John Pratt made his home in the basement of the Hannibal Courthouse from the time it first opened until his death in March 1909.
The story of his life and death were published Tuesday, March 23, 1909, in the Quincy Daily Journal following the discovery of his lifeless body at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning near the coal bin in the basement of the building.
The following story was obtained via the newspaper’s digital archives, accessed through the Quincy Public Library’s web site: http://quincylibrary.org/newspaper-archive/
“The lifeless body of John Pratt, for a long time janitor and caretaker of the court house, was discovered at 11 o’clock Sunday morning stretched out in the coal bin in the basement of the building where it is supposed he had fallen while attending to the furnace fires. From the appearance of the body death came suddenly and without a struggle as he was filling a wheel-barrow with coal, and it is supposed was brought on by the strain of lifting the heavy coal. Heart failure is assigned as the cause of death.
“Pratt was known as ‘captain,’ a title he attained in the civil war where he served on the Confederate side. He had a bed in the court house and took his meals at the home of his sisters, Mrs. Mary Smiley and Miss Lizzie Pratt, at 1001 Bird street. He was last seen alive at 10:30 Saturday night by Deputy Marshal James Brady. Captain Pratt had been in very poor health for some time, and the nephew had been assisting him in his duties about the building. He was 74 years of age, and leaves a son, R.W. Pratt, and three daughters and the two sisters before mentioned. All the children live together in St. Louis and the two sisters live together in Hannibal. Mrs. Pratt died several years ago.
“Capt. Pratt was city marshal of Hannibal in 1893 and 1894, and was also a policeman, janitor at the post office for several years and when the new court house was completed he was appointed janitor and held that position at the time of his death.”