The Patterson’s of East Tennessee

So, how did some of the common named places that we know as the communities of our home here in Claiborne County come about their name.  What family was so well known that soon their name was placed on that community.  One that I have come across just recently in a book that I was reading is the name Patterson.  We know that name in a place near the Cumberland Gap called Pattersons Crossroads, near the trail that is known as the Wilderness Road.  The trail was first marked by Daniel Boone in March 1775, and for this reason was often called Boone's Trace.  But it wasn’t until around 1912-1915 that the trail was marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  And but for the efforts of one particular member of that organization with family roots back here in Claiborne County that might have never been accomplished.  Following are some histories taken from different articles that refer to descendants of the Grahams from Tazewell, Tennessee and Patterson’s from whence the name Pattersons Crossroads was derived.

Lucy Bramlette Patterson, granddaughter of Hugh Graham and Catherine Nenney, and the daughter of Colonel William Houston Patterson and Cornelia Humes “Graham” Patterson. Her grandfather was Major General Robert Patterson, was truly blessed. Lucy Bramlette Patterson was born on August 22, 1865.  She was born in her mother’s family home in Tazewell, Tennessee, Castle Rock. Patterson had one older sister.

She was Ulster Scot on both sides of her family.  She came from a heritage of Philadelphia wealth and prominence and had the good fortune to be born in the South, in Tennessee, in the bosom of another well-to-do family.  She also had the benefit of later marrying a Patterson, so she enjoyed the convenience of never having to change her name.

Both her father’s and mother’s families had ancestral homes in the upper Tennessee River Valley between the Powell and Clinch rivers.  She was born during the aftermath of the Civil War on August 22, 1865, at the home of her maternal grandfather, General Hugh Graham, a man exiled from Ireland in his youth.  The home was called Castle Rock and sat in Tazewell, Tennessee, not so far from the Cumberland Gap.  Some said Graham lived there like a feudal lord.  His home was a self-contained village with flower gardens and groves in front of the home and sunken gardens of vegetables and fruits in the rear, all kept up, of course, with enslaved labor.  It was a beautiful home with a promenade lined with blossoming locusts; and, the Grahams were known for their welcoming hospitality.  They were also known for having the largest library in the South, it was said.  Hugh Graham was a voracious reader, collecting books shipped from American and European publishers and subscribing to numerous magazines and newspapers.  Unfortunately, the war took its toll on the family and Union troops plundered Castle Rock in the spring of 1865.  Having lived to the ripe old age of 81 without ever calling a physician, the family progenitor’s health failed him then and he did in March only five months to the day before his granddaughter, Lucy, was born.  He was laid to rest at the Irish Cemetery in Tazewell with the help of newly freed, former slaves of the family.

To the couple were born seven girls, who, after marrying, became Sarah Blackburn, Margaret Neil, Mary Kyle, Cornelia Patterson, Louise Rogan, Lucy Williams and Ellen Patton. The only son was Thomas. Thomas late in life moved to Missouri, where he died. His son, Joshua A., whose wife was Miss Sadie Yeatman, of Nashville, was a lawyer of in St. Joseph, Mo.


“One of the most brilliant of the Graham women was Louise, who married Theophilus Rogan. She was the only one of the sisters who remained in Tennessee, where only a few years ago, she celebrated her golden wedding anniversary at the quaint country seat, "Hayslope," given her by her father over half a century ago. It was purchased from its founder. Colonel Thomas Roddy, who obtained his commission at the battle of King's mountain. The old house is one of the quaintest in East Tennessee. It is built of great logs, hewn by ax, sealed inside and out with heavy oak planks put on endwise.”

It is now known as the Roddye Historic House in Hamblen County and it is marked with a historical marker:

Tennessee Historical Marker 1 B 27 - Hayslope

Built 1785 by Col. James Roddye, from North Carolina. He was subsequently delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional

Convention, magistrate and register of Jefferson County under territorial government and member of Tennessee's first Constitutional

Convention. The house was also a tavern on the Kentucky Road called the Tavern with the Red Door or Red Door Tavern. Located

on U.S. 11-E, in Russellville, near the intersection with Warrensburg Road.

