Notes to the Patton Letter
The interest in this signature started when I purchased a short book entitled” Donegal An Experience” by J.J. Tohill (1985 edition). This is a simple and handy pocket guide of interesting features about the County of Donegal. It reflects a curiosity with practical guidance and knowledge whilst revealing historical interpretations of the various named places of interest and antiquities of the county.
An item which caught my eye appeared under reference number 96 concerning a place in Fanad called Croughan House. There are numerous spellings of Croughan i.e. Crohan, Crogan, Croggan etc. It goes on to say that it was “formerly the home of the Pattons among whose descendants was the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.” This is not entirely accurate as it was only through inter-marriage that the connection was established.
There was nothing unusual in this fact but when I remembered I had an old letter bearing the signature of a H. Patton of Crohan House, Tamney, I was pleasantly surprised. The letter was undated but the watermark revealed that it was from a period in history when this old farmhouse was purchased and occupied by the Reverend William Patton and his descendants, who originated from Scotland.
After some further research I discovered that an American lady called Patricia Burton had compiled a genealogical study of this family since they moved to Virginia, U.S.A. Miss Burton was the grand-daughter of a famous Detroit historiographer. She had visited Ireland to seek more information about the Patton ancestry on two separate occasions.
Other research directed me to a newspaper item of January 1974 with the front page headline “American historian coming to Donegal.” It appeared in the Donegal Peoples Press and The Derry People. Miss Burton was compiling a history of the first battle of the American Revolution which she said was the Battle of Point Pleasant, Virginia.
Two officers who played prominent roles in this engagement were Colonel Andrew Lewis and Colonel William Preston, both natives of Donegal, both from Patton ancestry.
Further investigation recorded that two direct descendants, not one as originally thought, had married daughters of former Presidents of the United States, Roosevelt and L. B. Johnson. This fact was also reported in the newspaper.
Incidentally, the first thoroughbred horse is reputedly to have been brought to America by Colonel James Patton who became a political leader of Augusta County and was massacred at Draper`s Meadow in 1755. This Colonel James Patton was from Derry.
The letter, especially the signature, shows a direct connection to the original branch of the Patton family and to Lewis and Preston. The Rev. William Patton`s son and grandson were both named Henry. Members of this family resided at Crohan House until just after the 1800s, when they emigrated to America some years later.
According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs for Clondavoddog County Donegal, only three family names occupied the estates in that area of Fanad. These were Patton, Babington and Lord Leitrim (Clements).
The topic of the letter concerns another townland called Bonny Glen which for a time in the 1800s was in the possession of a gentleman called Murray Babington, eldest son of William Babington. Murray Babington was the agent for Lord Conyngham of Mountcharles.
Murray Babington had two younger sisters, Marianne, who married John Patton in 1778, and Margaret who married William Patton in the same year. Specific dates are not included.
Several governors and senators from the state of Virginia are connected to the same ancestry, as is the former famous astronaut, Higgins White.
The old letter is 15.5 cm by 12.5cm, on laid paper and bears a GR watermark presumably either the papermaker`s initials or “Georgius Rex” It contains fifteen handwritten lines including the address and Patton signature. An interesting fact about the GR watermark is that William A. Churchill, a noted authority on antiquarian marks, once identified this mark as belonging to the Dutch mill of L.V. Gerrivinck and cites its appearance on a document in Worcester Cathedral which is apparently dated 1776. As previously mentioned the GR may possibly refer to Georgius Rex since the Dutch manufacturer of this paper obviously made it for export to the English market.
Edward Heawood, another renowned expert, reproduces it from an English book printed in London in 1748. Although the exact date is impossible to determine it would appear that the letter period most definitely ranges from 1748-1800. The signature is almost certainly that of Henry Patton (Junior), the grandson of the Rev William Patton. What a mountainous connection of historical lineages established from a simple signature!
A copy of the original old letter is enclosed. The transcript was rather difficult due to the constant ageing and staining of the flimsy paper material whilst some of the words and letters seemed slightly distorted. Thankfully, the message content has just about remained.