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HISTORY OF

PRATHER INDIANA

 

        Prather Indiana has existed since the early 1800's and is located in Clark County, Indiana north of Highway 62, west of Charlestown, east of Jeffersonville, and south of Hamburg.  The area was once sparse in farms, homes and life, but of late has boomed into a still rural but lively community.  New sub divided neighborhoods have been added and it seems as though the only thing separating this quiet community from big business is Highway 62 which runs from Clarksville, Indiana to above Bethlehem, Indiana. 

     Land was bought, sold, and sold again in the past 200 years not just from one individual, but to and from large companies who seem to find this area appealing.  The "founder" (if you will) of Prather was BASIL PRATHER and his heirs.  Basil was born in Maryland on 1 Feb 1741 or 1742 and died 10 Jun 1822 in Utica Township, Clark County, Indiana where he left behind a legacy of a community and churches.

Basil Prather and his family left Maryland about 1772 and moved to Rowan Co., North Carolina. 

In 1789, at age 47, Basil sold his land in Rowan Co., NC, gathered his family along with other families (Bennett, Lutz, Holman, Swartz, Brown, Robertson, and Gaither), formed a caravan of more than 80 people and came over land and by flat boat to Clark Co., IN where land was purchased. He was a Christian man and was instrumental in establishing the New Chapel Methodist Church and Union Methodist Church.

Most of the above are buried in New Chapel Cemetery in Clark Co., IN. I am a native of Clark Co. but now reside in Louisville KY.  Some of the following is from memory and the rest came from various sources such as books and public records.

 

 

In 1883 David L. and Annie R. Prather deeded an acre of land for $100 to Utica Township for a one-room school to be called Prather School.  This school housed grades 1-8 and many in the community attended and obtained their education there.  Some years, the school housed as many as 33 students.  The school had 5 paned windows on each side, a belfry and bell and blackboards between each window and across the front of the room.  A pot-bellied stove served as heat near the center of the room. 

In spring of 1924, the school was closed and sold to "The Ladies Union Club" and used as a clubhouse. 

By fall of 1924, a new elementary school consolidating the Prather one-room school and the Watson one-room school was constructed.  The land for the new Prather Consolidated School was bought by Utica Township from Basil Myer and was atop a hill with Charlestown Pike bordering the lot.  It was a four room, brick school with a wide hall upstairs and a kitchen, furnace room, large auditorium (which also served as a cafeteria) with a stage and another large hallway downstairs.  It contained metal lockers, 2 outdoor toilets with facilities to accommodate six to eight in each building, one for boys and one for girls.  Water fountains were installed in both halls and electric lighting throughout.

The first principal of the new Prather Consolidated School was Ernest Orman.

About 1951, black students were integrated into the Prather school system.  It later became necessary to build an annex on the original school with 2 class rooms and rest rooms included.

Basketball had become a popular sport for all grade schools in the area.  Prather had no gymnasium, so the coach would transport the team to Utica School for practices and games.

P.T.A. was very active.  The school sponsored programs and fund-raising activities such as; Fall Festivals, Turkey dinners and later, many parents became crucial in transporting the basketball team to and from games and practices.  The school became a very important fixture in the community where meetings of the Farm Bureau, 4-H, fish fries, elections and church dinners were held. 

Prather Consolidated School was utilized for 44 years until spring of 1968 when it was closed.  Students were then transported to other area schools thus ending an era of quiet country living and learning.  It was later used for special education students in the Clark County school system.

Today the 2 story school is called "Prather Schoolhouse Apartments".  It was purchased by a former student, whose mother was a teacher there, and was transformed into apartments.

Today's Prather community is still home to farm scenes but fewer of the older structures remain, many of the children who grew up there have moved away, although some remained, married and had children of their own.  WWII changed much of the world with many residents in the Prather community entering military service, others giving their land and homes.  Some provided food and shelter for workers of the ammunition plant located across Highway 62.  It only goes to show, you can change the scenery and people but the memories remain.

 

Prather wasn't just a schoolhouse sitting atop a hill.  It also had it's own post office and grocery.  The earliest recorded postal service for Prather was in 1878.  The post office was located on Charlestown Pike near the B & O Railroad tracks that ran into Prather and north to Charlestown and North Vernon.  The grocery was part of the post office.  Just as in old movies, the store was a gathering place for gossip and story telling.  As the older gentlemen would play checkers, they would tell their tales and do a little well deserved bragging.

The post office and grocery serviced the area for almost 55 years and had no less than 15 different postmasters from 1878 to 1932.  Of course most of these also ran the grocery.

A type of "rail" system was also an important part of the Prather life.  Residents would purchase tickets to ride the "electric" car to and from destinations such as Charlestown, Watson, Sellersburg, Indianapolis and Louisville.  Even students from Prather rode the cars to Charlestown or Jeffersonville to high school.  These "trolley cars" were the highlight of some residents days with the conversation and laughter that filled the air.  This transit system served the community from 1906 until 1932 when it was replaced by a bus line organized by the Bryson Family.

 

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