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House Speaker Biographies


William Patterson

(Elected after the resignation of James Findley)

Born: September 25, 1796, Cross Creek Township, Washington County, PA. Died: May 3, 1879, Cross Creek Township, Washington County, PA. Member of the House: Washington County, 1828-1832, 1833-1834. Affiliation: Democrat.

William Patterson was born into the Findley-Patterson family in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which produced 10 members who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 4 of whom served as Speakers, all between the late 18th and mid-19th centuries.  His father, Thomas Patterson, in addition to serving in the United States Congress, managed a fulling mill.  William Patterson was engaged in this enterprise in his youth, as well as with other agricultural management duties for the family.  Patterson was a known supporter of education.  He advocated for a public school system, and was a primary financer of the construction of a school built near his home in Washington County.  On April 29, 1819, Patterson married the former Margaret Lyle, and the couple had 10 children: Lysander, Mary (Gault), James, Robert, Aaron Lyle, Caroline (Lee), William, Margaret (Smith), Thomas A., and Samuel Findley.  Samuel Findley Patterson was also a Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1875-1876.  

William Patterson was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Democrat for the 1828-1829 session.  He was re-elected for the 1829-1830, 1830-1831, 1831-1832, and 1833-1834 sessions of the House. On December 17, 1833, Patterson was elected the 62nd Speaker of the Pennsylvania House after James Findley resigned.  During his Speakership, Patterson oversaw the passage of Act 102 of 1834.  Better known as the Free Public Schools Law, the groundbreaking legislation was famously championed by United States Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.

William Patterson retired from public service in 1859.  He died on May 3, 1879 in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and is interred at Cross Creek Cemetery, Cross Creek Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania.