|Goode Bank in Boydton, Virginia, 1899|
James H. Pattillo was the son of Samuel W. Pattillo and Sally C. Phillips. He had three younger brothers, Robert Alexander, Charles Madison, and Edward M. Pattillo. They had one sister Ann R. James and his siblings were all born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Mecklenburg is located on the southern border of the state. He was born during the War of 1812, when James Madison was president. He and his siblings grew up living on a farm.
When James was 31 he and Susan C. Land were married on December 16, 1845, in Mecklenburg. Their first child, a son, Robert Henry was born in 1847, and my great grandfather James William was born May 15, 1848. Sadly, his mother Susan died shortly after James W. was born – very likely during childbirth. Left with two infant sons, James chose to marry Susan’s older sister Louisa J. Land on September 4, 1849, when he was 35. They were married across the state border in North Carolina, because it was illegal to marry your widow’s sister in the state of Virginia. James and Louisa had two additional children - daughters Sarah Zerelda, born in 1853 and Ada, born November 4, 1857.
|Jame H. and Louisa J. Land's record of marriage|
The name James is significant in our family. Our first ancestor to immigrate to the United States was James Pattillo – my 6th great grandfather. He was born in Scotland in 1690 and came to the United States in 1716. His son, James Jr. was the first to be born in the United States in 1725, in Prince George County, Virginia. James Henry’s first son was James William who also named his first son James H. This James was born in 1882 and died in 1883. James William’s oldest son that lived to adulthood, Lewis gave the name James Edward, to his first born son. James Edward is my father. This is the sort of tradition that makes family history research challenging. I have 17 James Pattillo’s in my database, so far.
James Henry was educated – probably by a private tutor hired to teach him and his siblings at home. We know he was educated because as an adult he held positions that required him to have an education. On the 1870 census, James was living with his wife Louisa, two daughters, and Elizabeth Walker and her daughter. Elizabeth was identified as a “teacher in family”. Most likely, Elizabeth was a war widow – from the Civil War – and hired herself out as a teacher in order to support herself and her daughter. James H. hired her to educate his children. It is likely his father had done the same. There was a large college in the town where James H. and his family lived – Randolph-Macon College, but there are no records of any Pattillos having attended. Randolph-Macon was a Methodist college. The Pattillo’s were most likely Presbyterians.
Land Owner, Farmer & Entrepreneur
Throughout his life James purchased property to start and expand his farm and other business endeavors. All were in Mecklenburg County. When he was 24 he bought a 307 acre parcel for $1200 on Cox’s Creek. The next year he bought 100 acres for $150. Then in February of 1853 he acquired a 440 acre parcel on Coleman’s Creek for $1100. In October of the same year he purchased a steam-powered sawmill, also on Coleman’s Creek, a little south of the town of Boydton. In January of 1857, James and his brother-in-law John B. Land made an agreement with Benjamin Lewis Jr. to purchase 408 acres on Layton’s Creek for $800. This parcel was known as the Hayes tract, and adjoined land that John already owned. John was Susan and Louisa’s younger brother. Another court case proved that James and John B. Land were in business together as Land and Pattillo. They cut, milled and sold lumber.
In 1860, James acquired three additional parcels. He bought a 66-acre and a 9-acre tract of land on River Road from Alfred Boyd, and a 222 acre tract from William Townes for $1400. Finally, in 1863 there is a record of his buying 250 acres at the fork in the road at Fields & Fields Mill Roads. The deed for this parcel noted that he paid $11 per acre rather than giving the total price. This last purchase, made when he was 49, occurred in the middle of the Civil War – James must have felt optimistic that the Confederates would win the war. All total these acquisitions add up to 1762 acres. I don’t know if he owned this much land at any one time. He may have sold some parcels in order to purchase others.
While traveling in Virginia in spring of 2014, I went to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Boydton – the town where our ancestors lived. Boydton is a small, low-income town in southern Virginia, founded in 1812. It is located just north of the border with North Carolina. In 2014, the town had a population of only 430 and was a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The county courthouse in Boydton is a Roman Revival style brick building with four ionic columns and was constructed in 1838-42. It was listed on the National Register in 1975.
I went to the courthouse to look up the deed records for all the Pattillos who lived in the county, for the time period when the county was first formed in 1764 to the early 20th century. The oldest document I found was from 1772. It was about James Pattillo (1725-1785), my fifth great grandfather having purchased 190 acres on Cox’s Creek from William and Martha Douglas. The most recent record they had was dated 1928. One of the records I found, dated October 15, 1845 was about a dispute between James and Edward Pattillo, his brother and a man named Lewis William. James had borrowed money from Williams and his brother Edward served as his surety. Both James and Edward believed the debt had been paid back but Williams was disputing that.
