Patterns of Wolfpen [1]

Harlan H. Hatcher
The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis & New York, 1934

Overview of the people and setting of the story
by Fred T. May - 2005

About the author | Maps of the area

The Pattern family is obviously based on the Lesley/Leslie family of Johns Creek in Pike (previously Floyd) County, Kentucky. The book tells of Saul Pattern first coming to Wolfpen about 1785 and settling there about five years later. Four generations later Sparrel Pattern and his family were living on this land. The parallel between the Leslie family and the fictional Pattern family is:

Generations:                        Book Characters
1. William Robert Leslie ----- Saul Pattern
2. Robert Leslie --------------Barton Pattern
3. Allen Leslie ----------------Tivis Pattern
4. James Harvey Leslie -------Sparrel Pattern
5. Malinda B. Leslie ----------Cynthia Pattern
6. Harlan H. Hatcher (author)

Elizabeth Margery Leslie, sister of James Harvey Leslie, was the wife of Thomas Patton May.

More about:
Hatcher family | James Harvey Leslie | Sparrel Bevins Leslie home on Johns Creek

 Romance and tragedy fill the pages of this
novel about Eastern Kentucky

The story takes place at Wolfpen Hollow near Gannon Creek in the Big Sandy Valley of Eastern Kentucky. From numerous references to places in the book, it is apparent that Gannon Creek is Johns Creek in Pike County. There is a Lower Wolfpen Hollow near the mouth of Sycamore Creek on the original Leslie Settlement.

I have always assumed that the land settled by William Robert Leslie and his son Robert about 1790 extended down both sides of Johns Creek from about the mouth of Caney Creek to the mouth of Sycamore Creek. It is quite possible it also extended up Sycamore and farther down Johns Creek. The book tells of the patriarch of a family having a Virginia patent for 4,000 acres of land and had expanded his holding to well over 5,000 acres. [2]

May Farm Branch, a small stream that flows into Johns Creek near the upper end of the Leslie Settlement, is named for Thomas Patton May who married Elizabeth Margery Leslie in 1841 and lived on over 1,000 acres of land that they purchased from her father, Allen Lesley in 1847. [3] She was a grandaunt of the author and she and Thomas were living on their farm during the years depicted in the book.

A number of stories of Saul and Barton are taken directly from family traditions of the Leslie family, including one that tells of Barton having his throat cut by Indians and left for dead. (Leslie traditions tell of William Robert Leslie being the one who had his throat cut by Indians.)

About 1880, as the story began, Cynthia (i.e. Malinda Leslie) watches her father convert the old water-wheeled mill her grandfather had built to steam-power. [4] She speaks of people coming from nearby farms to witness the event. A farmer from the mouth of Brushy (a creek that flows into Johns Creek below Sycamore) was among them. Cynthia tells of her father having the steam engine transported from Cincinnati by steamboat up the Ohio River to Catlettsburg, where it was transferred to the Cando for its journey up the Big Sandy. [5] Her father hauled it behind two yoke of oxen up the Gannon (i.e. Johns Creek) from the river. She related that this was the same route Saul (i.e. William Robert Leslie) had taken when he moved his family to Wolfpen Hollow decades earlier.

Cynthia spoke of Saul, a huge man, being buried on Cranesnest Shelf in a popular log hollowed out by his son Barton. The same story has been told for generations about William Robert Leslie and his son Robert and his grave is marked above the golf course now located on the property. [6]

Eight-five years had passed since Saul and Barton first settled in the valley and other families had followed. As the older generations died and their land was divided among their descendants, people along the creek began to speak of themselves as living in family 'Settlements.' [7] In the book Cynthia (i.e. Malinda Leslie), the youngest child in her family, had a number of siblings. A few are characters in the story. Lucy, the oldest, was married and lived on the Sandy Farm at Patterns Landing on the river. Jenny lived on the Horsepen Branch Farm (probably Cowpen near the river in Pike County). Her mother was from Scioto on the Ohio River and her father had expanded his home and put weatherboarding over the logs for his bride. "There was no better house in the Big Sandy Valley, outside of Pikeville or Prestonsburg." The house had been built by her grandfather with timber from the farm. Glass windows and wrought-iron nails were hauled over the mountains by mule from Mt. Sterling in Central Kentucky. The kitchen then occupied the room that was once was Saul's original log cabin.


[1] Patterns of Wolfpen, Harlan H. Hatcher, The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis & New York, 1934.

[2] In 1792 the state of Kentucky was formed from the westernmost region of Virginia and the Big Sandy Valley was part of Mason County. In 1800 Floyd County was formed and if the Leslie patent was filed in the courthouse in Prestonsburg, it was destroyed in a fire about 1808.

[3] Pike County Deed Book C page 112: Deed from Allen Lesley to Thomas P. May dated April 2, 1847. $1,100 for over 1,060A and "in consideration of natural love and affection to his daughter, Elizabeth Margery , wife of Thomas P. May . . ."
Listed acreage of tracts & parcels of land: 50+110+110+294+50+50+56+240+50+50 = 1,060A.

[4] A grist mill near the mouth of Sycamore Creek was still operating in the late 1940s. I once road a horse from the Garland Hurt farm, located across Johns Creek from Sycamore, with a sack of corn to be turned on the stone wheel of the mill.

[5] The Cando steamboat served the Big Sandy Valley from Catlettsburg to Pikeville for many years. It was supposed to be the C and O, for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, but the painter ran the letters together

[6] For many years Garland Hurt, a grandson of Thomas Patton May, owned the farm where the earliest generations of the Leslie family are buried.

[7] The Leslie Settlement is among the best known of the early settlements in Floyd —now in Pike— County.