This Is What The Deacon Died Of

Deacon Pratt memorial

The following post originally appeared on Strange Company and is shared here with permission from the author.

In 1889, an incredible display of food and death takes place in Lambertville, Pennsylvania:

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:

“THIS IS WHAT THE DEACON DIED OF.”

This, my friends, is where the story gets good. To read the rest of the piece, courtesy of Undine at one of my favorite blogs Strange Company: A walk on the weird side of history click here

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