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Findley Patterson

Born: May 16, 1808, Cross Creek Township, Washington County, PA.  Died: February 12, 1880, Washington County, PA.  Member of the House: Armstrong County, 1845-1846; Washington County, 1879-February 12, 1880.  Affiliation: Democrat.

Findley Patterson was born May 16, 1808, in Cross Creek Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania.  His father, Thomas Patterson, was a United States Congressman (1817-1825).  Trained as a surveyor and engineer, Patterson worked in his family business of flour manufacturing before his election as commissioner of Armstrong County in 1837.  He married the former Martha J. Bingham on October 28, 1829, and the couple had 8 children: Esther Ann, Elizabeth (Ferguson), Mary (Vance), Thomas, Hugh Bingham, Rosannah (Riddle), Martha Jane, and Margaret (Hartford).  

In 1839 Patterson was elected as Democrat to the Pennsylvania Senate to represent Armstrong, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, and Indiana Counties, serving from 1839-1841.  Patterson successfully ran for election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1844.  Following in the legacy of his older brother, William Patterson, who was Speaker of the House from 1834-1835, Findley Patterson was elected the 69th Speaker of the House on January 7, 1845.  He was re-elected Speaker for the following session on January 6, 1846.  Patterson oversaw the legislature’s creation of the state’s first public mental hospital with Act 288 of 1845, largely in response to the efforts of social activist Dorothea Dix.  Dix’s report “praying for the passage of a law making provision for the establishment of an asylum” was presented to the House by Representative James Burnside of Centre and Clearfield Counties on February 3, 1845.[1]  Also under Patterson’s leadership, the House debated, and ultimately voted in favor of, the establishment of the Pennsylvania Railroad with Act 262 of 1846. 

Following his first term in the House of Representatives, Patterson was appointed state revenue commissioner in 1843.  In 1857 he was appointed receiver of the Western Land Office by President James Buchanan and moved to Lecompton, Kansas, to serve in the position.  Patterson served in the positon for 4 years, and in 1861 returned to his home state.  He worked as a land surveyor upon his return, and was re-elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1878 for the 1879-1880 session.  

In addition to the numerous positions both elected and appointed, throughout his life, Patterson also served as a delegate to the state Democratic Convention 6 times and was a public school director for 18 years.

Findley Patterson died while in office on February 12, 1880.  He is interred at Hillcrest Cemetery in Burgettstown, Washington County, Pennsylvania.


[1] Pennsylvania Legislative Journal for the House of Representatives – 1845, Volume I, 157.