General Patton and the city of Lowell

Next time you walk into the Hall of Flags of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, glance to your left and see the above portrait of General George S Patton. You might ask, why does a painting of that particular soldier hang here in Lowell? A small entry in the March 13, 1910 New York Times offers a partial explanation:

Special to the New York Times: Mr. and Mrs Frederic Ayer announced today the engagement of their daughter, Beatrice Banning Ayer, to Lieut. George S. Patton of the Fifteenth United States Cavalry, now stationed at Fort Sheridan, Ill.

Frederick Ayer and his brother James C. Ayer came to Lowell before the Civil War and established a phenomenally successful patent medicine business (which is the subject of an upcoming Lowell Historical Society program on October 23, 2011). With the profits from the medicine business, the brothers invested in woolen mills in Lawrence, the fledgling New England Telephone and Telegraph Company, and all manner of other enterprises. James lived in the “stone house” on Pawtucket Street opposite Fletcher, while Frederick and his family lived in the so-called Ayer Mansion, shown below as today’s Franco-American School at the corner of Pawtucket and School Streets.

Coincidentally, this past Saturday, a large contingent of the descendents of James and Frederick as part of a family reunion, visited the Lowell Cemetery where both brothers and their families are buried. I was fortunate to be present to answer any questions related to the cemetery. While there, I met Benjamin Patton, the grandson of George S. Patton and Beatrice Banning Ayer. Benjamin’s father, also George S. Patton, graduated from West Point, fought in Korea and Vietnam, and attained the rank of Major General before his retirement in 1980. Benjamin who has written a book, “Growing Up Patton“, that will be published in February 2012, is a documentary filmmaker. The website of his business, Patton Productions, contains some amazing home movie video of his father and his grandfather. If you’re interested in General Patton and his family, you have to watch this video.

Ayer Mansion, Lowell Massachusetts

3 Responses to General Patton and the city of Lowell

  1. Kosta says:

    Years ago, while looking to buy a house, I was directed to one that, supposedly, Patton and Beatrice had built for the purpose of settling in Lowell. I suppose that the war interfered, as they apparently never did settle here. Anyone know of this story?

  2. EileenL says:

    George and Beatrice were married in 1910 and at that time the Ayers lived on Commonwealth Ave in Boston and Prides Crossing. In the Lowell Sun, Mary 27, 1910:

    “the Lieut, and Mrs. Patton will sail from New York Saturday for a month’s trip abroad. They will make their home at fort Sheridan, III., where Lieut. Patton is stationed.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was having a conversation with my father this past weekend and he told me a story about helping in the commissioning of a painting, a parade and all of the dignitaries that were there in Lowell for it’s unveiling. He was a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in those days. He had kept the newspaper articles but they’ve disappeared over the years. So I began to look for it on the internet today and lo and behold, there’s the painting, just as he described it! My dad is getting on in years and is blind now but I’m sure he’d be very appreciative if you could e-mail me a link or any other information that you have about that day so I could read it to him. Thanks for anything that you can find!