History of the Patterson Family

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From Chapter IV of the book The Story of Winnetka
by Lora Townsend Dickinson, 1956, Winnetka Historical Society
Excerpts below include only those relating to the Patterson family.
The Patterson Tavern, Winnetka, Illinois (1836-1859)
In 1800, the spot at the foot of Lake Michigan where a city would rise, was the center of a wilderness. It was a spot of mud and swamp, with sand and sea toward the east, sand and prairie toward the west and southwest, and dense, almost impenetrable forests toward the north and northwest - forbidding to the most venturesome explorer [this overview continues 5 more paragraphs].

Erastus and Zernah Patterson, Vermont; Alexander McDaniel, New York: John Garland, New York.

Late in the afternoon on August 14, 1836, Erastus Patterson and his wife Zernah, with their five children - Olive, Moses, Azel, Joseph, and Lucia - encamped on a hill near the present water tower in Winnetka. They had left their home in Vermont in an Ox-drawn covered wagon.2. With them were six other families, all from Vermont. The seven families had left their homes "to seek new ones either in Illinois or Wisconsin."3

The stream of emigration which began after the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, by whose terms the Indians were to go to new homes across the Mississippi, swept over the country like a tidal wave. In 1834, some 80 000 emigrants embarked at Buffalo to go to Chicago by water. By actual count, 250 wagons passed through a Michigan village in a single day. 4 In 1836, the line of wagons was almost continuous, all bound for Chicago where they diverged in all directions. [Historical note. The first steel plow which allowed easily farming prairie was made in 1837]

The "Old Country" emigrants, after traveling 3000 miles on the Atlantic, preferred to complete the last 1000 miles of their trip by water. The route was from New York up the Hudson river to Albany, across the state of New York by the Erie canal to Buffalo, then by steamer to Chicago. Before 1833, Chicago had no harbor; passengers and baggage had to be transferred to rowboats and taken ashore.

But the great trek was largely overland, by wagons loaded down with household goods, drawn by horses or oxen. Young men came on horseback, getting lifts by coach, or tramping - any way to get here (Chicago). The route of the New Englanders was from Albany to Buffalo over the road paralleling the Erie canal, then along the south shore of Lake Erie across southern Michigan and northern Indiana to Chicago, coming in by Michigan City, - a fifty-mile journey which was reported as at times "just splendid, and at other times just awful."

The Pattersons, who were Scotch Presbyterians, came from Woodstock, Vermont.6 Zernah Patterson was 42 in 1836, Olive was 17, Moses, the oldest son, was 14.7. Alexander McDaniel, a 21-year-old Scotchman, started out from Chicago on August 14, 1836, to explore the area to the northwest, with a view to buying a homestead. With an Indian guide, travelling north, he came to the hill where the present water tower of Winnetka now stands, and there found 4 men putting up a log cabin. Erastus Patterson was not only camping on the hill for the night, but he had found the homestead he was seeking. McDaniel dismissed his guide, lent a hand in the cabin-raising, and stayed the night, the entire party sleeping in tents and under the trees. In October of that year, he purchased a claim on 160 acres of government land, and in March 1837, built a house on the land, keeping "bachelor's hall" there for 5 years, accommodating his Chicago friends and others who could not "put up" at the Patterson house. Nothing is known of the 6 other Vermont families which had begun the journey with the Pattersons.

The first log cabin of the Pattersons was located on the west side of Green Bay Road, not far from the present Tower Road. From the start, it was opened as a "wayside inn", adequate for accommodation of travelers. Very soon after, in the fall of 1836 or early in 1837, the Pattersons built a larger log house on the east side of Green Bay Road11. It came to be known as the Patterson Tavern. The site was about 200 feet east of the present Sheridan Road and 500 feet south of the present water tower. A bronze marker placed on Sheridan Road, near Lloyd Place, Winnetka, locates the spot.

