William H. Pattee Letter

The Big Town of West Cambridge

William H. Pattee LetterWilliam H. Pattee, son of Jesse P. Pattee, followed his father’s flour-dusted footsteps into the bakery business as well as embracing his passion for fraternal organizations, serving as Master of the Hiram Lodge, 1862-1865.

William H. Pattee was the namesake of an illustrious English ancestor, Sir William Pattee, who was a noted physician –having as patients both Cromwell and Charles II. West Cambridge’s William Pattie however became a businessman, not a doctor, and worked at a number of local and Boston-based dry goods establishments settling back in his father’s employ in the late 1850’s. He also worked briefly as a conductor on the West Cambridge Street Railroad, founded by the senior Pattee.

Complementing his burgeoning business career was a growing family. He married Francis Helen Grant, a Boston girl, in 1857 with a new son joining them by year’s end.
Then, as for so many American families, the Civil War dramatically altered their lives. William Pattee, already a militia member—he was elected third lieutenant— of Medford’s Lawrence Light Guards, was among the very first Massachusetts men to fight in the war in the First Battle of Bull Run. Thereafter, he served guard duty in various locations in Washington DC and Virginia locations, arriving safely home in 1861.

In the Arlington Historical Society Collection are a set of letters that William Pattee wrote to his folks back home during his Civil War service. He writes of the boredom of camp life, gives a convincing description of the irksome job of monitoring wagons leaving rebel Alexandria, and most notably speaks of a visit to the White House:

“Last night I was up to the presidents house to a levee…Major Anderson was there. I had a long talk with him and Mr. Lincoln. All the big men in the place were up there. What do you think of your brother in such big company as that…Saw Mrs Lincoln but did not speak to her…Mr. Lincoln said where did you come from. I told from the big town of West Cambridge. He said you (the troops)*- all look well.”

William Pattee returned to the “big town” of West Cambridge and resumed his life as a businessman, trying his hand at the bakery business again, but choosing finally a longtime career as a salesman for Estabrook & Eaton Cigar Company. He was a Universalist and an active Democrat. In addition to his service at the Hiram Lodge he became a charter member and high priest of Menotomy Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. Other regional organizations that he belonged to include: Boston Commandery; Knights Templar; Massachusetts Consistory, thirty-second degree, Scottish Rite Masonry; and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston. In Arlington he joined the Old Menotomy Social Club and the Arlington Boat Club.

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