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Thomas M . Patterson family papers

Identifier: COU:1245

Scope and Contents

The Thomas M. Patterson Family Papers consist of correspondence scrapbooks, diaries and photographs of Thomas M. Patterson’s immediate family and that of his daughter Margaret Patterson Campbell for the period of the 1860s through the early 1920s.

The bulk of the collection is the internal correspondence of these two families. Because of the force of circumstances, the family was separated for long periods of time for many years. Nevertheless, they maintained close ties, writing long letters almost weekly, detailing their day-to-day life. The letters primarily concern family matters, the children’s education, and Denver’s social and cultural life. They provide an intimate view of family life and the life of women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Thomas M. Patterson had a long-standing policy of separating his business and family life, so there is relatively little on his political, legal and journalistic careers. Nevertheless, the Papers provide unique insights into Patterson, the man.

The Campbell family correspondence concerns trips, summers at Grand lake, the children’s education and Thomas Patterson Campbell’s training as a military pilot during World War I. In addition to the correspondence, there is a diary of Katherine G. Patterson for 1898, and two diaries of Archibald W. Campbell, Richard C. Campbell’s father, for 1895 and 1896. There are three scrapbooks: One kept by Richard C. Campbell of the clippings (many by himself) from his father’s newspaper the Wheeling (W. Va.) Intelligencer (1880s); one kept by Thomas M. Patterson on his election to the U.S. Senate in 1901; and one kept by Patterson on the Cripple Creek and coal field strikes of 1903-1904.

There are about 175 photographs, mostly snapshots, formal portraits and cabinet cards of family members and groups.


  • 1865 - 1925

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Note

Thomas McDonald Patterson was born in County Carlow, Ireland, on November 4, 1839. In 1849 the family moved to New York, settling in Astoria on Long Island. Four years later, in 1853, they moved west to Crawfordsville, Indiana. Thomas, age 14, got a job in a printing office which he kept for three years. He then worked for five years in his father’s watchmaking and jewelry shop. In 1861, with the start of the Civil War, Patterson and his brother James enlisted with the 11th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry. James was killed at the battle of Winchester. After serving about a year, Thomas was discharged and moved to Greencastle, Indiana, to attend college. After a year at Asbury University (later DePauw), where he met his future wife Katherine Grafton, Patterson was transferred to Wabash College for two years more of study. He then left college to read law in the office of M. D. White of Crawfordsville. After his admission to the Bar in 1867, he entered into partnership with Judge J. R. Cowan.

In December 1872, Patterson married and the father of three small children, decided to give up his successful law practice in Crawfordsville and move to Denver, Colorado. He immediately became involved in the legal and political life of the Territory. He established a law practice with Charles S. Thomas, future Colorado governor, and less than a year after arriving in Denver became City Attorney. In the summer of 1874, Patterson was elected Territorial Delegate to Congress and three years later, after a bitter fight with James B. Belford over the legality of the election, became Colorado’s first Congressman. In Congress, he was active in promoting Colorado’s silver industry and in the opening of Ute lands in the San Juan Mountains to silver miners. After his defeat for re-election in 1878, Patterson resumed his Denver law practice and became active in real estate and mining ventures, especially in the new boom town of Leadville, where he was involved in much claim litigation. He also became one of the most successful criminal lawyers in the state.

This period of phenomenal success in Patterson’s public life was one tragedy and failure in his personal life. While he was in Leadville in the winter of 1879-1880 his two-year-old son Tom died. Shortly after this his older son James ran away from home and started getting in trouble with the authorities. Broken by these troubles and hurt by her husband’s inability to comfort her, Katherine Patterson took their three children James, Mary and Margaret to Europe to be educated. For the next four years the family was reunited only for brief intervals.

In 1888, Patterson briefly returned as a candidate to the political arena in an unsuccessful race for Colorado governor. In 1892 he ventured into a new field of endeavor when he purchased Rocky Mountain News, which he quickly made a forum for his political reform ideas, including the advocacy of free silver. He led the silverite opposition to the nomination of Grover Cleveland at the Democratic Convention, and in 1900 served as its chairrman. In the Colorado election of 1900 he was a leader of the fusion of Populists, Democrats and Silver Republicans. The fusion-controlled legislature elected Patterson to the United States Senate in the spring of 1901.

