Park Gift Recalls Pioneer Days



This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on June 22, 1952

Park Gift Recalls Pioneer Days
by Larry Collins

            During the last week a move was made to add to the public land holdings of Dayton a tract of nearly nine acres which before 1804 was part of the landed wilderness of Dayton and the Miami Valley.   The tract is bounded by Brown st., Rubicon rd., Sawmill rd. and Springhouse rd.

            Once a part of a 2038-acre land holding, it was given to the city of Dayton by Jefferson Patterson and will be known as Patterson Memorial Park in honor of his great grandfather, Col. Robert Patterson and his descendants who in the last almost 150 years have played such important roles in Dayton’s development and progress.

            In that area still stands the Patterson homestead, built in 1816 and restored in 1939 when Mrs. Harry Carnell gave an early American costume ball there to celebrate the restoration.

            The Homestead will be turned over to cultural and artistic activities for the city of Dayton and its citizens. It is expected that a variety of recreation and entertainment facilities, open to the public and sponsored by the city and by various social, civic, cultural and public spirited organizations will take place there.
            JEFFERSON Patterson’s contribution and the program designed for it likely will be somewhat of a revival of the original use to which the Patterson homestead and land were put after the area was settled and the development of the Patterson home and social life in this community began.
            The history of those pioneer days relates that the Patterson home – which became known as Rubicon farm – was the center of many cultural and social activities, not only for many of the citizens of Dayton at that time, but guests from afar, who always welcomed the opportunity to come to Rubicon farm.            When Col. Patterson came to Dayton with his wife and children in 1804, he acquired a tremendous tract of 2038 acres. That tract was bounded generally by the Veterans Administration center on the west, by the Dayton State hospital on the east, by Stewart st. on the north and on the south extended to the junction of Far Hills av. and Patterson rd. In addition, he acquired other holdings of land. One tract was in Wayne tp. and another near Clifton Falls in Greene co., where the colonel established a mill.
            When the Patterson family arrived in Dayton, the colonel had passed the half century mark in years.

            After gaining manhood he had started on a prospecting career, which brought him from the more settled areas of the east coast to the then wildernesses of Kentucky and Ohio.
            IN HIS EARLIER MANHOOD, previous to his Dayton residence, he had been soldier, legislator and hunter. In his migration west he founded the city of Lexington, Ky., in 1776. There he remained until 1804, when he was forced to give up all his lands, because he had gone on a neighbor’s bond for $6000 and was forced to sell all his holdings to meet that obligation.
            For many years in a triangular plot of ground at Far Hills and Oakwood avs. stood an old cabin. That cabin was the first house built in Lexington and was the home of Col. Patterson. It was brought to Dayton by the late John H. Patterson, a grandson, who was a founder and president of the National Cash Register Co.  About 10 years ago the cabin was removed to Transylvania college at Lexington, where it now occupies a position of honor in memory of the founder of that city.
            Col. Patterson married Elizabeth Lindsay in Lancaster County, Pa., on March 29, 1780. Mrs. Patterson gave birth to five sons and six daughters. Two of the children died in Lexington, but the other nine migrated with their parents to Dayton.

            The arrival here was not the first trip Col. Patterson had made to Dayton. A few years before he had come alone to Dayton and had arranged to acquire land. The corporate town of Dayton – established in 1796 – was bounded by Perry st. on the west, Monument av. (then River st.) on the north, Madison st. on the east and Sixth st. on the south. So the land which Patterson acquired was “away out in the country.”
            IT WAS NOT LONG, however, before Col. Patterson and his family began to make that section of the community felt in the daily life of Dayton. He established a number of mills on Rubicon farm and he had mill interests in other communities not far from here.
            The colonel’s memory was perpetuated many years ago when Springhouse rd., Stonemill rd. and Sawmill rd. were chosen as names for streets which went through the farm lands.

            There was also a sugar camp, which Riverview cemetery now adjoins on W. Schantz av. There each February saw the tapping of more than 100 sugar maple trees, from the sap of which sugar was made. Still called Sugar Camp, it is used by the National Cash Register Co. for its sales schools’ program.
            CATHERINE PATTERSON BROWN, a daughter, wrote thusly of life at Rubicon:
            “Our little mills were running nearly all winter, men and boys coming, one, two or three-days’ ride, camping along the creek to await turn. When snow came, logs were sledded with teams of six or eight oxen or horses, lumber engagements being more than the mill could cut. We walked to Dayton to school, taking dinners with us, and could go on horseback to church if we liked.”
            There is a legendary explanation of how the Patterson homestead was name “Rubicon Farm.” In “Concerning the Forefathers” a book prepared by Charlotte Reeve Conover the story is related:
            “A small stream ran across the field between the farm and the town, making a natural division line. One day, shortly after the purchase of the farm, Col. Patterson discovered a hired man in the service of Mr. (Daniel) Cooper digging up shrubs from the wrong side of the stream for his employer’s garden. Robert Patterson drove him off with the command: “Go tell your master that this stream will be the Rubicon between us. He or anyone that belongs to him crosses at his peril.’ . . . The servant told Mr. Cooper of the circumstance, and friends of both parties, hearing the story, dubbed the little stream the Rubicon; the farm began to be called the Rubicon and this was finally adopted by the owner as its name.”

            The homestead was built in 1816 and until it was finished, it is believed the family lived in a log cabin on the west side of Main st. just south of the National Cash Register Co.
            HISTORIAL ACCOUNTS tell of all the things which went on at the farm, both from a standpoint of daily life, commerce, community life and other things which then were the mode of the day.
            It is apparent that Rubicon farm was the center of much activity. All was not happiness, however, because nearly every March flood waters swept over the area, including Rubicon farm; cholera struck in 1833; some of the mills burned; livestock was lost for one reason or another.

            But withal the life of the Pattersons in Dayton was one of success and happiness. The descendants of the doughty colonel, who died Nov. 9, 1827, in his 75th year, have made their influence felt on the community.
            THE LAND which the colonel acquired in Dayton originally has been sold off to other interests for the most part. But there still remains sufficient sentiment, both tangible and intangible, to leave indelibly the mark on the community which Col. Patterson, along with other hardy pioneers of the nation, gave it.
            It was for Jefferson Patterson, the great grandson, to put into being a gift which will help to perpetuate the memory of his ancestors.
            Jefferson Patterson acquired the land after the death of his mother, Mrs. Julia Shaw Patterson Carnell, some years ago. She was the wife of Frank J. Patterson, who died in 1901. Later she married Harry Carnell.