12 July. Influential North Carolinian Presbyterian—Rev. Henry Patillo (1726-1801)
[Vol. 44 (1967), 373-391]
Henry Pattillo was an outstanding minister of the Presbyterian church in North Carolina during the latter half of the eighteenth century. “Father Pattillo,”1 as he came to be reverently known throughout the Carolina Piedmont, was not only a pioneer leader in the church but a teacher of unusual ability, as well as a very influential participant in the political activities that attended the transition of North Carolina from an English colony into an American state. Extant knowledge of his personal life is meager, but a considerable amount of material exists which has testified to the results of his career. As was customary with many men of letters in that day, Pattillo kept a journal, fragments of which have been preserved, and it was from that manuscript that most of the facts about his youth have been gleaned.2
Pattillo did not begin the writing of his journal until he was twenty-eight years of age and was immersed in his ministerial career. He was cryptic about his boyhood and apparently dismissed that period of his life as relatively unimportant. The writer did record enough facts to be combined with statements of his contemporaries to give an outline of his life, however. He was a native of Scotland, born in the village of Balermic near the city of Dundee in the year 1726. His father was George Pattillo, a connection of the Argyll family, and his mother’s name was Jane. Henry had two brothers, George and William, and several sisters, but there is no record known of their names.3 The original name of the family in Scotland was Pattulock, which was spelled in a number of ways, ranging from Pattillo to Petilly.4 In his own words, he was a child of “Religious Parents, educated with Care and Tenderness above many mine Equals; and that in the Middle of Scotland,” and his rearing was further described as “of pious parents, who were well situated in the point of religious privileges.”5 The parents were sufficiently prosperous to educate their children, but nothing more is known about them. For reasons never stated, Henry Pattillo left Scotland in the company of his brother, George, and came to America in about 1740.6
The brothers settled in the colony of Virginia, possibly because they had relatives living there. In 1728 a James Pattillo was made inspector of tobacco in Prince George County, Virginia. His children were James, Ann, and Henry.7 That family may have been instrumental in the decision made by the two young Scotsmen to come to America in search of a new life. They may also have been helpful to the young Henry, who found employment in a mercantile establishment. His work was “to learn the duties of the counting-house,” but the youth soon became disappointed with his occupation and felt “in his absence from religious instructions and restraints [,] the overcoming power of temptation, which for a time prevailed over his early instructions and pious resolutions.”8
During that period of his life, the young man believed that he would be better satisfied in another type of work, so he began teaching school. While engaged in that capacity, Pattillo continued to wrestle with his own inner convictions. He described his thoughts in his Journal:
Here, by what means I cannot tell, it being so gradual, I got such astonishing views of the method of salvation, and of the glorious Mediator; such sweetness in the duties of religion; such a love to the ways of God; such an entire resignation to and acquiescence in the divine will; such a sincere desire to see men religious, and endeavor to make those so with whom I conversed, that after all my base ingratitude, dreadful back-sliding, broken vows, frequent commissions of sin, loss of fervor, and frequently lifeless duties since that time, I must, to the eternal praise of boundless free grace, esteem it a work of the Holy Spirit, and the finger of God.9
Pattillo continued to devote much thought to the mission of Christianity in the world and its relationship to his own life. He made it a point to pray several times each day and said, “I used, when alone, to speak out in meditation, and do esteem it an excellent medium to fix the heart on the work.”10 He discussed the value of Christian living with individuals whenever he had an opportunity and constantly felt himself propelled by an ever increasing desire to enter the ministry. He explained his feelings in his diary:
...I can boast of but little success in these endeavors, yet my feeble attempts produced in me an indescribable desire of declaring the same to all mankind to whom I had access; and as I could not do this in a private station, I was powerfully influenced to apply to learning in order to be qualified to do it publicly.11
Thus in the year 1750 Pattillo made his final decision and began planning to obtain the higher education he felt was necessary to complete his ministerial training. Just at that time he became acquainted with the Reverend John Thompson, a minister who had been sent by the Synod of Philadelphia to visit the Presbyterian churches in North Carolina and Virginia. After discussing his plans with that clergyman, Pattillo was convinced that he should go to Pennsylvania to complete his theological studies and he actually began the journey to the North. He had traveled for only a few hours, however, before he became the victim of a severe attack of pleurisy. Illness kept him in Virginia until the next year and completely disrupted his plans to go to Pennsylvania.
