Our Patterson Heritage


From data collected from wills and deeds.


Story by Philip George Parsons, written June 24, 1981

(Note the addendum, Dec. 2004, at the bottom of the page which comments on possible errors within the original story.)


Back in 1776 when General George Washington was trying to defeat King George's redcoats and establish our independence from the Crown, the soldiers he cherished most were those buck- skinned, backwoodsmen of western Pennsylvania and West Augusta - Washington's name for what is now known as West Virginia. Most of them made their homes in Western Pennsylvania and most all of them were Scotch-Irish who had emigrated from Northern Ireland. They were excellent woodsmen, experienced Indian fighters, and sure shots. They considered themselves to be Americans rather than colonists and practically to a man hated the British.

According to Dr. O. Norman Simpkins these mountain men were the first Europeans to settle West Virginia and these hard-working, fun-loving people had plenty of reason to hate the British and to seek the isolation of the Appalachian wilderness. "These people had been taxed to death back in Ireland," said Simpkins, who heads Marshall University's Sociology and Anthropology Department. "A half million of them left northern Ireland between 1707 and 1776."

In her book 'Concerning the Forefathers', Charlotte Reeve Conover says that according to the 'Statistical Account' of Scotland there are seven families of Pattersons in Scotland whose armorial bearings show that they are related to one another. It is agreed by genealogists that they are all descended from the same progenitor. She thinks the probable ancestor of all the Pennsylvania Pattersons to have been a John Patterson, born 1640, married (?Ann Knox? see addendum below), who went from Scotland to Londonderry, Ireland and had several children who came to New England between 1723 and 1728. His son, Robert, brought his wife, Margaret (?Janet Walker? see addendum below), and six children to America in 1728, and was accompanied by his father and an unmarried sister.

Simpkins, mentioned above, says these Scotch-Irish were lowland Scots who had been lured to northern Ireland by the British crown with the promise of free land. But after they got to northern Ireland, the British reneged and these proud people who had held off the Romans, the Normans, and for years, the British, were forced to become share-croppers who quaked at the footsteps of the British landlords. "They were freedom-loving people who had been misled and lied to and who certainly had no reason to love the British," said Simpkins. When they arrived in America they settled in the back country of Pennsylvania, moving westward to claim free land. These people wanted to be left alone. They didn't want to pay any more taxes. They wanted to be free to live their lives on their land, to prosper, without any interferences from a government.

Two well-known Scotch-Irishmen who first explored the region were Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton. What they found was a wild beautiful land of vast forest and giant trees, of abundant game and fish-filled streams.

These hardy folk were not easily discouraged. Hundreds of them poured into the area after the Revolutionary War. They killed game and fought off the Indians with their long-barreled flintlock rifles, built homes from logs of giant oaks and poplars and carved out homesteads. They usually marked their claims by slashing trees with their short-handled iron axes, called tomahawks by the Indians.

Our research has found at least fourteen emigrant Patterson families who came to America between 1718 and 1770. We might mention James Patterson, 1708-1792 immigrated in 1728, progenitor of the famous Patterson families of Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Robert (?or James? see addendum below) Patterson, immigrant in 1736, whose sons James, Peter, Robert and William prospered in the early history of Wesmoreland, Fayette and Washington counties of Pennsylvania.

John and wife, Jean, ?immigrated about 1740?(see addendum below) with sons Robert, James, Alexander, Andrew, John and Nicholas. John bought a large tract of land near the mouth of the Tinicum creek, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, became well off and his sons served in the 3rd Battalion of Bucks County Militia under their brother, Nicholas Patterson.

Another Robert Patterson born 1705 at Hilsborough, County Down, Ireland immigrated to America in October 1768 together with sons Robert, John, and Joseph. All these Pattersons from Scotland were very staunch Presbyterians and this family was noted for its famous teachers and religious leaders such as Robert Patterson LLD born May 30, 1743 and Rev. Joseph Patterson born March 26, 1752.

Through land records and wills of Fayette County, Pennsylvania we traced our Patterson ancestors for five generations. First, Thomas Patterson, Sr. and wife, Sarah owned land in Washington Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, purchased April 22, 1788, originally granted to Edward Cook December 29, 1784. Ref Deed Book Q, page 304.

Thomas Sr. conveyed this land to his son Thomas Jr. of Rostrover Twp. Westmoreland Co. Pennsylvania. (Deed Book P, page 65). Thomas Jr., born about 1730. Died March, 1813. See PGP's copy of his Will, dated March 18, 1813, Fayette County, Will Book 27 page 463.

Thomas (?Jr.? see addendum below) conveyed part of this tract to John Patterson, Esq.April 7, 1797 (Deed Book L., page 153). John Patterson, Esq. was born about 1760. He was very strong, farmer, builder, blacksmith. Saved his money and bought land. Became prominent in Washington Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Invested heavily in Perryopolis Glass Works, a venture which failed, and he died a poor man.

