JOHN PATTERSON -- FIRST WHITE GUY BORN WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI

Tucked into the embankment along highway 44 just beyond the eastern city limit of Marianna is this little monument commemorating the former existence of one John Patterson, Arkansas' first native-born child of Anglo-Saxon parents. That is the assertion carved out of stone by the Arkansas Centennial Commission. A double-wide now occupies the lot.

Here's the text from the marker: "LEE COUNTY HOME SITE AND GRAVE OF JOHN PATTERSON Home site and grave of John Patterson, son of William Patterson, Born 1790; died 1886; Arkansas' first native born child of Anglo-Saxon parentage. The following riddle was often asked by John Patterson: I was born in a kingdom--Spain, reared in an empire--France, attained manhood in a territory, am now a citizen of a state and have never been 100 miles from where I was born." Careful readers will notice that's not a riddle. And by the way, there's no mention on the monument of any mother, an omission peculiarly notable since the stone commemorates a birth.

Arkansas' Great River Road Commission writes in its brochure that Patterson was the first Anglo-Saxon child born west of the Mississippi. I called up the Arkansas History Commission, and they told me that it couldn't possibly be proven one way or the other that Patterson was the first anything, what with the sorry state of documentation and almost absolute lack of control over immigration to the frontier in the 18th century. But let's not pick lint. He's the first documented white guy born here.

Any fans of irony will enjoy this fact: the road (hwy 44) leading to this Anglo-Saxon celebration is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

RTJ--10/2/97

In the neighborhood: World's Largest Stormwater Pumping Plant | Marianna museum


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