Frederick and Cordelia Pratt

Frederick Pratt 1815 - 1888

Cordelia Pratt 1825 - 1903

She Lived to See the First Day of the New Year

Mrs. Cordelia Pratt, one of Cleveland’s oldest and well-known residents, died yesterday at her residence, No. 49 Tracy street. Mrs. Pratt was the widow of the late F.B. Pratt and the mother of Dr. F. D. Pratt, of this city. At the time of her death Mrs. Pratt was seventy-seven years of age. She was born in New England, her family, the Ponds, having come to Massachusetts in 1620.

In 1840 she was married at Aurora, N.Y., to Mr. Pratt and immediately afterward they came to Cleveland, or rather to Ohio City, as the territory west of the Cuyahoga River was then denominated. They built a house on Tracy street and in this house Mrs. Pratt resided until her death. Her husband was very prominent in the affairs of Ohio City, serving a term as its Mayor. He was also editor of an abolitionist paper published at the time. Mrs. Pratt was also strongly in favor of the anti-slavery movement, and their home became the headquarters of local abolitionists. General Benjamin Wade was often entertained there, as was James G. Birney, the first abolitionist candidate for the Presidency.

The home of the Pratts was for many years one of the stations of the famous “underground railway,” for the protection of escaping Negroes. During the Civil War Mrs. Pratt was an active member of the Sanitary Commission, an organization for the relief of Union soldiers.

Mrs. Pratt was very widely known throughout Cleveland. She was a member of Rebekah Lodge, the Ladies Auxiliary of Memorial Post, and the Lorain Street Methodist Church. Her death due to paralysis came after a long illness. The funeral will be held at 1:30 o’clock, standard time, on Saturday from her late home, No. 49 Tracy Street.”

This obituary describes the life of two early residents of the Cleveland area, their involvement not only with local concerns but also with significant national issues and people of the times in which they lived. The Pratts were involved, not just as onlookers but as active participants in local government, the abolition of slavery, concern for the poor, and relief to Civil War soldiers.

Cordelia Louisa Pond was the sister of Joseph and Josiah Pond, twin brothers who are buried at Monroe Street Cemetery. (See #21, the Pond Family) Lyman and Betsey Pond, parents of Cordelia, Joseph and Josiah, are also at rest with their twin sons. Cordelia met and married Frederick Benson Pratt in 1840 and moved to Ohio City. From records it appears that they gave birth to only one child, Frederick Dwight Pratt.

F.B. Pratt was, by trade a patternmaker. Records do not indicate his ownership of a pattern making company so it would seem that he was an employee, making a daily living but using his time to support his beliefs and his community. By 1844 F.B. was a member and Secretary of the Liberty Club in Cleveland. This organization espoused the principles of the Liberty Party, a third political party in addition to the Democrats and Whigs, that was organized by abolitionists. The cause of abolition had grown throughout the 1830s and some abolitionists came to believe that it would help their cause if they formed a new political party that could offer candidates for national election. The Liberty Party was formed and in 1840 and 1844 they ran James Birney as their candidate for president. Birney, a former Alabama plantation owner, had emancipated his slaves in 1833 and endured both persecution and financial hardship for his views. The Liberty Party’s slogan was “Vote as you Pray and Pray as you Vote.” The party’s program called for emancipation in the territories and the District of Columbia, and termination of interstate slave trade. Birney scored a microscopic percentage of the vote in 1840. The election of 1844 pitted James K. Polk against Henry Clay and the abolitionist candidate, James Birney. Polk won the election by a slight edge over Clay. Birney polled 2.3% of the votes. Had he not run, it is likely that Clay would have become president.


*(from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History) *

The contribution that Clevelanders made to the cause of black emancipation was related to two geographic factors: the location of the city in the Puritan New England environment of the Western Reserve, and its position on Lake Erie opposite the shores of Canada, destination of many hundreds of fugitives from the slave South. The village, town, and city that Cleveland became during the antebellum years did not wholly reflect the hard piety and humanitarian zeal for which the surrounding counties of Yankee settlers were long renowned. Instead, Cleveland was like most other fast-growing northern centers of trade: crass, money-conscious, pragmatic, and chauvinistic about Flag, Work, and Progress. Clevelanders were generally skeptical of plans to rearrange society, but like most northerners they had little regard for slavery as a system. In time they came to despise the slaveholders' arrogance and pretensions to political power.