From this court document I learned that James and Edward were in business together. They owned a mercantile store and had sold supplies – “a hogshead of sugar and 2 bags of coffee” to Williams. So, it sounds like they owned a general store. According to Wikipedia, “A hogshead was used in American colonial times to transport and store tobacco. It was a very large wooden barrel. A standardized hogshead measured 48 inches long and 30 inches in diameter at the head. Fully packed with tobacco, it weighed about 1,000 pounds.”
As part of this business James agreed to sell 6000 mulberry sapling shoots (Morus multicaulis) to Williams. The saplings were to be delivered between October and November in 1840, and each sapling was to be 6-feet high at a minimum. Williams had agreed to pay 2 ¾ cents for each sapling or $165. This seemed a peculiar piece of trivia that was explained by a textile history website.
The story of the silk industry in America dates to the earliest English settlers in Virginia. James I tried to compel Virginia tobacco planters to stop cultivating tobacco, plant mulberry trees and sustain silk worms to supply raw silk to English factories. As early as 1623, he decreed that a planter would be fined £10 if he did not cultivate at least ten mulberry trees for every 100 acres of his plantation. Bounties were extended in 1657: 10,000 pounds of tobacco for every £200 worth of silk or cocoons in a single year. The bounty was extended, dropped, extended again and abandoned. No one wanted to "farm" silk when they could grow tobacco. Silk was too labor-intensive.
In the early decades of the 19th century, silk culture continued to entice investment. No one hit it big but people kept trying. There was tremendous speculation in the 1830s. A new variety of mulberry was introduced from China by way of the Philippines, then France and into Baltimore. Gideon B. Smith was introduced from China by way of the Philippines, then France and into Baltimore. Gideon B. Smith planted the first trees there in 1826. Growth was more rapid and the leaved were several times larger. When news spread, nurserymen were inundated. The demand soon exceeded supply and a wild rush took place.
When James was born his family was living in the county of Mecklenburg. I have a Circuit Court record dated 1819 that confirms that they were living in the town of Boydton. James was still living in Boydton when the 1850 and 1860 censuses were taken. On the 1850 census, they noted that his property was valued at $3235, which was a little more than every other property owner listed on that page. He owned a total of 600 acres, 47 of which was “improved” which probably meant it had been cleared and his house and other structures were built on it. He owned machinery valued at $30, and $261 worth of livestock.
|Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Boydton|
On the 1860 agriculture census James owned 450 acres of which 150 were improved. The value of his farm was $4000 plus he owned furnishings valued at $100, 3 horses, 5 milk cows, and 1 “other stock” – probably a pig. The value of his livestock was $400. The census recorded that he was growing sorghum – a grain grown primarily as livestock forage. The rest of the information provided on this detailed census was not legible.
Like his father and grandfather, James was a farmer – a tobacco farmer. When Dianne and I visited the site of James' farm in 2014, the land had been purchased by a timber company that was using it to grow pulp wood. The remains of 6 buildings and structures were visible from the road. These included a collapsed stable, a chicken house - a low, small building with a flat roof, a flue-cured tobacco barn with mud dabbing between the timbers, a corn crib, a utility barn and a smoke house.
|Farm owned by James H. and Louisa. Left-right: smoke house, chicken coup, utility shed & roof of the corn crib|
John Caknipe, a local historian who took us to the property, explained that the house had been gone for a long time - probably destroyed by termites. It would have been constructed on high ground and all the farm buildings were been in the back yard. The house would have been similar to the barn stylistically with the bedrooms upstairs and the living room and dining room downstairs. Each slave family would have had their own house.
John explained that James’ land would have been considered a farm – not a plantation. To be considered a plantation owner one needed to have at least 1000 acres of land, at least 20 slaves, be educated and own a library.
In addition to growing tobacco, the primary cash crop, James would have been growing vegetables for his family and 13 slaves who helped work the farm. He had chickens, probably 30-35 hogs, 50 sheep, and 10-12 milk cows. Excess crops and animals would have been sold to Randolph-Macon College, as would those of his neighbors - the Wootens, Carters and Jones.
Tobacco was the primary crop grown in Virginia – it was grown there as early as 1632 according to Susan Bracey in her book “Life on the Roaring Roanoke”. Bracey notes, “It was a crop of especial importance to Mecklenburg because, in part, it was responsible for the establishment of several towns and for much of the economic fortunes of the county.” She continues, “The cultivation, inspection, transportation and sale of tobacco were the source of much concern.”
|Tobacco warehouse in Mecklenburg|
As early as 1753, locals campaigned for a tobacco warehouse to be built in Mecklenburg County so they would not have to ship their tobacco to the port of Petersburg for processing. In 1792, the town of St. Tammany was laid out near the Roanoke River where tobacco could be loaded and shipped out. A tobacco warehouse was built by 1793 that enabled them to do tobacco inspections there as well. The town of Clarksville – across the river from Boydton was established in 1818 and was promoted as “the richest tobacco country in the state of Virginia”.
..... continued in part 2.
..... continued in part 2.