Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mary McKeehan Patton – Gunpowder Heroine of the Battle of King's Mountain

Pam lisa pouring blackpowder mary patton

Among the community who settled at Watauga (see previous post) was a Mary McKeehan. She is said by numerous websites to have been born in England in 1751. Where exactly no-one seems to know, but the surname would suggest ancestry in Scotland or Ireland *. She emigrated and in Pennsylvania she married emigrant Ulsterman John Patton in 1772. They had a gunpowder mill and when the skirmishes eventually turned into war the Pattons were kept busy. They left Carlisle in Pennsylvania and headed for the mountains of East Tennessee. A contact called Andrew Taylor set up a new mill for them and the place became known as Powder Branch.

Mary supplied 500 pounds of gunpowder to the Ulstermen who headed off to confront the King’s troops at the Battle of King’s Mountain. There is now a road named after her called The Mary Patton Highway, at Elizabethton, Tennessee.

She features in the Ulster-Scots Community Network booklet Ulster and Tennessee (pdf online here).

In the late 1800s a Charles L McKeehan was Secretary of the Pennsylvania Scotch-Irish Society.

* The English birthplace might be an error which has been repeated over and over again. There are numerous Presbyterian McKeehan graves in Pennsylvania, some of which (such as this one, to Elizabeth McKeehan, born 1745) specify Northern Ireland as the birthplace. This website refers to a Benjamin McKeehan who emigrated to Pennsylvania from County Antrim. Big Spring Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania was founded around 1737 with a John McKeehan as one of its elders. A few Google searches throw up many more examples of Ulster McKeehans in 1700s Pennsylvania.