Hugh Grahams’ wife was Catherine Nenney Graham, a woman of legendary beauty and graciousness.  She was a secessionist as was her husband (Explain Sycamore and Hay Slope)

Hugh went into business with his brother William and with Patrick Nenny on Bent Creek, in East Tennessee.

A marker was placed in honor of the founders of Bent Creek Church in 1979, reads:

"A part and minority of the Bent Creek Church of 1785 est. here 1881. The Cedar Hill Church merged with this church 1887.
Name changed to Catherine Nenney Memorial 1888 in honor of Catherine Nenney Graham, wife of Hugh Graham, wealthy
landowner and legislator, and descendant of Samuel Doak

Buried in the Bent Creek Baptist Church Cemetery are:

NENNEY        JAMES L.                

OCT 11,1811

SEP 17,1838

NENNEY        ADDIE ANDERSON          

No Date


NENNEY        PATRICK                 

DIED APR 28,1824


NENNEY        AMIS                    

No Date




by Chevalier William F.K. Marmion, M.A.


Major General Robert Patterson, born in Cappagh, County Tyrone.Major General Robert Patterson, born in Cappagh, County Tyrone.

William Marmion on one family’s journey across continents and through Irish and American history in the 19th century.

 Major General Robert Patterson (1792 Ireland – 1881 Philadelphia), was a renowned soldier in U.S. service. Prominent in the War of 1812 against the British, he became quite famous during the Mexican War and was one  of the seventeen serving Union Generals of Irish birth during the U.S. Civil War.

This article is focused on the odyssey of the family started by his father, Francis, born in County Tyrone in 1765 And the remarkable descents from him and his five children (which includes General Robert and the four children born in the United States).

It is an Irish story, indeed an odyssey, and one which reflects the migrations, trials, and tribulations of many many hundreds of thousands of Irish families which had to leave Ireland for the U.S. for one set of reasons or another. While the greater success of the Pattersons may not be ‘typical’ of the mass of emigrant Irish families, it does typify all the families who indeed struggled to advance themselves in their new country.


A depiction of the Battle of Antrim 1798 at which the Ulster Irish uprising was crushed.A depiction of the Battle of Antrim 1798 at which the Ulster United Irish uprising was crushed.

Francis Patterson was the son of Robert and an Ann Fullerton, both born in Northern Ireland. ‘Patterson’ is an English name and I find no early references to any Patterson family in Ireland prior to the 17th century. So, in all likelihood the Patterson’s were part of the wave of English and Scottish Protestants who settled in Ulster in that tumultuous century, some in state sponsored ‘plantations’ and others in unorganized migration.

Despite their origins, many of the ‘planted’ Protestants began to detest the policies of the English government on many levels and wanted ‘local rights’ versus London control.  And especially in the late 18th century, leaders emerged, initially all Protestant, who felt ‘Irish’ and saw the need to unite with all those who had been disenfranchised and made subject to ‘Penal Laws’.  These disenfranchised both Catholics and all the ‘dissenters’ (Presbyterians, etc.) who were outside of the ‘official’ Anglican Church of Ireland – which among other things, forbade them from holding public office, owning land over a certain value and which prevented legal recognition of their marriages.

The Patterson odyssey starts in County Tyrone, where they were Presbyterian United Irish radicals who had to flee in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion.

One such Presbyterian radical was Francis Patterson of County Tyrone, who like many other Presbyterians were attracted to the radical politics of the Society of the United Irishmen. He was thus united with his fellow ‘Irishmen’ in the Rising of 1798 – a bloody but failed revolt which attempted to found an Irish republic but which was ruthlessly crushed after three uncoordinated outbreaks in Leinster Ulster and Connacht in the summer of that year.

While not captured, Francis Patterson obviously was known to be a participant and had a price on his head. What to do? Get out of Ireland before the sheriff arrived, which is exactly what Francis did, along with his wife Ann Graham (born Ireland circa 1772, married to Francis in 1790), and their one child born in Ireland (in County Tyrone) in 1792: the Robert later to be the famous general in the U.S.

There existed networks of people who had previously emigrated, and Francis undoubtedly was absolutely helped in that regard. He came to Pennsylvania and settled there, going into some sort of brokerage of cotton business. It is clear that he knew about fellow Irish people who had emigrated – specifically the Graham family, to whom he was related by marriage.

