Guess who’s coming to dinner?
I am confident that Lansing Taylor Pratt, my 2nd great grandfather, has a story that I would love to hear over the dinner table! Following is an overview of what I’ve learned.
Lansing was born in 1850 in Troy, Rensselaer, New York. He is listed as an infant on the 1850 census of that location living with his parents, Benoni and Caroline Wing (Taylor) Pratt, his father’s sister, Lydia Pratt and his grandmother, Lucinda Silvey Pratt. Benoni has no occupation listed, but noting the occupations of the neighbors (clergyman, jeweler, merchant, clerk) I can conclude that he was a professional of some kind. All of the neighbors were in the 35 year-old age group with young families, so it appears that they lived in a well to do neighborhood of young ambitious professionals.
In September of 1850, when Lansing was just a few months old, his mother Caroline died. His father, Benoni, married Ariadne Mann in 1852 in Dedham, Massachusetts, and in 1854 his half-brother, Frank was born in Massachusetts. I have no indication what took Benoni to Massachusetts, but after marrying Ariadne, they made their home there for a few years.
Sometime between Frank’s birth in 1854 and 1860, the family moved to Illinois. The census of 1860 locates the family in Warren, Jo Daviess, Illinois. Lansing was 10 and had two younger brothers, Frank and Harry (who was born in Illinois during that year.) Benoni’s sister, Lydia, married in 1855 and moved to Chicago; his mother Lucinda moved with her, so they were no longer in the household. The census indicates that Benoni was a merchant, and the family had a servant living with them. As in the 1850 census, their neighbors are young professionals, and many of them have household help, which supports the idea that he was an ambitious professional who was doing well financially.
In October of 1855, Benoni borrowed $2000 from his father-in-law, J.N.E Mann, with a promise to repay the loan with 10% interest. In 1875, while living in Chicago, Illinois, Benoni applied for a patent for an improved sewing machine caster. These clues indicate to me that he continued to have a successful personal and business life. He died in 1885 in Chicago.
Lansing’s life, however, took a different route. By 1870, Lansing had moved to Rush, Jo Daviess, Illinois, and was working as a farm hand for the George Wing family. He is on the 1870 census twice – in July, living with his parents in Warren, and in August living in Rush with the Wing family, perhaps relatives. Lansing’s maternal grandmother was Caroline Wing, so it is possible that there is a family connection.
The 1880 census shows Lansing at age 30 and single, living with the George Gans family in Wisner, Cuming, Nebraska. He worked as a servant and farm laborer for the family whose residence is noted as Township 23, Range 5 East, so they may have homesteaded that land.
In December 1881, Lansing homesteaded his own piece of land in Long Pine, Nebraska. He lived on the land about 2 months, cultivated one acre, built a house valued at about $60, but relinquished the land on 25 September 1882.
By 1883, Lansing married Ella C. Wood of Wisconsin, in a yet undetermined location. Their first child Nonie Preston Pratt (my great-grandfather) was born in Frankfort, Kansas in 1884, but they settled in Michigan, where the rest of their children were born. Ella died in Turner, Arenac, Michigan in 1899, and Lansing remained in the area until at least 1920, as he in on the census in Michigan for the years 1900 – 1920.
In 1900 he lived with his children working as a day laborer in Mason, Arenac, Michigan; in 1910 he lived in Nunda, Cheboygan, Michigan and worked as an employee for a widow (who a year later became his 2nd wife in a very short marriage); and in 1920 he lived with his oldest son in Flint, Genesee, Michigan, and worked as a laborer.
Lansing moved to Grants Pass, Oregon and bought a small piece of land in April 1922. In a letter to my mother, Aunt Gladys Slattery, Lansing’s granddaughter, wrote, “I’m not sure when Grandpa went to Oregon, but I remember that the family chipped in for his fare, because he said he was gong to Oregon, if he had to go on horseback. I remember Dad (Nonie P. Pratt) saying that when he went out to Oregon when Grandpa was sick, he told the man that was living with Grandpa, that if they would bury him and do what the family would otherwise do, he could have the property.” He died in Oregon in April 1923.
The lives of this Pratt family followed two very different patterns. Father, Benoni, pursued his business interests, eventually settling in Chicago where he lived an upper-middle class lifestyle. He was successful, and his children from his second marriage followed his lead, remaining in the Chicago area pursuing successful business careers. The son Lansing, however, never seemed to establish a career or preferred employment.
I have so many questions about Lansing’s life!
Wouldn’t you love to join us for dinner and listen to his story?