While convalescing, Pattillo was invited by the venerable Samuel Davies to reside at his home and continue his studies there. This was a fortunate arrangement for the student, as Davies was a well-educated and able man and, among the Presbyterians in the colony, “first upon the list of worthies.”12 He was so convinced of the need for a religious revival that he was engaged in the same year he met Henry Pattillo in sponsoring an attempt to persuade the renowned Jonathan Edwards to come to Virginia on an evangelistic mission.13 Because of the lack of schools in the South as well as the difficulty for students to attend colleges in the North, the ministerial educator opened his home to young men in order that a number of them could live there and study with him. Pattillo was fortunate to be one of that number, and he continued his residence and training in the Davies home for seven years.
The Synod of New York commissioned Davies and Gilbert Tennent in 1753 to make a trip to England in search of funds to promote the College of New Jersey, forerunner of Princeton University. During Davies’ absence, Pattillo fell in love with Mary Anderson and wished to marry her, even if his plans to complete his education at the College of New Jersey would consequently have to be abandoned. Davies wrote from England to suggest that the marriage be delayed until Henry completed his education. Nevertheless, the wedding took place in 1755. His wife had some resources of her own on which the couple lived, and Henry supplemented the family income by the earnings from his teaching in Hanover. The young pair did not live luxuriously, for Pattillo described their residence as “a house 16 by 12 and an outside chimney, with an 8 feet shed—a little chimney to it.”14 On June 13, 1757, the house was struck by lightning. None of the occupants was injured although at the time, in addition to Henry, his wife, and young child, within the small building were his wife’s sister, six students, and a Negro boy.15 The young father was happy in his new circumstances, however modest, and his relationship with Davies continued on a friendly basis, even though he had disregarded his mentor’s advice. After Davies returned from England, Pattillo studied with his teacher until 1758.
In 1755 the Synod of New York established the Presbytery of Hanover, which included Virginia and North Carolina within its territorial bounds. This move was due in no small part to the efforts of Davies, who was properly called “the father of Hanover Presbytery.”16 On September 29, 1758, the Presbyterian church court met at Cub Creek, in Lunenburg County, Virginia, and Henry Pattillo was licensed as a minister. That was a happy day for the man who had waited long and studied hard in preparation for the occasion. His certificate was signed by his benefactor, Samuel Davies, as moderator of the presbytery, which made it even more precious to Pattillo, and it read, he “having declared his assent to, and approbation of, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Directory, as they have been adopted by the Synod of New York, agreeably to the practice of the Church of Scotland,”17 was duly licensed.
There were a number of preliminary stages through which the candidate had to pass before he received his certificate. The presbytery met at Hanover on April 27, 1757, and Pattillo’s name appeared for the first time in the records of that body. The entry in the minutes read:
The Presbytery Appoint mr. Pattillo as pieces of Trial to be delivered at our next in June, a Sermon on Acts 10. 43 first Part. To him gave all the Prophets Wittness; and an Exegesis on that Question, Num Pena Inferorum sit deina?18
Pattillo complied with his instructions, and when the presbytery met at the same place, June 8, 1757, the minutes read, “Mr. Pattillo delivered a Discourse upon Acts X. 43 according to Appointment.”19 The presbytery adjourned until the next day, at which time the following entry was made in the record:
They [the presbyters] also considered mr. Pattillo’s Discourse, and approve it as a satisfactory Part of Trial.
He likewise delivered an Exegesis from the Question Appointed, which was approved.
The Presbytery having examined him at their last meeting as to his religious Experiences to their Satisfaction, proceeded to examine him extempore as to his Knowledge in Logic, and the Latin, Greek and Hebrew Languages; in which he gave such Specimens as were generally satisfactory.
The Presbytery appoint him to compose a Sermon on Mark 16. 16, and appoint messieurs Todd, and Wright and Davies a Committee to hear it, and make farther Trials of him; to meet at Providence the third Wednesday of July. Concluded with Prayer.20
The instructions of the presbytery were carried out, and on July 20, 1757, the committee and Pattillo met at Providence. The following minutes were recorded of the meeting:
The Committee met according to Appointment, ubi post Preces sederunt, messieurs Todd, Wright, and Davies. mr. Wright chosen moderator mr. Davies Clark [sic].
