William Patterson and Margaret Adams

Bio | Why Not Donnell | 1744 Will | Timeline | Sussex DE | Augusta VA 

By Wes Patterson (Last Revised: 17 August 2018)

Who were the parents of Robert Patterson? His father was William Patterson and his mother was Margaret _____. Margaret was first married to William Patterson. Together they had at least two children, Robert and Elizabeth. Elizabeth married Jeremiah Harrison in Sussex Co DE. Jeremiah Harrison was one of the famous Harrison brothers who migrated from DE to what is now Harrisonburg, VA in the 1730's. Legend has it they traveled in wagon party over the winter of 1737/38, their father Isaiah Harrison dying along the way.

William Patterson

Nothing is known about William Patterson. We are fortunate to even have a name. We get the name from a 1770 Tryon Co NC letter that was entered into the 1770 probate of Margaret Adams' last Will in Augusta Co VA. Robert Patterson wrote a letter of disclaimer regarding her land in VA. In this letter, he named his father as William Patterson (deceased), but also named his step father as John Adams (deceased). This is the only known record for the names of either of Margaret's husbands.

1770 Letter of Disclaimer of Margaret Adams land by Robert Patterson
1770 Letter of Disclaimer of Margaret Adams land by Robert Patterson
In 2018 I have come to learn of Thomas Jefferson's Memorandum Books which covered the years of 1767-1774 when he represented land owners in court cases throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Three such cases involved Robert Patterson, his mother Margaret Adams, and his half brother Samuel Adams. In these cases we learn that Margaret's land survey and subsequent land patent and anything associated with it were erroneously recorded under the name of Mary Adams. It became too complicated and too expensive for Robert Patterson to get a clear title of inheritance in 1770, thus he chose to let it go and wrote the above letter of disclaimer.

This error that began in 1740 with her original survey and was perpetuated for decades thereafter, is actually the key to unlocking the mystery of her husband's names. Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons, so to speak. It was bad for them, but good for us today from a research point of view.

As for Margaret's children by her first husband, Robert was born ca. 1705/11 and Robert's sister Elizabeth was born ca 1707/10. So the assumption is that William died between 1710 and 1715 perhaps.

John Adams

After William Patterson died, Margaret remarried to a John Adams. They had at least three children - a daughter who married Andrew Donelson, then a son Samuel Adams, and a daughter Jane Adams. Jane married Daniel Love.

John Adams died sometime during the 1720's, and Margaret thereafter was known as Margaret Adams, or Widow Adams. Nothing else has been conclusively found about this husband John Adams.

Margaret _____ Patterson Adams

Margaret was known for most of her life as Margaret Adams or Widow Adams. However, I will point out that this same woman is also known in many records as "Mary Adams", albeit a clerical error from the 1700's.

Furthermore, Margaret is also known widely on the Internet as "Margaret Donnell". Search for that name or for "Margaret Donnell Adams" and you will find hundreds of links that take you to this family. However, the name "Donnell" is also in error. Here is my explanation for where this error began and how it continues to be perpetuated.

Margaret _____ Patterson Adams died between 1767 and 1769 in Augusta Co VA. Her original 1744 Will still resides in the court house at Staunton, VA. Margaret owned 330-340 acres along Linville Creek about 3 miles west or NW of Harrisonburg, VA. It was Orange County when they first moved there in the late 1730's, then it was Augusta County, and it has been Rockingham County since 1777.

Family details for Margaret and her husbands and children are as follows. Order of children and grandchildren are best guesses, but not 100% accurate.

1. She first married William Patterson. Their children were:

1-1. Robert Patterson (c. 1705/11 - 1775) m. Sarah _____ (c. 1710/15 - 1789/90)
1-1-1. Mary Patterson (c. 1735/40 - after 1744) - no further info
1-1-2. Abigail Patterson (c. 1737/40 - after Nov. 1740) - may have been alive in 1797?
1-1-3. Thomas Patterson (c. 1738/40 - c. 1802) m. Margaret Harrison
1-1-4. Sarah Patterson (1742/44 - after 1793) m. Joseph Black
1-1-5. James Patterson (1745/50 - 1775/83) - no known heirs
1-1-6. Robert Patterson II (1746/53 - 1828) m. Mabel Ponder
1-1-7. Peter Patterson (1746/49 - after 1800) m. Sarah(?)
1-1-8. Elizabeth Patterson (1753/55 - after 1820) m. Daniel Ponder, Jr.
1-1-9. Lydia Patterson (1755/58 - 1786/88) m. John Black
1-1-10. William Patterson (1758/62 - after 1783) - no further info after Rev. War

1-2. Elizabeth Patterson (c. 1707/10 - 1744/57) m. Jeremiah Harrison (c. 1707 - c. 1798)
1-2-1. Nehemiah Harrison (1731 - 1812)
1-2-2. Esther Harrison (c. 1732 - 1781) m. Robert Cravens, Jr. (c. 1733 - 1784)
1-2-3. Josiah Harrison (1733 - 1812) m. Mary Cravens
1-2-4. Lydia Donnell (not Harrison) b. c. 1735, m. Reuben Harrison
1-2-5. Benjamin Harrison (1738 - 1754) - killed by Indians
1-2-6. Jeremiah Harrison (1739 - )
1-2-7. Mary Harrison (1745 - 1829) m. John Handley (1746 - 1811)
1-2-8. Eleanor Harrison (1746 - 1801) m. Tunis Hood II (c. 1745 - c. 1801)

2. Secondly she married John Adams (aka Addams). Their children were:

2-1. "Daughter" (c. 1720/24 - c. 1744) m. Andrew Donelson (c. 1722 - c. 1755)
2-1-1. Margaret Donelson (1740/42 - after 1755)
2-1-2. Robert Donelson (1743 - 1790)
2-1-3. Humphrey Donelson (c. 1744 - 1781)

2-2. Samuel Adams (c. 1720/24 - 1748) m. Margaret _____
2-2-1. Samuel Adams Jr. (c. 1744/48 - after 1772)

2-3. Jane Adams (c. 1722/24 - 20 March 1764) m. Daniel Love (c. 1720 - 1790)
2-3-1. Rachel Love (c. 1744 - ) m. Joseph Dictum
2-3-2. William Love (c. 1746 - 1746/50)
2-3-3. Ann Love (c. 1747/50 - ) m. John Guin

My Patterson ancestors are as follows, beginning with the oldest generation: 

  1. William Patterson (b. bef 1690; d. ca 1710/20) m. Margaret ____
  2. Robert Patterson (b. ca 1705/11; d. 1775) m. Sarah ____
  3. Thomas Patterson (b. ca 1738-44; d. after 1800) m. Margaret Harrison
  4. John Patterson (b. ca 1762/65; d. ca 1840/50) m. Margaret "Peggy" Black
  5. George Patterson (b. 1800; d. 1860) m. Rebecca Chastain
  6. William Harden "Bill" Patterson (b. 1832; d. 1883) m. Elizabeth Akins
  7. Joseph Elijah "Lige" Patterson (b. 1871; d. 1957) m. "Nannie" Ammons
  8. Clinton Willie "Clint" Patterson (b. 1904; d. 1975) m. Wilma Stephens
  9. Francis Oliver "Frank" Patterson (b. 1940; d. 2015) m. Vanza Davis
  10. Charles Wesley "Wes" Patterson (b. 1968) m. Ginna Fishburne
Wes Patterson

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