How PATAGONIA (PA) Got Its Name
by Ann Angel Eberhardt
This month’s blog is the second part of Dick Hudson’s narrative about his hometown of Patagonia. Here he explores the origin of the town’s unusual and colorful name.
Patagonia, Hickory Township’s
Family to the West
By Dick Hudson
Often I and others of us who have lived in Patagonia are asked by those who live in the traditional area of “Hickory Corners” why our area is a part of the township, what is its history, and, most of all, why the name “Patagonia.” I offer a response on behalf of all who have lived in that little conclave of families across the river, up the hills, and next to the Ohio line.
Some General History
[The following information is from the Hermitage Historical Society website: A Short History of Hermitage by Mairy Jayn Woge.]
In 1796 or 1797, Thomas Canon settled in what would become Hickory Township. In 1798, Col. Henry Hoagland, William Campbell, Daniel, Bashara and John Hull, William Welch, Archibald Rankin, John Hammel, James Young, and the Rev. Satterfield all settled in Hickory Township. Hoagland built a farm west of the Shenango River in what is now Patagonia.
In 1800, two schools opened in the region. One was three-fourths of a mile east of what is currently downtown Sharon. The other was on the Hoagland farm west of the Shenango River. Education was already important to those living in this area!
The first school teacher in Hickory Township was Revolutionary War veteran David Hayes. He taught at the log schoolhouse on the Hoagland Farm in what is now the Patagonia area of Hermitage.
Later History and the Actual Formation of Hickory Township
Hickory Township was formed 33 years after the Pennsylvania General Assembly organized Mercer County. Until 1833, the land that would become Hickory was split between Pymatuning and Shenango Townships. The dividing line was State Street. Petitions signed by residents of the Shenango Valley led to the founding of Hickory. The township was named after Andrew Jackson, President of the United States from 1829 through part of 1837. Jackson’s nickname was “Old Hickory.”
(Is it simply coincidence that Hickory is now called Hermitage, and that Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, TN, is called “The Hermitage”?)
The bulk of the land in the township was divided into 200 to 550-acre parcels set aside by the Commonwealth for Veterans who fought in the Pennsylvania line. Early Hickory Township contained the sites of Sharon, Wheatland, Sharpsville, and Farrell – which was a farming community. Pioneer settlers included Thomas Canon, William Campbell, Col. Henry Hoagland, Andrew Robb and the Moore family. Hoagland had a very early farm (about 1800) in what is now Patagonia.
During the 1800s, the towns of Sharon (1841), Wheatland (1865), Sharpsville (1874), and Farrell (1899) all were incorporated, thus changing the area known as Hickory Township. Hickory Township once extended around Sharon to the north and over the river to the west. When Sharpsville incorporated, it took away that land link, but the “Patagonia” area was left still a part of Hickory Township.
[Click on image to enlarge.]
[Left: A section of Mercer County, PA, showing the location of Patagonia (see arrow). Right: The original boundaries of Sharpsville, PA, shaded in rose. Sharpsville’s three main additions that were carved off from Hickory Township in 1874 are outlined in blue. Source: www.localgeohistory.pro via Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, May 2020.]
NOTE: See the May 2020 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter for more about Sharpsville’s annexation of parts of Hickory Township.
Now, Some Background on Argentina’s Patagonia
[The following information is from “The Fascinating History of Patagonia” on the Chimu Blog site.]
Ferdinand Magellan – the first man to have allegedly circumnavigated our planet – is touted with officially ‘discovering’ Patagonia in 1530, although it’s likely a few explorers came before him and, finding the land inhospitable, simply left. Magellan’s deputy reported seeing patagones, or great giants of men, and it is from this description that the name for the region derives. By the mid-1600s, Christian missionaries had already arrived; yet, although the Spanish attempted to build settlements in Patagonia over the next 200 years, none was very successful.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, when some hardy Welsh arrived, that Patagonia in Argentina finally saw some true-blue settlements. Merely 200 adventurous Welsh men, women and children set sail from Liverpool, bound for Patagonia’s Chubut Valley, where they hoped they could live, prosper and protect their cultural ancestry. And so they did. Over the next few decades, they were joined by many more immigrants, all helping to create towns like Gaiman, Dolavon and Trevelin.
