Harlan H. Hatcher

author of

Patterns of Wolfpen

Fred T. May - 2005


Characters in the Book

In 2004 I first learned of this book from a descendant of Thomas Patton May who told me it was based on a story of the Leslie family of Johns Creek and was set near the farm of Garland Hurt, a grandson of Thomas. As I read the book it soon became obvious that the author had written about a time and place very familiar to him, so I became curious about Harlan Hatcher's background. A Google search yielded many hits and help by some genealogists of the Hatcher family revealed that he was a descendant of the Leslie family in Pike County, was born in Ironton, OH in 1898 and became President of the University of Michigan in 1951. The Graduate Library was named in his honor in 1970!! Click here to learn more about this highly respected educator.

It is interesting that a main character in his novel is Sparrell Pattern and there was a Sparrel B. Leslie, age 24, living in Pike County in 1870. He was a first cousin to James Harvey Leslie, grandfather of Harlan Hatcher. The only Hatchers in Pike County in the 1870 census were the families of John Lee Hatcher, age 36, and his brother, Andrew J. Hatcher, age 38. They were second cousins to Robert Ellison Hatcher, father of Harlan Hatcher.

The earliest record I have of Harlan Hatcher lists him as a two year old in the household of his parents in the 1900 census for Ironton, Lawrence Co., OH. This census says that his father was born in Ohio and his occupation was: Teacher "Public School." A very telling fact comes from the 1870 census, which lists Harlan's grandfather, William B. G. Hatcher (1841-1921), as the County Surveyor of Lawrence Co., OH. He most likely was the author's inspiration for Reuben Warren, a main character who was a surveyor in the book. These facts expand our knowledge of the author's choice of characters:

Generations:                                                Book characters
1. William Robert Leslie --------------------- Saul Pattern
2. Robert Leslie ------------------------------Barton Pattern
3. Allen Leslie --------------------------------Tivis Pattern
4. James Harvey Leslie -----------------------Sparrel Pattern
  first cousin to Sparrel Leslie
5. Malinda B. Leslie --------------------------Cynthia Pattern
    married Robert E. Hatcher                           married Reuben Warren, surveyor
      son of Wm. B.G. Hatcher, surveyor in Ohio      

6. Harlan H. Hatcher (author)

A Tribute to Dr. Harlan H. Hatcher
at the time of his death in 1998

From a University of Michigan website

University of Michigan President Emeritus Harlan H. Hatcher died Feb. 25 at the age of 99. Tremendous expansion of the U-M marked Hatcher's 16-year term in office, from a 1951 enrollment of 17,000 to 37,000 in 1967. The budget increased from $44.5 million to more than $186 million in the same period. Shortly after he took office the University purchased land for the North Campus site and began development there. Regional campuses were established in Flint and Dearborn.

Among the numerous buildings completed on the Ann Arbor campus during Hatcher's years in office were the School of Music's Moore Building, the Institute for Social Research and the Undergraduate Library, which Hatcher identified as one of the major accomplishments of his tenure. The Graduate Library was named in his honor in December 1968.

"President Hatcher had a noble bearing, a noble mind and a level of human courtesy unknown in our time," said U-M President Lee C. Bollinger. "He presided over the University during one of its more formative stages. His name will always be mentioned in the same breath as Michigan."

President Hatcher "laid the groundwork for a new era," noted President Emeritus Robben W. Fleming, and for a university that became "not only bigger, but more comprehensive in the way it serves both undergraduate and graduate students. The University and the state of Michigan owe Harlan Hatcher an immense debt of gratitude for the wisdom and grace that marked his presidency."

Harlan Henthorne Hatcher was born Sept. 9, 1898, in Ironton, Ohio, where his father was a schoolteacher. Before being named the University's eighth president in 1951, Hatcher was vice president at the Ohio State University (OSU). He also had been a professor of English at OSU and dean of its college of arts and sciences. His scholarly research focused on American literature and history, particularly of the Midwest. He wrote several books on the Great Lakes region and also wrote three novels.

The Graduate Library was named for Harlan Hatcher in ceremonies marking the completion of the South building addition in 1970.

Hatcher married Anne Gregory Vance in 1942. In addition to his wife, he is survived by son Robert , director of the U-M Psychological Clinic and the U-M Institute for Human Adjustment; daughter Anne Berenberg; and four grandchildren.

The family asked that memorial contributions be sent to the University Library in Support of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, c/o University Library Development Office, Room 8076, Hatcher South, U-M, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1205.

A Monument to the Stability of America

Among the many achievements of the late President Harlan H. Hatcher's was his leading role in the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression. Michigan Today asked Petra Schindler Carter, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on the project, to write about Hatcher's contributions. Her article follows.

When Harlan Hatcher assumed the directorship of the Ohio branch of the Federal Writers' Project in 1937, he encountered daunting obstacles to publishing success: an ill-prepared team of writers ravaged by financial hardships and personal despair; the stabs of a local press fiercely opposed to the New Deal; and the contourless mass of a subject matter, the Midwest, which demanded much temperament-searching.

Nevertheless, Hatcher promised to fellow historians in 1938 that "when this series is finished, Ohio will have a more complete picture of itself and its history than it has ever had before."

The fact that the Ohio Writers' Project under his reign became one of the most productive in the nation is a testament to Hatcher's strength of leadership. The 634-page Ohio Guide, published in October 1940 by Oxford University Press, became the crowning achievement of his four-year stint as state director and remains today a privileged glimpse of the Midwest at a moment of radical change, a document of inestimable worth to historians and students of American culture.

The Depression of the 1930s had fostered a climate of governmental support for a nation of which one third lived in dismal poverty. Of the numerous New Deal relief agencies, the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project succeeded in coupling the creation of much needed jobs for white-collar workers with a larger, more symbolic imperative: the reawakening of a sense of national cultural achievement.

Intended as a "panoramic portrait of the nation," the American Guide Series (1935-1942), with its array of historical essays, city portraits, and automobile tours, was the backbone of the project. Of Hatcher's Ohio Guide none less than the writer Louis Bromfield would write in 1941 that it was "better than Baedeker's."

Harlan Hatcher joined the small group of FWP officials who publicly mused on the historiographic potential of their undertaking. He advocated a new mode of writing history in which the highways of America would become a web of meaning. During a speech before the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society (today the Ohio Historical Society) in 1938, Hatcher suggested that clocking the highways and byways of their native land, WPA guide in hand, would refamiliarize Americans with the rich value of their own land. "Using the network of roads as an organizing unit," he said of his Ohio Guide, "the book will reveal the present picture of Ohio, tell the story of the activities and occupations of its people, and pause at historic spots to connect the present with the past."

Whereas conventional history books targeted trained historians, a WPA guide spoke to ordinary people. "The result is a new form and style of history," Hatcher recognized, "which may provoke the citizens of Ohio to a keener interest in the heritage of their State." Federal writers like Hatcher thought that, after the demoralizing days of the Depression, such a "point-by-point picture" of this country's accomplishments would illustrate hope and invite optimism.

The role of state director required administrative skill, an encyclopedic control of detail, and boundless creative energy. In his preface to the guide Hatcher described the task of "unfolding a monumental picture of our Nation, past and present, never before revealed or undertaken" as one that had been "long and often difficult."

Hatcher's vision and expertise, however, overcame the numerous challenges. The published record of his involvement with the Federal Writers' Project today fulfills his own 1941 hopes for "a heartening monument to the stability of America, long after the bitter years of the 1930s have been forgotten."

--Petra Schindler Carter.