Mr. Pattillo opened the Committee with a Sermon on Mark 16. 16, according to Appointment.
The Committee, upon a thorough Consideration of Said Sermon, unanimously approve of it, as a satisfactory Part of Trial. The Committee proceeded to examine mr. Pattillo upon Ontology, Pneumatics, Ethics, Rhetoric, natural Philosophy, Geography and Astronomy; in all which he discovered a very satisfactory Degree of Knowledge. And they appoint him to prepare a Lecture on Daniel VII, 19-27, and a Sermon on the 27th verse of said Chapter.21
Pattillo carried out his instructions to the letter, and fulfilled the requirements of the committee before the presbytery when it met at Cub Creek, September 28, 1757.22 In spite of its thoroughness up to that point, however, the examination was not finished. The record continued:
The Presbytery farther examined mr. Pattillo in sundry Questions in Divinity, examined and sustained his Lecture and Sermon, and re-heard his religious Experiences: and upon a review of the sundry Trials he has passed through they judge him qualified to preach the gospel.... And appoint the moderator to give him some Solemn Instructions and Admonitions with respect to the discharge of his office: which was done accordingly.23
That was the occasion on which the presbytery directed the certificate to be prepared, but the candidate was not then ordained. In April, 1758, the Presbytery ordered:
Appointed that the next Presbytery meet at Captain Anderson’s in Cumberland. The 2d Wednesday of July, and that mr. Pattillo open the Presbytery with a Sermon on Isaiah LV-1, and that he deliver an Exegesis on this Question, Num, et quo sensu, quartum Praeceptum Decalogi sit morale? both as Parts of Trial for Ordination.24
The presbytery decided at the same meeting that if Pattillo complied favorably with his instructions he should be “ordained to the holy ministry the Day following.”25 That event took place as scheduled in September, 1758.26
The requirements with which Henry Pattillo had to comply in order to become an ordained minister have been quoted in detail in order to emphasize that it was not an easy matter to become an approved minister in the Presbyterian church in the eighteenth century.
Immediately after being licensed to preach in 1757, Pattillo was given the assignment of visiting churches which had no ministers and holding services for those congregations. Because of the rapidly growing population in North Carolina and Virginia caused by the heavy Scotch-Irish migration at the time, congregations were organizing much faster than ministers could be found to supply them. As the case of Pattillo showed, the education and training required of a Presbyterian minister was a lengthy affair, and there were few ministers in 1757 in the southern colonies. Therefore, many of them were given assignments to travel from church group to church group in order that a service could be held occasionally in each one. On his first tour Pattillo ministered in that fashion to the congregations at Meherrin, Nutbush, Hico, Eno, Chesterfield, the Byrd, Louisa, Amelia, at Halifax Courthouse, and in the Albemarle territory.27 On his second, he visited Willis’ Creek, the Byrd, Buck Island, Cove, Louisa, and Orange.28
The Hico and Eno churches were established in North Carolina by 1758 and those churches petitioned the Presbytery “particularly, for mr. Pattillo,”29 but at that time the minister accepted a call from the churches at Willis, the Byrd, and Buck Island. It was customary for one clergyman to minister to a group of churches located in the same general area, and that was the case with Pattillo’s first charge. After a stay of four years with those congregations, he requested and was granted a release from the group, giving insufficient support as his reason. He did not make plain whether or not he meant financial support, but that seemed reasonable in view of the fact that he was always able to maintain cordial relations with the other congregations to which he ministered.30
The second charge accepted by the preacher was the group composed of the Cumberland, Harris Creek, and Deep Creek churches in Virginia. He ministered in that area from 1763 until 1765. He then severed those connections to accept a call from Hawfields, Eno, and Little River in Orange County. Pattillo worked with that group for nine years and during that period, by means of his energetic efforts, accomplished some of the most outstanding results of his entire ministry. He became so firmly intrenched in the hearts of the people that even after he left the Orange County churches he was persuaded to labor in the Piedmont section of North Carolina throughout the remainder of his life.31
When Pattillo came to the Hawfields group of churches, the Presbyterian church in Carolina was in its infancy as an organization. There were no more than three ministers of that denomination in the colony prior to his arrival. The churches which called Pattillo were in the center of the fast growing Presbyterian population. Under Pattilo’s ministry and leadership they became vital factors in the development of the Presbyterian organization in North Carolina, and all three churches have continued their active work in the cause of Christianity until the present day.
