Sangamon County ILGenWeb © 2000
In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, data and images may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or for other presentation without express permission by the contributor(s).

By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

JAMES W. PATTON. - (Revised by J. W.) - James W. Patton, one of the oldest and most distinguished practitioners at the Springfield bar, was born near Auburn, in Sangamon county, Illinois, February 15, 1840. His ancestors came originally from Wales to America long prior to the Revolutionary war, and located in Maryland. Two of the brothers of his great-grandfather were soldiers in the Revolutionary war, in which one was killed. The paternal grandparents of James W. Patton were pioneer settlers of Sangamon county. His grandfather, James Patton, was born March 17, 1791, in Baltimore, Maryland, and when a child accompanied his parents on their removal to Staunton, Virginia, and afterward to Clark county, Kentucky, in 1798. There James Patton was apprenticed to the tanner's trade, and in 1810, having completed his term of service, he joined the family in Christian county, Kentucky, where they had located in 1808. He was married to Polly Husband, of that county, and subsequently they removed to what became Auburn township, Sangamon county, Illinois, arriving in the spring of 1820, when the Indians were more numerous than the white settlers in this locality. Here Mrs. Patton died February 15, 1844, and in 1846 Mr. Patton was united in marriage to Lettie Nifong, who died February 6, 1856. On the 1st of August, 1865, he wedded Mrs. Elizabeth Gregory, who died June 23, 1875. James Patton was always known as Colonel Patton, which title was bestowed on him from his connection with the early militia of the state. Soon after his location in Sangamon county, Colonel Patton established a tanyard, the first ever operated in the county, and supplied the early settlers of the state for miles around with leather. This business came to him as an inheritance, for his father dealt largely in leather, in harness and saddlery goods in the city of Baltimore, and equipped one of General Washington's regiments during the Revolutionary War. When Colonel Patton first settled in Auburn township the nearest mill was at Edwardsville, distant sixty miles to the south. Being in much better financial circumstances than many of the early settlers, he generously assisted more than one in the upward struggle of life. Noah Mason, of Springfield, speaking of the timely assistance rendered his family in the new country, says: "My father found a true friend in the now venerable Colonel James Patton, a friendship that was continued through life and was gratefully remembered by his descendants." Colonel Patton was strictly honorable in all his business transactions and was highly esteemed by his neighbors and acquaintances. He was ever ready to help those in distress, and being a man of good business judgment and keen discrimination, he was regarded as a safe counselor. When called upon, as he frequently was, to arbitrate disputes, he seldom failed to secure an amicable settlement of the difficulty. Upon the farm where he first located, two and a half miles southeast of Auburn, Colonel Patton died September 12, 1877, leaving a large number of descendants.

William May Patton, the father of the subject of this sketch, was a farmer by occupation. He married Elizabeth A. Moore, daughter of Joseph Moore, who removed from Montgomery county, Kentucky, about 1835, and settled in Sangamon county, two miles south of Chatham. To Mr. and Mrs. William M. Patton were born three children: James W., Matthew and Julia Ann. Matthew was married to Barbara A. Rauch and died in September, 1901, leaving a widow and four children. Julia A. became the wife of Basil Hill, of Edinburg, Illinois. Their son, Matthew M., is a physician of Taylorville, Christian county. William M. Patton died January 8, 1848, when James W. was but eight years old, but his mother attained a venerable age, passing to her reward in September, 1887.

After the death of his father James W. Patton remained on the home farm with his mother, attending, as opportunity offered, the local district schools, until he was sixteen years old, when he entered Berean College at Jacksonville, Illinois, where he pursued a course of study for nearly three years. He then taught school for about two years, spending his leisure hours in the study of law. Deciding to devote his time more exclusively to legal study, he entered as a student the law office of Hay & Cullom, of Springfield, where he remained for two years, when, after passing successfully a rigid examination, he was admitted to the bar in 1865, but did not remove to Springfield, and enter the practice of his profession until April, 1866. A few years afterward Mr. Patton formed a partnership with C. M. Morrison, then state's attorney, which continued until the death of Mr. Morrison in 1875, after which he was associated with John C. Lanphier, with the firm name of Patton & Lanphier. In February, 1882, he entered into partnership relations with Lloyd F. Hamilton, under the style of Patton & Hamilton. Later his son, William Lanphier, was taken into the firm, which remained Patton, Hamilton & Patton from January, 1895, until June, 1902. The firm was then dissolved and father and son have since been together in business under the name of Patton & Patton.