Nowadays, although a very small percentage of the local Patagonian population boasts pure Welsh ancestry, there are hundreds of thousands with traces of Welsh blood running in their veins. Nearly 5,000 in the region can still speak Welsh. Bilingual schools and cultural centers remain at the present, all aimed at preserving this truly fascinating side of Patagonia’s history.
The Welsh in the Sharon, PA, Area
[From a journal article, “The Welsh Experience in Sharon,” by Robert Llewellyn Tyler.]
The article identifies the Welsh as a distinct ethnolinguistic community in Sharon during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and provides an analysis of changes in socioeconomic status as indicated by occupational shifts. Further, the article states,
The Welsh from the 1840s and forward characterized themselves in a series of definitions of Welshness, which over time transformed the image of Wales. … The Welsh saw themselves as the most virtuous and hard-working people in Europe, in farm, mine, and factory, the most God-fearing, the best at observing the Sabbath, the most temperate with regard to drink, the most deeply devoted to educational improvement and to things of the mind.Tyler, Robert Llewellyn. “Occupational Mobility and Social Status: The Welsh Experience in Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1880–1930.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 83, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–27.
There were many people of Welsh backgrounds in the local area. They were proud of their heritage, had great pride in what they had become, and were knowledgeable about travels and the emerging world.
Consequently, in a matter of about 50 years, the Welsh had settled both in Argentina’s Patagonia and in the Hickory Township area as well.
Why the Name?
The question has always been why our small western Pennsylvania town was called Patagonia. The following addresses that question.
In the late 1800s many Welsh settled the area. They were noted for being very industrious and valued education and travel. As written above, the Welsh helped settle Patagonia in Argentina, and those who settled the local area would have known about this far-away enchanting and mysterious place. Around that same time, Patagonia in Argentina had caught the public’s eye around the world. Contributing to this international interest was the narrative, “The Wilds of Patagonia” (1911: MacMillan), written by Carl Skottsberg about his famous Swedish expedition to Patagonia in 1907.
So, I suggest that those who lived in the area and had some Welsh background, picked that name due to its being this far-away fascinating place that those from their native country helped settle and develop, and they were proud of that.
But, even more evidence: I have since discovered a direct connection between the Welsh in Argentina and those in the Sharon area in the 1800s. Bill Pritchard, who grew up with us in Patagonia, told me that his father was 100% Welsh and that his ancestors came from Argentina in the mid-1800s. I only knew that the Welsh had settled in both Argentina and in the Sharon area, but did not know that some of the Welsh in Argentina then made the next move to “our” Patagonia. Bill’s grandfather built the house he lived in on North Water Street in the late 1800s, and Bill’s father was born there in 1900. Welsh people came up from Argentina’s Patagonia; how about that!
That direct connection between the Welsh in Argentina and those who came to the Hickory area would have certainly been the reason for the locally named “Patagonia.”
— Dick Hudson (Hickory High School 1963).
Colbert, GA, July 1, 2020.
Sources: (All websites were accessed 17 June 2020.)
Hermitage Historical Society website. https://www.hermitage.net/367/Early-Settlers.
Local Geohistory Project, which educates users and disseminates information concerning the geographic history and structure of political subdivisions and local government. www.localgeohistory.pro
Mehler, Ralph C. “Building the Town: Annexation & Development.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. IX, No. 1, May 2020. http://sharpsvillehistorical.com/pdfs/Newsletter/2020/May2020Newsletter.pdf
Pattara, Laura. “The Fascinating History of Patagonia” on the Chimu Blog site: https://www.chimuadventures.com/blog/2017/10/fascinating-history-patagonia/
Tyler, Robert Llewellyn. “Occupational Mobility and Social Status: The Welsh Experience in Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1880–1930.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 83, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/pennhistory.83.1.0001. Tyler is from Newport, Wales. He researches Welsh communities overseas and is widely published.
Woge, Mairy Jayn. “A Short History of Hermitage.” Hermitage History Society website, https://www.hermitage.net/367/Early-Settlers. Woge (1925-2005) was a reporter for The Sharon Herald, 1961-1967, The Youngstown Vindicator, 1967-1971, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1971-1990. She also was a founding member of the Hermitage History Society in 1977.