November 30, 1923: Death of aerial bridge engineer William Patton

On this day in Duluth in 1923, engineer William Patton died at the age of 63. Patton played an instrumental role on the building of Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge. While engineer Thomas McGilvrary came up with the idea for a transfer bridge, he and Patton were partners in the Duluth Engineering Company. Patton had also served as Duluth’s engineer, a position appointed by the mayor. Duluth’s mayors at this time often appointed members of their own political party. McGilvray was a Democrat, Patton a Republican. For about 15 years they took turns as Duluth’s city engineer—all depending on who sat in the mayor’s office. Patton stood in for McGilvray during Republican Mayor T. W. Hugo’s 1900–1904 administration, while the bridge was under construction. Besides being instrumental in the aerial bridge’s construction and the president of the Duluth Engineering Company, Patton had been a very active Mason. He was one of four charter members of the King Solomon Temple of England—the other three were former presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and General Thomas J. Shryock, a lumberman and one-time treasurer of Maryland. Patton was a past master of Duluth’s Palestine Lodge No. 79 and in 1910 the grand master of the Minnesota Grand Lodge. At his death he was considered “one of the leading Masons in the world.”

A sketch of William Patton ca. 1910. (Image: Duluth Public Library)