave the following information about Marshall Pratt:
Where born: Virginia
Size: 5 ft. 3 in.;
Remarks: Small Man.
Please note that this roll call was dated more than two years after the Battle of Allegheny when Braddock was defeated and killed, and more than three years after the battle of “Great Meadows”. Braddock’s defeat and death took place on July 8, 1755. Although I have made no effort to determine whether or not Marshall Pratt took part in the Battle of Allegheny, I am quite sure that he did for this reason. Washington did not appreciate a quitter. The fact that Washington put Pratt’s name in the list of honor men to be included in the Savage Land Grant, which did not occur until 1769, shows that Pratt was in the good graces of George Washington, and if Pratt had dropped out of the army before 1755, he would have dropped out of the good graces of George Washington before 1769.
My wife and I went on from Richmond down to Norfolk, crossed the Bay there and northward through Accomack and Northampton Counties and on to Baltimore, stopping on the way to learn what we could, which was not very much.
All this time, and for two or three years thereafter, I kept trying to think where I had heard the term ‘great meadows’.
The true fact as to when I had heard the term was that it was just after the return of my grandfather from a visit to his uncles, the Forgey brothers, in Indiana. Finally, after some two years, I was one day relating the entire story about Marshall Pratt to my brother, Arm, when he said to me, “Earl, it seems to me that if Pap had known that story, he would have told you.” It was than that I began searching my memory as to what Pap had really told me. Then it all came back to me. That was where and when I had first heard the term “Great Meadows.”
There is a small paperback book (125 pages) written by a man named Francis Russell and published by Harper & Rowe of New York and Evanston. Its title is “The French and Indian Wars”. It has a chapter entitled “The Ohio Country”, which gives the story about that portion of the French and Indian War fought in the Ohio Valley. That chapter includes Great Meadows and Braddock’s Defeat.