Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pratt Migration-Travel and Transport V

Young William Bond Pratt arrived in Philadelphia from Vermont in 1843. By 1850 he had found, wooed and wed Elizabeth King. Warren was born in 1851, Horace in 1853, then they lost a girl at 8 months in 1856. Our ancestor Wilmer was born in 1858.
To all appearances, according to his biographies, he was a successful contractor, builder and businessman, but he suffered some kind of health problems that caused his doctors to warn him that it would be fatal for him to remain in the Philadelphia climate. It was therefore decided that the Pratts would leave Philadelphia and Elizabeth's family behind and go to California and join his brother Ithemar.
The decision was made to emigrate during 1859. That meant that beyond Omaha travel would have to be by wagon train. It would be 10 years before the transcontinental railroad would be finished. Communication would be by U.S.Mail carried in stage coaches. The Pony Express did not start until 1860, and the cross-continent telegraph not until 1861. Thus the conditions of their travel in 1859 would be about the same as in 1849 when the Gold Rush to California started. I assume brother Ithemar was a "Forty-niner".
Note to the Woodruffs: My great grandfather Newton R. Woodruff and his brothers left their women and children on the farm in Berrien County and spent three years in California during the Gold Rush.
I am sure that the first leg of the Pratts' journey would have been by railroad. I have pulled off the Internet an 1857 map of the Pennsylvania Railroad showing their system which then went as far west as Omaha. I am trying to picture in my mind's eye this prosperous, well dressed couple with three little kids saying a tearful goodbye to her folks and boarding a train in Philadelphia, bound for the end of the line in far off Nebraska. There they presumably would convert themselves into a pioneer family ready to join a wagon train to cross the plains, deserts and mountains to California. The pre-Civil War era passenger cars were no air conditioned Pullmans, but they were a lot more luxurious than the covered wagons they would be traveling cross-country in.
No doubt they had studied diligently the manuals then available instructing about such things as packing for a 110 day trip, wagon train cookery, how to deal with the Mormons etc. Fortunately for us, when they got to Omaha they learned that Ithemar had died (there must have been a letter waiting) thus the whole expedition was aborted and they took a train back east and somehow ended up in Niles, Michigan.
Folks, that was another close one. If Ithemar hadn't croaked and if they hadn't got the word before they headed out across the plains, Wilmer would have been in California when the Bartram girls showed up in Hagar Township.  
In Niles they had the twins Orson and Oscar. Finally in 1864 they had Adelbert, after which the family settled in Hagar Township and there Wilmer and his brothers grew up.
 I think the move would have been by boat down the St. Joseph River and up the Paw Paw River to Riverside. The alternative would have been a shuttle by land in horse-drawn wagons or ox carts over the miserable township roads that existed at that time.
 The vessels would probably have been a flat boat pulled by a small river steamer. If the Paw Paw was not navigable due to sand bars or floodwood, they could have unloaded on the Benton Harbor side of the St. Joseph and hauled to Hagar from there.
The Pratts must have used oxen in Berrien County for there were still two or three ox yokes in existence when Vince sold the old family place this year.
When Elizabeth went back to Philadelphia in 1876 to visit her family and the Centennial Exposition she of course traveled by train. Perhaps she rode in a Pullman since those luxuious sleeping cars were in use by then.
Next: How the Bartram sisters got from New York to Michigan.

Emailed Nov. 2

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