James S. Patterson (also known as Samuel J. Patterson) was born in 1809 in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a stronghold of southern slavery. Patterson came to Niagara Falls in 1836, and worked for years as a porter at the Cataract House. He would go on to take full advantage of his personal and financial liberties as a free African American in Niagara Falls when he and his wife became proprietors of the Free Soil Hotel in or around 1850. The Pattersons, also known to support local Underground Railroad activities, operated the Free Soil Hotel until the early 1860’s, when they leased it to other proprietors. James Patterson was remarkable, not only because he owned a hotel but also because he did not fear to advertise his political principles by naming it the Free Soil Hotel.