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Phineas Pratt

Phineas Pratt was a member of a company of men sent from England by Thomas Weston.  They arrived in New England in 1622 on three ships : the Sparrow, Charity and Swan (Pratt was a passenger on the Sparrow, the first to arrive).  The approximately 67 men, many of them ailing, arrived with no provisions.  The Pilgrims supported them throughout the summer of 1622. 

In the fall of 1622, the Weston men left to colonize an area north of Plymouth called Wessagusset.  They soon fell into difficulties through behaving, generally, in a very foolish and improvident fashion.  They also severely angered the local Native Americans by stealing their corn. 

Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoags, informed the Plymouth colonists that there was a conspiracy among the Natives of the Wessagusset area to massacre the Weston men. Myles Standish prepared to head north with a small company of Plymouth men to rescue Weston’s men.

The same message was also delivered by one of Weston’s men, who came to Plymouth in March of 1623 “from the Massachusetts with a small pack at his back.”

Phineas Pratt was the man with the backpack. He had secretly snuck out of the Wessagusset settlement, traveling for several days without food through a snowy landscape on his 25-mile journey.

Myles Standish and a small contingent (minus Phineas, who was still recovering from his arduous journey) headed to Wessagusset to recognize Weston’s men.  The Plymouth contingent killed several Native Americans in the process (for which, they were roundly scolded by their pastor, John Robinson).  Soon afterwards, Weston’s group abandoned Wessagusset.  Sometime in late 1623, Phineas joined the Plymouth settlement. 

Sometime before May of 1648, when he purchased a house and garden in Charlestown (now a part of Boston), Pratt left Plymouth. In 1662, Pratt presented to the General Court of Massachusetts a narrative entitled “A declaration of the affairs of the English people that first inhabited New England” to support his request for financial assistance. The extraordinary document is Phineas Pratt’s own account of the Wessagusset settlement and its downfall. Click here for Phineas Pratt's Narrative.

Phineas Pratt was by profession a “joiner.”  “Joining” was the principle method of furniture construction during the 17th century.  “Joiners” were highly skilled craftsmen who specialized in this work; their skills were valued more highly than those of a carpenter. 

Phineas Pratt married Mary Priest, daughter of Degory and Sarah Allerton Vincent Priest (the sister of Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton, Sarah had been married to Jan Vincent and widowed before she married Degory Priest).  Degory Priest journeyed to Plymouth on the Mayflower, his wife and two daughters intended to join him later.  Priest died during the first winter.  Before sailing for America, the widowed Sarah Allerton Vincent Priest married Godbert Godbertson, who became Mary Priest’s stepfather.  The family (mother, stepfather and two daughters) were among the passengers of the Anne andLittle James, arriving in Plymouth in 1623.

Phineas was probably born about 1593, Mary was probably born about 1612.  It seems likely, given the probably age of their oldest child at the time of her death, that they married about 1631 or 1632. Phineas and Mary Pratt had 8 children.

According to his gravestone in the old Phipps Street Cemetery, in the Charlestown area of Boston, “Phinehas Pratt, agd about 90 yrs, decd April ye 19, 1680 & was one of ye first English inhabitants of ye Massachusetts Colony.” (Mayflower Descendant, Vol. 6, p. 1-2).  For the text of Phineas Pratt's will and the inventory of his estate taken at the time of his death, click here.

Mary Pratt outlived her husband; the date of her death is not certain but she did receive stipends from the Town of Charlestown in 1683/4 and 1686/7 (Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, Vol. 3, p. 1516).

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