A 200-year-old gravestone that was used as a stepping stone at a cottage in Connecticut, has found a final resting place close to family members near Breckenridge, Mo.
Thanks to the curiosity and generosity of a Connecticut couple who wished to learn more about the persons whose gravestone they had in their possession, the Pratt family of north Missouri now knows more about their ancestors.
Kurt Schroeder, of Cheshire, Conn., had always been intrigued by an old gravestone at his aunt's cottage. For years the stone, measuring about 2 feet wide, 2 feet tall and 2 inches thick, was turned on its back and used as a stepping stone. Recently, when the cottage faced demolition, Schroeder and his wife, Ann, decided to take the stone to their home in Cheshire and find a connection to the husband and wife whose grave it once marked.
It was no easy task since the couple, Roswell and Hannah Pratt, lived more than 200 years ago.
With stubborn determination, Ann Schroeder searched genealogy sites and old records to find the couple's descendants in Missouri.
"I just became interested in finding more out about these people," she said.
Schroeder found a thread of information about the couple on a genealogy website, including the email for a woman in California. The woman contacted her cousin, Stephen Pratt, of Breckenridge, and, from that point on, the story regarding the graves of Roswell and Hannah Pratt began to unfold. The Schroeders explained that they wanted the Pratt family members to have the gravestone.
With this newfound information, Brett Pratt, of Breckenridge, and Clinton Pratt, of Hamilton, sons of Stephen and Carolyn Pratt, traveled 2,400 miles round trip by car to the Schroeders' house, to claim the 150-pound gravestone. They returned with the stone, and now have plans to place it in Rosehill Cemetery, in south Breckenridge, beside Stephen's father, Milton LeRoy Pratt.
Also buried in Breckenridge are Roswell's grandson, Charles Henry Pratt, who moved to Missouri in the 1860s, starting a dairy and cheese factory, and Charles' son, Rozelle A Pratt, Brett and Clinton's great-grandfather.
For the Pratt family, locating the gravestone was a bit like bringing an ancestor home.
"I am so overjoyed that the tombstone has a home," said Diane Graves, of Chillicothe, a great-great-great-grand-daughter of Roswell and Hannah Pratt. "The tombstone was not located at their burial site, and indeed was a stepping stone at a cottage."
Waterbury records, before 1895, show Roswell Pratt died Nov. 25, 1825, in Winchester, from typhus fever. The death date on the stone is Dec. 4, 1825, at the age of 61. Hannah Pratt died Dec. 27, 1848, at the age of 71, according to the stone.
The Pratts came to learn that Roswell and Hannah Pratt's grave was at the Grand Street Cemetery in Waterbury, the city's first cemetery. The site is where Silas Bronson Library and Library Park are now located. According to records, construction began on the library after the cemetery closed in the 1880s. Gravestones were buried directly above the graves. When construction began in 1893, some of those stones were unearthed and later stored in the basement of the library. The remains were buried on the southwest corner of the library property, according to museum records. Some of the stones from the basement were placed on a wall of Library Park, where they remain.
"Unfortunately the exact location of Roswell and Hannah's resting place was forgotten long ago when the markers were moved from the graves in the 1800s; however, we believe the graves are in the park where the Silas Bronson Library is located in Waterbury," stated Brett Pratt.
He noted that their location will not be forgotten by family members in Missouri as they are planning to place a plaque to note their original resting place and how the stone came to reside in the Pratt family cemetery in Missouri.
Ann Schroeder said she is unsure how the gravestone ended up at the Bantam cottage.
Information about the couple's life mostly comes from vital records. Hannah Pratt was born Hannah Hull in Cheshire, in 1778. Her home still stands. Her father, John Hull, was a doctor in town, as was his father and brother. Less is known about Roswell. The couple had several children. A daughter, Abigail M. Pratt, died at 17, and was buried in the same cemetery as her parents.
Roswell and Hannah were the great-great-great grandparents of Fred Baker, Wayne Baker, Ronnie Baker, and Diane Graves, all of Chillicothe, Stephen Pratt of Breckenridge, and Delores Crain, of Grandview, Mo., and Martha Marengo, of Kearney, Mo.
Lauresha Xhihani, of the Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn., provided information for this story.