Henry Pattilo was both a student and teacher all of his life. To him education was only secondary to preaching the Gospel. From his youth he supported himself either wholly or in part by teaching school. Indications are very strong that he continued to teach school during the earliest days of his ministry.32 At any rate, it was not long after his arrival in North Carolina that he began a school in his home. While never as renowned in the educational field as David Caldwell’s Log College in adjacent Guilford County, the Pattillo school supplied the only educational facilities available for a number of young men. Some of these students, one of whom was Nathaniel Rochester,33 used their education to advantage in making a name for themselves in the world. After Pattillo left the Orange churches, he operated a school in Granville County for six years before he accepted another call to a church. One of the pupils in the latter school was Charles Pettigrew, who became an educator in his own right.34 At a later date William Blount, an important figure in both mercantile and political affairs in North Carolina, sent one of his sons to Pattillo’s school.35
Shortly after the arrival of Pattillo in North Carolina, two other Presbyterian ministers answered calls in the colony. While the relations with the Virginians were happy ones, the distance involved for the ministers to travel to meetings was a real hardship on the North Carolina clergy. Inspired by the energetic leadership of Pattillo, the ministers in the Piedmont joined in a request for the establishment of a new presbytery. The petition was signed by David Caldwell, Hugh McAden, Joseph Alexander, Hezekiah Balch, James Creswell, and Henry Pattillo. It was granted by the synod in 1770, and the new Presbytery of Orange contained all the territory from the Virginia line southward. The new organization held its first meeting at the Hawfields Church, in the fall of the same year.36 The part played by Henry Pattillo in the event was his most important contribution to the development of organized Presbyterianism in Carolina, although he was also an active participant in the creation of the Synod of the Carolinas in 1788. At that time there were ten ministers in Orange Presbytery, and the denomination was growing at a fast pace.37
Besides ministering to his congregation and promoting the education of his people, Henry Pattillo was intensely interested in the contemporary political situation. That situation was far from static during the years of his pastoral work with the Hawfields churches, for it was at that time the Regulator movement flared up in all its fury. Of the 883 known Regulators, some were at least acquainted with Pattillo and very likely were members of his congregations38 The minister was sympathetic with the aims of the oppressed people but not with their methods of obtaining justice, and he joined with three of his fellow clergymen in two expressions on the subject. The first was a letter to the Royal Governor, William Tryon:
We the Subscribers His Majesty’s ever dutiful and loyal Subjects Presbyterian Ministers in this Province beg leave to approach your Excellency with cordial professions of unshaken duty and loyalty to His Majesty’s sacred Person and Government and to testify our duty and ready submission to the Laws of this Province and to your Excellency’s Administration. With these sentiments glowing in our breasts, we cannot but express our abhorrence of the present turbulent and disorderly spirit that shows itself in some parts of this Province, and we beg leave to assure your Excellency that we will exert our utmost abilities, to prevent the infection spreading among the People of our charge, and among the whole Presbyterian Body in this Province as far as our influence will extend....39
That letter was signed by Hugh McCaddon [McAden], James Creswell, Henry Pattillo, and David Caldwell and dated from Hawfields, August 23, 1768.
In the same meeting at Hawfields the ministers drafted and sent out the following letter to the churches in their presbytery:
It is with great concern and regret that we view the present Opposition to Order, Law and Government in sundry parts of this Province, and it is with equal concern that we find ourselves unable to assert with truth, that not one of our Profession is engaged in it: It is however our hope and wish, that the number of regular Presbyterians, among the present Insurgents is very small, and to those who may have been seduced from the peaceable Deportment and Loyalty of their Profession & Ancestors, we affectionately address Ourselves as followeth.
