Samuel J. Patterson, Civil War ancestor

Samuel>Mary Eugenia>Agatha>Les

For my Veterans Day post, let me introduce you to Samuel J. Patterson, my great-great-grandfather. Like another second great-grandfather, James Archer, he fought in the American Civil War on the Union side. Also like James, he survived the war.

He was born on June 28, 1844 in Berwick, Columbia County, PA. His parents were Anthony J Patterson (1818-1894) and Elizabeth Snyder (1811-1883).  The 1840 Census list Anthony, Elizabeth, and a girl (Mary) and boy (Simon), both under 10, as “free colored persons.”

However, the 1850 Census lists the whole family, including Samuel, his slightly older sister Catherine, and 20 year-old Joseph, a “boatman,” as mulatto. Elizabeth Snyder, possibly formerly Schneider, may have been Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch). My father’s gene pool was 18% from England and northwest Europe.

The book African Americans in the Wyoming Valley 1778-1990 by Emerson Moss describes the Pattersons as one of the first African American family in the area. In a page 2 story in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader on March 24, 1930, it states that he worked on the canal as a young man.

The war

Samuel’s enlistment date was January 8, 1864, in Boston.  He was listed as 5’4 1/2″ tall with black hair and eyes, and had been working as a laborer. Times Leader: “Being enthused with the desire to liberate his enslaved fellow countrymen, Mr. Patterson seized the first opportunity to enlist and joined” the 5th Regiment, Massachusetts Calvary (Colored). He was a private in Company C.  The unit was “organized at Camp Meigs, Readville. The battalion moved to Washington, D. C.. then to Camp Casey, near Fort Albany in early May,  1864.”

Why is this significant? “During the American Civil War’s final years, a Union base in Northern Virginia trained hundreds of African American soldiers to fight to end slavery, one of only a few such bases inside a Confederate state. But, Camp Casey has nearly disappeared from history…”

The 1930 Times Leader story: “He was in the Battle of Petersburg, Va. from June 14 to 29, 1864 and was detailed as an orderly for gallantry at the capitulation of Richmond on April 3, ’65.” In June 1865, his unit was “ordered to Texas and duty at Clarksville till October. Mustered out October 31, 1865.”


In the 1870 Census, he had been married to Henrietta Jane Long since December 5, 1867 and they had two children.

By 1880, they had six kids, including Mary Eugenia (1878-1944), commonly called Jean, my great-grandmother. Eugenia would marry Samuel Walker in 1899 and have several children, the oldest of which was Agatha (1902-1964), my father’s mother.

Times Leader, 1930: “In 1880, [Samuel Patterson] took up bicycle repairing and boasted of having been the first negro in Wilkes-Barre to have ridden a bicycle.”

By 1900, Samuel is a tile setter, “one of the finest in this and Lackawanna County,” which he did for 30 years. He was also a plumber “being connected with the firm of B.G. Carpenter” for 20 years.

His Wilkes-Barre, PA, home was owned free and clear. Henrietta, his first wife, died in 1896. He married  Sarah Jane Towns on  November 29, 1899, but she died in 1904. Four children were home from ages 8 to 26 in 1900.

In 1910, Samuel was still setting tile, living with his new wife Sarah J. “Sadie” Bunley (b. 1868), who he married on May 31, 1908, in Pittsburgh, PA. Only his youngest child, Samuel George, 18, is still at home. By 1920, Samuel was retired and living with only Sadie.


Samuel J. Patterson died on March 23, 1930. He was 85 years, 9 months, and 25 days old, and listed as Wilkes-Barre’s “oldest Negro citizen.” He died from chronic myocarditis and was buried in Wilkes-Barre’s City Cemetery four days later.

The aforementioned newspaper article “Death Claims S.J. Patterson, G.A.R. Veteran” was subtitled “Former Well-Known Tiler and Plumber Answers Final Summons.” He was survived by his widow, six children, 25 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

I am told by a cousin of mine that there was an American Legion Lodge named after him back in the 1920s thru the ’40s. “For some reason it ended.”

The photo above is an undated of Samuel and his family, tweaked by Arthur.

