Amy Pratt Romney
First full-time librarian for the new Kaysville Public Library
At a special election held in September of 1920, the citizens of Kaysville decided, with an overwhelming affirmative vote, that the town needed a permanent city and citizen funded free public library. Before the election, there had been a Library and Literary Society that had attempted to provide library services but their efforts were erratic because they couldn’t find a permanent or suitable library and meeting space.
After the special election, a Library Committee, consisting of Henry H. Blood, president; Adam G. Frank, secretary; Leonora Epperson, treasurer, with Frank Hyde, Elizabeth Layton, Martha Barnes, and Mayor John W. Thornley as committee members, was appointed and charged with the responsibility of finding a way to establish a public library. Assisting this committee, was a Kaysville Elementary School teacher named Amy Pratt who was very interested in seeing that this project was successful. Amy was the school’s 7th grade teacher and she was very disappointed that her students didn’t have access to the books they needed to enhance their education a sentiment Amy made very clear to city officials and citizens in the public discussions leading up to the special election.
On September 21-22, 1921, the Kaysville Public Library was dedicated and opened to the general public. In one year, the Library Committee had raised enough money to purchase 2,500 books, leased a building to house the library, established an endowment fund to see that the library would be sustainable, and hired Amy Pratt to be the first full-time librarian. The Kaysville Public Library was the first library to be established in Davis County and it has served the citizens of Kaysville for 101 years.
Amy Pratt was born on the Pratt Ranch just a few miles outside the pioneer settlement of Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, on March 16, 1890. Her parents, Helaman and Anna Dorothea “Dora” Wiclken Pratt, were pioneers in the settlement of the LDS colonies in Northern Mexico. Helaman was the president of the Mexico LDS Mission and in the mid-1880s he moved his three families to and established a ranch in what came to be known as Colonia Dublan.
When Amy was about three, her family moved into downtown Dublan and she attended a local one-room school where all grades from first through eighth were taught. She then attended the Juarez LDS Stake Academy in Colonia Juarez, another LDS settlement, about twelve miles south of Dublan. She graduated from the Academy in the spring of 1912.
Between 1910-1912, Mexico experienced what was called the Madera Revolution. Two parties were fighting over who would run the country and the LDS settlers in Northern Mexico were seriously affected by this armed conflict. On July 28, 1912, rebel leader Pancho Villa issued an order that required all LDS families, especially women and children, to leave the country. Of the Pratt evacuation, Amy told this story: “We were awakened about six in the morning by cannon fire in Casa Grande, about six miles south and west of our town. We were told that we must go…so we put a few cloths in a trunk, two suitcases, and a little roll of bedding, just the real necessities, and left for El Paso, Texas. This was the luggage for my mother, myself, Aunt Bertha and her three sons.”
Amy was twenty-two when she had to flee Mexico. Her grandfather Wilcken in Utah wired railroad tickets to the family in El Paso and the party eventually made it to Salt Lake City where they were welcomed into the Wilcken home.
The first mention of Amy Pratt in Davis County is in 1913 when her name appears in The Weekly Reflex as being a South Bountiful Elementary School teacher. She taught in South Bountiful for five years and was then hired as the 7th grade teacher at the newly opened eight-room Kaysville Elementary School in 1918.
The first year that Amy taught in Kaysville, she was a boarder in the John W. Gailey family home. The Gailey home, on the corner between Main Street and 50 West Street, was a large four bedroom Victorian home and since the Gailey’s had no children living at home they rented rooms to single school teachers. The year Amy boarded with the Gailey’s there were four other teachers, including her half-sister Gladys Pratt, living in that home. Later, Amy and her mother, Dora, lived with Emma Galbraith. Mrs. Galbraith, the widow of William Galbraith, was a friend from Mexico who was forced to leave that country at the same time as the Pratts.
The summer before the library opened, Amy spent the summer in New York State where she was enrolled in the Chautauqua Institute’s library science certification course. She spent three months at the institute and was a “certified librarian” when she arrived home.
In 1922, in a report of the libraries first year of progress, Amy reported that: (1. the Library Committee had a longtime lease on a suitable building, (2. the Library Committee had spent $1,454.58 to get the library up and running, (3. the new library had a collection of 3,038 books, (4. the library was well stocked with reference books, magazines, and newspapers, (5. the library had $2,276.84 in a Barnes Bank endowment fund, and (6. the report recognized that Kaysville Attorney T. McClure Peters had donated over 500 books from his personal collection to the library. Also, Amy noted that the library was receiving from five to eight books per week as citizen donations.
In December of 1923, Amy resigned from her Kaysville librarian position to take a job as the assistant librarian at the Utah State Agricultural College (USU) in Logan. In 1927, after the death of her older sister Anna, Amy married her brother-in-law Gaskell Romney and was the aunt/stepmother to George W. Romney and the great aunt/step grandmother to Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
In her later life, Amy was, for fifteen years, the supervisor of the LDS Church’s Genealogical Society’s Index Bureau. All of the family group sheets that are now the foundation of FamilySearch passed through Amy’s hands along with her staff of twenty other workers.
Amy Pratt Romney passed away in Salt Lake City on May 14, 1976. However, before her death she was still in close contact with many of her former Kaysville friends especially Zena Williams, Muriel Reeves, Hazel Bishop, Maude Odd, and Claire Gleason.
- “Kaysville Ladies of Note – Amy Pratt Romney”, Our Kaysville Story Facebook post by Bill Sanders, August 26, 2022.
- Photos courtesy: FamilySearch, Heritage Museum of Layton.