We are sensible the movers of the present Insurrection, have put the cry of King, Loyalty, Allegiance, into the mouths of their unwary Adherants; which doubtless was the snare that caught you and many others, but we earnestly recommend to you to consider, that the opposition is directly levelled against Government and Law; for the Oath is what the Law nowhere prescribes, and that Oath to do unlawful things viz: to call Officers to a Settlement, in a way that Law has not allowed, and lastly that Oath is taken not to pay their Taxes, expressly contrary to the Laws of our Country, and the plain word of God. These things should detach every loyal Subject from them especially as you are assured by the Governor’s Proclamation, that Justice will be done on all that have oppressed you on proper complaint, by a due course of Law. Should any object that are bound by this Oath, we answer, such Persons have involved themselves in guilt by taking such an unlawful Oath, and greater guilt will lie upon them if they keep it, We therefore tenderly sympathizing with such do recommend to them Repentance for taking that Oath, and give it as our opinion that it ought to be broken....
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of Man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the King as supreme, or unto Governors as those that are sent by him for the Punishment of Evil Doers, and for the Praise of them that do well....40
Those were the efforts, made in vain, of Pattillo and his associates to stem the rising tide of violence during the War of the Regulation. Tryon was impressed even though the Regulators were not then dispersed. When the Governor came to Orange County later in the year to suppress the disturbance with the power of the militia, Pattillo was one of the ministers called upon to give spiritual advice to the soldiers. “It is ordered that the Reverend Mr Micklejohn and Mr Pattilo [sic] have thanks for the sermons preached to the Troops,” was the command of Lieutenant General Rutherford at the time.41 It would indeed be interesting to know what the Presbyterian clergyman said to the men. The remarks of the Anglican Micklejohn have been preserved, and they were most emphatic in predicting the dire consequences of the judgment of the Almighty against those who acted rebelliously toward their King. Nevertheless, blood was shed, and the conquered Regulators were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown before all were released, except the few leaders who were hanged.42
In spite of the unhappy consequences of the War of the Regulation, Pattillo continued his activity in many phases of the life of the province. His name appeared on a petition to Governor Tryon for “a Publick Inspection” of tobacco at the Town of Hillsborough;43 in 1771 he was named a trustee for Queen’s College;44 in 1776, a trustee of Granville Hall;45 and he participated in “An Act to Establish Warrenton Academy.”46 He moved eastward from the Hawfields churches in 1774 and became a resident of Bute County (present day Franklin and Warren counties), where he continued the operation of his school. In 1775 he was sent by that county as a delegate to the first Provincial Congress, which met at Hillsborough. His fellow delegates were Green Hill, William Person, Thomas Eaton, Jethro Sumner, and Josiah Reddick.47 Among the acts of the Congress was one which read:
We the Subscribers professing our Allegiance to the King, and Acknowledging the constitutional executive power of Government, do solemnly profess, testify and declare that we do absolutely believe that neither the Parliament of Great Britain, nor any Member or Constituent Branch thereof, have a right to impose Taxes upon these Colonies to regulate the internal police thereof; and that all attempts by fraud or force to establish and exercise such Claims and powers are Violations of the peace and Security of the people and ought to be resisted to the utmost. And that the people of this province, singly and collectively, are bound by the Acts and resolutions of the Continental and Provincial Congresses, because in both they are freely represented by persons chosen by themselves....48
The grievances protested in the act were very much the same as those which the Regulators sought to adjust, but apparently Pattillo felt no qualms in joining the movement of the populace when it was executed in an orderly manner and through a proper organization, though he had opposed the violent tactics of the Regulators. The conviction was necessarily deep, for the Congress required a strong expression of his patriotism. Before resolving, “That the Revd. Mr. Henry Patillo [sic] be desired to read prayers to the Congress every morning,”49 that body made the clergyman a member of a committee, whose duties were:
...to confer with such of the Inhabitants of the Province, who entertain any religious or political Scruples, with respect to associating in the common Cause of America, to remove any ill impressions that have been made upon them by the artful devices of the enemies of America, and to induce them by Argument and Persuasion, heartily to unite with us for the protection of the Constitutional rights and privileges thereof.50
The Congress went even further in its actions and agreed to protect any of the former Regulators who broke the oath to the Crown which they had been required to take by force and appointed Richard Caswell, Maurice Moore, and Henry Pattillo to attempt to persuade them to break their vows and join the Patriots. This was asking a good deal of a minister who had joined his colleagues of the cloth in condemning the Regulator movement. William L. Saunders appraised the situation when he commented:
But what a vast amount of assurance it must have required for Maurice Moore and Caswell and Patillo [sic] to attempt to persuade the Regulators that the oaths they had been forced to take at the point of a bayonet after the battle of Alamance were not binding on their consciences! Patillo [sic] was one of the Presbyterian divines who, in 1768, united in a pastoral letter to the people of their faith denouncing the Regulators as criminals.51
Again, the only possible explanation was that the orderly march of events in America, particularly in North Carolina, toward a showdown with the Mother Country, appeared in a different light to Pattillo’s mind, as to most of the colonials, than the roughneck actions of the Regulators. The period of attempted adjustment had changed to the time of revolution.