Indeed, one might say that his ‘odyssey’ is really part of the odyssey of the Graham family. Hugh Graham, born County Tyrone in 1784, was the youngest of 10 children of the Graham’s. His family had had their property confiscated, and the father of Hugh, Thomas, and Hugh’s older brothers, were United Irishmen just as Francis was!

Francis’ wife, Nancy Ann Graham (always called just ‘Ann) was an older sister of Hugh Graham. Hugh left Ireland at 14 in 1798-99, the same year as Francis himself left. He went to Claiborne County in East Tennessee, a very sparsely populated region with plenty of land available in a lovely apart of the Cumberland Gap.

 In America

 A 19th century depiction of emigration from Ireland. A 19th century depiction of emigration from Ireland.

Hugh’s nephew, William Houston, son of another older sister, Mary, came to America with Hugh in 1799. The interactions between the Graham relations of Ann Graham Patterson and her husband Francis and their children are absolutely central to understanding the Irish Odyssey of Francis. Virtually the whole Graham clan eventually came to Claiborne County from Ireland, to include prominently Hugh’s older brother William Graham in 1810 who became closely involved in the business affairs of his brother Hugh and nephew William Houston thereafter.

The whole Graham clan became very wealthy landowners in Claiborne County and, yes, were slaveholders. William Graham married a Chamberlain, and thus the use of that name as a middle name. Many children received as a middle name that of a relative and we will see how ‘Houston’ and ‘Chamberlain’ were so used by the Pattersons and Grahams for various of their children, to include the youngest of General Robert, William Houston Patterson, and William Chamberlain for the youngest son of Francis and Ann Graham Patterson.

The Grahams, in-laws of the Patterson’s, had settled in east Tennessee and became wealthy slaveholding landowners. They helped the Patterson’s to also settle in this area.

William Graham, an older brother of Hugh and Ann Graham: had been in rebellion with Robert Emmet 1802-03 and as said came to Tennessee in 1810 and went into business with Hugh and his nephew William Houston. William became very wealthy, owned a general store with William Houston as well as extensive farm acreage. He actually went to Richmond and was involved in purchasing slaves to be brought to Tennessee. But, prior to his own death in 1840, William freed his 300 slaves, having previously bought large acreage for them to settle on in free Ohio.

He saw to their transport there with all the implements needed to be successful farmers, and free; and even put up a surety bond with the State of Ohio against their ever becoming a charge to that State. Rather remarkable and shows that not all the Grahams remained steadfast to the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery. The cost of what William did have to be enormous. Undoubtedly William’s wealth was spread among his Graham relatives at his death (without any children), but his manumission and caring for his former bondsmen is worthy of great note. He didn’t just ‘free’ people, he provided that they would have a future.

Francis Patterson and his wife Ann Graham had three children born in Pennsylvania, James M. in 1799, Mary c. 1800, and Frances Jane in 1806. It would then appear that at about the time of the start of the War of 1812 Francis decided himself to go to live in Claiborne County in Eastern Tennessee, that decision clearly related to the Graham relations of his wife being there. Or perhaps she made the decision for him; so, he purchased a large tract of land and emigrated there.

His last child, William Chamberlain, was born there in 1813 (while the oldest son Robert was in the army fighting the British, and beginning to build his reputation as a soldier, mustering out in 1815 as a Lieutenant Colonel, and having received a ‘regular’ army commission as well during his service). Mary the oldest daughter married her cousin William Houston in Tennessee circa 1825 (no children but much ’fostering’ of various nephews and nieces as will be mentioned later).

Francis stayed on permanently in Tennessee though documented as making trips back to Pennsylvania.  We know that son Robert took over the business dealings in Philadelphia. On that front Robert built his business to the point of becoming a millionaire by the time of the Mexican War mid-1840’s. And we know that Francis’ youngest son William C. born in Tennessee went to Philadelphia to work with Robert and stayed there for the rest of his life. More on William Chamberlain later.

William Graham a lifelong slave-owner, freed his slaves shortly before his death and paid for them to live in the free State of Ohio.

