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What if…

by Ben Crookshanks

It’s fun playing “what if”. Sometimes it’s scary when we look back at the twists and turns of fate that befell our ancestors and resulted in us being where we are or even existing at all.
If it were not for the Civil War, the flamboyant, profane, World War II tank commander, Gen. George S. Patton possibly could have been born in West Virginia. His grandfather, George Smith Patton, lived and practiced law in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia) for several years. The house he owned still stands. It was once slated for demolition. Fortunately, it has been saved from oblivion and is now on the National Register of Historical Places. It is known today as the Craik-Patton House. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in West Virginia care for and maintain the house and grounds. It is open to the public two days a week and at other times by appointment.
The house was built in 1835 by James Craik, a farmer and lawyer who came to western Virginia in 1829. That same year he married Juliet Shrewsbury of Kanawha County. The house is Greek Revival style with four white columns supporting a roof. Although it was smaller, it was patterned after plantation houses of eastern Virginia. It was flanked by a flower garden on one side and a small square office-building on the other. In back was a vegetable garden and an orchard. Also, there was a chicken house, log barn and a carriage house.
In 1841, Craik entered the ministry. He became the fourth rector of the St. John’s Episcopal Church of Charleston. In 1844, Craik sold the house and moved his ever growing family to Louisville, Kentucky.
George Smith Patton, like Craik, came to Kanawha Valley to practice law. As a young man, he attended Virginia Military Institute. After graduation he read law in his father’s law office. He moved from his native Richmond to Charleston. In 1858, he purchased the Craik house from Isaac Reed for the sum of $2,600. Shortly thereafter, he organized and led the Kanawha Riflemen. Patton, a flamboyant and fiery tempered man, made himself their colonel and designed their smartly tailored uniforms.
When the Civil War broke out, the Kanawha Riflemen became Company H of the 22nd Virginia Infantry. Patton was killed at the Battle of Winchester in 1864. His widow and children were left alone and broke. She married Hugh Smith, another and after the war, they eventually wound up in southern California. It was there, on November 11, 1885, that her grandson, the child who would grow up and make the Patton name famous, was born.
The Craik-Patton House has been moved twice since 1900. In 1906, it was placed on log rollers and moved to the 1300 block of Lee Street. It was moved once again in 1973. This time to its current location on city property adjacent to Daniel Boone Park.
For more information go to: www.wvcivilwar.com. Phone (304) 925-5341.