Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

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Our First Valentine’s Day

valentine back

A man of few words!

On our first Valentine’s Day together, before we were even engaged, Don started a tradition that he has continued throughout our marriage.  He often presents me with some sort of creative card, carefully thought out and tailored just for me.

The first year after we’d only been dating a few months, he bought a card that looked like this:

valentine front

Oh, no!

But because it would never have been proper to give an innocent BYU coed a card featuring naked people, he “dressed it up” like this:

valentine clothes

That’s better

And then finished the customization with the picket fence with our initials carefully carved in the heart shaped handle.

valentine fence

Valentine’s Day, 1973

And he still warms my heart!


What’s in a name?

Benoni Preston Pratt.

I’ve always found that a curious name, and one shared by my 3rd great grandfather (1821-1885), and his grandson, my great-grandfather.  As per the website “Think Baby Names,” the name Benoni is of Hebrew origin and means “son of my sorrow.”  I don’t have any idea if the older Benoni’s parents had a religious connection to that name, but since his father’s name was Hosea, also a Hebrew and Biblical name, it is possible.

As a side note, as a young man, my great-grandfather shortened his name to Nonie.  In the 1900 census, he is listed as Benoni, a 16 year old son of Lansing T. Pratt, but in December 1906, his marriage record shows him as Nonie, and all of his documents from that time forward list him as Nonie.

I’ve recently written some about the different life paths of Benoni and his son Lansing here, and although there are still a lot of blanks in the life story I’m piecing together, the assumption that Benoni Pratt was a prominent citizen of all the communities in which he lived, remains very probable.

Screenshot 2018-02-11 09.39.00

Cover page, History of Woodford County, Illinois, published 1910

In the book History of Woodford County [Illinois], published in 1910 I found this mention of Benoni on page 217.

The town of Cruger was platted May 15 1856 by Benoni P. Pratt.  It was named in honor of W.H. Cruger, who was vice-president and chief engineer of the railroad now known as the T.P. & W.  The road was completed as far as Cruger in 1854, and the next year continued farther east.  It was then that the first thots of a town were indulged in .  The first warehouse was built by Mr. Kellogg and later Mr. King also erected one.  The first store was opened by B.P. Pratt who came from Peoria.  A postoffice was established with William Flager, the station agent, as postmaster.  This postoffice was continued until August, 1909, when Cruger was attached to Eureka, as part of one of the rural routes.  F. J. Schreiber, whose death occurred a few years ago, was for more than forty years postmaster of Cruger,.  He was at that time the oldest acting postmaster in the United States in point of years of service.  The height of its business prosperity was reached when two general stores were in operation.

Benoni Preston Pratt died in 1885 in Chicago at the age of 63.  He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Warren, Jo Daviess, Illinois.

Pratt gravestone in Elmwood Cemetery

Benoni is buried with his second wife, Ariadne, and children Frank and Addie


Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Pratt, Lansing with sons

Lansing Taylor Pratt with sons Nonie and Robert

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.

B.P. Pratt promissory note

Benoni Pratt’s promissory note to his father-in-law

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.

Homestead Certificate

Letter confirming Lansing’s homestead venture

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.  

Pratt, Lansing & Bessie

Bessie Ella Pratt (daughter) and Lansing Taylor Pratt

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?

The Oldest Woman in Chicago Ascends

So read an article in a Chicago newspaper in late May, 1899.  My 4th great grandmother, Lucinda Silvey Pratt, lived to be 103 years old and was believed to be the oldest woman in Chicago at the time of her death.

Lucinda Silvey Pratt

Lucinda Silvey Pratt     5 May 1796 – 24 May 1899


Mrs. Lucinda Silvey Pratt, the oldest woman in Chicago, who has lived under the administrations from President Washington to that of McKinley, passed to her heavenly home, Wednesday morning at 4 o’clock, at the residence of her daughter Mrs. C.C. Bonney, in the Kenwood Apartment building, 17th Street and Kenwood Avenue.

Old age and a complication of ills was the cause of her demise. Mrs. Pratt was one hundred and three years old, having been born at Pittsfield, Mass. May 5, 1796. She married Hosea Pratt in 1821, by whom she had two children: Benoni Preston [my 3rd great grandfather], and Lydia A., who married our distinguished fellow citizen, Charles C. Bonney, August 16, 1855. Their children were Caroline L. (married to E. Marble); Charles L. (married to Margaret Ankeny of Clinton, Iowa); Florence P., and Lawton C. Bonney (married to Olive Baker of Chicago.)

