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Lucien E. Pratt
June 18, 1824 - Nov. 19, 1899
 

After raising money and agreeing upon a site, The Willamette Woolen Mill Company started looking for a person to become the superintendent of their mill. A trip to the East Coast was made to find a person with textile manufacturing experience. Lucien E. Pratt of Worcester, Massachusetts agreed to relocate to Oregon and take the superintendent position. Before leaving for Oregon, he ordered the machinery and made arrangements to have it shipped around Cape Horn. On May 4, 1857, he left for Oregon, reaching Salem in June of the same year, where he resided almost continuously. Soon after reaching this city, he prepared the plans for the building that was used by the woolen mill company at a point just opposite W. L. Wade’s store on North Liberty street

Pratt had been employed in many responsible positions in Eastern woolen mills and had come from a long line of ancestors skilled in textile manufacturing. Lucien Pratt and his family departed from the East on May 5, 1857, coming to Oregon by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Lucien Elijah Pratt was born at Douglas, Worcester county, Massachusetts, on June 18, 1824. He spent his youth in his native state and Rhode Island. During the month of January, 1844, he was married at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Miss Nancy B. Lawrence.

The mill building was constructed under the supervision of Joseph Watt, a skilled carpenter, and also a sheep rancher. The building was three stories, 190 feet long and 47 feet wide. It had a basement for scouring, dyeing, and storing cleaned wool. An adjoining building was operated as a boarding house for mill workers by Mrs. Pratt and her daughters.

By May, 1860, the mill was producing $100,000 worth of cloth annually. The mill continued to prosper. Products were easily sold, and sufficient stock was on hand to supply orders. In February, 1863, raw wool was shipped to Boston and sold at a profit. It looked like the Salem mill under Pratt's guidance was on it's way to becoming the largest mill on the Pacific Coast.

Then came stockholder problems; having gained a controlling interest, they took over the mill's operation. But under this new management, the mill soon ran into trouble. Competition from California mills, combined with the management's way of dealing with suppliers and customers, created a period of great unrest.

On May 3, 1875, the mill was destroyed by fire, supposedly due to spontaneous combustion. But suspicions persisted that the fire was set to collect insurance to pay debts. Afterwards, Lucien Pratt planned and built one of the Oregon City woolen mills.

For many years he was engaged in steamboating on the Willamette, and it was then that he received the title of 'captain,' which he retained throughout his life. Early in the 1870s, when the steamer "Shoshone" sank near the west bank of the Willamette, just opposite Salem, Captain Pratt, in charge of the steamer "Fannie Patton," rescued the passengers and crew from the ruined vessel.

Pratt also served in the Salem city council for a number of years and was deputy county clerk during the administration of F. J. Babcock and also served in the same capacity under W. H. Egan. He was one of the oldest members of Chemeketa lodge No. 1, I.O.O.F.

Bibliography:
Salem's Colorful History Highlighted in Pioneer Cemetery
by the Friends of Pioneer Cemetery, c/o Pioneer Trust Bank, P.O. Box 2305, Salem, OR 97308
Excerpt from the Hugh Morrow Collection in the Salem Public Library, R HMC 2900, Cemeteries, Oregon , Marion County

Pioneer Cemetery web-sitehttp://www.open.org/~pioneerc/pg35, Lucien Pratt record, 2005

 

 
Lucien Pratt gravestone
Lucien E. Pratt gravestone
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