John Patterson's daughter was Susanna, born March 13, 1785, died October 23, 1863. Susanna married about 1807 a Robert Patterson. We found dozens of Pattersons named Robert and so far, have been unable to trace his family.(addendum 2005: It has been proven that Robert's parents were Robert Patterson and Mary Stewart of Lancaster Co., PA based on the will of Robert's Brother Thomas. Will book 5, p.110 Westmoreland County, PA)

Robert and Susanna, his wife, had a daughter Sarah Finley Patterson, born April 18, 1808, Uniontown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Sarah married Dr. Thomas Nichol born May 6, 1805 near Belmont, Ohio.

Dr. Thomas Nichol and his wife, Sarah (Patterson) Nichol are great- grandparents of Philip G. Parsons, the writer of this sketch and his sister, Marion Parsons Becker Ross.

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Addendum December 10, 2004 Comments from RRosent839@aol.com -Janice Patterson-Roenthal

" I'm writing only because I am concerned that, since so many Patterson researchers "google," and because so many researchers accept anything they read as true and then incorporate it into their family trees, that some of the errors contained in "Our Patterson Heritage" might be perpetuated by these internet researchers.

" So, here goes. Do with this info what you will.

" First, the third paragraph of "Our Patterson Heritage" contains info allegedly from Conover's book Concerning the Forefathers. I've been fortunate enough to have recently purchased a copy (it's a rare book--only 1000 copies originally printed) and have read it thoroughly. Conover does discuss a John Patterson born 1640, but nowhere does she write that the name of his wife was Ann Knox. Secondly, Conover does write about Robert, son of this John, but the wife of this Robert (according to Conover) was named Margaret, not Janet Walker. Conover repeats this info several times; there is no doubt about this. Probably your father read some inaccurate transcriptions of Conover's book--they abound (see attached). To substantiate what I've just written I am attaching a word-for-word transcription of the section of Conover's book that treats these early Patterson.

" Okay, next: paragraph 13 of "Our Patterson Heritage" says that in 1797 Thomas Jr. conveyed land to his son John Patterson, Esq. This is incorrect. John Patterson, Esq. was son of Thomas Sr., not son of Thomas Jr. Thomas Jr. was John Esq.'s brother. I have written a lengthy paper on this line of Pattersons and would be happy to send you a hard copy if you're interested. I don't have much success e-mailing it through AOL because of the file size, but I could try--again, only if you're interested. For now I will try to briefly explain how I know that John Esq. was son of Thomas Sr. rather than of Thomas Jr.

" Let's start with the 1800 Washington Twp., Fayette Co. census. We see the household of John Patterson Esq. He is over age 45, so born before 1755. This agrees with the baptism record I last sent you: John Paterson baptized 17 Dec 1751 in Muddy Run Meeting House, Lancaster Co., PA by Rev. John Cuthbertson; father listed as Thomas Paterson. Now, I know for sure that John's father was born abt. 1724 (info from Thomas Sr.'s headstone at Rehoboth Presbyterian Cemetery which says "died June 5th, 1822, age 98 years). I also know that Thomas Jr., son of Thomas Sr., was baptized 8 Oct 1758 by Rev. Cuthbertson. Therefore Thomas Sr. is father of Esq. John, not Thomas Jr.

" I myself am not related to this Patterson line, but became interested when I thought that perhaps I was. During the course of my research I have encountered so many inaccuracies in so many internet sources that I thought to myself, "Maybe I should write a book on Patterson immigrants some day." Well, I'm well on my way; currently I have several thousand typed pages of research on the various lines of Pattersons who emigrated before the Rev. War.

" Which brings me to my next point. I have reason to believe that the name of the father of "sons James, Peter, Robert and William" mentioned in paragraph 8 was James, rather than Robert--but since I do not (yet) have the primary source evidence to prove this I am only mentioning it. Your father probably found this info in "American Compendium of Genealogy"--a very good source which does indeed state that the father's name was Robert. However, I have written a 110-page paper on this line of Pattersons and my evidence suggests the father's name was James, not Robert. I would only publish my belief as conjecture, however. (Again, if you're interested in a copy of this paper--"Peter Patterson of Washington Twp., Fayette Co., PA"--I'd be happy to send it to you.)

" Similarly, in the next paragraph is a statement I question: "John and wife, Jean, immigrated about 1740..." My research leads me to believe that this John did indeed come to Bucks Co. about 1740 (probably closer to 1738), but I think John was in this country much earlier. A small point, perhaps, but we all know how a small published inaccuracy has the potential to mislead subsequent researchers.

" I hope you recieve this in the spirit it was sent: a sincere interest in helping future Patterson researchers avoid the pitalls of incorrect/inaccurate information being published on the internet. The internet is both a boon and a curse to genealgoical research; it makes a lot of data easily available but it also unfortunately makes it possible for naive, inexperienced researchers who do not have high standards of substantiation to simply "copy" wrong info and pass it on ad infinitum.

" Thanks for your time, and Happy Holidays!"

Janice Patterson-Rosenthal

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