Samuel Patton was born in 1797 in the Lancaster District of South Carolina. As a young man he was part of a family that was religious, but not enthused about it. One of his grandmothers was known to say, having resigned herself to the fatalistic approach of some of the more adamant preachers of predestination: (In her Scottish brogue): “Weel, if I’m elected, I’ll be saved; if I’m na elected, I’ll na be saved.” Through earnest seeking, and with the influence of his paternal grandmother’s more pietist views, he and brother Edward gave themselves to the Lord in prayer meetings held in the barn while they were children. Later he had a more dramatic conversion that led him to praise God loudly and excitedly, and began to be called upon to speak, exhorting the congregations in his little Methodist church. Having set off a revival in that place with his joyful shouting, and earnest pleading, he began to struggle with a call to preach. He was admitted into the Tennessee Annual Conference (in which state his family had relocated shortly before) in 1819. He was later ordained deacon by Bishop McKendree and sent to appointments in Sequatchee Valley, Tennessee; Clinch Circuit in East Tennessee and SW Virginia, and Tuscaloosa Circuit, Alabama. He met his future wife while on the Clinch Circuit and returned in 1823 to marry Nancy Morrison, descendant of the pioneer Peter Morrison who had fought valiantly in the Battle of King’s Mountain and received a large land grant for his services.
The Morrison Family lived in a valley that lay just south of the Tennessee/Virginia State line, Carter’s Valley. Nancy’s father Jonathan Morison purchased land from Jacob Wills, a neighboring King’s Mountain veteran, for this new little family, and Samuel Patton built his wife a two story log house which he named “Springplace.” This home stood for many years on the north side of West Carter’s Valley Road just a half mile or so east of the North Fork of the Holston River. When I knew of it, it belonged to Mrs Ora Winegar, who had lived there for several years. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 197os. It was torn down in the 1980s. It has been removed from the register as of 2013.
Patton was a strong debater of Methodist views in the era of the 1820s and 1830s. He is known to have participated in public debates at Rye Cove, Virginia, and Rogersville, Tennessee, where he so effectively routed his Calvinist counterparts that they didn’t offer to debate him again. In the 1830s he served the churches at Kingsport (old Boatyard church, where the Methodist cemetery is), and Jonesborough. The travel was about twenty five miles by horse back. It is thought he lived at his log home during these years.
His eloquent preaching and fierce defense of the Methodist Church’s views plus his leadership in several General Conferences, including the conference in Louisville, Kentucky held in 1845, which was the first conference after the split over slavery, led Emory & Henry College to grant him an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree, the institution’s first ever awarded.
Patton spent some years as the editor of the Holston Annual Conference’s newspaper during the years leading up to his death. In this capacity he helped the Methodist Churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina, and surrounding areas know about important issues and people of their time.
He died in the home of Parson William G Brownlow, who edited the Knoxville Whig, in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1854.
His body was laid to rest in the chapel cemetery of Morrison Chapel, the family chapel and Methodist Church near Springplace, in Carter’s Valley, Sullivan County, Tennessee. The Holston Conference in 1925 marked his grave with a large granite monument that tells of their esteem of him. It remains as a reminder that he passed this way.