Founders’ Day remembers and celebrates those individuals or groups that have made a difference to St. Peter’s over its history.
This year we are honoring James Samuel Patton or better known as Jim. Jim owned Gay Mont also made a difference to the both church and community. The ironic thing is that Jim wasn’t an Episcopalian – he worked for years with the Presbyterians. We didn’t adopt him- He adopted us.
Jim lived 88 years until Nov 5, 2007. A native of Bridgeville, Pa., he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941 to take a clerical position with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory . At the close of World War II, he served for a short period in the Army of Occupation in Japan. Jim retired in 1981 after 36 years as financial secretary/business manager of the New York A venue Presbyterian Church, and lived for many years In Alexandria. Mr. Patton retired in 1981 after 36 years as financial secretary/business manager of the New York A venue Presbyterian Church, and lived for many years In Alexandria.
Jim’s life outside of the church was wrapped up in three professions – a genealogist, historian and archivist. First, Jim was a genealogist untangling the family of his wife Frances Bernard Robb Upton’s family. The family had owned Gay Mont since since 1816 when Jane Gay Robertson married John Hipkins Bernard, whose family built the place in the 1790s. He undertook a detail study of her family , the Bolling family revealing descendants of a relative Col. John Bolling not known. As a genealogists, there are countless examples online of Patton helping other researchers.
As a historian, Rev. Fall’s book Hidden Village, Port Royal, Virginia owes a lot to Jim’s work. Rev. Fall writes in his acknowledgments – “Mr. James Samuel Patton and the late Frances (Upton) Patton of Gay Mont, Rappahannock Academy, Va., for almost two decades have provided a limitless amount of historical research and information without which this volume would not have been possible.” Rev. Fall wanted to cite Patton as a joint author but Patton refused. Jim was detail oriented which aided understanding the changing ownership of property in this town.
Jim’s gift was an organizer of records. He saw the importance of preserving St. Peter’s early records and so sent them to the Library of Virginia. They are now available on micro film. The current machines there can save individual pages of records. This allows these records to be saved in an environment with climate controls.
Cookie has a file of Patton’s records. Inside are folders with collection of pictures inside and out of St. Peter’s. Patton was careful to document what he had, important for these pictures.
Patton loved the organ, wrote and lectured on it and also of concerts that occurred here. This was helpful last year to justify bringing back these concerts last year.
Last summer while in Fredericksburg I ran across a map at the Heritage Center with Jim’s name on it. It is a remarkable map produced in 1930 of the then current properties, vegetation as well as locations of past properties no longer there. I took the map, walked the village, photographed each block. It is obvious Port Royal is an archaeologist dream come true.
There are many smaller collections reflecting his interest of families, the rectory, the belfry and almost anything St. Peter’s.
One of my favorite pictures of Jim is Jim escorting Emma Cocke to St. Peter’s. I am sure he was a "killer" with the ladies!
Patton died in 2007. Many of you knew him though I never did. What I wouldn’t give for an afternoon at Gay Mont, being able to tap his mind or to simply say “Thanks, Jim, a job well done.” Jim, you contributed to greatly to your own time and to future generations of historians.
The following was written in his obituary “Those who had the good fortune to know James Samuel Patton know that his picture should appear beside the dictionary definition of "gentleman…. There is much to be thankful for in the life of this good man.”
Jim Patton article links