Although Cleveland did not rally to the cause of root-and-branch abolitionism, its record of sympathy and help for the black man's plight in America matched, if not exceeded, that of any other metropolitan center in North America, with the exception, perhaps, of Boston and Toronto.

If abolition gained few converts, less radical approaches took root along the Cuyahoga. Most important was the operation of the "Underground Railroad." The completion of the Ohio Canal in 1832 enhanced the strategic importance of the city in this regard, though the numbers assisted to freedom, especially by whites, were far lower than legend long claimed.” The Pratts were involved in this assistance as were others such as Needham Standart, Alfred Greenbriar, and Rev. James Thome, all of who are at rest in Monroe Street Cemetery and are included in this compendium. It is also interesting to note that F.B. Pratt was born in Utica, New York, another center for the development of the abolitionist movement.

Political Anti-slavery

In 1848 the Whig candidate was Zachary Taylor while the Democrats nominated Lewis Cass of Michigan. There had been much dissention within the Democratic Party and followers of Martin Van Buren had split off due to their dislike of Cass’ policies when he had been Secretary of War under Andrew Jackson. The abolition movement which had generated the Liberty Party and Van Buren’s supporters met in Buffalo, NY, in August of 1848. The platform that came out of this convention appealed to the Liberty Party and anti-slavery Whigs. It opposed slavery in the territories and the District of Columbia, called for free western lands to homesteaders, and endorsed internal improvements and a protective tariff. The platform concluded with the slogan “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, Free Men.” While the “Free Soilers” had no impact on the election, they had served notice that a critical number of northern voters opposed the addition of any more slave States to the Union. Subsequent to this show of hands, congress admitted no more slave states.

The True Democrat of 1848, a Cleveland area newspaper, reported:

Enthusiastic Meeting in Ohio City – At a meeting of the FREE SOILERS of Ohio City, in the City Hall, on the evening of Sept. 22d. E.L. Stevens was called to the chair and F.B. PRATT chosen Secretary. . . Dr. Finney, editor of the Spirit of Freedom was called out for a speech, and addressed the large audience for an hour in his peculiarly interesting and eloquent manner. His life-like descriptions of the positions of Cass and Taylor, and his well-timed anecdotes, drew forth thunders of applause. . . After three long and loud cheers for Free Soil, Free Speech and Free Men, the meeting adjourned.

Neither Cleveland nor Cuyahoga County played a decisive role in the development of 3rd-party antislavery radicalism. Joshua R. Giddings, the dynamic though eccentric antislavery Whig congressman, represented Cleveland throughout the 1840s, but his base of strength lay in the rural villages. In 1852, despite the Ohio legislators' gerrymandering to oust Giddings by removing Cuyahoga County from his district, Clevelanders helped elect Edward Wade, another staunchly reform-minded Ashtabulan. Yet the two Free-Soilers, Wade and his brother, Benjamin, elevated to the Senate in 1851, and Giddings were careful to restrict their reform leanings to such popular matters as "Free soil" in the Mexican Cession territories and in "Bleeding" Kansas.

The probabilities are that F.B. Pratt continued to be involved with the cause of abolition and Free Soil but community service was also of interest to him. He was certainly politically active in Ohio City and later in Cleveland. The obituary of Cordelia Pratt at the beginning of this biography mentions that F.B. had served as Mayor of Ohio City. Other than the obituary no evidence has been found of this, however, in the daily newspaper True Democrat from March 26, 1850, an article on “Ohio City Election” showed these results – For Mayor, Thomas Burnham, For Councilmen, 2nd Ward, J. Kirkpatrick, F.B PRATT. So F.B. served on the Ohio City Council for at least one term.

Caring for Others

The 1861 Cleveland City Directory shows that F.B. Pratt was a Director of the City Infirmary along with W.J. Warner and J.C. Black. In 1816 Ohio enacted a law permitting county commissioners to operate poorhouses for all destitute persons. Since the Cuyahoga County commissioners did not establish a poorhouse, the city of Cleveland set up their own. It was a 1 ½ story wooden structure built in 1827 near the Erie Street Cemetery. With the completion of the Ohio Canal and the continued population growth in the city, the original poorhouse became inadequate and overburdened. This decrepit building was finally replaced in 1855 by an infirmary built near the location of its descendant, Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital. In the 1863 City Directory a description of the infirmary says “. . . This building was erected in 1855, and is 68 by 158 feet, five stories high, including basement and attic. A part of the building is used as a House of Refuge, for vagrant children of both sexes, where, under the influence of moral and religious teaching, with a special regard to inculcating habits of industry and self-reliance, many of them, it is to be hoped, may be reclaimed, and become worthy members of society. Cost of the building, $25,000.” The Infirmary Board made rules for management, signed contracts, and allowed purchases. Directors served a three-year term. The infirmary housed paupers, the insane, “idiots,” and children too young to be apprenticed, and provided care for unmarried, pregnant women.

