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Another 200th Anniversary
Historic Cabin a 'Stepchild'

This is a set of articles concerning the Robert Patterson cabin that was moved here from Lexington, KY.
This article appeared in the Journal Herald on September 17, 1971


By Roz Young

     In 1976 when we will all be celebrating our 200th birthday, there will be another 200th anniversary observed, one on a much smaller scale and involving only one little old log cabin sitting in a weedy patch of grass behind a fence on the campus of Transylvania University on Lexington, Ky. It is one of the most dragged about log cabins still standing, having been moved at least six times and if George Lytle, 14 Lonsdale Ave, has his wish, it will be moved at least one more time.

     The man who built the cabin was Robert Patterson, a young chap born in Bedford County, Pa., who had gone on a hunting and land finding expedition to the far West in 1775. Land was up for the taking in those days, and a man who blazed trees surrounding a tract, built a cabin and put in a corn crop could not be dispossessed. He found a lovely tract of land in the rolling Kentucky hills and chose a site near a fine spring. There he put up a lean-to and blazed a number of trees for his father, his brother and himself.

     In the spring of 1776 he returned to the tract, built a permanent log cabin with the help of two friends and put in a corn crop. The log cabin was a one- room building with a large fireplace and a ladder leading to the second floor bedroom. The next year Robert’s brother William came from Pennsylvania and helped him make the cabin as bullet proof as possible. They cut a porthole in a log near the front door. Through it they could peek out to see whether any Indians were forming a reception committee before they opened the front door.

     The cabin stood in the midst of a 5,000 acre tract blazed by the young men.

     In 1779 Robert was appointed captain of the militia of Fayette County and he and other young men built a stockade around the cabin and spring and erected a blockhouse for protection of the community. The next year he returned to Pennsylvania to be married to Elizabeth Lindsay, daughter of a well-to-do farmer and miller. The log cabin that was to become her home was a rude contrast to the fine stone home she left, but friends of the bridegroom brought in furs to be used for bed and floor coverings and the pots Robert had provided were the best a local blacksmith could make. The Pattersons lived in the cabin for six years.

     Robert helped to establish local government and schools and soon the town of Lexington grew up around them.

     As the family increased in size and possessions, the cabin became too small. They moved it to higher ground and lived in it until a fine stone house was finished. Then the family moved into the new house and the little old cabin, moved to a corner of the property, became the home of the Patterson servants.

     Robert interested himself in acquiring new land. He with two others bought a large tract on the Ohio; there Ft. Washington was built and the city of Cincinnati began to exist and grow. He also bought some land near where the Mad River empties into the Miami, where a little settlement of about 10 log cabins had been built by pioneers with names like VanCleve and Cooper and Newcom.

     In 1804, Patterson moved the family, now grown to 10, to a new log cabin on the south edge of Dayton, a large house with three rooms down and four bedrooms up. There on Rubicon Farm he built a grist mill, a carding and spinning factory and a sawmill.

     The little, old outgrown log cabin, left empty when the Pattersons went away, became a storage catch all and tool house. The town grew up around it but it hung on for many years, moldering away on the back of a lot owned by Mrs. Armasinda Hays. It moldered and slumbered all during the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th when-

     But that’s another story. Look for it tomorrow.

This article appeared in the Journal Herald on September 18, 1971


By Roz Young


     The little log cabin built by Robert Patterson in 1776 became a neglected catch all for junk by the end of the 19th century. John Henry Patterson, enterprising grandson of Robert, learned in 1901 that it was about to be torn down. He bought the cabin from Mrs. Armasinda Hays, on whose lot it stood, and had it brought to Dayton. He had it rebuilt on land at the intersection of Far Hills and Oakwood avenues.

     Parts that were missing he replaced as nearly like the original as possible. The puncheon front door was made from a walnut log out of the old barn on Rubicon Farm. A workman shaped it with a broadaxe just as the first maker did in the beginning. Wooden hinges and the sash and window frame of the missing back window were made from materials out of the old barn and dressed with a drawing knife. Stones to rebuild the chimney came from the Sugar Camp area of Rubicon Farm.

     When John Patterson died in 1922, he left the cabin and ground on which it stood to the city of Dayton. There it stood for 38 years.

     Several years prior to 1939, a few Lexington citizens began wishing they had the cabin back. Finally Dr. Charles Allen Thomas, at the time head of the Thomas and Hochwalt chemical research laboratory in Dayton, now retired chairman of the board of Monsanto, headed a move to take the cabin back to Kentucky. His particular interest was initiated because he had graduated from Transylvania University, which Robert Patterson helped found. Thomas was at the time president of the alumni association of the university. Others joined with him in asking for the return of the cabin with the result that in May, 1939, the Dayton city commissioners approved the request of the State of Kentucky, the City of Lexington, the Daughters of the American Revolution of Lexington and Transylvania University to return the cabin. The groups requesting the return were charged by the commissioners to assume the entire cost of the removal and future maintenance of the cabin.

     The cabin was rebuilt on the campus of Transylvania University. Dedication services were held June 5, 1939. Participants in the services were Dr. Thomas, Governor A. B. (Happy) Chandler, who through his office (and somewhat under the table) provided the funds for the removal, Mayor Charles J. Brennan of Dayton, and Robert Dun Patterson, representing the family.

     But the moves for the little cabin were not over. The site chosen on the campus was near spring and in time the building showed signs of sinking. It was moved to a hill on the campus. In 1960 it was again moved to a more level spot not far from the hilly spot. In 1969 necessity for building a new science complex for the university caused its relocation once again.

     It now stands on the edge of campus in a small plot surrounded by a high chain link fence to guard it from vandals.

     It was during the late 1920s and early 30s when George Lytle, 14 Lonsdale Ave., used to walk or bicycle down the hill to the cabin. He often sat by the fire talking to the caretaker, and there is no spot of the cabin from porthole to sleeping loft he has not investigated.

     Occasionally he initiates a check on the present condition of the cabin. Lytle thinks that if it is being treated shabbily, it is time for Dayton to ask for the cabin again. He envisions it in Carillon Park or in the Piqua historical area where the mother of John Patterson lived as a girl.

     The cabin is today a kind of stepchild. Nobody had shown any interest in its maintenance except Transylvania University and the school is in the business of education, not preservation of pioneer relics. Funds for its maintenance are almost impossible to come by. At the present time the yard surrounding the cabin looks unkempt although Ed Houlihan, speaking for the university, points out it looks about the way it probably did originally when the Pattersons lived in it and a great deal better than it did when the city of Dayton owned it.

     One senses that Transylvania University would be glad to be relieved of the care of the cabin, physically, perhaps, and financially, certainly. One of the best ways to insure that somebody comes to the rescue of the little cabin would be for some interested Dayton citizens to try to get it back. What it needs for the 200th birthday in 1976 is a tidy endowment fund and some loving care.