Cornelia Minerva Doane Pratt was born in 1829 and was the daughter and later the wife of a Pratt. Her mother, Minerva Pratt Doane, traced her ancestry to Priscilla and John Alden who married after coming to America on the Mayflower. Cornelia’s husband, Edward W. Pratt, was a descendant of Lieutenant William Pratt who arrived from England with the “Father of Connecticut,” Thomas Hooker.
Cornelia’s father, Captain Cornelius Doane, sailed the seas for fifty years. He left home at 16 and later did well transporting cotton from Mobile, Alabama to European ports.
Wanderlust may have led a 20-year-old Cornelia to leave the Mount Holyoke Seminary for Women before graduating in order to travel through Europe. Nevertheless she was likely a nervous mother two decades later when her son Sydney left school at 16 to sail the high seas. Cornelia had two brothers, William and Christopher, who were lost at sea at 16 and 28 respectively. Sydney did return home to finish school and eventually become a banker in Iowa.
Cornelia and Edward, one of a long line of Pratts who were blacksmiths in Essex, raised seven children here. In addition to Sydney, their children were Cornelius, Julia, Edward, Abbie, John, and Mary.
Story & Photos by Ken Staffey