Imgur as a source of information

Martha’s Vineyard immigrants

imgurIn late September, I was perusing a friend’s Facebook page who had posted, “I stand with the Iranian protests.” One of their friends indicated that they had gotten their information about it from TikTok and Imgur because they didn’t trust news outlets.

Oh, I’ll own it. I had no freaking idea what Imgur was. It “is an image hosting and sharing site, favoured by users of social media and social news sites including Reddit, Twitter, and Digg because of its ease of use and flexibility.” At first glance, it looks so… random. Pets, ads, dance videos, and various tweets.

I searched Iran and #Iran, but found nothing pertinent. But Iranian gave me 118 hits, only some of which were relevant.

Still, this fascinated me. I had seen several pieces in the New York Times, such as this one. Women Take Center Stage in Antigovernment Protests Shaking Iran. “Women have been casting off their legally required head scarves, forming the primary image of the protests. But grievances against a repressive regime go far beyond the hijab.”

This is not to say that one can’t find important stories almost anywhere. I just don’t see myself using Imgur as my go-to for the latest news.


On the other hand, Imgur is the answer to the question, “How did an image of a fake Massachusetts flag end up in a brochure for Martha’s Vineyard migrants?”

From the Boston Globe. Two summers ago, Will Bodine of Pittsfield, MA whipped up a flag redesign in “‘upwards of 10 minutes’ on his computer. The concept was simple: a blue shield emblazoned with the official state flower — the mayflower — encircled by six blue stars, all splashed against a white backdrop.

“Bodine… shared it on Facebook. He also uploaded it to Imgur, an image-hosting website, where, until recently, it had only been viewed a few times.

“Before nearly 50 migrants arrived from Texas on planes chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, lawyers said they were handed brochures containing erroneous information about cash assistance and other benefits they would receive in Massachusetts.

“While it remains unclear who created the pamphlets, they included a rudimentary map of the state, a picture of a lighthouse, a photo of a sign reading ‘Massachusetts Welcomes You’ — and Bodine’s obscure reimagining of the state flag, rather than the real one.”

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver noted this event in the first five minutes of his 9/25/22 program.

I suppose this gets to my point about checking reliable sources of information. As Bodine noted, “’No one had seen this flag until some idiot staffer for DeSantis or whoever’ stumbled across it… ‘I cannot fathom why they would use the wrong one.'”

Your government (not) at work

Reduce MY energy

governmentYour government (not) at work are a few stories that engaged my interest:

There was a terrible report about a young driver who killed seven motorcyclists in a New Hampshire crash this spring. In light of that, Massachusetts suspended more than 500 drivers licenses.

“The [Massachusetts] Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information sent from other states that called for the suspension of some drivers’ licenses… The dismal driving history of the man charged with [the horrific accident] — coupled with bureaucratic failures in Massachusetts that allowed him to keep his license — highlight weaknesses in the state and federal systems designed to keep unsafe drivers off the road.

“The case of 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy has exposed a patchwork system of oversight that’s reliant on the actions of individual states, many of which use a slow-moving, paper-driven communication network.”

There were primaries in New York State in late June, and I noted these results in a town in Albany County.
Earl H. Barcomb . . . . . . . . 179 34.82
Dennis P. Barber . . . . . . . . 178 34.63
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 157 30.54
Of course, the two candidates won. But if the write-in count had exceeded 178 votes, the Board of Elections would have had to start differentiating WHO got those write-ins.

Last month, I got this message at work: “This is a reminder to turn your lights off today as a participant in this year’s ‘2019 Daylight Hour’, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. Daylight Hour is an effort to raise awareness of energy savings and the impact humans can have on saving energy. This message is to encourage all SUNY System Administration, SUCF, and RF employees to join this effort by shutting off all unnecessary lights from noon to 1 pm today.

“Many of our campuses have already signed up for this event. Plaza Operations will be lowering corridor and lobby lighting during this time period. We ask that all participants turn off their work space and office lighting where possible. Behavioral impact can be much greater than most people recognize. This event will help illustrate the impact our decisions have on our overall energy costs.”

I dutifully complied. I couldn’t get much done at work that hour because I couldn’t really read my keyboard. The dimmed lighting also made me sleepy. I wrote to a colleague: “Reduce energy AND kill productivity!”

Nearly a parliamentary system

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans.