Mrs. Pratt leaves three great-grandchildren: Valerian C. Bonney, Ada Bonney and Pauline Bonney, children of Charles L. Bonney. Last fall when Mr. and Mrs. Bonney moved from their old residence to their present home, Mrs. Pratt rode in a carriage from the western portion of the city to their new home in the southern portion, and took great delight in viewing the city.

Mrs. Pratt’s father was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and in the evening of her life it was one of Mrs. Pratt’s delights to recount the stirring tales of colonial days she had heard from her father. She lived in New England until forty years ago and well remembered the events of the war of 1812. Sixty years ago Mrs. Pratt’s husband died of cholera while an epidemic of the dread disease raged in the East. Coming to Chicago forty years ago, she has resided in this city ever since.

She was able to be up and about, however, until a few months ago. Much to her sorrow, she was obliged to receive the congratulations of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in bed on the anniversary of her one hundred and third birthday. She fully expected to be able to leave her bed again, but gradually sank until the end came peacefully.

Mrs. Pratt’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have grown up around her and call her blessed. Hers has been a remarkable life, not only in length of days, but in acts of loving kindness and charity extended to the poor and needy. Her funeral took place on yesterday; the Rev. L.P. Mercer of the New Jerusalem Church, officiating. The interment was at Graceland.

I find it very interesting that none of Benoni’s children or grandchildren are mentioned in this article, and I’m intrigued by the possible reasons behind that slight.  Perhaps his family wasn’t as “distinguished” as was the Bonney family . . .

Save the last dance for me

Dance photo (1)

Undated photo of a dance in North Ogden.
That young man in the upper center in front of the wooden box/pallet appears to be a very handsome Mark Berrett.

School and church dances were a big part of my dad’s high school years, and he and his peers used dance cards to plan those evenings.  A dance card was a booklet with a decorative cover and included on the inside pages dance titles, sponsoring organization, chaperones, and a list of those with whom the lady intended to dance.   Dance cards were used mainly at formal dances in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but continued in some high school settings until the early 1950s when Rock and Roll led to much more informal dances.


Dance Card for the North Ogden Harvest Ball held November 19, 1943

V. Persis Dewey’s 1918 pamphlet “Tips to Dancers: Good Manners for Ballroom and Dance Hall” explains proper etiquette for dance cards.

“The programs are distributed at the door, in the cloak room, or during a grand march. It is the duty of the man to make out the programs for the lady whom he has escorted to the dance and for himself. It is best to make out the programs all at once and as early in the evening as possible.

“In filling out a program, the man should write his name on the first line of his lady’s program, and her name on his. To indicate their dances, a double cross xx should be used.

“At a program dance where the men and women come separately, each one keeps his or her own program. When the man invites a lady to dance he writes his name on her program after the number they decide to dance together.”


Dance Card from the Easter Parade Dance
April 7, 1944


Note the catchy names  – no political correctness here!


I’m not sure if this card was Dad’s or his date’s, but it appears that the rules for dance cards had relaxed a bit since 1918.


More recently the expression “dance card” has been used figuratively, as when someone says, “pencil me in to your dance card,” or “my dance card is full” indicating interest or lack thereof in pursuing a relationship.

Uncommercial Travelers

On 20 May 1863 Eliza, her father John Brown, and her brother George left their village of West Lavington to begin their trip to Utah.  It took about two weeks to get to London and make preparations for their journey.  Their ship, The Amazon, was anchored in the Thames River and a group of 882 Saints went on board.


Passenger list from the Amazon – bound for New York.
The Brown family is listed about halfway down the page.

Emigrant ships full of travelers going to America were not an uncommon sight at the docks.  However, this ship caught the interest of the English writer, Charles Dickens, and he went aboard the ship before it sailed.  He was curious to know why and where such a large group of emigrants was going and to find out what was the motivation behind their travel.  Family history reports that among those Dickens interviewed were Eliza and George and their father. His impressions of his visit that day of June 4, 1863 appeared in his book, “The Uncommercial Traveler.”  (And whether or not it really is our Eliza who is featured, the link is to an excerpt from the book that is very interesting and worth at least a quick read.)

The following excerpt is the conversation as Dickens published in his book.

“But nobody is in an illtemper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody swears an oator uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed, nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck in evercorner where it is possible to find a few square feet to kneel, crouch, or lie in, people, in everunsuitable attitude for writing, are writing letters.

“Now, I have seen emigrant ships before this day in June. And these people are so strikingldifferent from all other people in like circumstances whom I have ever seen, that I wonder aloud, Whawould a stranger suppose these emigrants to be!
The vigilant bright face of the weatherbrowned captain of the”Amazon” is at my shoulder, anhe says, ‘What, indeed! The most of these came aboard yesterday evening. They came from various partof England in small parties that had never seen one another before. Yet they had not been a couple ohours on board, when they established their own police, made their own regulations, and set their owwatches at all the hatchways. Before nine oclock, the ship was as orderly and as quiet as a manofwar.’

