"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This story of the remarkable sequel to a meal that truly was to die for comes from the "Pittsburg Dispatch," August 4, 1889:

The story of the queerest tribute to the dead on record comes from Lambertville, in Hunterdon County. Near that town lives Mrs. Elisha Pratt, widow of Deacon Pratt, who was famous as a farmer, a genial soul, and an ardent Methodist. He was particularly fond of tickling his appetite, and was deemed considerable of an epicure. His wife was an excellent cook, and her dinners were rare exhibitions of culinary skill for a rural neighbourhood. The deacon enjoyed nothing better than a houseful of clergymen around a table laden with tempting victuals. And Mrs. Pratt, who doted on the deacon, was in her element when preparing such a feast and helping entertain such goodly guests.

About a year ago a number of ministers were on their way to the camp-meeting at Ocean Grove. There were just a dozen of them. Deacon Pratt had them all stop over night at his farmhouse, and gave them a rousing dinner early in the evening. It was a dinner modeled on the New England plan, as Pratt came from Vermont, and so did his wife. There was everything conceivable to eat and plenty of reasonably hard cider to drink. The deacon was in the best of humour, and partook even more heartily than usual of the food. His wife, accustomed as she was to her husband's large appetite, was astonished at the amount he consumed. and made a mental inventory of the various articles and the amount of each that he swallowed.

The next afternoon Deacon Elisha Pratt died of cholera morbus. The physician said the dinner knocked him out. The funeral was the largest the neighbourhood ever knew. Eight of the twelve clergymen present at the dinner acted as pall-hearers, and the other four officiated at the church and by the grave.

The widow was inconsolable for a while, and talked about the tribute she proposed having prepared in memory of her husband. Everybody supposed she was going to erect a handsome monument, and the makers of tombstones sent in bids. But they were all mistaken. Mrs. Pratt had in view the most remarkable and yet suggestive of memorials. She had the work done quietly in Philadelphia, and it required some weeks to finish it. When it arrived at the farm and some of the widow's intimate friends were invited to call and see the tribute, they were at first astounded and then shocked, and finally they felt a disposition to laugh that was controlled with difficulty. On the table in the parlour stood a large glass case. On top of the case was a small arch, made of solid silver. Surmounting the arch was the figure in silver of an angel blowing a trumpet. Inside the arch and suspended from its centre was a tablet of white marble, on which were inscribed the following words in deep, black letters:


But it was underneath the glass ease that the great surprise awaited spectators. There on plates arranged in the order in which they were served, were exact duplicates in wax, and some in glace shape, of the various articles of food the deacon had eaten at the dinner the evening before he died, and also exact duplicates in quantity and size of the amounts he had consumed. There was a large plate of soup, a big slice of meat, heaping side dishes full of vegetables, three cucumbers, huge slices of pie, a quarter of a water-melon, two plates of ice cream, a small cup of coffee, and three goblets of cider. They were perfect pieces of work in wax, as well as perfect representations of what had passed down the deacon's throat at the dinner. The whole thing had cost several hundred dollars. The neighbours naturally ridiculed the tribute at first, but they all respected the widow, and when they found that she was really in earnest in her grief and in her regard for the wax memorial they restrained their mirth and said little about it outside. Many of them thought that the sudden loss had unhinged Mrs. Pratt's mind somewhat. That is why it is only after the lapse of a year that the report of the astonishing tribute has leaked out.

I am sure you all can sympathize with my grief at being unable to find online a photograph or illustration of Deacon Pratt's memorial. If anyone knows of such a thing, I do beg you to let me know.


  1. It seems a ludicrous memorial, yet much more fitting than a generic monument of stone. Mrs Pratt knew how much her husband loved his food, so why not a tribute featuring just that? Not to seem blasphemous, but there are paintings of the Last Supper; this was a celebration of the deacon's last supper. Good for Mrs Pratt!

    1. Words cannot say how much I love this story.


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