Chapter 5.  La Crosse to Los Angeles, 1902-


Spencer Alonzo Pruett (1870-1835)… son of Abraham Pruett and Eveline Bell)

Married to Bertha Heymann (1869-1932)


In a family recording, Bill talks about his parents.  His mother was Bertha Adelaide Heyman (1869-1932), and she is listed in the 1870 census as being born in Wisconsin; the census also indicated that both of her parents were born in Germany.  Bill Pruett mentioned that her parents were born in Freibourg?, Germany and they moved to Chicago, then La Crosse.  [check on the Swift connection in Chicago?.]


Bill's father, Spencer Alonzo Pruett (1870-1935) was born in La Crosse on the family farm.  The Spencer Pruett family farm was located in La Crosse near Grandad's Gulch.  (add directions and location).  Bill remembered that his grandfather's (Abraham's) farm was about 3 miles from his family's farm in the Mormon Coulee area of La Crosse[i]. 


Spencer was a farmer as well as a teacher who received his teaching certificate for instruction at the junior college level at age 20 from Guthrie County, Iowa, 1890.  He was elected to Assessor of the town of Shelby in 1890.  He served with Chairman George Hosmer[ii], whose siblings (?) are buried at the Pruett Family cemetery--Mary Ann's notes.   See also La Crosse Public Library's Pruett cemetery history


Spencer is the 4th child of 8 of Abraham Pruett and Eveline Bell Pruett (Preston, Walter Burton, Jay W., Spencer Alonzo, Emma Telitha, Eddy B., John Bell, and Elizabeth Naomi.)  When Bertha and Spencer were married, it was recorded in the newspaper:

The marriage of Mr. Spencer Pruett and Miss Bertha Hegman [sic] occurred Tuesday afternoon at the residence of Rev. J. B. Wiedeman, the reverend gentleman officiating.  The ceremony took place at half past five o'clock and was witnessed by a number of friends of the contracting parties.  Miss Addie Oberst supported the bride while Mr. Pruett, a brother of the groom, performed the same office for him.  Mr. Pruett is a schoolmaster, and his wife is an estimable young lady formerly residing with her parents at 1107 South Sixth street [2001 picture.  A neighbor's house looks more like the architecture of the time -- view 1].  The couple have begun housekeeping at 927 Hood Street [2001 picture. Again, a neighbor's home looks more like the architecture of the time -- view 2].[iii]


Insert:  Jane Courtney,[iv] Evelyn Schlotthauer,[v] and Margaret Neal[vi] remember her well: [Bertha memories, recipes]

Ask Margaret how her grandparents met…

Spencer and his family were recorded at the time fo the 1900 census as living at 2005 Loomis Street in La Crosse.  Around 1901, Spencer moved his family to Chicago to seek a better income.  He worked for the Swift company, (Swift was his second cousin…was this George B. Swift, mayor of Chicago in 1893.)  (5731 Palina Street??).  It is unclear how long they lived in Chicago but a Christmas picture shows all four children during their last Christmas in Chicago.    Bertha and Spencer were very concerned about Burt, their youngest son.  They worried that he would not live out the year…he was sickly and they thought he might be "tubercular" so they sought the dryer climate of California. 

In 1905, they were living at 1343 E. 55th Street. [vii]  [need to verify this home's picture]  They lived there 16 years.   He was a steel worker working for Boyle Manufacturing in Los Angeles.


Spencer's three older brothers had passed away.  Preston died at age 1 years, 2 months;  Jay died at age 15; and Walter Burton Pruett died at age 21 of consumption (1889).  His sister Emma married a man named Bates and moved to Montana;  Eddy also moved to California and had two daughters (Ivy and Fern); John Bell Pruett moved to Minnesota where he died (but was brought back for burial in the family cemetery)[viii] and Elizabeth (Lizzie) married Dewitt Clinton Pendergast.  They eventually moved from La Crosse to Portland, Oregon.  They had a son named Glen who married Agnes .


Spencer Pruett family still lived in La Crosse during the time of the 1900 census.  In 1914 (on Babe's 16th birthday), Spencer converted to Catholicism.  He had been raised as a Methodist by his mother and father but because Spencer thought Bertha was such an exemplary wife and mother, he took instruction privately and surprised her.  He had a hard time accepting confession since he had been raised in the Methodist ways.  He said it was so difficult "to unlearn the things I learned at my Mother's knee."  As he told his granddaughter Jane Courtney  later, he said that "Faith must overcome reason..."


In 1921, Spencer sold this property on 55th [ix]and had a one room house built at 1828 41st street.  It was finished in 1922.  Jane Courtney remembers that this house had a cellar, green moss, and canned goods.  On left there was a window to the street;  you could see into the dining room.  On the right was the living room which had old rocking chairs, side by side...In the back hall of the entry was a piano which Ethel played;  Al played the violin, Elmer played the base guitar.  The bedroom was in the back on the right....  Jane Courtney lived with her parents Francis and Babe (Viola) Walsh on 1852 41st Drive (University 1089 phone number) backed up to the 41st street property. 


Jane recalls memories of her grandfather:

ü    insert audio


Had a distinctive blood blister on his bottom lip (photograph did not reveal it).  Also had terrible eczema and would rub against his headboard.

