Portrait Collection: Joseph Hurlbut Patten

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 11:13am -- mfarias

Many of the men and women whose portraits line the walls of the Redwood Library are the descendants of families who have been in New England since its earliest days. Joseph Hurlbut Patten (1801-1881), the son of Reverend William Patten (1766-1839) and Hannah Hurlbut (1769-1855), is proof of this regional lineage on both his father’s and his mother’s sides, each with long histories in the area.


Joseph Hurlbut Patten, n.d. by Francis Alexander (1800-1880)
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Hurlbut Patten, From the Collection of the Redwood Library

Although it is not known when exactly the first Patten arrived in this country, Thomas W. Baldwin, author of Patten Genealogy: William Patten of Cambridge, 1635 and his Descendants (1908, Archive.org), notes that the first recorded mention of a William Patten (d. 1668) in America was in the Cambridge Town Records under the date March 13, 1635-1636. He was married to his wife Mary (d. 1673) before arriving in Cambridge and they had five children together, three of whom were born at Cambridge (and a fourth who died in his first year). The Patten name was carried through to the next generation by sons Thomas (1636-1690) and Nathaniel (1643-1725). Thomas moved to Billerica and did not take much part in town affairs so not much is known of his activities. Nathaniel, on the other hand, was very active in Cambridge affairs, where he was appointed town constable in 1682, was chosen tithing-man in 1683, and served in King Phillip’s War in Captain Nathaniel Davenport’s company. It is his line that continues down to Joseph.



Nathaniel was married three times and had a total of eight children. His eldest son, also named Nathaniel (1672-ca.1727), was born in 1672 to him and his first wife Rebecca Adams (d. 1677). Like his father, this second Nathaniel’s eldest son was also named Nathaniel (1702-1790) and was born to him and his first wife Deborah Wright (d. 1716). Of the third Nathaniel’s five children, William (1738-1775) is of note. He graduated from Harvard College in 1754, after having been admitted at the age of twelve, and received an honorary degree from Yale in 1759. William taught and pursued theological studies in Dedham and was ordained at Halifax on February 2, 1757. He married Ruth Wheelock (1744-1779) in 1758 and they had eight children together, including a son named William (1766-1839), the father of our subject. The younger William Patten took his degree at Dartmouth in 1783 and was ordained to the ministry in 1786. From there, he served at the Second Congregational Church in Newport, RI, a successor to Ezra Stiles, for 48 years before retiring in 1833 and moving to Hartford, Connecticut. Patten was also an overseer at Brown University, an author of many religious and cultural texts, and Librarian of the Redwood from 1792-1809. He was married to Hannah Hurlbut from September 20, 1796 until his death in 1839. A portrait of him is also in the collection of the Redwood Library. 


Reverend William Patten, n.d. by O.S. Freeland (ca. 1820-ca. 1879)
Gift of Joseph Hurlbut Patten, From the Collection of the Redwood Library

The origins of the Hurlbut family in America are approximately as old as the Patten’s, dating back to the 1630s. In a genealogy of his family, The Hurlbut Genealogy, or Record of the Descendants of Thomas Hurlbut of Saybrook and Wethersfield Conn., who came to America as early as the year 1637 (1888, Archive.org), Henry H. Hurlbut begins the account with Thomas Hurlbut, who may have crossed the Atlantic in the year 1635, although there is no record of it. The first mention of him is in a letter dated 1660, which states that he was wounded by an arrow in an encounter with the Pequot Indians in 1637. This letter was addressed to Thomas Hurlbut himself and sent by his former commander, Lion Gardiner, who came to America in 1635, potentially with Hurlbut. By trade, Hurlbut was a blacksmith and after the war with the Pequots, he established a business in Wethersfield, Conn. His son Samuel (ca. 1644-ca. 1712) was a farmer and was married to a woman named Mary (although there is no record of their marriage). Their eldest son, named Stephen (1668-1712) moved to New London, Conn and married Hannah Douglas in 1696. Their youngest son Joseph (n.d.) was born in New London and was called “Captain,” but not much else is known about him. With his second wife, Elizabeth (Christopher) Hinman (1735-1798) he had quite a few children, including the mother of our subject, Hannah (1769-1855). After her marriage to William Patten in 1796 she went with him to Newport, RI where Joseph Hurlbut Patten was born in 1801.



Patten graduated from Brown University in 1819 and studied law with Samuel W. Bridgham, the mayor of Providence. After his admission to the bar, he practiced law in Newport from 1821-1828 and for another thirty-seven years after his move to New York City. Patten was also known as an inventor and the author of several articles for Silliman’s Journal in New Haven. According to the Patten genealogy, he originated several inventions including a grain dryer, which was in active use at the time. He married Martha Nye and had no children, making him the last in his line of the Patten and Hurlbut families, though by no means was he the last member of either family.