Sorrows came in battalions to the first permanent white residents of Winnetka-to-be. A short time after the tavern was opened, an English family arrived from London to "grow up with the country", and were so pleased with the surroundings that they became "temporary sojourners" at the Pattersons. Very soon, Mrs. Stansbury, one of the newcomers, died and was buried on the hill where the Episcopal Church now stands. Shortly after, the daughter Lucia, about 12 years old, died of "consumption" (probably pneumonia) and was buried on the same ground. The cooling breezes of August became cruel blasts in fall and winter. In 1837, Erastus Patterson died and was also buried on the hill. With the aid of her sons, Zernah Patterson continued to operate the tavern for several years, finally selling it to Lucas Miller, who in turn sold it to Marcus Gilman. In 1847, Gilman sold it to John Garland, who operated it for 10 years. John Garland was a leader of the van of "rich men" who used their wealth wisely. Born and educated in England, he inherited wealth, added to it in New York City, and was ready in the 1830s to go west and settle in Wisconsin. When he stopped at the Patterson tavern, his entire family was entranced with the spot. From that moment, John Garland's heart was set on buying the tavern. It was not a difficult accomplishment, for Zernah Patterson was getting tired. Her husband dead, Olive married and settled in Milwaukee, Moses and Azel growing restless (their restlessness assuaged in 1850, when they went to the gold fields with Alexander McDaniel; See biography of Azel, below), Zernah was quite willing to pass the title and management of the tavern to John Garland. The tavern was finally torn down in 1859.

Notes selected from an appendix to the Dickinson book
Before he settled down, Alexander McDaniel followed the gold rush to California, with Moses and Azel Patterson.On June 25, 1850, in a letter to his wife preserved by the Evanston Historical Society, Alexander wrote: Moses and Azel Patterson are here with us". In a letter dated September 27, 1850, he wrote her: "Azel Patterson leaves here tomorrow for home". Azel Patterson died of tuberculosis in Panama on his way home by boat. Moses, too, according to Mrs. Harry McCreddy (great-grand-daughter of Zernah Patterson, from Milwaukee), is thought never to have returned.

In 1836, the property occupied by the Pattersons had not yet been surveyed. They were "squatters", priviledged as to choice of site, but unable to take title to it. Following the procedure of squatters, they lived on the place for several years, to show good intentions, and in 1843, Mrs. Patterson, widowed since 1837, applied for a government patent to the land. A record of the transfer, dated November 3, 1843, and recorded June 19, 1845, in book 16, Page 91, in the office of the recorder of Cook County, Illinois. The Patterson property was 57.71 acres, extending from the present Tower Road, at the Lake, south to what is now Pine Street, and east to the lake. The amount paid by Mrs. Patterson was $192.70.

The name of Mrs. Patterson has appeared as Zerna, Zernah, Zerena, Zena, Zuruah, Jernah, and in one place, Ruea. The name engraved on the tombstone in Forest Home Cemetery (Milwaukee) is Zeruah. This name is verified by two great-grand-children located in Milwaukee, Lyman L. Burdick, and Mrs. Harry McCreedy. Both were firm in their statements that the correct spelling was Zeruah, and the pronunciation Ze-roo'ah. Somewhere in the longhand records the "u" must have been mistaken for an "n". Deeds of property transfer in Potsdam, New York, were found, made out to Erastus and Zernah Patterson. The deeds here (Illinois) to her property were made out to Zernah Patterson. She was affectionately known by Mrs. McDaniel as Zernah. Sue Garland always heard her spoken of as Zernah, as did Kate Dwyer and Frank A. Windes. Because she was called Zernah here, it seems she made no effort to establish her real name. So I (Lora Dickinson) have used the name which she herself used.

