Tuesday, January 7, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 Austin Wellington Pratt -AKA Hobo Kelly

This post is my  first of  "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks," challenge suggested by Amy Johnson Crow in her blog, No Story Too Small.  Amy has challenged other bloggers to blog about a different ancestor each week this year.  Some of the subjects of these posts may actually be my ancestors or my husband's, and some may be your ancestors, but all will have been residents of West Brookfield.

One of the six known children of James M. and Ruth (Chickering) Pratt was Austin Wellington Pratt, a tramp known as Hobo Kelly. He traveled across the country by rail and was arrested many times for vagrancy and/or intoxication. He was sometimes thought to be insane and was committed a number of times to state hospitals in Northampton and Bridgewater. He claimed to have traveled in other countries throughout the world and to have made the acquaintance of many powerful political figures. A Springfield Daily Republican article published Dec. 2, 1925 on page 4, after an arrest at Union Station, describes him as possessing a "colorful flow of oratory" and an adeptness at clog dancing.

Austin Wellington Pratt, was born May 4, 1861 in West Brookfield, MA.  He married Elizabeth McArdell in Ware, MA in 1881 and the couple had a son James who died before his fifth birthday, and a daughter Mary Elizabeth, who grew up to marry Walter Potter.  Records also show that a second wife Lizzie Hickie died in 1889 on the same day she gave birth to a stillborn daughter. It is likely that Austin is the Austin W. Pratt who died in Bridgewater in 1934 according to the Massachusetts Death Index, 1901-1980 found on Ancestry.com