Patterson, Walter

Walter Patterson, army officer, colonial administrator (b 1735? in County Donegal, Ire; d at London, Eng 6 Sept 1798). He served briefly with the British army in America during the SEVEN YEARS' WAR and arrived in Charlottetown in August 1770 as the first British governor of the Island of St John (renamed Prince Edward Island in 1799). His tenure (1769-87) was remarkable for land speculation and political uproar, but his outstanding legacy was the entrenchment of PEI as a separate political entity.

The problems of his new charge were enormous: the total population was but a few hundred; the officers of government were inexperienced; and his administration had no reliable financial basis. Within a few years he had established a rudimentary government including a House of Assembly (1773); and in 1777 he succeeded in securing for the colony an annual grant of £3000.

Land speculation proved Patterson's undoing. Through considerable political manipulation, he gained the tenuous possession of over 40 000 ha. In the words of Captain John MacDonald, an opponent, he "would have done extremely well, had he known where to stop." Dismissed in 1787, he was stripped of his property by his political adversaries and died in poverty.