From a letter written by Miss Sue Garland (copied on 18 December 1933 by Frank A. Windes)
The old Patterson Tavern (Lake View Tavern, I believe it was called) was a rambling log house, built by the Pattersons. The Patterson family, with a number of other families, came from Vermont in covered wagons. Their destination was Milwaukee. On their way, they camped on this Lake view site and liked the place so well, also noticed there were travellers passing back and forth on the old military trail between Fort Dearborn and Green Bay and into the Wisconsin Territory. So the Patterson decided to remain, while the other families moved on. They built the old log tavern and kept it open for travellers for a number of years. I believe Mr. Patterson did not live long after the tavern was built, but his widow and sons kept the place running for a number of years. After grandfather (John Garland) acquired the place he kept it running until it was torn down, about 1859. Grandfather was desirous of building his new brick home on the same spot the tavern occupied. Were I in Winnetka, I could walk to the exact spot where grandfather's house stood, on the east side of Sheridan Road at the top of the hill. There used to be a large tree by the kitchen door. It may be still standing. Mr. Patterson and one of his children are buried in the churchyard.

From History of Sonoma County (California),, one of many biographical sketches by Tom Gregory, dated 1911, found by Barbara Johnson
The patient, persistent pioneer labor that pushed the limits of civilization further toward the setting sun typifies the westward emigration of frontiersmen and the gradual removal of the center of population from the shores of the Atlantic to the valley of the Mississippi. In the western migration the Patterson family bore a part. Numerous descendants of the original colonial stock contributed their quota to the task of transforming the virgin soil into fertile farms. Established in New England at a very early day, from the state of Vermont the parents of Azel S. patterson removed to New York and settled at Potsdam near the St. Lawrence river in the county of that name, where he was born March 14, 1824. The next removal took the family still further toward the west and into a region then giving no evidence of future worldwide greatness. As early as 1834 they settled in what is now Chicago, then known as Fort Dearborn, near which place he remained for ten years. going from there to Milwaukee to make his home with a sister. It was not possible for him to enjoy educational advantages such as are common to the present generation. Indeed, his entire schooling through all the period of his childhood and youth did not total an aggregate of one year, but through indomitable perseverance he acquired a fund of information equalling that possessed by many a college-bred man.
Various occupations filled the early maturity of Mr. Patterson, his first employment having been that of a clerk in a grocery, from which work he passed on to kindred pursuits. After he left his sister's home in Milwaukee he returned to Chicago and there was united in marriage, October 4, 1848, with Miss Mary Elizabeth Wilson, a native of Ohio and a woman of true-hearted worth, wise in counsel, affectionate in disposition and patient in the heavy bereavement occasioned by the death of many of their children. Out of their family of fifteen only three are now living, namely: William W., born in 1853 and now employed on the railroad, with headquarters in Sonoma county; James Henry, born in 1855, now married and living in Sonoma county; and Martha, born in 1862, now the wife of William H. Bones, of Sonoma county. The wife and mother was taken from the home by death in 1889, and Mr. Patterson died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Bones, March 18, 1911, aged eighty-seven years and four days. His remains were interred in Bloomfield cemetery.
When the discovery of gold attracted thousands of Argonauts to the west Mr. Patterson was among the number who determined to try his fortune in California. Young, ambitious and brave, the hardships of the journey did not daunt him and the possibility of disastrous results did not quench his enthusiasm. During the spring of 1850 he joined a pary of emigrants who crossed the plains in wagons and completed a tedious but uneventful journey by arriving at Georgetown in the early autumn. Mining for gold did not prove profitable and soon he turned his attention to other means of earning a livelihood. The year 1853 found him a pioneer of Sonoma county, where the remainder of his life was passed. Destitute of means, it was not possible for him to purchase land even at the low prices then prevailing, but he took up a leasehold and began ranch pursuits. For a long period he continued as a renter, but in 1880 he invested his savings in forty-five acres of land, which he held until 1910. in that year he retired from agricultural cares and placed his money on interest. It was his privilege to witness the gradual development of Sonoma county from a wild region, inhabited principally by Indians, into a beautiful and prosperous country, the abode of a progressive people and the center of broad agricultural activities.