Aurilla Finetta Pratt

by Paul DeBry

Aurilla was the second of two children, both girls, born to Nelson Pratt and his second wife, Azuba Spaulding. Aurilla had a sister, Hellen Orissa Pratt who was a year and a half older than she was. She also had an older brother, Edwin Delano Pratt who was born to Nelson and his first wife, Finetta Delano. Edwin was seven years older than Aurilla. Two and a half years after her father was left a widower, at age 26, Nelson married Aurilla’s mother. She was 21 years old.

Aurilla was born in the small town of Havana, Huron County, Ohio, located about 25 miles south of Lake Erie, and fifty miles west of Cleveland.

Havana, Huron County, Ohio

As fate would have it, Aurilla’s mother would not live to raise her daughters. On New Year’s Eve in 1847, she passed away. Aurilla would never remember her mother. She was only three and a half years old. Her mother was buried in Boughton Cemetery, not far from their home. Forty-two years later, when her father died, he was buried next to her mother.

(Mother is the small white stone on the left, Father is the tall gray stone on the right)

Azuba Spaulding
(The top part with her name is broken off)

Wife of

Dec. 31, 1847

Aurilla’s father did his best to raise his three children and still make a living farming. The children were without a mother for two years, and then, when Aurilla was five years old, her father married his third wife, Marietta Ensign. Marietta was born in New York, but like so many people in the mid-1800’s, she also followed the western movement to Ohio. Marietta raised Edwin and the girls until she died in 1862 after 13 years of marriage. Aurilla was 18 years old. Marietta was a good mother to the children.

In 1853 Aurilla’s father, Nelson, wrote to his brother Orson telling him about Marietta and the family, “… I have a kind companion and find the greatest source of enjoyment at home in the society of my family. My farm consists of 65 acres … Marietta and the children all send their love to you.”

Marietta only had one child of her own, a son, Orson, born in July of 1853. He was named after his brilliant uncle, the Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt. Little Orson only lived five weeks.

Nelson wrote to Orson shortly after his son’s death, “Dear Brother with pleasure I sit down to scratch a few lines to you to let you know that we are still alive and well except Marietta, her health is very poor through she is able to be about the house at present. Sickness and death have visited us since we wrote you last. We had a son born July 22, who lived but five weeks. We named him Orson, so you see that we have not forgotten you.”

Aurilla’s uncle Parley visited them in February of 1857 on his way home from a mission to the east. Parley would never reach his destination, however as he was martyred three months later in Arkansas while attempting to join a wagon train to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Parley wrote in his autobiography of his pleasant visit to his brother Nelson and his family, “We were overjoyed to see each other after twenty-one years’ absence. He [Nelson] had a wife [Marietta] and three children living, viz: a son, Edwin Delano Pratt, aged twenty years; and two daughters, Hellen Orissa, aged fourteen, and Aurilla Finetta, aged twelve years. Several days later Parley wrote, “At noon took leave of my brother Nelson and his family, who accompanied me to the railroad station, and bid me an affectionate farewell.” It would also be his final farewell in this life.

A few years later, Aurilla moved with her family to Garden Grove, Iowa, where her father apparently planned to farm for a while and then move on west to join his brothers in Great Salt Lake City. Garden Grove had been a Mormon settlement from the winter of 1846 until 1852, when the last of the transitory inhabitants moved on to the Salt Lake Valley.

Garden Grove, Iowa
Home for a few years

While in Garden Grove, Aurilla lost her stepmother, Marietta, who died in 1862. She was buried in the Mormon cemetery. After Marietta’s death, Nelson was heartbroken and moved his family back to northern Ohio.

Aurilla’s sister Hellen had married in 1861, a year before their stepmother’s death. Back in Ohio, Aurilla was responsible for the housework while her 25-year-old brother Edwin (still single), and her father did the farming.

On May 13, 1866, Aurilla, age 21, married Henry C. Bowen in Huron, Ohio, a small coastal town on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Seven months later her father would marry again for the fourth and final time. Nelson and Mary Ann Felton, a widow, were married for six years, until, she passed away. Nelson was now a four-time widower at age 57. He never remarried, but lived another 17 years. He died while living in the home of Aurilla’s stepbrother, Edwin, in 1889.