“Similarly on this same head, the Uncommercial underwent discomfiture from a Wiltshire laborer: simple fresh colored farm laborer, of eightandthirty, [Eliza’s father, John] who at one time stood beside him looking on anew arrivals, and with whom he held this dialogue:

“UNCOMMERCIAL: Would you mind my asking you what part of the country you come from?
     WILTSHIRE: Not a bit. Theer [there]! (Exultingly) Ive worked all my life o Salisbury Plain, righunder the shadder o Stonehenge. You mightnt think it, but I haive [have].
UNCOMMERCIAL: And a pleasant country too.
     WILTSHIRE: Ah! Tis a pleasant country.
UNCOMMERCIAL: Have you any family on board?
     WILTSHIRE: Two children, boy and gal. I am a widderer [widower], I am, and Im going out alonger mboy and gal. Thats my gal, and shes a fine gal o sixteen (pointing out the girl who is writing bthe boat). Ill go and fetch my boy. Id like to show you my boy. (Here Wiltshire disappears, anpresently comes back with a big shy boy of twelve, in a superabundance of boots, who is not at all glato be presented.) He is a fine boy too, and a boy fur [for] to work! (Boy having undutifully bolted,Wiltshire drops him.)
UNCOMMERCIAL: It must cost you a great deal of money to go so far, three strong.
     WILTSHIRE: A power of money. Theer [There]! Eight shillen a week, eight shillen a week, eighshillen a week, put by out of the weeks wages for ever so long.
UNCOMMERCIAL: I wonder how you did it.
     WILTSHIRE:recognising [recognizing] in this a kindred spirit). See there now! I wonder how I donit! But what with a bit o subscription heer [here], and what with a bit o help theer [there], it werdone at last, though I dont hardly know how. Then [p. 227] it were unfortnet for us, you see, as wgot kep in Bristol so longnigh a fortnight, it wereon accounts of a mistake wi Brother HallidaySwallerd up money, it did, when we might have come straight on.
UNCOMMERCIAL:(delicately approaching Joe Smith). You are of the Mormon religion, of course?
     WILTSHIRE: (confidently). O yes, Im a Mormon. (Then reflectively). Im a Mormon. (Then, lookinround the ship, feigns to descry a particular friend in an empty spot, and evaded the Uncommercial forevermore.)”

Maybe we really are published!

Weekly Family History Calendar

I’m going to try a new weekly feature that I saw on another family history blog.  Each week I’ll post a calendar of births and marriages in our family history, and I’ll try to include a little information about those individuals.


February 14, 1878 – My great-grandparents through my father’s paternal line, Annie Elizabeth Toone and Richard Thomas Berrett were married on Valentine’s Day, 139 years ago.


Richard Thomas Berrett and Annie Elizabeth on their wedding day, 1878


February 18, 1820 – My 3rd great-grandfather through my mother’s maternal line, Taylor Buker was born in Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada.  I have no pictures and very little information about him, but I’ll keep searching!

Let’s celebrate!

RootsTech 2017


No posts this week, because I’m at RootsTech!

I’ll be back next week, hopefully full of new and fabulous ideas about sharing our family history.

170 years ago today

In honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday,
I’m repeating a post from my personal blog.

Eliza Brown White Brown

For as long as I can remember, I have giggled at this great grandmother’s name (my father’s maternal grandmother).  After all, “Eliza Brown White Brown” has quite a rhythm – she was born Eliza Brown, married John White, then married Thomas Brown.  But after reading – really reading – her history, my feelings have been focused, and her unusual name has become a standard of hard work and perseverance and deserves my greatest respect.

As I read the account of her life, I found myself studying her picture and pondering.  How I wish I had known her!  My heart was touched when I thought about that little girl living in an unfamiliar home as a housekeeper and nanny when just a child herself.  What a heartbreak that must have been for her parents, and what a difficult experience for her.

In honor of her birthday, the following is an excerpt from her history written by her son, Nephi James Brown, detailing her early years.  In later posts I’ll share events of her adult life.  She truly was a remarkable woman.

