On this day in 1861, future Duluthian William A. McGonagle was born in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He earned a degree in civil engineering at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Minnesota in 1881 to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad as a draftsman. The next year he joined the Duluth & Iron Range Railway assistant engineer and began working his way up the corporate ladder until he became assistant chief engineer. He left that job in 1902 to work as the assistant to the president of the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railway. The next year he was vice president; in 1909, he took over as president. In Duluth he helped found the Chamber of Commerce, served as president of the Kitchi Gammi Club and was an active mason—in fact, at one point he was the Grand Master of Minnesota. In Duluth he often played “host” to visiting dignitaries—such as President Calvin Coolidge in 1928—spearheading the organization of entertainments to impress them with the wonders of the Zenith City. When he died on August 2, 1930, the Duluthian magazine wrote that “There was never a time that he was not ready to serve his city in any capacity and although time and time again he was importuned to take the lead in the. e projects, his reply invariably would be, ‘Yes, I will serve, but as a private in the ranks.’” During his funeral on August 5, 1930, all work on Northeastern Minnesota’s railroads was silenced for five minutes.
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