Given the sheer number of men named Robert Patterson in colonial America, it has always been difficult to distinguish this Robert from the others. Location is usually the key to separating the Roberts. For example, when Robert lived in VA, his land was described as on or near Linville Creek. The other Robert Pattersons lived further south, so that is one key to keeping them apart in research endeavors. But not all records are land related. Others are court records of one kind or another, and so no landmarks are given in the records.
The signature can be a help in some cases. But that's not conclusive always, since many of the records we see are transcripts in the court books or deed books. Where originals are still available, always make reference to them. Furthermore, many times the person in question did not read or write. In which case, someone else would write their name leaving a space between the names, and then they would add the word "his" or "her" above the name, and then "mark" below the name. At which time, the person in question would make a mark on the document in lieu of their signature.
The Robert Patterson who died near Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek in York Co., SC in 1775 always made his mark with an "R". To date, we have discovered four such documents that contain his name and the "R" mark. Those documents were created in 1738, 1754, 1770, and 1775. Keep in mind that the York Co., SC land on which the Pattersons lived, was claimed by various counties and even states between the 1750's and 1770's. At first it was Craven Co., SC, then Anson Co., NC, then Mecklenberg (NC), Tryon (NC), and finally York (SC), which it still is today.
Of the four records we've found to date with the "R" mark, the first three are only transcribed versions in the official records (transcribed by the clerks of court). The fourth, however, from the Last Will in 1775, is the original document and therefore his actual mark. The following records are the transcriptions or extracts of each document, their location details, and images of the documents themselves.
Note regarding the 1754 document. That document makes reference to Robert Patterson and two other men who were the appraisers of a deceased man's estate. The second man in that list was named Joseph Bryan. Later in the 1750's, the Bryans, Linvilles, and Boones - who were all intermarried - moved together to the Yadkin River Valley of NC. That is where I personally live today. This same Joseph Bryan was the father-in-law of the famous Daniel Boone.
Note regarding the 1775 last will and testament. I descend from six people named in that will. Of course, Robert and Sarah Patterson were my ancestors. But then it names the oldest son Thomas, and his son John, both of whom were my ancestors (see my lineal descent at the end of this article). Additionally, a daughter of Robert and Sarah is named in the will, that being Sarah, and it refers to a "Joseph" in the same line as this daughter Sarah. The daughter Sarah was married to a man named Joseph Black. Here's where it gets hinky... Sarah and Joseph Black had a daughter named Margaret "Peggy" Black. That girl grew up and married her first cousin, the aforementioned John Patterson. John and Peggy were my 4-Great-Grandparents.
1738, Sussex Co., DE:7 March 1738, Sussex Co DE Deed, Robert Patterson, yeoman of Sussex County and his wife, Sarah, spinster to John, Isaac and Jonah Dunton, late of Summerset County, now of Sussex for 40 pounds, 106 acres on the South side of Pembertons Branch below the County Road and was taken up and surveyed for Matthew Ozburn Jr. by commissioners warrant granted to Robert Lodge, carpenter of Sussex by proprietors in Philadelphia on 8 December 1718. Robert Lodge sold to Matthew Ozburn dated 2nd day 10th month of 1719. Land was surveyed by Matthew Ozburn and found to contain 212 acres of which half is sold to Robert Patterson. Signed: Robart Patterson (his mark “R”), Sarah Patterson (her mark “S”). Witnesses: Jeremiah Claypoole, James Smith. Acknowledged: 6 March 1738. (Malone, Johnita P., Land Records of Sussex County 1732-1743 Deed Book G No 7, Willow Bend Books, 2001, 119 pages. Book G7, p. 287)
1754, Augusta Co., VA:29 May 1754, Augusta Co VA Will, Benjamin Copeland's appraisement, by Robert Patterson, Joseph Bryan, John Brown. (Augusta Co VA Will Book 2, p. 64)
15 March 1755, Augusta Co VA Will, Benjamin Copeland's additional appraisement, by Robert Patterson (mark "R"), Joseph Bryan, John Brown (mark "J") (Augusta Co VA Will Book 2, p. 86)
1770, Tryon Co., NC and Augusta Co., VA:1 February 1770, Augusta Co VA Will, Robert Patterson’s Disclaimer of rights to his mother’s Linville Creek VA property.
These are to certify to all persons whom it may concern that I, Robert Patterson of North Carolina, Tryon County, son of William Patterson deceased, do disclaim any right or title that is or may be alledged belonging to me of a certain tract of land lying and being in Agusta County upon a small branch on the south side of Linwells Creek which said land was taken up by Margaret Adams, the widow of John Adams deceased.
Robert “R” Patterson. 1st February, 1770.
