Biography of Otho Patterson

Otho Patterson, a native of Champaign County and representing a pioneer family, has for years been numbered among the progressive farmers and citizens, while as a horseman his reputation has extended pretty well over the state and throughout the country. He has bred and owned at his fine farm some of the fastest and finest horses ever produced in Illinois. Mr. Patterson is an expert in the raising and training of horses and for some years that has been his chief business occupation.

He was born in St. Joseph Township, December 16, 1851, son of J. K. and Catherine (Swearingen) Patterson. His father was born in Ohio and his mother in Kentucky, the latter coming to Illinois with her parents. J. K. Patterson and wife were married in this county. Of the events and experiences that make up the bulk of Champaign County’s history during the past seventy-five years the Patterson family has had its full share. J. K. Patterson showed himself a man of spirit and enterprise even when young. In 1839 he rode horseback all the way from Columbus, Ohio, to Champaign County for the purpose of looking over the country. Though the land was a vast virgin prairie, abounding with sloughs, he recognized its fertility and the prospect of future development, and accordingly filed on 160 acres. At that time the land office was at Danville, and ‘he went there to secure the papers and pay the regulation price of $1.25 per acre. On returning home to Ohio he told his uncle, Thomas Kilgore, of what he had done and also spoke of an adjoining forty acres which he greatly desired, but lack of money prevented his taking it up. His uncle, who admired the pluck of the young man, said, “If that is all that is lacking I will furnish the money,” which he promptly did. Again J. K. Patterson made the long trip to Illinois and filed on the coveted forty acres at Danville. He took possession of this land and a year or so later he married the daughter of a neighbor, Catherine Swearingen. During the first year spent by the Patterson family in Champaign County they took their grist to mill at Covington, Indiana. The roads were little more than trails and often impassable on account of the mud. While a team could not drag a wagon over the highways of that time, it was possible by uncoupling the running gear and loading the grain in a box on the two front wheels to accomplish the journey to Covington, though not without a great deal of difficulty at that.

In the family of J. K. and Catherine Patterson were eight children, four sons and four daughters. By a singular coincidence six of these children were born in the month of December. They were educated in some of those old-time log schoolhouses which have been made familiar by many pictures of old-time conditions. This schoolhouse which the Patterson children attended had rough plank seats, supported by legs from the floor and a broad desk or board was fastened to the wall by pins and furnished space for writing. Otho Patterson has an interesting recollection of an incident of his boyhood, when he carried a dozen eggs to market. These eggs were sold at the little grocery store of Uncle Joe Kelley, proprietor of the famous old Kelley Tavern, the most historic landmark of early Champaign County.

J. K. Patterson proved equal to the burdens and responsibilities of making good as a pioneer. He was an industrious worker and farmer and enjoyed a large degree of prosperity. In the early days he hauled wheat to market at Chicago, and bought and sold stock on a large scale. After collecting a large number of hogs they were driven overland to market at Cincinnati. He and his wife were devoted members of the Church of Christ and they did a great deal of good in the community where they settled and where they left names associated with complete honesty and integrity of character.

Otho Patterson grew up in the midst of such pioneer conditions. When a young man he sought a wife and companion, and going to Economy in Wayne County, Indiana, married Miss Sarah E. Wood. Mrs. Patterson was born in Henry County, Indiana, daughter of Joseph and Mary A. (Davis) Wood. When their daughter Sarah was five months old her parents moved back to Ohio. Her father was a native of Virginia and was an early settler in Ohio. When Mrs. Patterson was thirteen years of age her parents returned to Indiana. She had in the meantime attended school at Wilmington, the county seat of Clinton County. She grew to young womanhood in old Wayne County, Indiana, and her home was close by the famous national road, recently called the “Gateway of the West.” This is one of the most famous highways in America’s history, and as a girl Mrs. Patterson daily witnessed long trains of emigrant wagons, frequently thirty covered wagons in a line, wending their way to the great West.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Patterson located on land belonging to his father. Four years later, in October, 1875, Mr. Patterson’s father died. The next year the estate was divided and Otho inherited fifty-one and a half ‘acres. Moving to that land he began its development and improvement, and that has been the scene of his splendid success as a farmer and stockman. He has increased his holdings, and has made improvements of the most substantial character, including a large home, surrounded with groves of fruit and shade trees, and the entire place stands as a monument to his industry. For years Mr. Patterson has been one of the liberal users of cement as a durable and practical construction material, and his home is surrounded with cement walks, the stock watering troughs are constructed of the same material and the character of this material is in line with the substantial nature of Mr. Patterson’s industry and accomplishment in other lines.

For years he has given much of his attention to the raising and training of thoroughbred running horses. These horses have a national reputation. One of them, Doctor Murray, made a record of half a mile in forty-nine seconds, five-eighths of a mile in a minute and two seconds, and at the St. Louis races beat Bob Wade, holder of the first world’s record for a quarter mile. In that race Bob Wade ran second in a race of three-eighths of a mile, the time of the winner being thirty-six seconds. In the blue grass regions of Kentucky it would not be possible to find a more enthusiastic horseman than Mr. Patterson. Some of the splendid animals that have been kept in his stables should be mentioned. They are: Sally Kelly, by Jim Kelly, dam Ruby D’Or, by Robert D’Or; Pearl Lewis, from Jim Kelly and Dolly Bell; Wild Cherry, by Wilford and Cerise; Ruby D’Or, out of Robert D’Or and Nannie B; May Cherry, sired by Robert D’Or, dam Wild Cherry Blossom by Wild Cherry; Oonoomoo, by Robert D’Or and Dolly Bell, Oonoomoo having been a great favorite in New Orleans and in one season winning twenty-two straight races. At the present writing the Patterson stables contain the following horses: Oonie, sired “by Jim Kelly, dam Dolly Bell; Kitty Muldoon, by Hans Vanderbum and May Cherry II; Nellie Rawlings, by Jim Kelly and Tenny Miller: Billy Siders, by Hokobokee and Dolly Bell; Doctor Murray, from Hokobokee and May Cherry II; Tobias, by Hans Vanderbum and Ruby D’Or: Hans Vanderbum, by Jim Kelly and Dolly Bell; Hokobokee, by Jim Kelly and Ruby D’Or; Little Johnnie, by Jim Kelly and Sadie D’Or.

Breeding and raising and training of fine grades of stock has been Mr. Patterson’s occupation and diversion for forty years. He is everywhere known among horsemen and his enterprise has added another laurel to Champaign County’s crown of greatness as an agricultural and stock-raising center. Some years ago Mr. Patterson sold six head of horses in Chicago for use as polo horses.

While his business has required his constant care and management Mr. Patterson has not neglected the public welfare. For thirteen years he was road commissioner of St. Joseph Township, and some of the best roads in the county are to be credited to his work in that direction. During all those thirteen years he missed only two meetings of the board of commissioners. He has also served as school director, has been first and last an enthusiastic advocate of a good drainage system both on individual farms and by districts. Politically Republican, he was reared in the atmosphere of that party, and since casting his first vote has never missed a presidential election. The Patterson home is noted for its hospitality, and not a little for the success which he has achieved Mr. Patterson credits to his good wife, who joined him on the road of life when their capital was exceedingly limited and has been by his side steadily through all the years that have followed. It was Mrs. Patterson who selected many of the distinctive and appropriate names for his race horses.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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