Francis died in 1845, but well before that strong connections were also made with the prestigious, wealthy and influential Fulkerson family of East Tennessee and Lee County, Western Virginia – all in the Cumberland Gap area. Peter Fulkerson (1764-1847) had a total of ten children, and one, Dr. James, became the husband of Francis’ daughter Frances J., in 1832.  And another of his children, Margaret, became the wife of Francis’ son James M. This is documented as happening in 1832 in Lee County, Virginia.

This was probably a ‘double wedding’ of sister and brother to sister and brother! All then living in Claiborne County, Tennessee for their lives! And parenting many children which I will also cover – for their story is part of the military conflict of the Civil War. Families in Tennessee ended up fighting on opposite sides and the Patterson’s were one such family.

 Robert Patterson: American Soldier

 The battle of Chrubusco in 1847 during the Mexican American War.The battle of Chrubusco in 1847 during the Mexican American War.

Robert Patterson of Philadelphia, War of 1812 veteran, volunteered for the colors for the Mexican War, and indeed he performed conspicuously gallant service. He rose to be Major General of U.S. Volunteers, in charge by war’s end of all the volunteer regiments/brigades.

He was one of the heroes of the war. Mustered out, he started the to be very prestigious ‘Aztec Club’, based in Philadelphia and limited to all officers who served in Mexico, as an hereditary society. He remained active in that endeavor until his death, being President of the club – which kept him in contact with all the major military figures who were members.

Robert Patterson, a first-generation Ulster Scots immigrant became a prominent US soldier and served in the War of 1812, the Mexican American War and as a Major General in the Union Army in the Civil War.

Summoned to active duty again for the Civil War, one of the oldest for field command at age almost 70, he won a few small skirmishes in the Shenandoah Valley as Major General of Volunteers. But was severely criticized for not supporting properly during the First Battle of Bull Run. Robert left the army and was never asked back, in July 1861, at the time of the termination of service for the ‘3 month’ Pennsylvania troops which were within his command.

He wrote a book published in 1865, justifying his record. And continued with his business and Aztec Club activities right up to his death in 1881 at close to 90 years of age! Whatever his error in the Civil War, he remained in high regard for his life’s work. At his Presbyterian funeral, his pallbearers ex-President General Grant, then General-of-the-Army General Sherman, and Generals Porter and Hancock, as well as there being attendance by numerous other generals and by many of the top political and business echelon of the United States. An impressive sendoff for a boy born in County Tyrone who escaped to the U.S. with his fleeing father in 1798-99!

Now turning to his brother William Chamberlain, born Tennessee 1813 but who went back to work with Robert in Pennsylvania: he was not only in the family business, but he also became the 2nd President of the Pennsylvania Railroad and altogether had a most prosperous career. He died in 1883, much praised also but for his civilian accomplishments and not for anything military. He had married Caroline Ellmaker, born 1816 in Pennsylvania, and had 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls.

He was referred to later in life as ‘Colonel’ but there does not appear to a record active Civil War service for him, so most probably that was from some service in a militia regiment which was not called up. No Civil War service noted for the sons of William Chamberlain, whose own middle name reflected the surname of the wife of his uncle William Graham (died 1840, previously discussed).

As stated previously, James M., the brother born 1799 in Pennsylvania, stayed on forever in Tennessee, and died in 1883. He as said had married Margaret Fulkerson. They had 6 children, 4 of whom were boys.   Likewise, his sister Frances Jane lived her life in Claiborne County from the first emigration of her father Francis and mother Ann Graham, being married to Dr. James Fulkerson (who died relatively young in 1859, prior to the start of the Civil War).

Frances J. (‘Fanny’) was born in 1806 and still alive at the Census of 1880 with some adult children living with her. She and her husband had had a total of 8 children, 6 boys. It was mentioned that James M’s and Frances’ older sister, Mary, had married her cousin William Houston and lived her life in Claiborne County also, but left no children.

