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. Wades
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
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
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.
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