Throughout the proceedings of the Congress, Pattillo was mentioned in a number of ways. He was made a member of the Provincial Council for the Halifax District;52 another action in which he was involved was described in the minutes:
The Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the whole house accordingly and unanimously chose the Reverend Mr. Patillo [sic] Chairman; and after some time spent therein, came to a Resolution thereon.53
The committee decided that a plan of union for the colonies was not feasible at that time.
There is no evidence existing which would support the idea that Henry Pattillo changed from loyal supporter of the British Crown to an ardent American Revolutionary within five years because of personal gain for himself, either through promotion in the political affairs of North Carolina or to improve his financial condition. In 1755 the members of the ill-fated Transylvania Company, while pleading for help in their project from the Continental Congress, in Philadelphia, stated their wish “That a present of six hundred and forty acres of Land be made to the Reverend Mr. Henry Patillo [sic] on condition that he will settle in the said Colony.”54 Judge Henderson, Thomas Hart, and the other members of the company simply wished to promote the migration of colonists to the West, and the offer to Pattillo from men who were prominently attached to the Church of England was a testimony to the clergyman’s popularity and not a bribe for any services of a political nature he might render the Transylvanians. He refused the western land, however.
By 1780 Pattillo had become pastor of the churches at Nutbush and Grassy Creek in Granville County. He remained with that charge until his death in 1801. It was during that period that the clergyman published several books from the material he had written. One of the most interesting of his works was entitled A Geographical Catechism. On the title page the purpose of the book was explained: “To assist those who have neither Maps nor Gazetteers, To Read news-papers, history, or travels; With As Much of The Science of astronomy, and the Doctrines of the air, As is judged sufficient for the Farmer, who wishes to understand something of The Works of god, around him; And for the studious youth, who have or have not a prospect of further prosecuting those sublime Sciences.”55 The book was composed of questions and answers, fairly simple in the beginning, but with the answers becoming progressively longer toward the end. The first question was:
What is the meaning of the word, Geography? Answer. It is compounded of two Greek words, Ge, the Earth, and graphe, a description; and is the science that describes the Earth, or the globe of sea and land.56
After a journey around the world through questions and answers, the book ended with a description of America. The author said:
We come in the last place to the freest, happiest, most plentiful part of the globe; and the farthest removed from tyranny.... A country in which religion is unrestrained; morality in repute; education promoted; marriage honourable, and age reverenced.
Q. 104. Pray, sir, where lies this terrestrial paradise?
A. Within the limits of the united states; and the spot you stand on, makes a part of it....57
Another publication was a collection of Pattillo’s sermons. In the Preface of the book the author stated:
I expect to be read by many with a double pleasure; one arising from the force of truth; another because this is an American production, and the work of one whom they have often heard from the pulpit.58
One of the sermons in the book was entitled “The Division Among Christians,” and the preacher showed plainly that he was concerned with denominational stress. He wrote:
Had the Christian world in all ages sacrificed a few grains of orthodoxy for charity, it would have been an immense gain by the exchange: for if charity be greater than faith and hope, I would not hesitate to pronounce it greater than orthodoxy.... may the day speedily arrive when the greatest contention among christians shall be, who shall love their Redeemer best, and who shall serve him with the greatest zeal. Amen.59
The concern of the author over denominational strife was further emphasized by the inclusion of another sermon, “A Sermon on the Unity of the Christian Church.”60 This concern was also stressed by the inclusion in the book of a letter dedicating one of the sermons to Francis Asbury:
To the Revd. Mr. Francis Asbury, Superintendent, and to the Elders and Lay Preachers of the Methodist Society, in America. Dear Brethren:
As soon as I resolved to publish this discourse, I purposed to dedicate it to you, Gentlemen. My motives are these. 1. I love your persons, and honour your piety and zeal; though I differ from you in some of the doctrines of Christianity. 2. I wished you, my brethren, to read this discourse; which coming thus directed to you, makes it, in a sense, as much your property as a private letter. 3. I wished our Methodist brethren to know the Calvinistic doctrine, on the subject of divine decrees and predestination, as far as my small abilities could unfold them in the bounds of one discourse; and as far as I understood them myself....
