A DESCENDANT of one of Tullibody’s most famous sons has travelled thousands of miles across the Atlantic to meet a never-before-seen relative in the Wee County.

Distant relatives separated by some 150 years of history, descendants of Tullibody native William Burns Paterson from both the USA and Clackmannanshire this month met for the very first time.

Paterson was born in the Clacks town in 1850 and would travel to the states, eventually settling in the Deep South and championing African-American education following the abolition of slavery.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: FAMOUS SON: William Burns Paterson was born in Tullibody in 1850 and would go on to found what

He founded what would eventually grow to be Alabama State University and is still remembered to this day through Founder’s Day celebrations, held on or near his February 9 birthday.

Paterson’s great-great-great-grandson Thomas Stallings and his wife Skip, from the USA, were this month welcomed to the Wee County by Tullibody History Group’s Chris Calder, who has been researching Paterson’s life and family tree for years.

Chris met with descendants of Paterson when she made a visit to Montgomery in the states, where the university is based, in 2019 – the same year she traced Clacks descendants Sauchie man David Morrison and his sister Cecilia Brown from Fishcross.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: DISTANT RELATIVES: David Morrison from Sauchie, Thomas Stallings from the USA and his wife Skip

Thomas, Skip and David had a chance to meet through Chris Calder, who told the Advertiser: “To meet at all was just an amazing, all these generations on.”

The visitors had a chance to see sites and streets where their famous ancestor grew up before meeting the Clacks relative.

Chris added: “They were delighted, I gave them a quick scoot around Alloa.

“William and his dad used to help gardening at Tullibody House so I took them down to where the house used to be at the Forth.”

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: GARDENING: William and his father would help garden at the former Tullibody House with Thomas and

Paterson’s parents are buried at the church yard at the old kirk in Tullibody and the visitors also had the chance to take in landmarks such as Alloa and Sauchie towers.

William Burns Paterson was one of nine children and came from humble beginnings; his father worked at Glenochil Distillery and tragically died when he fell into one of the vats when William was still young.

Paterson’s sister Janet married William Morrison, one of David’s ancestors, and stayed in the Wee County, hence the family connection.

Chris added: “David was thrilled to bits.

“Actually, Thomas sent a photograph over to his granny and she said David looks like a Paterson.

“When you look at the photograph – I agree with her!”

William Burns Paterson travelled the states, visiting all but five, after leaving Tullibody in the 1860s.

He would end up in the Deep South with Tullibody historian Chris adding: “He started teaching freed slaves and that developed into a school.

“It developed again and it ended up as Alabama State University – he was the only white president in the whole history of the university.”

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: STILL REMEMBERED: A sign at Alabama State University commemorating the story of William Burns

READ MORE: The Tullibody educator who took on the Ku Klux Klan


The whole story of William Burns Paterson, including how he twice stood up to the Ku Klux Klan, can be found at Tullibody Heritage Centre.