Posted by Doug Marrin
In the midst of the historic graves of Forest Lawn Cemetery in Dexter stands a single mausoleum, a sentinel that has watched over those buried on the sacred ground for more than a hundred years. The name above the door is “Pratt.Hays.Pratt”. Like many other longtime families in the area, the Pratts were one of the early settlers of Dexter who helped shape the village and surrounding community as it is today.
Lois Pratt-Mekas, who lives in Dexter, writes a book about the history of her family in the Dexter region, vignettes by Little Miss Pratt. Lois gave us an insight into the life of Dexter’s bourgeois ancestors, the Pratts.
“The Dexter Pratts began in New York in 1835 when Reubin and Charity Pratt packed their things and one-year-old son John in the wagon and the horses took them from New York to the new village of Kalamazoo, Michigan Territory,” says Lois. “The young one The family did not stay long and moved to the village of Dexter, relocating to New York six years later, where young John rode mules as the “Canal Boy” that hauled barges along the Erie Canal, but seven years later they were back to the southeast from Michigan, in the parish of Lima. “
In 1862, 28-year-old John bought the farm in Lima Township from his parents. His father Reubin died that same year. John’s mother Charity lived with her children until 1898. Then she bought a house in Dexter, where she lived until her death in 1902.
In 1905 John Pratt built this house at 7871 Main St. in Dexter.
John followed his mother to Dexter in 1901 while still running the family farm in Lima. In 1905 he built a large house at 7871 Main Street. In 1906 he bought the plot of land in the cemetery on which he was to build the family mausoleum a few years later. John, his wife, daughter and her husband, son and wife are buried inside.
“What is unique about the mausoleum is that it used large-cut field stones rather than a more common architectural appearance for mausoleums,” says Lois. “I think this reflects the wonderful, down-to-earth and rugged agricultural heritage of the region.”
John wasn’t the only Pratt part of the region’s historic tapestry. His brother George served in the Civil War and was later inducted into the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a veterans group for those who served in the Union Forces. George is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. After the war, George worked in the wood business in Dexter until 1907. George’s son Harry partnered with Daniel Quish to open a hardware store in 1902, which is now Hackney Hardware. George’s daughter Agnes taught at Dexter and is also buried at Forest Lawn.
You may also have noticed the name “Pratt” which was given to something other than tombstones in Dexter. Pratt Road leads from Zeeb Road to Wagner Road in Scio Township. The street is named after John Pratt’s son Alvin, Lois’ grandfather. The 250 acre Pratt Farm was taken over by Alvin’s son Everett Pratt on Zeeb Road in 1906. It was a center of community interest and activity in its day. Lois recalls when her father Everett owned the only threshing machine in Washtenaw County and the festive gatherings she held on the farm.
Alvin Pratt family photo. Alvin was John’s son. Back row: Marion, Everett (Lois’ father), George, Guy, John, Reuben. Front row: Alvin, Grandpa Alvin, Mary, Grandma Jennie, Dell
“Papa had the only threshing machine in the county and threshed for the farmers in the region,” recalls Lois. “All the farmers came to thresh with their horses, tractors and wagons. The men always had conversations about what had happened since their last meeting. Believe me, I’ve never missed a threshing event! “
The Everett Pratts were holistically committed to local charities, governments, and civic groups. Everett was a member of the Masons, Knight’s Templar, Deputy Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, and served on the Dexter-Pratt Road School Board. In the early 1950s, the Pratts sponsored a family to move to the United States from war-torn Holland. Everett and his family stayed at Metzger’s Saturday night with Bill and Mary Metzger. Friday night the Pratt’s ate at their friend Herman Weber’s restaurant, which started in a rented house. He later built a restaurant on Jackson Road. And then, years later, Herman told Everett about his plans to build a restaurant / hotel complex. Everett commented, “Herman, you never get paid for this.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Everett (center) with the couple he sponsored from Holland.
While Lois is reconstructing the Pratt family history, she is also working to restore the family’s ruined mausoleum. Water damage is slowly crumbling the once proud masonry. Unfortunately, nature isn’t the only threat to the historic landmark.
“It suffers from vandalism,” says Lois. “The door has been smashed. As a result, some heavy restoration work will be required.”
Everett Pratt family farm on Pratt Road.
Lois has a contractor to do the restoration work for an estimated $ 20,000. She hopes to have the money to start work this spring.
“I want to have an inauguration ceremony by July 1, 2021, as this is my father’s birthday and he would be 128 years old,” says Lois. “I know he saw the structure being built and now there is work to be done again.”
If you would like to help restore this historic piece of Dexter history, you can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/little-miss-pratts-mausoleum-restoration-project
All photos courtesy of Lois Pratt-Mekas.