From the recording Songs From Burke County
Farm Boy to Amherst Man (Robert Logan Patton)
(Mark W. Winchester)
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, teenager Robert Logan Patton came to the realization that he had dreams that could never be fulfilled on his family farm in Irish Creek. Although his father saw no value in the idea, Robert wanted nothing more than an education. So one morning before dawn he went out to fetch firewood, and with only a few belongings and fifteen cents in his pocket, he never looked back. Years later Patton wrote, “On Tuesday morning, the second day of October 1866, like Abraham, I started out I knew not where.”
He spent the next few weeks walking through Tennessee and Kentucky, but finding no prospects of work, he had to keep moving. Upon his arrival in Indianapolis, Indiana he finally found a job, a place to stay, and a proper school. His oldest brother joined him the following April and together they moved on to an institution in Hillsboro, Illinois. Steady paying jobs and a solid curriculum kept them busy for a couple of years. The next step in the journey took the pair to a private academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Times were very lean, and Patton survived off of crumbs and odd jobs. When he finally enrolled in Amherst College in Massachusetts, scholarship money, along with consistent work and meals, helped to lighten the heavy load. After years of sacrifice and hard work, Robert Logan Patton received his college diploma in June 1876.
With his college diploma in tow, the twenty-seven year-old Patton returned home to Irish Creek. His first stop was to deliver the wood that his father sent him out for eleven years prior. For the next five decades he served the citizens of the region as a teacher, mentor, and minister. Along the way he started several schools, taught in public and private settings, and at various times served as the Superintendent of Schools.