It’s Election Day in the US. At last. Thank whatever deity you believe in! The only people who will be upset about this are the local television stations, who have been raking it in with all the political advertisements. I’ve discovered that a lot of people don’t understand why the candidates often say at the end of the ads, “I’m Joe Blow, and I approve this message.” It’s because there are ads out there, sponsored by the political parties, or political action committees, supposedly (snicker) independent of the (chortle) political candidates.

As is my tradition, I will be voting as soon as the polls open, at 6 a.m. It’s not just that I am anxious to vote or want to get it over with. It’s that, if I cast my ballot early enough, they won’t call me to make sure I get out there. Better get my wife to vote before work, too. I’m voting for an annoyingly large number of incumbents, which is NOT my tradition, historically.

It’s occurred to me that the US has, almost, become a de facto parliamentary system. Someone like Arlen Specter, who died last month, was a fairly moderate-to-conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, who annoyed members of both parties with his actions on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blocking the nomination of Robert Bork, but allowing for the ascent of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court, brutalizing Thomas accuser Anita Hill in the process. When he became a Democrat in 2009, he hadn’t moved to the left; his former party had lurched to the right. I might have voted for him.

If I were living in Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Warren (D) weren’t running, I might have considered selecting Scott Brown for US Senate. As Republicans go these days, he’s relatively moderate. But then again, his re-election would have implications on party control of the Senate, so maybe not. In the olden days, even 20 years ago, bipartisanship and “working across the aisle” weren’t seen as traitorous behaviors.

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans. Edward Brooke was the first black member of the US Senate since the Reconstruction period after the US Civil War, serving from 1967 to 1979. And moderate Mitt Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007. Whatever happened to THAT guy, anyway?

I heard that 80% of the people voting for Obama or Romney this year will vote for the Senate candidate of the same party. And it’s 90% in House races. We’ve returned to straight-party voting in the US, which I understand, but don’t see as a necessarily good thing.

Here are my predictions: Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., we STILL won’t know who the winner is; might be days. Or weeks. Ultimately, Obama wins, with less than 50% of the popular vote, and the Republicans spend the next four years bemoaning that fact.

M is for M states

Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts.

In the United States, there are eight states that begin with the letter M, tied with the letter N. But N has the advantage of descriptive adjectives New (Hampshire, Jersey, Mexico, York) and North (Carolina and Dakota); only Nebraska and Nevada are one-word states.

In 1963, ZIP Codes were introduced, although many large cities were divided into zones 20 years earlier. At the same time, the Post Office introduced two-letter abbreviations for the states, to accommodate space for the ZIP Codes.

The ones for the letter M tell stories about the states:

MA – Massachusetts. The mother of the country. Where the Pilgrims landed – on Plymouth Rock, and where the American Revolution was fomented, at the Boston massacre, then the tea party, and finally with the battles of Lexington and Concord. The second and sixth Presidents, both named Adams, were born there.

MD – Maryland. Home of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, plus other facilities with doctors.

ME – Maine. Rugged individuals, who wear clothing from L.L. Bean of Freeport, founded 100 years ago by Leon Leonwood Bean. It was part of Massachusetts until it became a state as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when it was admitted as a free state, as Missouri joined as a slave state.

MI – Michigan. A state which suffered greatly during the recent recession (oh, mi), but which appears to be coming back strong, with improved auto sales leading the way (oh, mi!)

MN – Minnesota. M and N are adjacent letters, nearly twins in the cursive. Likewise, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are related, yet quite separate cities.

MO – Missouri. The big mo, or momentum towards the Pacific Ocean, Missouri was the starting point of the Pony Express and is considered the Gateway to the west; thus the arch. It’s also the home of the defending World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, who, after their 130th game of the 2011 season on August 24, were 10 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, with only 32 games remaining. They went 23-9 to finish 90-72, a game ahead of Atlanta’s 89-73, the largest comeback in history after 130 games.

MS – Mississippi. Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts, and there is a strong tradition of Mississippi writers, including John Grisham, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and many more.

MT – Montana. Of course, mt is the abbreviation for a mountain, and the Big Sky State is in the Rocky Mountains.

OBVIOUSLY, the Post Office was thinking about these things when they assigned the two-letter state designations almost a half-century ago.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

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