PATTIN, JOHN, trader, map maker, explorer; b. c. 1725 in Wilmington, Pennsylvania (now Delaware); d. 1754, probably on the Labrador coast.
The name of John Pattin is first known in 1750, when he was trading in the Ohio country under a licence from Pennsylvania. In November he was arrested near Fort des Miamis (probably at or near Fort Wayne, Ind.) by the commandant, Louis Coulon de Villiers, and charged with encroachment on French territory and “endeavoring to debauch our Indians.” A brief detention at Detroit was Pattin’s initiation into a series of imprisonments, as he was moved in turn to forts Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), Toronto, and Frontenac (Kingston, Ont.), then to Montreal and Quebec. In Montreal on 19 June 1751 he was examined by Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel], who found him “mutinous and threatening” and passed him on to Quebec. During these peregrinations Pattin kept a journal describing the forts and settlements through which he had passed.
In November 1751 he and two other traders were sent from Quebec to a prison in La Rochelle, France. They boldly appealed to the British ambassador in Paris, who swiftly demanded that the men be freed and given restitution for their trading goods, which had been confiscated. He arranged that they receive funds to come to Paris and, after talking with them, paid their way to London so that they might report what they had seen in North America to Lord Holderness, secretary of state for the southern department. After returning to Philadelphia, Pattin made a verbal statement on his experiences to the assembly on 17 Oct. 1752 and later drew a map to accompany his account.
Adventure by sea then cast its spell over him. He joined the Argo (Capt. Charles Swaine [Drage*]) as “draughtsman and mineralist” on a commercial venture that was also authorized to search for a northwest passage. The expedition sailed from Philadelphia on 4 March 1753. Despite repeated attempts, they got no farther into Hudson Strait than Resolution Island because of heavy ice. Early in August they made for the Labrador coast, which they “discover’d . . . perfectly from [latitude] 56 to 55, finding no less than 6 Inlets . . . of which they [Pattin?] have made a very good Chart.” They also noted a fine fishing bank and acquired some samples of copper.
Shortly after Pattin’s return late in 1753, Governor James Hamilton of Pennsylvania approached him to undertake a clandestine mission to the Ohio country for the purpose of investigating French military preparations and mapping the area. He was to work in conjunction with George Croghan, the trader, and Andrew Montour, the interpreter, joining them en route. They were apparently not a harmonious team, for Croghan found Pattin “Bigotted of himself” and noted that “he and Androw Montour dose nott agree well.” They completed their task, however, and early in March 1754 Pattin presented the Pennsylvania legislature with his diary of the mission and a map. For his services he received £50.
In the spring of 1754, Pattin sailed again with Captain Swaine on another Argo expedition to the arctic. Little is known of the undertaking, but the sad report was brought back that “poor Mr. John Patten, . . . with two of the sailors, were killed by the Indians, being on an Island some distance from the Schooner fishing.” According to another report, they had met their deaths after slipping away from the ship to search for a copper mine.
[Two manuscripts by Pattin are held by the Mass. Hist. Soc. in its Misc. Large coll.: John Pattin’s acct. of distances computed by Indian traders; A journal or account of the capture of John Pattin. They have been published by H. N. Eavenson in “Who made the ‘Trader’s map’?” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Philadelphia), LXV (1941), 420–38, and in Map maker and Indian traders: an account of John Patten, trader, Arctic explorer, and map maker; Charles Swaine, author, trader, public official, and Arctic explorer; Theodorus Swaine Drage, clerk, trader, and Anglican priest (Pittsburgh, 1949). The latter work is particularly valuable since its appendices contain many other documents relating to Pattin’s career. An extract from the journal has been published in “French regime in Wis., 1743–60” (Thwaites), 112–14. m.m.h.]
Other sources and studies are: Pennsylvania, Colonial records, V. Pennsylvania archives, 1st set., II, 118, 240. E. S. Balch, “Arctic expeditions sent from the American colonies,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XXXI (1907), 419–28. H. N. Eavenson, “Patten’s map of the road to Shannopintown,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (Pittsburgh), XXVII (1944), 21–28. Bertha Solis-Cohen, “An American search for the northwest passage: an account of the little known expeditions which set sail from Philadelphia in 1753 and 1754,” Beaver (Winnipeg), outfit 274 (autumn 1943), 24–27.