The Honourable Walter Patterson
Governor from 14 July 1769 to 4 November 1786
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Walter Patterson is reported to have been born at Foxhall, County Donegal, Ireland in 1742. He fought with the British Army, 80th Regiment in America during the Seven Years War, at which time he rose to the rank of Captain. In 1758 the British had invaded the fortress of Louisburg for a second and final time, rounding up the French (Acadian) settlers on Prince Edward Island and had them deported. There were only about 300 Acadians remaining, mostly south of Malpeque Bay and also around Rustico and Souris, when the Island was formally awarded to Britain in 1763. In 1763 Island of St. John (Prince Edward Island) was formally created as a Colony.
In 1764, Patterson requested grants for some of the Island land. Three years later, as a result of the 1767 land lottery, he and his brother, John Patterson, became proprietors of Lot 19, located in the general area of the present town of Kensington. On 30 May 1769 the British Privy Council separated the St. John Island from its annexation with Nova Scotia and gave it a separate government. Patterson was appointed Governor of St. John Island (Prince Edward Island) on 14 July 1769, just a few weeks after the Island was officially made a separate colony. Governor Patterson arrived on the Island on 30 August 1770.
Upon his arrival, the Island population was somewhere in the vicinity of 300. Between 1770 and 1775 approximately 1,000 new settlers arrived on the Island mostly from Scotland. The capital, Charlottetown, existed only as a name on the map. In September, 1770, he took the Oath of Office, had an Executive Council sworn in, and began the actual task of administration. One of the early ordinances passed by the Governor and Council was to enforce the payment of quit rent.
In 1773 the first elections were held and the first Assembly met. Governor Patterson acquired in excess of 100,000 acres of land from proprietors who had not paid their quit rents and their lands were put up for sale. Proprietors who had their lands sold petitioned the British government asking to have their sold lots returned and, failing the return of the lots, then they asked to have Governor Patterson removed from office. Following the petitions from proprietors, the Secretary of State from the British government sent Patterson a dispatch on 24 July 1783 ordering him to present an enclosed bill to the Assembly, and for Patterson to recommend that the bill pass. The bill in question provided for the annulment of the 1781 land sales. Patterson refused to obey and he managed to obtain a majority decision of the Executive Council in support of his position. This was one of the main factors that forced the British government, on 17 June 1786, to inform Governor Patterson that he had been recalled and removed him from his position as Governor. In 1789, Patterson returned to England where he died on 6 September 1798.
Photograph courtesy of PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Reference Number 2230/54-7