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Guide to the Pattie Party Memorial Plaque Records MS 31
MS 31  
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Collection Details
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  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Pattie Party Memorial Plaque Records
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 31
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
    Date (inclusive): 1906-1949
    Abstract: Collection contains correspondence and other documents pertaining to the Pattie Party, Pattie Party descendants and the plaque commemorating Sylvester Pattie and party on Presidio Hill in San Diego.
    creator: San Diego Historical Society.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Katrina White on May 22, 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Preferred Citation

    Pattie Party Memorial Plaque Records, MS 31, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Sylvester Pattie and his son, James Ohio Pattie, led a trapping expedition to New Mexico in 1824. In 1827, the Patties, along with Nathaniel Pryor, Richard Laughlin, William Pope, Isaac Slover, Jesse Ferguston, James Puter and several others left Santa Fe on a trapping expedition that led into Arizona and California. The party reached the junctions of the Colorado and Gila rivers on December 1, 1827. Being told by the Yuman Indians that there were Christians down river, the party began following the Colorado River southward. On February 16, 1828, the party buried their traps and furs and started westward across the Baja desert. They reached Santa Catarina Mission on March 12, 1828. Ten days later, the party was arrested as Spanish spies by a wary Mexican governor, Jose de Maria Echeandia, and brought to San Diego. Sylvester Pattie died while imprisoned at the San Diego Presidio on April 24, 1828, and the remainder of the party was held captive until February 1829. The deceased expedition leader is credited as being both the first leader of an American expedition across the Southwest to California, and as the first American buried in California soil.
    Sylvester’s son James Pattie was later enlisted by Echeandia to help inoculate Californians against smallpox; however, his claim to have vaccinated 20,000 people seems a bit ambitious. Pattie returned to the East in 1830 and published his story, "Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie of Kentucky," which became “the first Western potboiler.” The story of the Pattie Party’s imprisonment and his father’s death remained relatively unknown in San Diego until researchers associated with the San Diego Historical Society began to gather information in the early twentieth century. Isaac Frazee, a Long Beach resident, spearheaded the movement for recognition of the Pattie Party by the placement of a plaque on Presidio Hill. Frazee was the grandson of Ephraim Frazee and nephew of Dr. Lewis J. Frazee, who both knew and grew up with Sylvester Pattie in Kentucky. It was out of Frazee’s interest in his family history that he first became aware of the Pattie Party, and he was soon an outspoken advocate for the memorialization of Sylvester Pattie and the rest of his party in San Diego, where their expedition had come to an end. The San Diego Historical Society took up Frazee’s cause in 1929 with the enthusiasm of both George Marston and John Davidson, and was able to dedicate a bronze memorial plaque on Presidio Hill in honor of Sylvester Pattie and the Pattie Party on April 24, 1931, the anniversary of Sylvester Pattie’s death. The bronze tablet bearing the names of the imprisoned men is located on the bastion of Presidio Hill, which is nearest to the site of the old prison as possible due to the changed landscape since 1829.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains correspondence and documents regarding the Pattie Party, their descendants, and the Presidio Hill plaque that commemorates Sylvester Pattie and party. The correspondence includes letters between Isaac Frazee and members of the San Diego Historical Society including George Marston and John Davidson, as well as correspondence from descendants of the Pattie Party to the Historical Society, including Janetta B. Wright (granddaughter of Janetta Pattie), H.L. Pattie, Jr. and Leonard Laughlin (descendant of Richard Laughlin). The collection also includes papers related to the planning of the Pattie Party commemorative plaque and its dedication ceremony. Additional research documents regarding members of the Pattie Party and their respective histories are also contained in this collection.


    Collection is arranged by subject.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Andrews, J. Pattie
    Davidson, John
    Davidson, Winifred
    Dollarhide, R. A.
    Ferguston, Jesse
    Frazee, Isaac
    Junipero Serra Museum.
    Landell, Gladys J.
    Laughlin, Leonard
    Laughlin, Richard
    Marston, George White, 1850-1946
    Pattie Party.
    Pattie, H. L.
    Pattie, James O. (James Ohio), 1804?-1850?
    Pattie, Janetta
    Pattie, Sylvester
    Pope, William
    Pryor, Nathaniel
    Puter, James
    San Diego Historical Society.
    Slover, Isaac
    Wolfskill, William
    Wright, Janetta
    New Mexico
    Pattie Party
    Presidio Hill
    San Diego (Calif.)