Let not the sons of the same Father fall out by the way to that celestial Canaan, where the Calvinist and the Arminian shall regret that they did not sooner taste the heaven of brotherly love. Allow me the transcendent pleasure of hoping, that you will acknowledge me.
Your brother in Christ Jesus, Henry Pattillo.
Granville, North Carolina
Jan. 14, 1787.61
Another sermon in the collection was entitled “An Address to the Deists.”62 Pattillo had become quite aware of the popularity of that theological concept in the latter years of the eighteenth century, not only in North Carolina, but elsewhere throughout the land. In a letter to Charles Pettigrew written in 1788, Pattillo referred to Micklejohn, the former Anglican with whom he had preached to the Regulators, and said:
Our Episcopalians are getting Mr. Micklejohn to N. B. [Nut Bush, in Granville County], once a month. I heard him last visit. He is an artist at avoiding Jesus Christ, both name and substance. The first thorough deistical sermon I ever heard. I have invited Mr. Jarratt to sew some good seed with the tares, before Christianity is totally eradicated.63
In the same letter, Pattillo mentioned that his book had been published and was for sale; the hardback copies were priced at $1.00 and the paperback copies at 25 cents.
An insight into the less formal and more humorous side of Pattillo’s thoughts were revealed in some random jottings from his notebook, which he labeled “Satirical Observations.” Among these, he wrote:
I dont like a note folded like a cocked hat.
He was a Helot & She was a Shalot.
The company was not “picked” — but the pockets of visitors generally are.
He is so confident of being right in everything that if he could he would set the Sun every day by his watch.
He was so deeply affected that he drinks only black tea.64
Pattillo had a certain amount of humor in his personality, but his writings were usually in a serious vein. His concern for education and Christian family life in particular was clearly expressed in two of his manuscripts. In the first, entitled “Rules for christian societies, or fellowship meetings,” Pattillo gave six rules for the promotion of Christian education by means of formal organizations: “Exercises are prayer, scripture & good book reading and speaking on question projected at the last meeting.” He further said the Lord’s Day was an appropriate time for meeting since the purpose of such societies was “to promote the Glory of God,” and “Females are to be admitted for they ‘who have frequently more virtue & less vice than the males,’“65 should be invited to attend.
The second paper was addressed “To heads of Families” and stated:
A family is a little community within itself, of which smaller communities, states and kingdoms are composed. Out of your families are to arise the future citizens of these States. Cast back your eyes to the American Revolution. Never forget the wonder God hath wrought for your country. The acknowledged independence of America, is an event that engages the eager attention of all christendom. It has, to a vast extent of continent, secured those civil and religious liberties, which are unknown in any other part of the globe.66
In 1787 Hampden-Sydney College honored the clergyman by conferring upon him the degree of Master of Arts. This award was doubly appreciated because Henry Pattillo had a genuine love of learning and was aware of the recognition of his accomplishments in that field which the degree signified; and because the award was signed by John B. Smith, who was the president of the college at the time.67 Pattillo especially admired Smith and referred to the abilities of the minister in a letter to Charles Pettigrew:
We have had President Smith of P. Edward [Prince Edward County, Virginia], two or three times among us. What a clear head; what an elegant & ready tongue, and what a glow of religion attends that little Seraph in all his motions! And how greatly are his labours blest!68
Pattillo was able to earn only a simple living during his life, and sometimes barely that. When he lived in Bute County, he was merely listed as a “Taxable,” without any description of his property.69 In 1772 he sold one hundred acres of land in Prince Edward County, Virginia, to Miller Woodson.70 In 1789 he purchased five thousand acres of land in Hawfields for £120 from Cullen Pollock of Edenton71 but sold the same tract to Robert Tennen four years later for £230.72 In a letter to the Reverend William Williamson, he commented that he had received $80.00 for a season’s work, and thought it a “great thing,” as “Mr. Campbell on Ohio received but thirty-five dollars in a whole year.”73