 A family divided by Civil War

 Union propaganda in Tennessee, depicting secessionist John Bell as a traitor to the Union.Union propaganda in Tennessee, depicting secessionist John Bell as a traitor to the Union. (courtesy of Middle Tennessee State University)

Let us turn now more specifically to the descents from five children of Francis Patterson and Ann Graham Patterson.  Firstly, it is obvious that there was strong intercourse between the branches of the family in Philadelphia (Robert and William Chamberlain) and those in Tennessee (Mary, James M. and Frances J.). Clearly there was much travel both ways, visits, etc. from 1815 until the start of the Civil War (with a few of the Tennessee children working in the Philadelphia business – nephews of Robert and William C.). Let me start with a digression to explain the situation ‘on the ground’ in East Tennessee at the beginning of the Civil War.

While Robert Patterson served as a senior officer in the Union army, the Grahams, his cousins, were diehard Confederates.

That part of Tennessee had voted for Abraham Lincoln and remained strongly unionist in general. But there were many Confederates as well of course, with military formations formed for service in the Confederate army. It was a major objective of President Lincoln to control East Tennessee after the larger portion of the state was captured early in the war. But the ‘rebs’ held on until after the battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, and it wasn’t until January 1864 that East Tennessee was freed from Confederate control. While the area was strongly unionist in general, there was as said a not insignificant number of “secessionists”.

And these included mainly those of the wealthier class.  And those in Claiborne County were the Grahams and Fulkerson’s, all related to Francis Patterson and his wife Ann Graham. Ann’s brother Hugh, the 1798 emigrant from Ireland was indeed extremely wealthy and his home was the ‘showcase’ mansion of the county, shades of ‘Tara’ in Gone With The Wind.

Used as a headquarters for the Confederates, after the occupation by the Yanks it served that purpose for them as well. Hugh Graham had died in 1863 having sired seven lovely daughters and brought them up with a classical education and with much ‘courtly’ refinement – a history covered in several books and only mentioned here to complete the situation ‘on the ground’ for the Patterson’s in East Tennessee.

It should finally be pointed out that the Civil War from the ‘Yank’ viewpoint was one to ‘save the Union’, and from the ‘Reb’ viewpoint to safeguard ‘States Rights’. Lincoln stressed that it was about the indissolubility of the union, and not as a battle against slavery as such or even for the freedom of the slaves (though by 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation the slaves were all eventually freed). The overwhelming number of southerners who fought and died for the Confederacy were non-slave-owners and were fighting for ‘local’ rights.

On either side, in short, the vast numbers who fought would never have rallied to the colors on either side if the war was presented as fundamentally for or against slavery. The Grahams and Patterson’s in Tennessee, having fought for ‘local’ rights in Ireland, were by disposition in favor of the same in the U.S. and while slaveholders those who went ‘with their state’ did so for ‘States Rights’. While others in the family who went with the Union did so because of belief in the permanency of the ‘United’ States as ‘the’ issue.

In terms of actual service, three sons and a son-in-law of our General Robert Patterson served on the Union side during the Civil War, to include three being generals, two of whom were West Point graduates.  And he had eight nephews who served with distinction in the Confederate Army – to include several receiving battle honors/wounds and one being killed in action.  The nephews were the sons of Robert’s sister Frances and brother James M.


Francis Patterson and his wife Ann Graham Patterson wound up having a total of 27 grandchildren. This paper has not gone into any detail about the marriages and children of the grandchildren (the great-grandchildren had to number close to 100)! There are many many descendants today and they can point back to a most interesting family odyssey, all started by the escape from Ireland by Francis Patterson, United Irishman!

 by Chevalier William F.K. Marmion, M.A.

 Main Sources

T. Pakenham, The Year of Liberty: the Great Irish Rebellion
 of 1798 (1969)
W.E.H. Lecky, History of Ireland in the 18th Century (1881)
Lt Col M.M. Boatner, US Army, The Civil War Dictionary (1959)
Life of General Robert Patterson, Wikipedia article on the
Civil War Records of Tennessee Confederate Soldiers 1861-65,
 available on the internet
Robert Patterson complete family history on Find A Grave
 website, plus various obituaries of General Patterson from
 a number of Philadelphia and Washington D.C. newspapers
U.S. Census Reports, 1820 to 1870, for Pennsylvania and
S. Cottrell, Civil War in Tennessee (2002)

O. Temple, East Tennessee and the Civil War (1899)

Return to Lost pieces of the history of the little town of Tazewell, Tennessee