Pratt, Morris (d. 1901)
Morris Pratt, the founder of the Morris Pratt Institute, currently
the educational arm of the National Spiritualist Association
of Churches, was a successful nineteenth-century businessman
and Spiritualist. Little is known of his early life, but in
1851, just three years after Spiritualism emerged in the United
States, he visited the Lake Mills (New York) Spiritualist Center.
The visit launched his interest in psychic phenomena and he
soon became a dedicated Spiritualist. Over the years he enjoyed
provoking ministers with the phenomena of Spiritualism,
and on at least one occasion was arrested and fined for his interruption
of a church meeting to argue his position.
In the 1880s, an investment in the Ashland Mine at Ironwood,
Michigan, provided him with a large amount of cash. He
had made the investment due to information that had come
through a medium from an Indian spirit guide. True to a
promise made earlier in his life, he dedicated part of that
money to Spiritualism. He constructed a large mansion in
Whitewater, Wisconsin, specifically designed to house gatherings
for seances and lectures. Dedicated in 1889, the ‘‘Temple,’’
as it was known, included classrooms, office space, and
dormitories. The main lecture hall could comfortably seat 400
people.
The National Spiritualist Association (later the National
Spiritualist Association of Churches) was founded in 1893,
the first national organization representative of Spiritualism’s
maturing into a religious community. In 1901, the aging Pratt
offered the house and property in Whitewater to the association
for the purpose of opening an educational institution
modeled on the training school that Spiritualist teacher Moses
Hull had led for several years in the mid-1890s in Ohio. The
association felt financially unable to assume the responsibility,
and Pratt incorporated the Morris Pratt Institute separately.
Unfortunately, he died on December 2, 1902, before the school
could open. Hull assumed control of the corporation the next
year and operated the institute for the rest of his life. In spite
of some shaky years following the Great Depression, the institute
has continued to the present and now serves as the educational
arm of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches.
Sources
Morris Pratt Institute. httpwww.morrispratt.org. April 25,
2000.