July 13, 1890: Superior newspaper exposes Mayor Pattison’s secret life

On this day across the bay in 1890, Superior’s Sunday Morning Call newspaper reported that mayor and prominent businessman Martin Pattison was born Simon Thayer—and had led a double life. According to Superior historian Judith Liebaert, “Early in 1890 Pattison was arguably at the pinnacle of his popularity among his peers and the residents of Superior. He and his wife Grace were respected leaders and philanthropists in the community; both were active in civic and charitable organizations. By all accounts, the two could not have been more highly regarded—nor more ripe for a fall when an old skeleton came rattling out of Pattison’s closet. Growing rumors of a nefarious deed in Pattison’s past inspired a reporter to seek the truth.” In Michigan he found a story of “Cosmopolitan Seduction, Elopement and Deceit Without a Parallel,” as the paper’s headline would later describe the tale. The story exposed the fact that Pattison had been born Simeon Martin Thayer on January 17, 1841, in southern Ontario, Canada. He had become a lumberman and married his business partner’s sister five months before she gave birth to a daughter. On April 30, 1872—just six days before the birth of his son Joseph—Thayer “departed for business in Port Huron and from there disappeared, seemingly, from the face of the earth.” By that fall Simon Thayer had become Martin Pattison, respected lumberman of Marquette Michigan. There is much, much more to Pattison’s life, and you can read about it here.

Martin Pattison. (Image: Duluth Public LibraryPn