In 1913 Patterson sold the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Times, which he had acquired later. This move, made at age 74, did not signal his retirement. A year later in 1914 he became the Democratic candidate for Colorado governor, but was defeated by Republican George A. Carlson. Thomas McDonald Patterson died July 23, 1916.

Thomas M. Patterson’s wife was born Katherine A. Grafton in Wellsburg, (West) Virginia, January 1, 1839. She was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Grafton and Jane Bryant Grafton, and the grand-niece of Alexander Campbell, founder of the Christian Church and closely associated with Bethany College in West Virginia. Kate grew up in a deeply religious household and planned to become a missionary to India. To this end she attended college in Jacksonville, Illinois. However, while teaching school in Greencastle, Indiana, as part of her missionary training, she met Thomas Patterson. In 1863 they were married and Kate gave up her missionary plans. Much of her later charity work undoubtedly was a result of this early missionary training. After the family moved to Denver in 1872, Mrs. Patterson became active in club and charity work as well as an ardent advocate of woman’s suffrage. In the 1893 election, she campaigned actively in the successful effort to ratify woman’s suffrage in Colorado. Among her social and charity activities were the promotion of art in the public schools, the Woman’s Home Club, the Denver Orphan’s Home, the YWCA, the Fortnightly Club, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, and the Ladies’ Relief Society.

Katherine G. Patterson died July 16, 1902

Of the Patterson’s five children only one, Margaret Montjoy Patterson, survived to mature adulthood.

James McDonald Patterson, the oldest born in 1865, after a difficult childhood attended John Hopkins University and the University of Virginia Law School. He entered his father’s law practice after his graduation but poor health prevented much active participation in the practice. He died March 8, 1892 in Pasadena, California, at age 26.

The Patterson’s second child Mary Grafton Patterson attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1888. On her return to Denver she joined her mother in many of her club and charity activities and devoted much of her time to literary work, writing two plays which were privately published. Never of robust health, she died on November 26, 1894, at age 27.

Margaret Montjoy Patterson, born in 1870, attended Bryn Mawr with her sister Mary, graduating two years later. For a time she had hoped to train as a medical missionary, but never fulfilled that wish. After her graduation she devoted most of her time caring for her older brother and sister. Shortly after Mary’s death, she met Richard Crawford Campbell, a distant cousin. They immediately became engaged but delayed the announcement and the wedding out of respect for Mary. Like her mother, Margaret was active throughout her life in club and charity work. She was one of the founders of Denver’s Pro Musica and a charter member of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. She died June 7, 1929.

Margaret’s husband Richard Crawford Campbell was the son of Archibald W. Campbell, an influential Wheeling, West Virginia, newspaper editor. Richard attended Dartmouth College. After his marriage, he became business manager for his father-in-law’s Rocky Mountain News and later co-owner of the Denver Times. When Thomas Patterson sold Rocky Mountain News, Campbell became a real estate man and head of the Campbell Investment Co. He died February 13, 1930.


9 linear feet (16 Boxes)

Language of Materials



The Patterson Family Papers illuminate the family life of the Pattersons and represent a vivid social, domestic, economic, cultural and educational record. Thomas Patterson was a leader in real estate, law, and politics in Denver and Colorado. The collection consists primarily of correspondence among family members over the period, 1865-1925.


This collection is arranged by the following series: Series 1: Thomas M. and Katherine G. Patterson family Correspondence, 1862-1902 Series 2: Richard Crawford Campbell, Corresponence, 1879-1896 Series 3: Richard and Margaret P. Campbell Family Correspondence, 1895-1925 Series 4: Relatives of Thomas M. Patterson, Correspondence, 1870-1896 Series 5: Relatives of Katherine Grafton Patterson and Richard C. Campbell, 1838-1900 Series 6: Letters to Family Members fro mOutsiders, 1865-1919 Series 7: Letters of PRominent People, 1866-1911 Series 8: Miscellany, 1964-1918 Series 9: Scrapboks and Diaries, 1879-1904 Series 10: Photographs, 1890-1896

Processed by: Ellen Arguimbau, March 1977 Reformatted by: Jonathan H. Emerson, March 2009 Edited by William Sutherland-Keller, October, 2013 Rehoused by: Jeffrey Wermer, March 2014
October, 2013
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States