Louisville's First Families -A SERIES OF GENEALOGICAL SKETCHES
Author - KATHLEEN JENNINGS
Published by THE STANDARD PRINTING CO.- Louisville, KY 1920
USGenWeb Project NOTICE:
In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, data may be used by non-commercial researchers, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages may not be reproduced in any format for profit, nor for presentation in any form by any other organization or individual.
A PUBLIC - SPIRITED citizen identified with the growth of Louisville no less than with the social life of his day was Thomas Prather, born in Maryland in 1770, of English extraction. He crossed the Wilderness Trail to seek his fortune in the new country and as one of the city's first merchants, having opened a store here as early as 1794. Success marked his every venture and riches poured in upon him. He was the capitalist of his day, and famed for his philanthropies. Broadway, for many years Prather street, was named for him. Prather was president of the first bank in Louisville, the old Bank of Kentucky, which he opened on January 1, 1812, and which did business on Main street near Fifth. When the bank suspended specie payments he resigned his office with the remark:
"I can preside over no institution which declines to meet its engagements promptly and to the letter."
His generosity in contributing to charitable and civic endeavors won for him the title of "Oh, put me down for the balance," Prather. He gave five acres and Cuthbert Bullitt gave
three to the city for a hospital site in 1817. Interested in the general welfare, Prather and Bullitt served on many committees together. With Peter F. Ormsby they were appointed by the Board of Trustees, in 1820, to purchase suitable fire engines (two or three), for the use of the city.
The property for the hospital site was given with the proviso that it should revert to the Prather and Bullitt heirs if used for any other purpose. When the new million dollar City Hospital was planned a change of site was considered until the deeds were looked up and disclosed this restriction. One of the numerous Prather heirs recounting the incident said "It looked for a time as if I might have fifty dollars for a new frock."
Thomas Prather was married in 1800 to Matilda Fontaine, a daughter of Capt. Aaron Fontaine, one of the pretty Miss Fontaines, as they were called, though they were also known as the alphabet Fontaines there were so many of them. Matilda and her eight sisters were all famous for their beauty and intellectuality, and all married distinguished men. From Matilda Fontaine is supposed to come the fresh blonde prettiness of the Prather women.
The Prather residence stood in Prather square, the block bounded by Third and Fourth, Walnut
and Green, Walnut street taking its name from the fine row of walnut trees on the south side of the house. This house was built by Judge Fortunatus Cosby, who married Mrs. Prather's sister, Mary Ann Fontaine.
It was on the way home from Philadelphia where he had been on business that Prather met a young man, John J. Jacob, of Hampshire county, Virginia, starting out to seek his fortune. He urged Jacob to come to Louisville, and afterward took the young gentleman into partnership, forming the firm of Prather & Jacob. John J. Jacob married Ann Overton Fontaine and built a home across Walnut street from his brother-in-law Prather's home, where the Pendennis Club is today.
Thomas and Matilda Prather had six children, two sons and four daughters. James Smiley Prather married Louisa Martin and their children were: Mary (Mrs. George Robinson Hunt) and Blanche (Mrs. Edward Mitchell). Mrs. Hunt, who died not long ago, has two daughters in Louisville-Ellen Pope Hunt, the wife of George Weissinger Smith, and Kate Hunt, who married Samuel Hutchings. The other son, William Prather, married his first cousin, Penelope Pope, the daughter of Alexander Pope, whose wife was Martha Fontaine. This marriage establishes a wide connection
of families socially prominent. William and Penelope Prather had seven daughters: Kate, who married Orville Winston; Sue, who is Mrs. John Zanone; Matilda, who married Goldsborough Robinson; Julia and Martha, who died young, and the twins, Penelope and Margaret, the latter, Mrs. John Luce, and her sister, better known as Miss Eppie Prather, the only descendant with the surname, Prather. Mrs. William B. Hardy and Humphrey Robinson are the children of Goldsborough and Matilda Robinson, who live here. Mrs. Alex P. Witty and Prather Zanone are the daughter and son of Mrs. Zanone. The daughters of Kate and Orville Winston were Penelope (Mrs. Ernest Allis), the mother of Mrs. William B. Harrison, and Kate (Mrs. Frederick Hussey), the mother of Mrs. Barbour Minnigerode, Mrs. Arthur H. Middleton, Mrs. Thomas Jefferson, of Springfield, Mass., and Mabel Hussey, of Paris.