Teste: Francis Adams, J. P., North Carolina, Tryon County
(Augusta Co VA Will Book 4, pp. 301-304)
1775, York Co., SC:21 July 1775, York Co SC Will, The Will of Robert “R” Patterson. The following transcription of Robert Patterson’s Will is courtesy of Harald Reksten, who provided expert analysis of the original will at the SC Archives in July 2002:
In the name of God Amen the Twenty First day of July 1775 I Robert Patterson of Craven County farmer being very sick and weake in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be unto God, therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do maeke and ordain this my last will and testament, that is to say Principally and first of all I give and recommend my Soul into the hands of almighty God that gave it and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discretion of my Executors nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shal receive the same again by the mighty power of God: and as touching such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form
And first of all I constituet make and ordain my beloved wife Sarah and my beloved sons Robert and Peter to be my whole and sole Executors of this my last Will and testament all and singular my lands messuages and tenements whith all household goods dets and moveable affects by them to be executed according to law and for them said Executors to take care and see that all and every one of my beloved family shall have there full share as I shall appoint
Imprimise I give and bequeath to Sarah my dearly beloved wife her full thirds of all my moveable affects and the homestead place till my son William comes of age and half afterwards while she lives and her hors and saddle.
Item I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas fifty pounds lawfull mony of South Carolina to be leveed out of my estate and all my cloathes except my fir hat and one gray three year old mare and colt to his son John.
I likewise give and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah one cow and calf, and what is between Joseph and me.
I likewise give unto my son William the homestead place after his mother's decease all only from where the line crosses the road that goes to Peter's old place and straight & cors to the old saw pit below the muddy branch and straight on to the outside line and from that said line down to Peter.
I likewise give and bequeath unto my sons Peter and Robert each of them an equal part of my land and clams in the province of Virginia.
I likewis give and bequeath unto my children all and every one of them is now single with my daughter's Elisebeth and Lydia each of them an equal part of the remainder of my movable affects by all and every one of them freely to be possesed and enjoyed: and I do hereby utterly disallow revoke and disannul all and every other formal testaments wills legacies and bequeaths and Executors by me in any wise before named willed and bequeathed ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written
Signed sealed published pronounced and declared by the said Robert Patterson as his last will and testament
in the presence of us the Subscribers
Nathaniel Harrison, James Dickie
Robrt (his mark “R”) Patterson
(York Co SC Will Book A R 32, pages 57-59, South Carolina State Archives, Columbia, SC)
Sheer Volume of Records Found(* The numbers were revised from 57 to 64 on May 27, 2016; and to 65 on Aug 17, 2016) Using the chain of records that have been discovered as of this writing, we have been able to piece together some 65 records of varying types in court houses in DE, VA, NC and SC. The earliest known record so far is from 1732 in DE. The latest known record so far is from 1825 in Rockingham Co., VA which was a later deed involving Robert Patterson's old Linville Creek land, a deed which contained a reference to him, albeit posthumously.
His "R" mark, however, was a vital clue in linking his Delaware records to the Virginia records. 44 records in VA have been proven so far. Another eight from SC, four from NC, and nine from DE, make up the 65 in total. Expect more to be found and/or proven in the future.
Robert Patterson made a mark on Colonial America. He was a frontiersman his entire adult life. He established considerable land holdings over the decades, and provided for his family. And although it appears he could not read and write, that is not proven for certain. But given that he signed with a mark, lends to that possibility. But keep in mind, one of his mentors and possible relatives was a man named Robert Cravens, a man who was 10-15 years his senior. Cravens also made his mark with an "R". That said, Cravens was a justice in the early Augusta Co., VA courts. So again, it's not necessarily accurate to say they couldn't read and write "since they signed with a mark".
Patterson's mark was an "R". But his greater mark was that he was an American frontiersman. Robert Patterson - and men and women like him - are what made this country so great. Like Israel's Moses in the Old Testament (who saw the Promised Land, but died before the nation - the family - moved in to it), Robert Patterson saw the new nation of America coming to life by 1775. But he passed away just prior to his family's entering into the new nation the following year.
(Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandson of Robert Patterson)
P.S. My Lineal descent:- William Patterson (16__ - 1710/15)
- Robert Patterson (1705/11 - 1775)
- Thomas Patterson (1738/42 - ca. 1802)
- John Patterson (1762/65 - 1840/50)
- George Patterson (1800 - 1860)
- William Harden "Billy" Patterson (1832 - 1883)
- Joseph Elijah "Lije" Patterson (1871 - 1957)
- Clinton Willie "Clint" Patterson (1904 - 1975)
- Francis Oliver "Frank" Patterson (1940 - 2015)
- Charles Wesley "Wes" Patterson, Sr. (1968 - )