Eliza was born in the country town of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England– the daughter of John Brown and Sarah Mundy.  When she was about three years old, her mother died of a sudden illness at just 34 years old.  Eliza went to live with her maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Mundy, who were very kind to her.  About the first things she remembered while she was living with them was having a little red chair and two or three very meager toys to play with.  The grandparents were not really in a position to keep her very long.  About a year later, Eliza’s father married Jane Wilkins, and Eliza then returned home to live with them.  When she was about five years old, she began to go to school in a little thatched roof schoolhouse where the morning was spent in reading, writing, and spelling.  In the afternoon she was taught sewing.  Owing to the poor circumstances of her father, she was only permitted to go to school a short time after she was eight years old.  It seems incredible that she ever learned to read and write as well as she could during her lifetime with such a meager amount of school.  At that time in England it seemed that child labor was encouraged rather than restricted, unlike later years when they were compelled to keep children in school until 14 years of age.  Eliza always greatly regretted that she only had about two and a  half years of schooling.

Her first employment commenced when she was a little past eight years old in a silk factory [winding silk threads on little spools] – hard work, and long hours for the unbelievable small amount of 10 cents a day – a ten hour day – one cent an hour – 6 days a week.  She continued her work at the silk factory for about 9 months.  She paid 12 cents a week for a place to sleep.

Eliza next went to Bristol as a servant girl for her Aunt Ann Dyer.  She lived there and at two other places in Bristol, working hard for her board and lodging.  She received however, in addition thereto, a salary of 12 cents a week. At the last two places, her work was very hard, and food in very scanty quantities.  From Bristol, she returned to West Lavington and worked in a bakery, where she was given quite fair treatment.

Old houses and church in Potterne, England – 1898
from ecard

From there she went to Potterne and worked in a grocery store.  Here she endured the greatest hardships of any place she worked in England.  Besides her daily grinding routine of hard work, she had the care of four children, including a pair of twins.  Her living consisted of only bread and molasses, and was dealt out to her in meager quantities.  Her strength was so reduced, and her undernourishment through lack of food so apparent, she left and went back to her father and stepmother.  After regaining her health and strength at home through having sufficient food, she again went out into servitude.  At one home where she worked for a period of 6 months she was given her board and room, and in addition an increased salary of 24 cents a week.

Eliza worked at the silk factory and a driving, unrelenting housework for six years, from the time she was eight years old until she was fourteen.  She left the driving routine which had hounded her youthful years in March, 1861 – and also the harsh discipline of her hard-hearted bosses, and returned to her father’s home to live.  Her prior employers had demanded all work from her without giving her any time to play.  This change [move home] was made necessary because of the death of her stepmother, Jane Wilkins Brown.  Eliza kept house for her father and her brother George, , a rented house in the beautiful peaceful country town of West Lavington for a little more than two years.

Granddaughter, Myrtle B. Maathuis (my aunt) recalled that Grandma had marks on the back of her hands where she had been whipped for picking up scraps from under the table at one of the early places where she worked.

Granddaughter Afton B. DeHaan related that Grandma told her that while working in homes the days were hard and she had very little food.  In one home she had to sleep in the attic.  The lady of the house would give her one slice of “current bread” a day.  She [the lady] would butter it, then scrape the butter off – “bread and butter scrape.”

I am humbled.

Stella and Ezra


Sheet music cover featuring Charles K. Harris

In 1891, Charles K. Harris – a well regarded American songwriter of popular music – published “After The Ball.” The song is a classic waltz, and the lyrics tell the story of why a older man never married.  He explained to his niece that he saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball, and he refused to listen to her explanation.  Many years later, after the woman had died, he discovered that the man in question was actually his sweetheart’s brother.  So sad!

“After the Ball” became the most successful song of its era, selling two million copies of sheet music in 1892.  Like many of the popular songs of that time, whose topics were frequently babies, separation, and death, it is a typical sentimental ballad that made a big impact on American citizens of that time.

As sweethearts in the early 1890s, it is possible that Ezra and Estella may have danced to this popular waltz during their courtship, perhaps thinking how lucky they were to not have had that kind of a misunderstanding.  I don’t know why the Widger family moved from New York to Michigan, but in 1890 they were living in Kingston, Michigan, the same little community where Ezra Roberts had grown up and still lived with his family.  Somehow, Ezra and Stella met, fell in love and were married on 22 June 1893 in Kingston.

Version 2

Marriage record of Ezra N. Roberts and Estella Widger – last entry

Ezra was 30 and Stella still several months short of her 19th birthday when they married, but in spite of the age difference, their marriage seems to have been a happy one.  They had 13 children over 20 years.  Wow!


Ezra Nahum  and Estella Jane Widger Roberts

My Gram adored her parents and had many happy memories in spite of the fact that they were a very poor family.  In the weeks and days prior to her death from cancer, Gram often “talked” to her parents and at times would call out, “Mama, Papa, help me.”


Stella and Ezra


To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. Chinese Proverb

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