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RG4328.AM:  James Hervey Pratt, 1825-1910

Papers:  1873-1949

Omaha, Douglas County, Neb.:  Businessman

Size:  1.5 cu.ft.; 3 boxes


James Hervey Pratt was born December 27, 1825, in Plainview, Massachusetts, the son of William and Livina Coulson Pratt. He was educated at Chester, Ohio. He worked as a store clerk in Chester until the age of eighteen, when he went to Painesville, Ohio, where he worked for two years. At the age of eighteen he went into business for himself at Hillsdale, Michigan, and operated a store until he enlisted in 1861. He rose through the ranks from quartermaster and First Lieutenant of the 18th Michigan Infantry to the grade of Colonel. In 1870 he was appointed to be the post trader at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory. During his eight years at this post he was also engaged in contracting for government food supplies and raising cattle in Nebraska.

He was in partnership in the firm of Pratt and Ferris in the cattle business and in a freight service. In 1875 the partnership’s cattle herd was moved into Wyoming where it remained. The military contract was ended in 1878, and in 1886 the firm gave up the freight business, confining its interests thereafter to ranching and cattle-raising. The Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company was organized in 1880, and its major stock holders included the Chicago capitalists Marshal Field and Levi Z. Leiter. In 1898 Pratt and Leiter bought the other stock holders out. Colonel Pratt also owned large interests in ranches and timber lands in Wyoming, Texas and Nebraska, and amassed a fortune in the millions of dollars before his death in 1910.


This collection consists of three manuscript boxes of material arranged in six series: 1) Correspondence, 1873-1949; 2) Plat maps showing Pratt property; 3) Business records, 1878-1930; 4) Material on the Pratt estate, 1910-1923; 5) Scrapbook and clippings, 1898-1938; and 6) Printed matter. This material relates to the business activities of James Hervey Pratt, and includes the partial business records of Pratt and Cunningham, Pratt and Ferris, and the Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company. These records, covering a span of years from 1878-1930, include material relating to the trading business at Fort Randall, D.T., freight hauling in Nebraska and the Black Hills, and the cattle business. Also included are materials on the litigations over the Pratt estate, water disputes, and material about the personal life of Pratt and his family and descendants.

Note:  See the Nebraska History index for articles about James H. Pratt and Pratt & Ferris freighting company.


Series 1 – Correspondence

Box 1


  1. 1873, 1878-1881

  2. 1899

  3. 1900-1902

  4. 1905

  5. 1906

  6. 1907

  7. 1908

  8. 1909

  9. 1911-1912

  10. 1929

  11. 1930-1931

  12. 1932-1933

  13. 1934-1935

  14. 1936-1937

  15. 1938-1939

  16. 1940

  17. 1949

Series 2 – Plats and Maps

  1. Washington County, Nebraska, Sections 14-16 and 21-23 of Township 19, Range 11, 1886 (see oversize)

    USGS topographical map showing the “P-F” ranch and surrounding area, 1895, reprinted 1903, “Wyoming-Nebraska Patrick Sheet” (see oversize)

Series 3 – Business Records

  1. Title abstracts to land in Washington County, Nebraska, 1902-1906

  2. Record of accounts transferred by “P and F to C and F”

    1898 Statements of Pratt and Ferris in account with Cunningham and Pratt, 1878

    Accounts of Pratt and Ferris, 1878, 1879 and 1881

Box 2


  1. Unsorted business papers, receipts, legal papers, etc. of the P-F Ranch, 1899-1930

  2. Business records in regard to the Hiland Land and Live Stock Company, 1902-1903

  3. Business records regarding Archibald and Company, 1903-1904

  4. Business records in regarding Mrs. Ethel Windsor and Henry J. Windsor, land sales in Washington County, 1906

  5. Tax receipts, Washington County, 1905-1907

  6. Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company, statements, 1898 (1 volume)

  7. Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company, statements, 1899 (1 volume)

Ledger of the Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company, 1878-1889, includes minutes of annual stock-holders meetings (see oversize)

Ledger of the Pratt and Ferris Cattle Co., 1883-1903, with several pages removed from an unlocated ledger loose-leaf inside the front cover (see oversize)

Series 4 – Pratt Estate

Box 3


  1. Material in regards to claims of John C. Corwin, 1911

  2. Inspection reports on the P.F. Ranch, by Wayland Magee, 1930 and 1931

Series 5 – Scrapbooks

  1. Includes clippings from the Omaha World Herald, 1907-1911 relating to the divorce proceedings between Pratt and his second wife, Mrs. Julia Montgomery Pratt

  2. Includes obituary clippings on the death of J.H. Pratt, 1910; litigations surrounding the Pratt estate, 1910-1916

  3. Scrapbook of clippings relating to the Pratt estate, 1910-1916

  4. Clippings relating to the 1933 Nebraska-Colorado-Wyoming water dispute

Series 6 – Printed Matter

  1. Twentieth Century Farmer, Number 625, November 30, 1912, article on the Pratt farm near Bennington

    The Nebraska Farmer, Volume 65, No. 2, January 13, 1923, article on meetings of Organized Agriculture in Nebraska

  2. Brief of appelle, Julia Montgomery Pratt, appellant vs. James Hervey Pratt, appelee in the Supreme Court of the State of Nebraska, 1909

  3. Briefs in the case in the case of Field vs. Leiter, in the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming, 1904



Cattle industry and trade

Fort Randall (Dakota Territory)


Magee, Wayland Wells

Pratt, James Hervey, 1825-1910

Pratt and Cunningham

Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company


DAB/HEK/jlc   05-06-1966

Revised TMM   03-14-2011