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R. Douglas Brackenridge

PRATT, HENRY BARRINGTON (1832–1912). Henry Barrington Pratt, Presbyterian missionary and teacher, son of Rev. Nathaniel A. and Catherine Barrington (King) Pratt, was born near Darien, Georgia, on May 26, 1832. He attended Oglethorpe University, graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1855, and was ordained by the Cherokee Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States on September 27, 1855. On November 7, 1860, he married Joanna Frances Gildersleeve, with whom he had three children. He served for ten years as a missionary in Bogotá, Colombia, and had other brief assignments in Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. He translated religious materials into Spanish for the American Tract Society and the American Bible Society, including the Versión Moderna, published in 1893, a Bible still widely used by Hispanic Protestants.

In 1896 Pratt settled in Laredo, Texas, as an "evangelist to Mexicans" for the Presbyterian Executive Committee of Home Missions. With other missionaries, he conducted numerous revivals throughout South Texas that produced several hundred converts to the Presbyterian Church. Pratt's major contribution to Presbyterianism in Texas, however, derived from his Bible Training School for Christian Workers, which he conducted in Laredo between 1896 and 1899. The school, designed to train converts to become effective evangelists, combined intensive Bible study and preaching lessons with such practical and physical chores as housecleaning and gardening. Pratt based his educational theory on economic as well as theological and pedagogical grounds. He thought that to give "native workers" a general education in addition to simple biblical training was self-defeating. Because they were to work primarily with impoverished and uneducated people, Pratt believed that Bible Training School graduates should not have a broad general education lest they become disaffected with their congregations or be lured into secular vocations by the temptation of high salaries and good working conditions. Pratt considered the students sufficiently trained after a two-year course to serve small Spanish-speaking congregations in Texas. Although his program produced a number of successful evangelists, such as Reynaldo Ávila, Abraham Fernández, and Elías Treviño, it also established the pattern for the typical Presbyterian Hispanic pastor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-underpaid, poorly trained, and dependent on denominational financial support. A smallpox epidemic forced the Bible Training School to close in 1899, and Pratt left Laredo to become pastor of a Hispanic congregation in Brooklyn, New York. He resigned that position in 1902 and retired to Hackensack, New Jersey, where he continued to write biblical commentaries and to translate theological works until his death, on December 11, 1912.

Robert Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. García-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974; 2d ed. 1987).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, R. Douglas Brackenridge, "PRATT, HENRY BARRINGTON," accessed July 22, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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