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Brothers Reunited

December 2023
1min read


When an historical mystery is exposed to your readers, it is apparently likely to be resolved. In your April, 1961, issue, you published an article entitled “Brother Against Brother” based on the letters I furnished you between two of my ancestors. My great-grandfather, John C. Pratt of Boston, was writing his brother, Jabez David Pratt of Baltimore. As the Civil War drew on … the brothers argued over the increasingly bitter issues, the correspondence angrily broke off, and you noted: “So the story ends. … whether the two men adjusted their differences and struck hands once more as brothers … this, like so many other questions arising out of the Civil War, goes off into mystery.”

Since publication, however, I have received a number of letters. The first came from Mr. Owen A. Sheffield of Hackensack, New Jersey, who … is compiling a history of Dun & Bradstreet … He has kindly sent me copies of letters taken from facsimiles of the copying-press book of R. G. Dun, who in 1865 bought out J. D. Pratt & Co. completely. …

On February 18, 1865, Dun wrote to Jabez Pratt, “Your brother called on me today and read over the enclosed document and seemed to think it was all right.” Since, in an earlier letter, dated February 3, 1865, Dun had written to Jabez: “I … regret exceedingly to hear of your continued declining health,” it is reasonable to believe that Jabez, unable to continue the management of his business, had already sought the advice of his brother John. … Dated [March 21, 1865] there follows a letter from Dun to John C. Pratt of Boston [which] would seem to indicate that John C. Pratt may have been executor for his brother’s estate and fortifies Mr. Sheffield’s opinion that, in the closing days of his life, Jabez had turned to brother John.

This interpretation has been given further credence by two additional letters from readers of A MERICAN H ERITAGE . The first of these came from Mrs. Louis Mortimer Pratt, Jr., of Boston who wrote: “My husband is Jabez Pratt’s only grandson … he remembers several of John C. Pratt’s children and wonders which one was your grandfather.” The second letter, from Mrs. Gertrude Pratt Vance of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, granddaughter of John C. Pratt by a second marriage, tells more. Mrs. Vance … informs me that: “Louis Mortimer Pratt’s father, Louis Mortimer Pratt, Sr., was the youngest son of Jabez Pratt—born after his father’s death. He was brought up by his uncle, John C. Pratt.” According to another letter from Mrs. Pratt, Jabez’s wife, Lucy, moved north after his death and died soon after the birth of their youngest child. Although it is not clear whether the brothers ever again met face to face, the knowledge that the son of Jabez lived and grew to manhood among the children of John is evidence enough that bitterness was buried and the ties of family reaffirmed.

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