THE LIVES OF PETER AND CATHARINE PRATT
BY ARDYTHE AND NEAL SMITH
Time Line History
1903, Dec. 9 – Peter K. Pratt was born to Otis & Anna Klemm Pratt at Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.
1905, Oct. 17 – Catharine Hunter Jones was born to George D. & Annie Hunter Jones at Omaha, Nebraska.
1925 – Approximate time frame, both attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
1927- Catharine graduated from University of Nebraska at Lincoln, degree from the College of Business Administration.
1932, September 18 – Peter and Catharine were married and lived in Des Moines, later in Atlantic, Iowa. Peter worked as a hog buyer for Armour & Co.
1937, Jan. 2 – Peter K. Pratt and family moved to the Kevan property on the east edge of Walnut.
1941, Dec. 7 – bought his first Angus cows from the National Stock Farm, Ada, Minnesota.
1946, March 1 – took possession of the 80 acre farm about 2 miles north of Walnut.
1953 – 1st Bread & Butter Sale, at Denison, Iowa.
1958 – 450 attended Field Day on the Pratt Farm.
1962 – Sold 11 head to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
1966, November 16 – Dispersion of Angus herd, after 25 years, at the farm north of Walnut, drew 800 people, 101 lots averaged $1655.
1973, February 25 – Peter K. Pratt died, age 69.
1983, March – Catharine moved into Peace Haven Retirement Home in Walnut.
1985, Oct. – Catharine moved to Colonial Manor, Avoca, Iowa.
1988, March 31 – Catharine Pratt died, age 82. The Pratts are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
RECORD PRICE PAID FOR PRATT ANGUS
One of the highest prices paid in the nation for a bull in recent years was recorded at Menlo last week when $10,500 was paid for a one-third interest in a five-year-old Angus, Ballot of Walnut, bred by P. K. Pratt of Walnut. (The Walnut Bureau, November 25, 1965)
MEMORIES OF PETER AND CATHARINE PRATT
We met Peter and Catharine on the recommendation of my hometown banker in Atkinson, Nebraska. We were considering the purchase of some Angus cattle, so when back in Atkinson for Christmas of 1967, we went to see my banker who had a small Angus herd. When I asked him where we should go to see and possibly purchase cattle, he said “You go right back there to Walnut and go see Pete Pratt. He has some of the best Angus in the country.”
It was on that recommendation that we made our first call on the Pratts. Pete had some cows that he would sell us. However, before he would price them or let us get serious about a purchase, he insisted that we see several other breeders in the area. It was this caution and patience that impressed us, as well as the friendly hospitality, and made us want to get to know Pete & Catharine better. He was extremely knowledgeable about Angus cattle and pedigrees.
When Peter would build something, it was double strength. When building the storm fences, some of which are still standing, he wanted the holes extra large so they could place the post in the hole and fill it with 2 or 3 inches of course gravel. This kept the posts from rotting off as quickly and also made them extremely hard to pull! The posts were either used power poles or telephone poles. Some of the larger poles were hauled over to Brayton and sawed in half lengthwise so the post had a flat side. These flat-sided posts made excellent posts for the windbreak storm fences.
The large open fronted cattle shed that was built in 1962 or 1963 was all made out of salvaged lumber. Pete bought a bridge from the county that had been on fire. This bridge had a lot of large long timbers that survived the fire. Pete had those timbers hauled to the sawmill in Brayton and cut into full 2″ thick lumber. This lumber, along with posts from the power company, was the main material used to construct the 42’ by 98’ building. The hinges that were used on this building and on the barn doors were purchased in northern Minnesota. They were the heaviest hinges that I have ever seen.
Many have asked about the gates to the lots. They were made out of a heavy panel something like a heavy feedlot panel. These gates were made out of concrete reinforcing mats that were salvage from WWII. When we first purchased the farm, there were many of them.
After the dispersion sale in 1966, many of the buildings were repaired and/or rebuilt. He built a machine shed, rebuilt the corncrib and built a cattle shed. He also repaired the barn and painted the house along with some remodeling inside. For the 25 years before the sale, their total focus and all resources had gone into the cattle.
Pete has been referred to as a Master Breeder of Angus Cattle. This is very fitting as he excelled in the quality of his cattle as well as the care and management he gave them. Pete was the first to have his herd classified under the American Angus Association. They were rated to be the top classified herd, according to Russ Knuth, who worked for the Pratts.
Pete’s reputation in Angus cattle was well respected nationwide. He judged many major cattle shows and won many awards when showing his cattle.
Many local people outside Angus circles did not know that nearly every animal the Pratts registered in the Angus herd registry carried “Walnut” or “of Walnut” as part of their registered name.
For example, in the cow family Blackcap Bessie (one of their favorites), the cows were named “Blackcap Bessie of Walnut” and a number. The bulls were usually named with the “Walnut” prefix first. Unknown to many Walnut people, the Pratts were putting Walnut, Iowa on the map every time they had cattle in a sale catalog or had animals in a show.
There is a well-known herd in California that has a line of cows that stem back to the Pratt’s Walnut breeding. I have no idea how many cows trace back to Pratt breeding.
We purchased several of the Pratt cows that were offspring of some of the old cows that were left after the dispersion. We still have two of the cow families in our herd. As I trace back pedigrees on today’s popular bulls, from time to time, I come across an individual with the Walnut prefix.
Pete has been gone for over thirty years, yet those who are old enough, still remember his legacy in the Angus circles.
Catharine was a most gracious hostess as she welcomed us into their home. She was a great listener, very easy to talk to. She was very careful in her interactions with people and helped soften the mood many times in conversations shared with Pete and many cattle friends.
Catharine was very influential in their cattle business on the social side of helping out people who came to visit and who purchased cattle from them. She showed us how she kept detailed records of their cattle registering by families. I have continued to follow her method now for 41 years! She hand typed all the pedigrees and put them in a large book where she kept a history of the production of each animal in their herd. I remember her black typewriter on the oak library table in their office, with bookcases full of Angus catalogues and journals.
She enjoyed people and loved entertaining, although she did not like to cook or wash dishes. She would set their dining room table with her Spode dishes and sterling silver flatware for desserts and meals. Huge servings of meat were set out. Whether a large roast or steaks that were fried on a griddle, the servings almost filled the dinner plate with not much room for other side dishes! For a lighter meal she would fix bacon sandwiches with thick sliced fried bacon and cheese on toast! When we first met them, she still had her old stove in the kitchen and had to use a board to hold the door shut. It was propped across the way with the washer-dryer. Coffee was always a favorite in their home. When they would eat out, Pete would order a meal and he would always tell the waitress he wanted coffee now and later, with emphasis on the now!
Catharine was so proud of their house remodeling, the new carpet, light fixtures and especially the large windows that would turn so you could wash both sides. The remodeling was done after their dispersion sale; before this, the house, as well as the outbuildings, was without paint. Their Angus had been their priority.
Catharine loved to do needlepoint and did many pictures and pillows that she had framed and finished and gave as gifts. She also loved their cats, especially calico colored ones, and she liked to give cat figurines as gifts.
In 1952, P. K. Pratt was elected President of the Iowa Angus Association. Catharine called a meeting of the wives of the men directors to come along when they had their spring board meeting on April 1. This group of ladies voted to organize an auxiliary and the name would be the Iowa Aberdeen-Angus Auxiliary. Mrs. Peter Pratt was named Co-Chairman.
Catharine cherished their friends and kept up correspondence with them through the years. Peter had one sister, Ruth Gard, of Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.
Catharine’s mother, Annie, lived with them for many years. She was a wonderful cook and also a delightful person.