Thursday, October 25, 2007

The pioneering legacy of Alexander Pate

Alexander "Elek" Pate was born in Robeson County, North Carolina about 1811, and died in Holmes County, Florida in 1905. His first daughter, Thursie Ann Pate (1832-1897), was my gg-grandmother.

Thursie Ann, apparently raised by her grandparents, Zach and Elizabeth Pate, is believed to have been the daughter of an Indian maiden, but I have been unable to verify her mother's identity. (If anyone has further information, please email me.)

This profile of Alexander is excerpted from J. R. Peacock's monograph, Pate Pioneers on the Pee Dee River, 21 Jan 1987.

Alexander Pate lived to be at least 90 years, possibly 92 years, of age. He was active in business affairs in the last year of his life. Holmes County deeds show he executed turpentine leases and timber sales in 1904. Four months prior to his death, deeds were executed transferring land to his daughter, Ada, and her husband W. J. Austin. The last deeds by Alexander are in Book 16, p. 467 and Book 19, p. 87.

Extant records and oral tradition shared by descendants create a colorful image of the man. Alexander Pate was well educated for his times. Letters in his handwriting are in the Pension and Bounty Land Records. He was capable of expressing thoughts and opinions in written communication into his old age. Material success came his way. The Holmes County tax records prove he owned pleasure carriages, gold watches, he loaned money for interest, and his household furniture tax was among the highest of Holmes County residents. His herd of cattle, sheep and swine numbered 188 head in 1860. Tax records confirm he continued to own a similar number of livestock thru most of his life. In 1885 Alexander acknowledged, on the agricultural return, a farm income of #500 from crops and livestock. Other income from turpentine and timber sales are indicated. Thus, he seems to have enjoyed the best in material blessings for his times.

Family tradition suggests Alexander was active and hard-driven. They include descriptions of him frequently riding his horse thru the country at full speed, his full beard flowing in the breeze, and emitting vocal yells that could be heard great distances.

Alexander Pate inherited a pioneering legacy. Thoroughgood Pate challenged the unsettled banks of the Rappehannock River of Colonial Virginia in the middle 1600's. Alexander, along with other Pates of his time, was the sixth generation of this family to move onto unsettled and virgin lands. This life favored the hard-driven, confident, and, perhaps, prejudiced characters. The long life and material success attest to Alexander's ability to cope with the life style.

Holmes County was not unknown to Alexander when he left Georgia. Note has been made that his Father, Zach Pate, was on the 1830 census of the Eastern part of Walton County, Florida. Some of that area became Holmes County in 1848. The census enumeration leaves little doubt that Zach was accompanied by one of his sons on that trip to Florida. This was probably the oldest son, William, not the two younger boys, Alexander or Benjamin. But it is certain the reports of the area impressed the younger family members. It seems reasonable other trips from Thomas County (Georgia), with other family members, followed.

The area of West Florida was inhabited by hostile Indians at the time. Some white settlers persisted in the area. But it was the Indian Wars of 1836-1838 that resulted in an environment conducive for families. Alexander played a part in the Indian Wars. Pension records show he served as a Corporal in Captain William's Company of Floyd's Mounted Georgia Militia Regiment from Thomas County in the Florida Indian Wars in 1838. Records on the Singletary family describe Indian attacks on the residents of Thomas County. The destruction of a Singletary family home is described. The reader will recall Alexander's sister, Delighter, married one Richard Singletary in Thomas County.

Alexander wrote a letter to the Pension Commission in January 1892. This contains a description of his injury sustained in a charge on Indians in the Okeefenokee Swamp. He was thrown from his horse and suffered a hernia, which never healed.


  1. Nice story. Goes along with my GGG Grandfather Miller Stephens who settled in Jackson County, Grand Ridge to be exact, in early 1800's. He was from North Carolina. Hard for us to imagine what life was like back in the Panhandle in those days. My Grandmother told me alot in my early years. Hard Candy Christmas and Sears Roebuck Shoes once a year where the tradition.

    Enjoy your posts and I am sharing them with my family up in "God's Country".

    Yours in the BOnd

  2. Glad you enjoyed the story.

    I hope you or someone in your family is writing down all those old stories from your grandmother. When I was a kid I thought I'd never forget some of the vivid tales, especially from my grandpa (1886-1975) but now I'm having trouble recalling some of the specifics that would bring the storis to life again.

  3. I'm actually a Cookson and I'm supprised what I'm FINDING ABOUT MY HEROTAGE.

  4. From the info I have it appears Alexander was my Great-Grandfather. I am from his son "Charles Chester Pate" who was my Grandfather. Charles Chester and wife Jenny had 10 children one of which was my Father. Thanks for all you have written and below is my e-mail address if needed.