The true story of why my great-uncle was buried in a tree
Merritt Berry Pratt was born in the tiny hamlet of Paw Paw, Illinois on Oct. 3, 1878.
He was my grandmother’s older brother and was described in a 1959 biography by C. Raymond Clar as a “short, plump and rather handsome lad,” which, I suppose, was intended as some sort of compliment.
Merritt received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1904 and a master’s degree in forestry from Yale a year later, after which he was immediately hired by the newly-established United States Forest Service.
Merritt was assigned to the Tahoe National Forest, and at a 1906 Fourth of July picnic in Nevada City he met Laura May Schraeder, who became his wife the following year.
He left the Forest Service in 1914 to teach at UC Berkeley in the new Division of Forestry of the College of Agriculture, and four years later was appointed deputy California state forester in Sacramento.
On Nov. 25, 1921, Merritt Pratt became California’s fourth state forester when his boss, George Homans, died of injuries sustained in a car crash earlier that year.