Thomas and Matilda Prather's daughters all married prominent Kentuckians. Mary Jane Prather married Worden P. Churchill, and after his death married Dr. Charles M. Way. Her sons were Worden P. Churchill and W. H. Way.
Matilda Prather married Samuel Smith Nicholas, the distinguished lawyer and jurist. Their handsome home was on Fifth street between
Chestnut and Walnut. Their daughter, Julia, Mrs. James C. Johnston, lives with her daughter, Miss Mary Johnston, at Fourth and Broadway. Their sons, George and Samuel Smith Nicholas, have a number of descendants here. George Nicholas married Emma Hawes and had a daughter, Tina Nicholas. who married John Churchill. The son of Mr. and Mrs. John Churchill is John Churchill, who married Lucy Jones.
By a second marriage to Mary Anna Pope, George Nicholas had ten children. One son, George Nicholas, who married Evelyn Thompson, lives in Crescent Hill, and another son, Pope Nicholas, lives in Shelbyville, but is in business in Louisville.
Samuel Smith Nicholas, Jr., who married Nannie Carter, daughter of Capt. Frank Carter, has two daughters in Louisville this winter, Emma Nicholas and Mrs. Harry Lee Williams, although the latter's home is in Chicago.
Maria Julia Prather married Henry Clay, Jr., the son of the Great Commoner, and her daughter, Nannie Clay, now Mrs. Henry McDowell, inherited Ashland, near Lexington, the home of Henry Clay.
Catherine Cornelia Prather married the Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Edward P. Humphrey. their son being the late E. W. C. Humphrey,
father of Edward P. Humphrey, Lewis C. Humphrey and Dr. Heman Humphrey. Dr. Humphrey, who was a native of Connecticut and the son of a distinguished minister, the president of Amherst College, had as his charge a church in Jeffersonville at the time of his marriage to Miss Prather. Later he was minister of the old Second Presbyterian church, and this church granted him a leave of absence of eight months to go abroad after his wife's death. In 1847 he was married to Martha Pope, a daughter of Alexander Pope and Martha Fontaine, who was the widow of her cousin, Charles Pope. Dr. Humphrey and his wife, Martha Pope, had one son, Judge Alexander Pope Humphrey.
Capt. Basil Prather, born in 1740 in Maryland, was an elder half-brother of Thomas Prather. He fought through the Revolutionary war, declining any pay for his services, and later came to Louisville. He has been described as exceedingly handsome, six feet three inches tall and of cordial and engaging manners. He is numbered among the commissioners of Louisville in 1790, and owned farm land near Louisville and in other parts of the State, bequeathed to his heirs on which they settled.
At a ball given in the fort built on the site of Jeffersonville he met Fanny Meriwether, of
the pioneer family, and shortly afterward they were married. His bride was years younger than himself. They settled on a farm in the Bluegrass district, living in opulence. Their daughter, Martha Meriwether Prather, married Dr. Warwick Miller, a son of Judge Isaac Miller, of Pennsylvania, who was an early settler.
Capt. Prather died in 1803.
Richard Prather, another member of the Maryland family to settle here, was one of the "City fathers," being elected a trustee of the town of Louisville in 1797. His wife was Mary Churchill, a daughter of Armistead and Elizabeth Bakewell Churchill, of Virginia, who were among the prominent pioneers of 1787. Eliza Prather, the daughter of Richard and Mary Prather, became the wife of James Guthrie, that distinguished citizen, the founder of the L. & N. James and Eliza Guthrie had two daughters, Ann Augusta and Mary Guthrie, both of whom married and have descendants here.
Ann Augusta Guthrie married Dr. William Caldwell, and was the mother of James Guthrie Caldwell, who married Nannie Standiford; of Junius Caldwell, who married Ella Payne, of Georgetown; and of Ann Eliza Caldwell, who married Ernest Norton, and was the mother of Caldwell Norton.
Mary Guthrie married Richard Coke, of Logan county, and has a grandson, Dr. Richard Coke, who makes Louisville his home.
Mary Guthrie married a second time, John Caperton, and was the mother of John H. Caperton, who married Virginia Standiford, and has a son, Hugh John Caperton, whose wife was Dorothy Bonnie.
Following her first husband's death, Mary Churchill Prather married Alexander Scott Bullitt, this being his second marriage also.