After he moved to Granville County, Pattillo became concerned about his health. In 1780 he wrote to his friend Charles Pettigrew, “I am extremely frail, and I judge this frame incapable of reparation, until sown a natural & raised a spiritual body.”74 Because of his physical condition, he made a will in 1782, which contained a loving tribute to his family, but he neither named all of them, nor described his property. The document only mentioned “my little estate.” He did, however, name two sons-in-law, Richard Harrison and Robert Lanier, in addition to his son Henry Pattillo.75 In a later will made in 1800, he mentioned a son, John Franklin Pattillo, and a daughter, Mildred (Milly). This was the only mention made of his children.76
In 1784 the Granville congregations to which Pattillo was ministering presented him with a three-hundred-acre tract of land on Spice-marrow Creek for a permanent home. It was that farm which he left to his family in the will of 1800.77 In 1792 Elizabeth Burden willed the preacher one half of her crop of corn and to his wife her wearing apparel.78 In spite of the generosity of his parishioners, however, Pattillo was forced to a meager existence in his old age. He lost his savings by extending help to his family and very nearly lost everything when his son failed in business. The situation was explained by a contemporary:
Rev. Mr. Patillo [sic] endorsed notes for his son, who was extensively and prosperously engaged in the mercantile employment. By the unexpected failure of his principal debtors, the son was obliged to relinquish his business; and the father, as well as the son, was stript of his last farthing.79
A description of Pattillo as he was remembered by Mrs. John Holt Rice, who knew him in the prime of life, pictured him as a heavy man with a large frame and coarse features, which were usually lighted with a cheerful smile. He had a loud, commanding voice and his delivery was impressive. He was poor, but not unhappy with his lot, and extremely earnest in his work. Next to his ministry, his great love was books, a natural affinity for a scholar.80 Archibald Henderson related that Henry Pattillo “accepted with equanimity the burning of his house in his absence, so great was his relief on learning his books had been saved.”81
After a visit to him in his last days, Z. Lewis wrote the following account:
The Rev. Henry Pattillo is seventy-four years of age. His white, trembling, palsied head is filled with sound and useful knowledge. He appears to be an eminently pious and faithful minister of the gospel; a kind and attentive husband; an affectionate and indulgent father; a cheerful and pleasant companion; and a polite, noble and generous friend. Mrs. Pattillo is an amiable and respectable woman. Long have this unfortunate pair travelled hand in hand the high road to heaven. Often on their way, have they been called to struggle with adversity. A long and tedious distance have they journeyed through the vale of extreme poverty. “Seven times have we eaten our last morsel; and where to look for more, but to heaven, we knew not. To heaven we looked; and before we were again hungry, we were furnished with sufficient & comfortable food. It seemed,” continued he, “it truly seemed as tho’ a kind Providence had poured it down from above.... we are now, blessed be God! in comfortable circumstances; and our future earthly wants will be few.”82
Lewis was so impressed with the Pattillo family that he continued his report of the visit with his own summary:
Yes, grateful happy pair! Your wants on earth will hence be few. You will soon come to the end of your journey. You will soon enter through the gates into the City, and arrive in safety at your Father’s house. With propriety may you adopt the language of the Christian poet:
“We’ll soon be wafted o’er
This life’s tempestuous sea,
Soon shall we reach the peaceful shore
Of blest eternity.”83
Lewis underestimated the Christian zeal of the man who had contributed so generously of his strong physique and agile mind to the cause of Carolina Christianity. In his seventy-fifth year the feeble preacher went on an evangelistic mission to Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and died while there in the year 1801.84 Friends wrote back to North Carolina that his passing was entirely calm and peaceful.85 So the minister left this world, away from his home and family, but to the end preaching the Gospel to his fellowmen. His burial place is unknown to this day, but his life has remained an inspiration to North Carolinians for two centuries. Self-made minister, educator, and patriot, Pattillo showed what could be accomplished by work and will.
The Reverend Drury Lacy conducted a commemorative service at the Granville churches of the departed pastor. His text was taken from Romans, 14: 7-8:
That his life was a pattern of resignation and thankfulness has been remarked even by those who had a slight acquaintance with him.... Thus he closed his life on a preaching tour, being far advanced in his 75th year, which doubtless does honor to his character, and should serve to stimulate all his younger brethren in the ministry to follow his example, and to be willing to spend, and be spent in the cause of their Saviour, and in the cause of religion.86