James Patten papers  1788-1799
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The James Patten papers (16 items) contain letters and documents regarding Patten's capture and captivity by Delaware Indians in Ohio, the family's efforts to raise funds to purchase his ransom, his eventual release, and his life on the Ohio frontier (1789-1799). The collection is comprised of 12 letters (1788-1799), 3 receipts (1791), and a subscription list (1791). Also present is a photocopied excerpt from The Choates in America, 1643-1896, by E. O. Jameson, which describes the capture of Patton and Isaac and Francis Choate by the Delaware Indians (pages 125-128).

The earliest item in the collection is a letter of recommendation for David Patten (1761-1836) by the Selectman of Bedford, New Hampshire, and endorsed by Justices of the Peace from Hillsborough and Middlesex Counties (May 1, 1788). It asks "all Civil Officers and others let him pass and repass unmolested." David may well have planned to go to Ohio with his brother James, but changed his mind. Matthew and Elizabeth Patten wrote the next two letters in the collection to James Patterson, who accompanied their son to Ohio (June 13, 1789 and December 1, 1790). They discussed local news like the new style of singing hymns in the meeting house, family news, and news on crop yields. James Patten wrote all his 7 letters after his captivity; these contain details about his time with the Indians and how he was freed (November 1, 1796 -- April 21, 1799). Though many of his comments on the experience are brief, his letter to friend Samuel Patterson provides a day-by-day account of the nearly month-long trek he made across what is now the state of Ohio, from Big Bottom, where he was captured, to "The Grand Auglaize" in the heart of the Northwest Indian Confederacy (Sept. 10, 1797). He described his abduction, daily travel, and forced run through the gauntlet before he was accepted into the village: "I was welcomed into ther town one with his Club[,] a nother with his foot [,] another with his hand [,] another with a tomyhak."

The collection provides considerable information on ransoming a prisoner during the Northwest Indian War. Lacking sufficient funds, James' father Matthew Patten wrote a subscription appeal to friends and neighbors and received 37 signatures (July 4, 1791). The three receipts follow the trail of the 93 dollars collected to ransom James, as it was carried to Montreal by Isaac Choate, Jr.

The papers also document improvements in transportation both in New Englandas well as in the Ohio territory. In his letter of Aug. 18, 1796, David Patten informed his brother James that they had had a bumper hay crop, but had to pay very high wages to harvest it because of the demand for local labor "which is caused by building bridges and digging canals." He also listed the locations along the Merrimack River where bridges were being built: Concord, Amoskeag, Pentucket, Bodwell's Falls, Haverhill, Sweat's Ferry, and Newbury. In letters to his brother David, James Patten described, in detail, new roads, canals, and bridges built in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and mentioned horse powered boats being used on rivers in Ohio (November 23, 1797).

On the back of the September 10, 1797, letter from James Patten to Samuel Patterson is a copy of a poem called O True Times, commemorating American independence.

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