By the beginning of the Civil War, Cordelia Pratt was 36 years old. No doubt that she had been responsible for the care of escaping slaves that found refuge in the Pratt Home and tending to the needs of her family. Her brothers Joseph and Josiah had come to Ohio City in the late 1850s, it is believed. When Josiah was stricken with typhoid fever in 1864, he was cared for by Cordelia in the Pratt home at 49 Tracy Street (West 20th Street). Her father, Lyman Pond, was also living with her at his death in 1882. The probabilities are that Cordelia’s mother, Betsey Pond who died in 1875 in Cleveland, also lived with her. The Pratt’s had built the house on Tracy and are recorded living there as early as 1861. Cordelia’s concern for others led her to become active with the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.

The Soldiers’ Aid Society of Northern Ohio, April 1861-November 1868, part of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, was organized as the Ladies Aid Society to assist soldiers serving in the Civil War. With the national organization, it demonstrated the potential contribution of philanthropy in wartime. A group of women from various Cleveland churches first met as the Ladies Aid Society on April 20, 1861, and organized a "blanket raid" to collect quilts and blankets for troops being mustered at Camp Taylor. On October 16, 1861, the society joined with other benevolent groups to form the Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio. Financed by private donations, the organization cared for the sick and wounded, provided ambulance and hospital service, solicited clothing and medical supplies, and sent food to soldiers in the field throughout the Civil War. The society established a distribution center at 95 Bank (W. 6th) St. In February 1864, it organized the Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair, which raised over $78,000. These funds allowed the society to establish a depot hospital in Cleveland. Following the end of hostilities, the society conducted an Employment & Free Claims agency for returning veterans before it ceased operations.

Frederick Dwight Pratt

Frederick Dwight Pratt, son of F.B. and Cordelia, was born March 8, 1847 in Ohio City. As a youth he painted scenery for the Cleveland Opera and became interested in photography. That interest was a natural offshoot of the Pond family interest in photography. Both Joseph and Josiah Pond shared that interest but, more importantly, it was the interest and life’s work of F.D.’s uncle, Charles Pond, who was a professional photographer in Buffalo, New York. (For more information on Charles Pond, see #21, the Pond Family.) Through the 1861 City Directories, F.D.’s occupation is shown as a photographer.

Though he was only seventeen at the time, F.D. enlisted in the Union Army on May 2, 1864. He served as a private in Company D, 150th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was discharged August 23, 1864.

F.D. married Isadore MacDonald. Isadore, or Dora as she was more usually called, was born in 1856 in Milan, Ohio, but not a lot more is known about her. Pratt family information says that she was an orphan and that “she was dropped off by a woman, perhaps an actress or performer, at an orphanage somewhere in the Cleveland or Sandusky area. She was dressed in furs and appeared to have ‘come from money’.” The date of their marriage is also unknown, but F.D. and Dora gave birth to six children: Frederick Edward, born 1875 (Died at age 1 year 2 months 15 days), Harry Benson, born 1877 (Died 1956), Isadore Louise, born 1879 (Died 1962), Carrie Ada, born 1881 (Died 1947), Lucy Ann, born 1886 (Died at age 2), and Clarence Dwight, born 1884 (Died at age 5).

During the time that F.D. was a photographer, he apparently became interested in medicine and must have been educated in a medical school or by apprenticeship with a practicing doctor. The 1882 City Directory lists him as a doctor boarding at 49 Tracy Street. His specialty was osteopathy. By the time of his death from heart disease in 1915, he had retired from medicine and moved to Richfield Township, Ohio, where, in the 1910 census, he is shown to be a “farmer.” His death certificate lists him as being divorced but when this occurred is not yet known. Dora passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1922 and her death certificate shows her to be a widow. She is also shown to be “Retired” but what her occupation was is not listed.