Sunday, June 12, 2011

George Patterson died in 1860 - just discovered​!!!

John and Margaret Black Patterson's son named George Patterson was born in 1800. His 1st wife was Rebecca Chastain, his 2nd wife was Sophia Dunagan (m. 1850). I descend from George by his 1st wife. George and Sophia had 5 children by the 1860 census, in which they were enumerated on July 20, 1860.

James Neal, CC'd, last year sent me a PDF document containing 5 letters Sophia wrote to her Dunagan relatives between 1858 and 1862. These letters are quite enlightening, to say the least. However, hidden within the lines of these letters was one of the most important pieces of information I've been looking for, for many years. When did George Patterson die? All I've ever known was between 1860 and 1870.

I now know he died between July 20 and Dec 23, 1860. Letter #1 was written in Aug or Sept of 1858. Letter #2 was written May 2, 1859. Letter #3 is the key letter in pinpointing George's death. It is dated December 23, but no year. I'll come back to this. Letter #4 was written about August of 1861. And Letter #5 was written in late May or early June, 1862.

James and I had narrowed down Letter #3 to either 1859 or 1860. This week I have transcribed these letters, so it has been quite an exercise and has certainly made various details jump out at me. Tonight, the words "MY YEAR SUPPORT" jumped out at me in Letter #3. I realized that George was only mentioned in the first 2 letters (as the "old man"). Nothing was said of him in the last 3 letters. Letter 3 specifically talks about her cutting and carrying the wood by herself, and then having gone to town to see the ordinary about her "year support".

Sophia Patterson 1860 Letter

So, I googled 1860 GEORGIA A WOMAN'S "YEAR SUPPORT" - and what I found was that Georgia law allowed for a widow with minor children to receive financial help for 12 months following her deceased husband's death, until such necessary funds could be obtained from his estate. That means 2 things!

1. Letter #3 was written on Dec 23, 1860, and
2. George Patterson died between July 20 and Dec 23, 1860.

In case anyone wonders if it could have been written in 1861 or later, no it couldn't have. Letter #3 mentions Sophia's brother Ben and wanting him to come visit her. He enlisted in the CSA the next year on Aug 31, 1861 and died the following July 1862. 1860 is the only year this letter could have been written.

James, I can never thank you enough for sending me these letters from Sophia. It has "only" taken me 9 months to read these letters enough times for it to sink in and figure this out.

But WOW..... what a nugget to find buried within this 150 year old letter.


P.S. My descent from George is his son William Harden Patterson (b 1832), Joseph Elijah Patterson (b 1871), Clinton Willie Patterson (b 1904), Francis Oliver Patterson (b 1940), me (b 1968).