Aurilla and Henry had four children as follows:

  1. Lilly Elene Bowen, born May 15 1867 in Seneca County, Ohio. Lilly married Hiram F. Burnap in 1899 in Ohio. They had no children. She lived to be 76 years old, dying in Wisconsin in1943.
  2. Henry Nelson Bowen, born May 18, 1869 probably in Wood County, Ohio. Henry married Bertha Noble in 1893, at age 24. She died after about 7 years of marriage sometime around 1900. He then married Jennie O. Light to whom he was married for over 50 years.

He had two sons with Bertha. Edgar Allen Bowen was born in 1890 and Merle Leon Bowen was born in 1895. Henry died about 1925 in Wisconsin. Neither of his sons had children.

  1. Hellen Jassamine Bowen, born September 9, 1876 in Seneca County, Ohio. She married Edward Anthony Crossly in Chicago Junction, Ohio (later named Willard) in 1893. In 1909 she married her second husband, Levi H. Fritz. Hellen died May 13, 1939 in Wisconsin. She was 62 years old. Not much is known of her marriages except that she did not have children by either of her husbands.
  2. Zetus Elwin Bowen, born July 24, 1882 in Reed Township, Seneca County, Ohio. Zetus lived 79 years and never married. He died October 27, 1961 in Wisconsin. It would be interesting to know how he got his unusual name of Zetus.

In searching for the death and burial of Aurilla and her children in Ohio and Florida, where I knew they had resided, I found Zetus, because of his unusual name. I had a professional genealogist look for his grave and to my great surprise; his mother and three siblings were buried with him in the same cemetery. I found Zetus by searching an Internet site that has many newspapers digitized. The article was in the Waukesha Daily Freeman newspaper, Beloit Wisconsin, dated May 27, 1946. All the article says about him is that Zetus Bowen was from Beloit and was driving a car that was sideswiped by another car. The driver of the other car had his arm torn off. Pretty gruesome, but it led us to the family, as they were all in Beloit.

Beloit, Wisconsin

Eastlawn Cemetery, Beloit, Wisconsin
(Aurilla and all four of her children died and are buried here)

Later in her life, Aurilla moved around to be with her children. In 1900 when she was 55, she was living with her daughter Lily E. Bowen Burnap and her son-in-law, Hiram Burnap.
In 1910 at age 65, she was lining alone in Venice Township, Seneca Co., Ohio.

On Sept. 12, 1918, her son Zetus’ WWI Draft registration, which he signed in Florida, shows Aurilla is listed as his nearest living relative. They were living in Groveland, Lake Co., Florida.

Then, finally in the 1920 US census-Name:  Aurilla Bowen, age 75, was living in Beloit, Wisconsin with her son Zetus, single and age 36, and her daughter Lilla (Lilly) Burnap, a widow at age 52.

Three years later, in 1823 at age 78 Aurilla Finetta Pratt died in Beloit, Wisconsin, She is buried in Eastlawn Cemetery. Her headstone reads:  "Aurilla Bowen 1844-1923.” She is buried in the same plot with her children, Lilly Elene Bowen (Burnap), Henry N. Bowen; Hellen J. Bowen (Crossly)(Fritz); and Zetus Bowen.

Her obituary in the "Beloit Daily News" Wed. May 16, 1923, reads, "Mrs. Aurilla F. Bowen, 78, died at the home of her son, Zetus Bowen, 2119 Porter Avenue, last night shortly before 6 o’clock following a stroke of paralysis. Mrs. Bowen was born in Huron County, Ohio, May 21, 1844. She came to Beloit from Ohio in 1919. Besides the son with whom she made her home, she is survived by a son, Henry Bowen, Groveland, Florida, and two daughters, Mrs. Lilla Burnap, and Mrs. Helen Fritz, both of Beloit. Funeral services will be held Thursday morning at 10 o’clock from the home, the Rev. E.J. Evans officiating. Interment will be in the East Lawn cemetery."

Aurilla Finetta Pratt Bowen has no posterity living today. Of her four children only one, Henry had offspring. He had two children. Neither of those grandchildren had children.

Who knows the trials and challenges that Aurilla experienced in her life. It began in northern Ohio with a mother she never knew and ended with her living out her life with her children. One thing we do know is that when life was drawing to a close, Aurilla and her four children all gathered together in Beloit, Wisconsin where, over a period of 38 years they all died and were buried together.

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