Bio of George Pratt

The San Francisco Bay Region


There is usually a fundamental motive and guiding force in the careers of men of large affairs. In the case of George W. Pratt, a native son of California and a civil engineer by profession, that motive is discerned through his successful efforts in the management and development of large landed properties. Though a young man he has already figured in some of the notable transactions and constructive developments in the highly specialized farming districts of Central and Southern California. While most of his operations have been in the southern part of the state, Mr. Pratt for a number of years has maintained his home and offices in San Francisco.

He was born in Mariposa County, California, June 11, 1880. His father, John M. Pratt, a native of Georgia, and of Revolutionary stock of English descent, served as a confederate soldier during the Civil war. He was a Methodist minister, and in the early days was a circuit rider. After the war he came out to California, and then removed to Oregon where he was known as the "Cowboy Minister." He possessed the spirit and talents to make him a very popular as well as an influential religious worker. For several years he enjoyed the distinction of being the champion rider in Western Oregon. At the time of the Great San Francisco fire he was at the Russ House, and from there removed to Highland Springs in Lake County where he died a few weeks later on May 2, 1906. His brother, J. W. Pratt, has been recorder of Mariposa County for the last twenty years, and another brother, Charles P. Pratt, was assessor of that county for a long time, but is now living retired there.

John M. Pratt married Louise A. Lewis, who is now a resident of College City, Colusa County, California, and is of a family of American Revolutionary stock and is Scotch-English in ancestry. She was born in Mariposa County. Her father Jacob Lewis, a pioneer known to all the people of that district, was born in Missouri, came to California in 1849, and operated a stage station at Lewis, a place named in his honor.

Educated in the public schools of Merced county the Pacific Methodist College at Santa Rosa, George W. Pratt found his first employment in the civil engineering department of the Santa Fe Railway. He was in the when the Santa Fe built the road into Richmond, marking the beginning of that prosperous suburb of San Francisco. He was with the engineering corps of the Southern Pacific Company in Santa Barbara County, when the gap between Surf and Elwood was bridged. He was then one of the engineers effecting line changes in Humboldt Valley of Nevada, and after that returned to Santa Barbara to engage in business for himself, handling lands and surveying. Mr. Pratt was a resident of Lompoc from 1901 to 1910 and since the latter year has made San Francisco his headquarters, his offices being in the Phelan Building.

Mr. Pratt attributes much of his success to the kindly interest and advice of George Roberts, one of the pioneers of California, who promoted the Lompoc colony and put on the first subdivision in Santa Barbara County. A man of strong character, he made friends with all, and in the opinion of Mr. Pratt, he was the most universally love man he ever saw. When Mr. Pratt was only twenty-one years of age Mr. Roberts placed him in charge of his interests, and it was the earnest effort of the young man to justify this faith that led him from one success to another. Mr. Roberts died at San Jose at the venerable age of ninety years.

Since then Mr. Pratt has been handling lands in large tracts. He sub-divided the Santa Rosa ranch, the Jalama and Alisal ranches and is now handling the Jesus Maria ranch in the northern part of Santa Barbara County near Santa Maria. He sold to the California Packing Corporation 4,000 acres east of Merced. The corporation has developed this as the Del Monte orchard, the largest young orchard in the world. Mr. Pratt was one of the organizers of the Planada Fruit farms adjoining the Del Monte, and this entire tract of 3,300 acres has been planted, mostly to figs. Mr. Pratt personally owns 160 acres of this tract, planed to Kadota figs.

He sold and still retains an interest in the old Murphy ranch near Turlock, probably the finest dairy ranch in California. It is known as the Humboldt ranch, comprising 1,000 acres, with 160 acres in grapes and 300 acres devoted to the dairy farm. There are 200 head of cows on this ranch. Many other large properties have been similarly handled by Mr. Pratt, and in every case gratifying success has marked his enterprise.

At present he is handling the lands of the Marshall interests in Los Angeles, E. J. Marshall of that city being one of the largest land owners in the world, owning the Chino ranch at Los Angeles, the Jesus Maria ranch of Santa Barbara, and the Los Palomas ranch of Mexico. Mr. Pratt gave the County of Santa Barbara a nineteen-acre park from the Santa Rosa ranch, nine miles east of Lompoc on the Santa Inez River. This is known as the Santa Rosa Park.

Another prominent interest of Mr. Pratt is the Return Mining Company of Nye County, Nevada, of which he is president. This company has recently resumed operations and is undertaking new installation of stamp mill and tables. It is a free milling gold and silver property with a shaft of 100 and 122 feet and levels at 50, 100 and 175 feet. Some idea of the value of the property can be gained from the statement that the ledge is thirty feet in width with surface assays showing f $3.26 and the bottom of the shaft showing better than $700 per ton.

With the large responsibilities represented by these interests briefly described, Mr. Pratt has rendered his public service largely through his business, and has had no time for the diversions of politics. He is republican, is affiliated with Santa Barbara Lodge No. 613, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Lompoc Lodge No. 57, Knights of Pythias.

He married at San Francisco, February 19, 1923, Miss Alice S. Smith. She was born in that city, as was also her mother, and her father was one of the early pioneers of California.

Page: 232S, 233P, Vol. 2
History of the San Francisco Bay region:
History and biography / by Bailey Millard in collaboration with able assistants.
Bailey Millard
American Historical Society, Chicago, IL (1924)

Contributed by: Carol Lackey