Contained below is a condensed history of the Pratt-Northam Foundation. It is taken from the Journal & Republican in Lowville, New York. In order to get the entire story from Pratt-Northam Foundation: A History by Robert C. Rich, please contact one of the many libraries in the Black River Valley, from Boonville in the South to Carthage in the North, .
Also, please read the article, written by John A. Beach, taken from the Pratt-Northam History book. It gives an insight into the Founding of the Pratt-Northam, Hazel Northam, and Walter Pratt; titled Recollections of Walter Pratt, Hazel Northam, and their Foundation.
Fulfilling Community Needs...and Dreams
C. Walter Pratt wouldn't be comfortable sitting on the Board of Directors of the Pratt-Northam Foundation, the private, charitable organization that carries his family name.
The Foundation has provided over $3 million in financial aid to good causes since its inception 36 years ago. It has become the 20th century community benefactor, replacing those philanthropic jpgts that once came from well-to-do factory owning families that hired the local work force.
Robert Rich, retired editor and publisher of the Carthage Republican Tribune, has written a history of the Pratt-Northam Foundation. In it he chronicles the people and events leading to the formation of the foundation with a focus on the late C. Walter Pratt, a man, he describes as having a reputation for "penuriousness."
"In his native Boonville he is remembered as one who steadfastly refused to contribute to any charity or fund drive," writes Mr. Rich.
Fortunately for people of the Black River communities of Boonville, Lowville and Carthage, Mr. Pratt dictated no control over dispersal of his estate. He left no will and was survived by only one relative. These facts eventually put into place an unusual turn of events, resulting in the creation of an endowment - a small fortune - a jpgt to be shared with generations of people who live where C. Walter Pratt once worked.
Since incorporating 34 years ago, revenues from investments have resulted in the Foundation granting over $3 million in charitable community projects. These grants have resulted in quality of life consequences for communities along the Black River, consequences that have touched the lives, in one way or another, of almost every resident.
Mr. Pratt's reaction to the Foundation's philanthropy would be interesting since he chose to live a reclusive life with very few friends. Other than a photo of him as a young boy with his bicycle, there doesn't exist a picture of the man that could be included in Mr. Rich's history.
C. Walter Pratt was the last of his family, a family that during the 20th century, had become successfully involved in the paper making industry in the north Country. C. Walter Pratt was the ninth generation of a family dating back to 1636 Lieutenant William and Elizabeth Clark Pratt who were early settlers in Massachusetts.
The only child of Charles Walter Pratt (8th generation) and Julia Northam Pratt, C. Walter Pratt grew up in Boonville in the family home on Schuyler Street (Julia Pratt died in 1920 and C. Walter Pratt's father remarried Iva Drake Bowie in 1923). Today, the Boonville home is the site of the Dodge-Pratt-Northam Arts and Community Center. His grandparents were Cyrus W. Pratt and Harriety Coffey Pratt, residents of Greig. Cyrus Pratt was a tanner and currier who also had a leather store in New York City.
Charles W. Pratt (father of Walter Pratt)
The Pratt estate began when C. Walter's father, Charles Walter Pratt, went west where he made money in mining and in the oil boom in Pennsylvania during the 1880s. Returning to New York State, C. Walter's father acquired large tracts of land in the Adirondacks and Vermont. He was successful at shipping spars to New York City and eventually became one of the principals, along with Gordias H. P. Could, in the formation of the Gould Paper company in Lyons Falls in 1892.
Mr. Pratt later became involved in the Island Paper Company of Carthage, the Deer River Power Company, built in 1911, and in various business ventures with John E. Moyer with whom he formed Moyer & Pratt Paper Co. in Lyonsdale in 1923.
Charles Pratt married Julia Northam, daughter of Charles Northam, Port Leyden, in June 1886. It was their son, C. Walter Pratt, who eventually took over the family business interest. When C. Walter died intestate in 1961, lawyers for the estate, Bond, Schoeneck & King of Syracuse, searched for heirs. The sole survivor was a cousin, Hazel Northam. Miss Northam was a resident of Brooklyn and a successful undertaker and business person in her own right. In 1965, four years after her cousin's death and her retirement, the State of New York declared her the sole heir of $3.15 million left by C. Walter Pratt.
Miss Northam had achieved financial success and considerable reputation in the funeral business, but she was overwhelmed with the funds of the Pratt estate which were in addition to her already sufficient personal resources.
The Foundation suggested by Bond, Schoeneck & King lawyer Lyle Hornbeck. He recalls this anecdote in the history of just how the foundation became a reality:
Hazel wouldn't see the Foundation as a vehicle of her generosity as a way for Walter's money to do some good.
John Beach, who as a young lawyer worked for the same Syracuse law firm and who in 1962 drew up the Foundation's charter, remembers Walter Pratt as a decent man.
Mr. Beach remembers once, when traveling with him between his Utica Office and his Island Paper Company on Tannery Island at Carthage that they stopped at the little hotel at Potter's Corners, Route 26.:
The Foundation, created at the direction of and funded from the estate of Hazel Northam, is governed by a board of directors. Its first directors were Miss Northam; Henry Northam Haberer and G. Byron Bowen, both of Lowville; Leland J. Bayley, North Syracuse, Lyle W. Hornbeck, Howard H. Cannon and John A. Beach, Syracuse.