Press-Republican

January 4, 2014

Tracking Matthew Patton

Descendants of Clinton County's oldest man find 19th century ancestor's grave

By ROBIN CAUDELL
Press-Republican

MOOERS — Eighteen-year-old Justin Trembley’s lifelong interest in war and history has led to the discovery of a family patriarch, Matthew Patton of Mooers.

“Justin’s always been interested in stuff and decided to try the ancestry.ca,” said Kim Gariepy, 46, Trembley’s mother, who lives in Quebec.

“So, he got on there for a free trial for two weeks and found information. He signed up for the Canadian ancestry, and he was on there for about a month.”

Trembley soon encountered a genealogical brick wall.

“Then, he was interested to go international to the States and Europe,” Gariepy said. “My husband and I told him if he was interested in that we would pay half of it. Because of that I went on with him. We played with that and were able to get information about the States.”

Gariepy’s mother, Ruby White, 63, lives 45 minutes away from Mooers. Through Ancestry.com, Gariepy and Trembley were able to locate her mother’s mother, Agnes Irene Robert, of Hemmingford, Quebec.

“Through her, we went to her parents, and we found her mother and father,” Gariepy said. “Susan Richard, she’s born in Hemmingford, and we found her parents. Her mother is Margaret Susan Patton, born in Mooers, Clinton NY.”

The next leap backward was to Matthew Patton, who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Throughout the historical record, his name varies from Patton to Patten to Pattan. On the Northern New York Historical Newspapers website, there is a Feb. 7, 1891, article touting him as “the oldest man in Clinton County.” 

He died Jan. 15, 1897, at the age of 109, according to the “Town of Mooers, Vital Records 1804-2004” published by the Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society.

“What happened was we found that he had three wives and 17 children at three different times,” Gariepy said.

“His wife that is related to me was the last wife who was the same age as one of his daughters. Her name is Eliza Elizabeth Lacey. She was born in Mooers also.”

Gariepy is now addicted to tracking her ancestors. She mentioned to her mother that Patton was buried in Mooers Forks.

“She said, ‘It’s not far. We can go look,’” Gariepy said. “I said OK that would be really neat. We went to the cemetery a month or so ago. We went with my father, John Auza. We went and were looking everywhere. There are a lot of tombstones.”

In the cemetery, White spied a stranger, Clyde Rabideau Sr., a Plattsburgh resident and author of three volumes of Clinton County cemetery records and seven Robidoux volumes.

“My mother ended up speaking to him,” Gariepy said. “He didn’t believe how old he (Patton) was until he saw his paperwork. He helped look. We didn’t find it. My mother gave him her phone number just in case he found some info out.”

Rabideau contacted White and informed her he put up two flags between where Patton was buried and the tombstones on either side of his.

“(Rabideau) told us to come with a little pick because the tombstone may have fallen over and been buried,” Gariepy said. “We went with little picks feeling the ground. We brought a little garden shovel. My mother started on one end, and I started at another poking the ground.”

Auza returned with them and joked he had a feeling Patton was buried around a certain spot he was looking at.

“(My father) was kidding,” Gariepy said.

“He was kicking the ground. He said, ‘Oh there’s something there.’ I cleaned away the dirt, and it said M. Patton. That is kind of weird. Because he was joking. We’re not into that kind of stuff. It was really funny.”

Mother and daughter started digging.

“I saw the date he was born and when he died,” Gariepy said. “I kept digging in case of stuff written on the tombstone, and it started to move. My mother grabbed it and started pull it out of the ground. You can see it was cracked. It had broken off from something it was attached to.”

Determined to resurrect their ancestor’s tombstone, they cleaned it with windshield-washer fluid. White insisted they stand it upright.

“I said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Gariepy said. “My mother said, ‘Why not?’ It was pretty neat.”

Trembley was surprised of his mother’s and grandparents’ success in locating Patton’s grave.

“He didn’t come with us, so he didn’t see it,” Gariepy said. “My parents took pictures of the tombstone. It was really amazing. He (Patton) lived that long back then; he was having babies in his 80s. It was very odd. This ancestry thing is amazing.”

Now, Patton’s lineage is at a standstill in Ireland.

“I don’t know if he had kids back in Ireland,” Gariepy said. “He came with his first wife. We’re related to his last wife, Eliza Elizabeth Lacey. She is my great-great-great grandmother. He’s my three-greats-grandfather.”

She hopes some unknown relative in Ireland, Canada or the United States has an image of Patton.

“I’ve been online looking but I can’t find anything. I found a picture of his daughter, Margaret Susan Patton, my great-great grandmother. They weren’t very attractive people back then.”

Gariepy also doesn’t know who Eliza Elizabeth Lacey’s parents were or Patton’s.

“We had no clue we had a grandfather that lived to be that old and had ancestors from Belfast,” Gariepy said.

Her family’s oral history didn’t include Irish ancestry.

“Definitely, I know there is some Irish,” Gariepy said. “Not a lot, just him so far.”

Email Robin Caudell:rcaudell@pressrepublican.com