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.