Topsy and Eva at the Orpheum


Jane Courtney also remembers her grandmother Bertha.  She was a German woman with a heavy accent, and a very devout Catholic.  She loved to bake (Jane Courtney has her hand carved springerle rolling pin)  and several of her recipes, including one for springerle.  She remembers her making Sunday dinners and serving home made bread served with the bacon drippings from breakfast.  [Her children often talked how they loved these sandwiches…and three of her four children lived to their nineties).  She died in 1932, from complications of diabetes and a foot injury caused by the iceman dropping a black of ice on her foot.  Her son, Bill, looked like Bertha…and she had hair the color of Janet Pruett Schneider's hair (titian…deep red…)  'After Bertha's death there was some controversy as her caretaker Mrs. Babcock made a play for Spencer and both lied and stole from him.

ü    Bertha's sister was Mary Rose.

ü    Spencer becomes a catholic

ü    St. Patrick's Church

ü    Jane has her glide and chain (and she gave Mary Ann the pearls that hse wore in the picture with Spencer.)  Aunt Ethel had her watch;  [Marcy…the watch that Jane has is Nellie's watch (Uncle Fran's mother).  Aunties Grace and Helen were Fran's sisters)


Spencer built a home in the Sierra Madre canyon, called Outside Inn.  Bill Pruett carved his and Gala's initials in a tall oak tree there..Outside Inn; cabin built in Sierra Madre;


Spencer had an unfortunate accident on New Year's day that led to his early death.  He stepped off the street car in Los Angeles and he died about a week later on the 9th of January, one day after his 65th birthday.  from pneumonia in 1935, at the age of 65. 


On a tape recording of Bill Pruett in [year], Bill spoke of his Aunt Lizzie Pendergast (Spencer's sister).[x]  Shw was married to Dewitt Clinton Pendergast and they had a son named Glen.   When Bill visited her (613 Cedar Street, Portland , Oregon?, he invited her to come to his ranch in Covina, California.  He offered to buy her ticket and pay her way;  she accepted.  [scan pictures from this visit?]  Her granddaughter, Dorothy Jean Pendergast Boyce[xi] remembers stories of her grandmother:  :


[insert Dorothy's memories here...or Richard Pendergast's stories.) 


At the time of Lizzie's death in 1964, she asked for her remains to be cremated, then taken to La Crosse, where they were to be laid in a carved out section of her father Abraham's monument.  Mrs. Charlotte Bean, who lives on the site of the cemetery (2001) remembers that years ago, a funeral director came and asked her husband Glen Bean, to dig down three feet in front of Abraham Pruett's headstone.  Glen did this and placed the urn as Lizzie as requested, adjacent to her father.  Bill recalled that at that visit in 1947, Lizzie mentioned that she had a son who still lived in La Crosse.  He was a musician.  Her daughter-in-law Agnes was very interested in the family stories and genealogy.  Dorothy Boyce, her daughter, lives in Oregon (2002) and her son Michael  Boyce is also very interested in genealogy and has done extensive work on the Boyce family history. 


In 1999, I found an old letter among my grandparents' papers with the Pendergast home[xii] address in Portland, Oregon.  I took a chance, called the number and spoke to Richard Pendergast, Agnes and Glen's bachelor son.  He remembered meeting Bill Pruett and asked me if he ever solved the problem he had been working on regarding a water-powered engine.  In 2001 when the family was attending the wedding of Kathleen Pruett Seal's son Jason, Mary Ann and Jeff Laun, Janet Schneider, and Patty Kuchenski visited Richard and his brother James at the old Pendergast home.













[i] One mile from the Hwys 14, 61, and 35 intersection going towards Coon Valley (on the right side adjoining the old Bean's Greenhouse property


[ii] The tombstones list their parents as J. F. and H. M. Hosmer.[ii] 

[iii] La Crosse Chronicle,  2/4/1892, page 3, C2


[iv] Jane is the daughter of Viola Pruett Walsh, granddaughter of Spencer and Bertha Pruett.


[v] Evelyn Schlotthauer is the daughter of Burt and Sophie Pruett, granddaughter of Spencer and Bertha Pruett.


[vi] Margaret Neal  is the daughter of Ethel Florence Pruett and Alfred Walper, granddaughter of Spencer and Bertha Pruett.

[vii] November 23, 1905 grant deed recorded 1/2/06 in book 2556, page 40.  Grantor: Jennie B. Halrath

Grantee:  Spence A. Pruett

Description:  Lot 75 of Ascot Avenue tract recorded in book 8, page 93 of map

Acknowledged 11/23/05

Consideration:  $350.



The Tetley mortuary received notice today of the death of Mr. John Pruett at Minneapolis, Minn.  Services and burial will be held at the Fessler chapel, 109 S. Third Street, Thursday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock and burial will be in the family lot in Oak Grove Cemtary." 

T  3/15/1922  G 4

[ix] Grantor:  Spencer A. Pruett, a married man and Bertha Pruett, his wife

Grantee:  Fred Woodall and Annie Woodall, his wife as joint tenants

Description:  Lot 75 of Ascot Avenue tract recorded in book 8, page 93 of map

Acknowledged Spencer Pruett famdged 11/14/21


[x] Elizabeth Pruett Pendergast, 1881-1964, Spencer Pruett's younger sister. 


[xi] Dorothy Jean Pendergast Boyce is the daughter of daughter of Glen and Agnes Pendergast; Glen was the son of  Elizabeth Pruett and Dewitt Clinton Pendergast).


[xii]  list address…Michael Boyce of Medford, Oregon tells the story of cleaning out the family house in Portland and one of his brothers suggested tossing all the old pictures with La Crosse studio insignias, since no one knew who these people were.  Michael took them and stored them in his garage for ten years, when he found my web page and contacted me.  During our 2000 road trip to Washington State, Jeff, Amy and I met with Michael.  He entrusted these pictures to me to research (and to ask the elders in the family).   These are now posted  on the following site: