Life and Times
The following sketch of William Penn Patterson was written by his grandson, Ted Paxton:
"My grandfather, William Penn Patterson, is pictured standing in front of his bus. He is the one in the middle. As I understand it from my mother, he was the leader in stepping forward and organizing the building of the first school buses for Chestatee School.
"In addition to being the local blacksmith, he also owned a store. They
lived on the Cumming - Gainesville highway near where Harmony Grove Church
is now located. The homeplace, store, and blacksmith shop were all together.
The store and blacksmith shop were near the road, with the house farther
"My grandfather's parents also lived on the same property. My grandfather was born there August 16, 1893. The entire family lived in the area. He married my grandmother, Gertrude Bennett, who was also from Forsyth County. They had three children: my mother, Virginia Patterson Paxton; daughter, Evelyn Patterson Kinsey; and son, Heyward Patterson. My mother and father live in Tucker; Evelyn lives in Forest Park on the south
side of Atlanta; and Heyward resides in Gainesville.
"My grandfather, Penn Patterson, was a very ingenious person with strong community ties. My mother said from her earliest recollection she remembers they always had electricity, even though the EMC had not gotten electricity into the rural areas. My grandfather had a generator which produced electricity for their house and the other family homes on the property.
The store he operated, in additon to the blacksmith shop, was basically a grocery store. He did carry a limited supply of dry goods, such as cloth. The store was a trading center for area residents. Many times he would be in the blacksmith shop or out driving the school bus when customers would come by the store. There was a bell out front which they would ring and my grandmother would go down from the house and wait on them.
"The school buses were built with the help of the other gentlemen pictured.
My grandfather, being the blacksmith, basically designed the buses as they
went along. They had no formal plans to build from. The bus which he personally
drove was built from a Dodge truck body which he bought from the Nalley
"In 1938, he sold his portion of the property and moved the family to Flowery Branch in Hall County. His parents remained at the homeplace. The reason for their moving is as follows. My grandfather entered into a business agreement with Mr. Worth Connor of Flowery Branch. Mr. Connor had a large tract of land which he wanted to clear. My grandfather agreed to build and operate a sawmill in Flowery Branch to achieve this
venture. Every day for approximately six months he would leave home and drive to Flowery Branch to operate the sawmill. Eventually, he realalized this venture was going to take three to four years to complete. He had no desire to make that journey everyday so he convinced my grandmother the sensible thing to do would be to move to Flowery Branch.
"She was reluctant but finally agreed when faced with the prospect of more modern conveniences. Even though he [William Penn Patterson] had a generator which produced electricity, it was only enough to run the lights. They could not have a refrigerator or other appliances. Flowery Branch had electricity and therefore they would have full power. My mother remembers him promising my grandmother an electric iron. Up until then she a had to rely on an iron which she heated on the hearth. He drove to Atlanta just after the move and purchased the iron for her.
"In making the move, he moved the store building from Forsyth County to the new homeplace in Flowery Branch. He never operated a store there, but converted the building into a barn for the cows. In Flowery Branch, he continued to operate a blacksmith shop, the sawmill and a gristmill. In later years he also taught himself the trade of plumbing.
"My grandfather was an outstanding person who stood on his principles, always stepping forward to help out in the cornmunity without expectation of reward or recognition. I am honored to have known and learned from him.
"Even though he moved his family to Flowery Branch, he always kept Forsyth County as his home. He would constantly drive back to Cumming to trade and buy goods. Dr. Mashburn was his doctor and he would never go to any other doctor. He always drove back to Cumming to see Dr. Mashburn. He never considered seeing any other doctor other than one of the Mashburns. When he fell ill in 1977, he made my mother take him back to Cumming to Dr. Mashburn. He spent several weeks in the hospital here until he passed away, just before his 84th birthday."