DescriptionPatton Family Archive, containing dozens of letters, photographs, and various documents (Confederate money and an 1848 land grant signed by Texas Governor George Wood) spanning nearly eighty years of life in Texas, from the frontier days of the 1840s, through the early 1900s. These letters bring life in old Texas alive with their varied content on farming, ranching, family deaths, hunting, harvesting time, and everyday concerns.
Edwin Leroy Patton (1803-1880), son of South Carolinian Thomas Patton, had farmed and been in business in Indiana, Iowa, and Alabama before visiting Texas in 1837. While visiting, his first child was born in Alabama. One year later, Patton brought his young family to Texas permanently. Five years later, during the Republic of Texas, Patton was elected Chief Justice of the County of Robertson (see lot 45057). Edwin's brother, George Ross Patton, brought his family to Texas in 1846. Most of the letters in this archive were written from Weatherford, Texas, and Cotton Gin, Texas, both near Dallas. (All quotations are as originally written.)
The Texas frontier was a harsh place for the Patton family. The proximity to hostile Indians made travel burdensome and uncertain ("I am a little afraid to go up there for fear I might see an Indian" [January 1863]; "You can't imagine how glad I was when we got out of reach of the Indians" [September 1868]). Sometimes the interactions of Texas settlers with the Indians turned deadly: "Some men had a fight with some Indians yesterday up on Loons Creak and old johney Montgomry and 2 other men saw them and tried to take some horses from them and Montgomry was to brave the Indians killed him" (November 1866). Violence was widespread on the frontier, as illustrated in a September 1878 letter which reported that "Mr. Roddy, a young man, was bound over . . . and the Constable of Cotton Gin was taking him to jail at Fairfield . . . [when] Roddy ran to make his escape and the Constable fired on him the ball passed through his liver, he died next morning." Illness also caused concern, especially epidemics of typhoid and cholera. "Death is abroad in our land," an October 1857 letter proclaimed. In one letter dated August 1860, surgery on a tumor is delayed because of the doctor's high price: "W. W. is still trying to get polypus out of his nose. Drs. have tried 4 times. Says it's as large as a hen's egg. Wants $125 for surgery - may seek Drs. in New Orleans." The Patton family had their diversions, such as church, socials and parties, which could last all night: "I was invited to a candy pulling . . . they danced until the chickens crowed for day" (January 1868).
Many letters in the archive were written during the Civil War and contain information on battles, slaves, and war deaths. One of the most touching letters was written by Fanny Kennedy of Desure[?], Arkansas, July 19, 1863, to "Mrs. Patton" about her son, a Confederate soldier, who "made me promise to wright you every thing connected with his death and sickness." Young Patton, nearly delirious from an unmentioned wound or sickness, had stumbled to Mrs. Kennedy's rural Arkansas home. The compassionate woman, along with her husband and children, took care of the soldier for eleven days. On the last day of his life, Mrs. Kennedy reported that "he was Deranged at times. . . . The last word he spoke was lord have mercy on me he groaned three times then died without a struggle. . . . Your son had every comfort that I could afford."
Another letter, written in February 1865 by Lela Patton to her sister Mary, reports on the Second Battle of Franklin, which was fought in November 1864. Lela, who received her information from "Capt Rubin D. Keneda, to his father written just after the Battle at Franklin, Tenn," reports on the details of the battle, specifically "the Texas Brigade and an Arkansas Brigade": they were "ordered to charge the [breast]works without stopping. They advanced slowly till in about two hundred yards of the works when they enemy opened a deathly fire on them. The Texas Brigade raised the yell and charged with all their might; drove the enemy from the first lines and pursued them with all speed loading their guns as they went. . . . [General Patrick] Claburn [sic, Cleburne] had two horses kill under him before he fell."
These letters also contain content on Reconstruction in Texas, such as a November 1867 which communicates, "I believe we would get along very well if it was not for the Yankees and Grasshoppers which are very much of a torment. . . . Is it not heart-rhendering to think that the good people in the South have to be seen over by the Yankees. . . . I mean by the Grasshoppers is that they are destroying our business." In another letter, dated July 1866, a story is recorded of an "old negro who used a number of big words and, on being asked the meaning of them, replied, 'Massa dey stands for dey sef.'"
In addition to the numerous letters, this archive also contains nineteenth century photographs of Patton family members (twenty-two tintypes, various cartes de visite, and one cabinet card). The land grant has separation at the folds, which includes the loss of some text. The Confederate money includes one $20 and one $10 bill. Some letters are fragile. It is recommended that this archive be viewed before bidding.
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