War of 1812 Hero, Early New Mexico Explorer, and the “First American Buried in California Soil”
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Document Signed. Promissory Note with Pattie signing as witness. No place, October 20, 1800. 1 p., 7¾ x 2¾ Docketed on the verso and signed by Boyd with his mark.
War of 1812 veteran Sylvester Pattie witnessed this promissory note for “John Boyd or order on demand four pound four Shilling for value received.” Originally from Kentucky, Pattie and his son, James Ohio Pattie, took a small expedition throughout the Southwest in 1824. At the time, the territory belonged to Mexico, and the party was exploring a little-known route through the area and encountered Indians who had never seen white men and proceeded to steal their horses. The party had a large number of furs confiscated by the Mexican Governor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, under the pretense of hunting without a license. Nevertheless, the Governor gave them a passport for safe passage through Mexican territory.
When the party arrived in San Diego, the Governor there rejected the passport, accused them of spying for the Spanish, and threw them in jail, where Pattie took ill and eventually died. His biography in Appleton’s notes his passing in New Mexico, but this is incorrect, as the trials and tribulations of the entire expedition are recounted in his son’s account, The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie of Kentucky...
Pattie is commemorated by a memorial in San Diego’s Presidio Park:
“Sylvester Pattie/ pathfinder/ leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over southern trails.
Arrived at San Diego presidio March 27, 1828
An officer in the War of 1812/born in Kentucky August 25, 1782/
Died near this spot April 24, 1828/
First American buried in California soil.
Commemorating also his son James Ohio Pattie and companions
Jesse Ferguson, William Pope, Nathaniel Pryor and Isaac Slover”
Sylvester Pattie (1782-1828) was born in Kentucky. He was a lieutenant in the War of 1812 and ran a saw- and grist-mill before being widowed around 1824 and undertaking an expedition through the southwest in what was at the time Mexican territory and is now New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Timothy Flint, ed. The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie, of Kentucky, during an Expedition from St. Louis through the Vast Regions between that Place and the Pacific Ocean.... (Cincinnati: John H. Wood, 1831).