Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mary Patton

Mary Patton
One of that heroic band who established a civilization in the wilderness. She made the powder used by John Sevier's troops in the battle of King's Mountain.
Erected by her descendants.

Mary McKeehan Patton, born in England in 1751, played a crucial role in the defeat of British loyalists in South Carolina in 1780 -- a battle considered by many to be a key turning point of the Revolutionary War. Her family immigrated to the Colonies in the late 1760s, and it is thought that Mary learned the art of gunpowder manufacturing from her father. She wed Irish immigrant John Patton in 1772 and after the birth of their two children, they moved from Pennsylvania to the Overmountain region of North Carolina (now Tennessee). Moving over the mountains into Cherokee lands meant that they were in direct violation of the crown's order to remain east of the Appalachians. The British Major Patrick Ferguson sought to enforce the order. In response to his threats, the Overmountain men banded together and marched to King's Mountain in South Carolina and routed the British loyalists and killed Major Ferguson. The battle lasted 65 minutes.

Mary's role in the Battle of King's Mountain was to provide 500 pounds of gunpowder to the 850 Overmountain Men from her mill located on what would become known as Powder Branch outside of present-day Elizabethton, TN. Mary was known to be thrifty and entrepreneurial. She would travel as far as South Carolina to sell her powder for a dollar a pound -- she then would buy land with the proceeds. When she died in 1836 at age 85, it's said that she owned 1,700 acres of land. More about Mary here and here. Read my post about the path these Overmountain men took over Yellow Mountain here.

Mary is buried in Patton-Simmons Cemetery (under the large monument above) on Toll Branch Road near Milligan College, TN.

"The victory was of far-reaching importance, and ranks among the decisive battles of the Revolution. It was the first great success of the Americans in the south, the turning-point in the southern campaign, and it brought cheer to the patriots throughout the Union."
--Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West, Vol. 2


  1. What a cool story! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great story Mark! Who want to lie forever in that beautiful place? Thank you for sharing this! :)

  3. Mary's husband, John Patton, an Irish immigrant; any relation to James Patton, Irish immigrant killed at the Draper's Meadows massacre, 1755 (present day Blaksburg, VA)?

  4. Thanks! I was searching for something my 9 year old could take to Cub Scouts about Mary for the geneology achievement, I have read and written "Patton-Simmons Cemetery, Milligan College, Carter County, Tenn" so often it is great to see a picture! Thank you!!

  5. John Patton was a nephew of James Patton who was killed at Draper's Meadows.

  6. I have only recently traced my family tree and found Mary to be my 4th Great-Grandmother. I must go to Tennessee and walk over the lands in Washington County that were home to my Patton, Peoples, Cooper ancestors.

  7. Yes I am one to although I am young I have been to that cemetery I was born in elizabethton and my grandpa is burried in that cemetery... I went up before Christmas and stayed for a little bit if you get a chance to go up there it's amazing and really astonishing looking out at the land

  8. I am a descendent of Mary & John Patton. What a great legacy to leave behind! I thought James Patton was John Patton's father. Does anyone know who John's parents were? Or a source of information to research it further?

  9. Tamela Ashlock and friends, we are working on having a painting done soon to forensicly rebuild Mary Patton. My name is Marti Mongiello and my family first moved to here in 1709. I am at marti@theinnofthepatriots.com or 704-490-3947

    1. Beautiful! Wouldn't Mary have been so proud? Thank you! We will never forget Mary Patton and what she has done! I am writing a book and I would love to feature it in my book. My email is tjashlock@hotmail.com.

  10. Thanks for a Great and very interesting site! I found the name of Mary McKeehan while researching my family tree. I am the 7th generation of Robert Gourley who married Elizabeth Patton, born abt. 1788 in Tennessee. My findings show her to be the daughter of John Patton and Mary McKeehan. I have found several links working up the line, but nothing working from Mary back to me.
    Does anyone have anything that would link Mary to the Gourley family through Robert Gourley?
    You can email me at coffmankeith@gmail.com if you have any information that you would like to share.
    Thanks again for a great page! Who knows, we could be related :)


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