Ever wonder where the term Free State Of Patrick comes from. Well, in my book The Free State Of Patrick: Patrick County Virginia in the Civil War I state that I think it comes from the Civil War. Patrick County descends from Lunenburg County “The Old Free State.” During the War Between the States when secession was all the rage, the idea that if Virginia did not secede that Patrick County would, but of course Patrick County did not vote to secede until after Abraham Lincoln called on troops from the South to put down the “rebellion” after the firing on Fort Sumter. There is the Free State of Jones or the State of Jones that is the subject of several books that took the opposite view in Mississippi that the county was pro-Union or at least anti-Confederate within the state that the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis called home.
Back to Patrick County, Virginia, and the Free State Of Patrick, the first time I have found it called that in print comes from the New York Times of June 18, 1882, reported from Danville, Virginia, three days earlier on June 15 from a reporter of the Baltimore Sun wrote “The Want in Patrick County VA.” This was two years before Taylorsville became Stuart, Virginia.
This newspaper is not the New York Times today, but a struggling newspaper, one of many in Gotham at that time. This NYT was thirty-one years old when this article appeared. It was believe it or not a mouthpiece of the Republican Party and would not support a Democrat until two years later in 1884 when the county seat became Stuart, Virginia.
In 1882, Patrick County Virginia, was suffering through a drought and the article implies that the 13,300 people were starving. That is another story, but here are the first two mentions I know of it print of the term The Free State Of Patrick.
“These people have ever lived in their mountain county almost to themselves, being entirely independent of the balance of the world, and having the least possible intercourse with it. So notorious is this face that the county has from time immemorial enjoyed the sobriquet of ‘The Free State of Patrick.’”
“The year 1880 found them with nearly enough old grain to carry them through the 12 months. They had no way to get it to market, and hence there was no inducement to the farmer to pitch a crop. Can it be wondered that the people of ‘The Free State of Patrick’ made the year 1880 a kind of holiday and gave their usual avocations but little attention?”
Here is the link to the entire story from the New York Times