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John Dalgleish Patterson

John Dalgleish Pat(t)erson, from Dumfries-shire, came to Demerara in 1806 and was a leading figure in the development of the export trade in timber from Guyana, especially hewn greenheart (ocotea rodiaei). His house, which later became the Christianburg courthouse, was described by Henry Kirke in his book, Twenty-Five Years in British Guiana (1872–1897), as ‘one of the best built in the colony’ and its opulent interior was said to be comprised of furnishings which Paterson had brought from Scotland.

Paterson formed a copartnership in Stabroek with Malcolm Campbell, the proprietor of the Union Coffee House, which was dissolved at Campbell’s death in 1808. In August 1812 Patterson and Campbell’s executors, put up for sale at Public Auction on 13 January 1813 '. . . fifty negro woodcutters and carpenters . . .  also the woodland Christianburg, with the sawmill, punts and boats, etc.' to 'close the late firm of Campbell & Paterson'.  Paterson bought Christianburg at the Sale and appears to have developed a new partnership with a John Crossman.

Plantation Christianburg dated back to before 1750, the first grant of land being 500 roods [Lot 51 Christianenburg] in 1747, followed by a further 2,000 roods [Lot 50] in 1748. These lands were recorded as an abandoned sugar plantation in the possession of Christiaan Finet when Laurens Lodewyk van Bercheyck prepared his map of Demerara in 1759; and Finet's heirs were still listed as owning them when van Bouchenroeder surveyed Essequibo and Demerara in 1798. Christianburg was transported by CFV Kohler and his wife to the executors of EH Huss in 1801; in 1804 the estate of EH Huss transported Christianburg to A Layne; and Layne's estate transported it to M Campbell in 1804. [Deeds Reg: Layne to Campbell = Transport No. 36 0f 1804]

Paterson had an interest in a number of other plantations. In 1807 he sold a timber plantation, Susanna’s Rest, on ‘the East Bank of the River Demerary, about one tide distant from Stabroek', together with the ‘thirty Negroes, who have for many years been accustomed to the Timber cutting business’ [Essequebo & Demerara Gazette, 6 June 1807]. The plantation had also once been a sugar estate but had been abandoned by 1798.

In 1815 Pat(t)erson and Crossman offered for sale:

Sixty six Negroes in families - consisting of wood-cutters, carpenters, &c. Also, the Plantation Amelia's Ward, with the buildings thereon. The Wood-Land Eenzamheid, containing about 1000 acres. Ditto Poolmyer's, 500 acres. Forty Head of Cattle, punts, creals, tent boats, vat hoops, nails, bar iron, coals, &c. - Also, a complete set of new machinery for a saw-mill, sundry spare saws, &c. [Essequebo & Demerara Gazette, 17 June 1815]


Paterson's family

Pat(t)erson had five children with Elizabeth Hill, said to be the daughter of a 'free black woman', and seven children with Elizabeth's niece, Jane McKell.

The children included John I [1817-98], the son of Elizabeth Hill, and John Dalgleish Paterson II [1826-66], the son of Jane McKell. The latter ran the Christianburg business with his mother for many years in the 1850s and 60s, and was a Justice of the Peace for Demerara in 1860. Jane continued to dominate the scene, with help from Booker, until her death c1890. John Dalgleish Paterson II's sons, John Dalgleish Paterson III [b1863] and Thomas L Paterson [1864-1930], then ran the business until selling up in 1894; they later emigrated.


My thanks to John Platt for his help in understanding the details of John Dalgleish's life, family and business interests. Any remaining errors are mine.


Note: There is no substance to the legend that John Dalgleish Paterson arrived in Demerara with two companions, Blount and Spencer, who together established a plantation called Three Friends. Three Friends, then known as de drie Vrienden, was established by Nicholaes Heyliger & Co, in 1751, with a grant of 2,000 carreaux [lot 26, van Bercheyck].