Mr. Patton is an all around lawyer, not a specialist, and has long maintained a leading position at the Sangamon county bar. He throws himself easily and naturally into the argument of a case, and presents it equally well before a judge or jury. There is no straining after effect, but on the contrary a marked self-possession, an earnest, deliberate manner, combined with precision and clearness in statement and strength in his argument, which shows a mind trained in the severe school of investigation, to which close reasoning is habitual and easy. He has won for himself favorable criticism for the careful and systematic methods which he has followed. Mr. Patton has remarkable powers of concentration and application, and his retentive memory has often excited the surprise of his professional associates. His comprehensive knowledge of the law is manifested in his presentation of a case, and his application of legal principles demonstrates the wide range of his professional acquirements.

In the course of a series of short sketches of members of the Springfield bar, prepared by Joseph Wallace, and printed in one of the city papers in December, 1879, he thus speaks of Mr. Patton:

"That thin-haired, light-eyed, smooth-faced, round-built and stout-looking individual, addressing the court, is James W. Patton, who is one of the most energetic and successful of the younger practitioners at this bar. He is a Sangamon county born "boy," and comes of good old Kentucky stock. As a public speaker he is plain, clear and forcible; always in earnest and always sincere. Mr. Patton has had some experience in political life, having served acceptably one term in the lower house of the general assembly, but has no special taste or aptitude for politics. And with characteristic good judgment he has devoted himself assiduously to his profession, in which he seems destined to achieve eminent success."

The prophecy contained in the above paragraph has been fulfilled. Mr. Patton has since that time risen to deserved eminence in his profession, and has been connected with many of the most important cases arising in the state and federal courts of central Illinois.

On the 8th of December, 1869, Mr. Patton was married to Francine Elizabeth Lanphier, who was born December 25, 1846, in the city of Springfield. She is the eldest daughter of the Hon. Charles H. Lanphier, who died recently in this city, and whose biography is given on another page of this work. Of the fie sons born of this marriage three survive. William Lanphier Patton was born October 11, 1870. He was married to Ellen Josephine Henkel and has two children; James Huntington and Lenora Lanphier. Lanphier M., the second child of Mr. and Mrs. James W. Patton, died at the age of two years. Charles, the third son, was born August 13, 1879. He is a practicing physician and is no assistant professor in the medical department of the Michigan State University at Ann Arbor. He was married June 21, 1904, to Miss Alice Jess, daughter of Mrs. A. A. Jess, of this city. Henry Lanphier is a student in the civil engineering department at Ann Arbor, James Moore, the fourth son, who was named for his maternal great-grandfather, was born December 25, 1875, and was drowned August 15, 1891, while bathing in the Ohio river at Shawneetown, Illinois, when on a visit to relatives there. A telegram conveying the sad tidings was received by Mr. Patton on Saturday night. Without waiting for the morning train, he hired an engine and baggage car and proceeded on his mournful journey to Shawneetown, returning the following day with the lifeless body of his son. Mr. Patton has endeavored to prepare his surviving sons for responsible positions in life, by affording them liberal educational opportunities. His eldest son, William L., is a graduate of the Harvard Law School fo the class of June, 1893, and in the same year was admitted to the bar. He then entered his father's office as a law clerk, and retained this relationship until he became a partner of the firm. A successful and prosperous legal career seems to be opening for him, and, associated with his father, they are now the district attorneys for the Chicago & Alton Railroad. While Mr. J. W. Patton is a member of the blue lodge of Masons, the son belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

James W. Patton is identified with several of the business enterprises of Springfield. He is one of the directors of the State National Bank of the city and is president of the Springfield Homestead Association. As one of the most prominent members of the legal profession in the capital city, when the Sangamon County Bar Association was organized he was elected its first president.

In his political affiliations Mr. Patton is a decided Democrat, where state and national issues are involved, but at local elections votes independently. In 1864-5 he represented his district in the state legislature. He was sent as a delegate in 1888 to the St. Louis convention, which nominated Grover Cleveland for the presidency for a second term. In his private and domestic life Mr. Patton has always borne a high character, above suspicion and above reproach, and as a citizen and business man he commands the confidence and respect of the entire community in which he has lived so long.

Return to 1904 Biographies Index
Return to Sangamon County ILGenWeb