In 1797 Eaton’s first teacher and physician made his way to Eaton. At that time Eaton was no more than a “log city” with promise for the future. Dr. James Pratt and three brothers settled in Eaton and Dr. Pratt, though eminently qualified to teach at a college level, commenced to teach school for the settlers’ children.
The schooling would take place at the homes of different prominent men in the area, with the students boarding at that house while school was in session. The first month it was at Joseph Morse’s house (the first Morse house at the foot of what is now Hamilton Hill Road), the next at the home of Joshua and Waitstill Leland at Leland’s second house at the pond, and the third at the Thomas Morris residence in Morris Flats (which become Morrisville).
James Pratt was a member of the Madison County Medical Society and in 1806 was its’ Treasurer. In 1808 he became the Justice of the Peace and was an early member of the Congregational Church. This church, established in 1805, was located in Eaton Center Which no longer exists.
One of the young Morse students he taught was later to become his much younger wife. Eunice it is said, took a long time to transform herself in the Doctor’s eyes, from student to wife. Theirs was the first marriage in the new Stone Morse Mansion and they resided in the red house on Route 26 which, was noted by a New York State Historic marker, both house and the marker have disappeared from history.
It is believed that Dr. Pratt was killed by robbers while traveling with a large amount of money and word of his death took much time in arriving because he was traveling in disguise, as many wealthy people did in those days, to prevent such an occurrence.
Humorously, in reading certain historic records it is important to make sure that you are reading about the right person. This is true in the early Eaton record books as in Eaton at the same time, 1807, there was indeed another James Pratt. James Pratt was a tavern keeper in the village from 1805-1807. This James Pratt was a Juror in 1828, and was a member of the Anti-Mason delegation in 1829. Since we know that this James Pratt died in 1836, at the age of 68 and is buried at Madison Lake, we feel that we are right in assuming that Dr. James Pratt was the man killed by thieves, especially with Eunice’s letter to her family from the west saying, “…that it is true about my poor husband.”
Dr. Pratt’s three brothers, one of whom he taught and who traveled with him during the school year, were all Physicians.