The following is a short historic account on C. Walter Pratt's life. In order to get the whole story, stop by one of the many Black River Valley, from Boonville in the South to Carthage in the North, Libraries to get The Pratt-Northam Foundation: A History.
C. Walter Pratt (named for his father, he always eschewed his first name, Charles) was born March 6, 1888 in Boonville, son of Charles Walter and Julia Northam Pratt. Educated in Boonville and Carthage, he defied his father's efforts to keep him out of military ranks and volunteered for duty in World War I, in which he served as an ambulance driver in France. Legend had it that it was six months after he had gone overseas before his family heard from him and then it was in a terse message, "Don't forget to drain the water from the battery of the Marmon."
After his discharge, Mr. Pratt returned to the Black River Valley area to join his father in the management of the Island Mill in Carthage, the Moyer & Pratt Mill in Lyonsdale, the Deer River Power Company in Copenhagen, and the family's extensive timber tracts in the Adirondacks. The Pratts also owned the right-of-way on the old Carthage-Copenhagen Railroad.
Charles W. Pratt died in 1934 when Walter was 46, but it was the son who is generally credited for the decision to close the Island mill in 1932, after the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and for resolving never to reopen the mill until Republican was once again in the White House. Twenty years would elapse before that came to pass with the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower, but by then the mill had been closed down for so long that it was impractical to start it up. Throughout that time its lone paper machine stood idle, the last rolls of paper to come off the machine still sitting on the floor, together with Mr. Pratt's collection of ancient automobiles and a family of Persian cats. The late Charles Raycraft, Carthage, was retained as caretaker in that period.
A lifelong bachelor, C. Walter Pratt died June 13, 1961, at his home in Boonville. The Rev. Irvin F. Beal, pastor of Boonville Presbyterian Church, officiated at his funeral in the Trainor Funeral Home, Boonville, Burial was in the family plot in Boonville Cemetery.
We've offered you a taste of the history of Walter Pratt, Hazel Northam, and their Foundation. Now, we invite you to read about the entire history, and what the Foundation really stands for.
Pratt-Northam Foundation: A History is the book written by Robert C. Rich. It is not available for sale, since the Pratt-Northam Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation. However, it is available in most of the community libraries throughout the Black River Valley, from Boonville in the South to Carthage in the North.