October 13, 1877: Chester Congdon becomes an attorney

On this day in 1877, future Duluth attorney Chester Adgate Congdon was admitted to the bar of the state of New York, which allowed him to practice law in the state. Congdon graduated Syracuse University in 1875, as did Clara Hesperia Bannister, whom he would marry in 1881. He had returned to New York to take the bar exam after spending a year as a high school principal in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, but he didn’t stick around long to practice law. By 1880 he was in St. Paul, where he was admitted to the Minnesota bar in January 1880. In Minnesota’s capital city he took a job with state’s attorney William Billson, a Duluth pioneer who had moved south following the Panic of 1873. Billson moved back to Duluth in the mid 1880s, and in 1892 he invited Congdon to join him in practice as Billson & Congdon. On November 1, 1893, Judge Daniel Dickinson joined them as partner and the firm became Billson, Congdon & Dickinson. Dickinson died in 1902, and on January 1, 1904, both Congdon and Billson retired from the legal profession. By then Congdon had become a mining magnate and, thanks to the formation of US Steel, the wealthiest man in Minnesota. He would spend the next twelve years overseeing his mining interests, building a grand home on the Lake Superior Shore, serving in the Minnesota State legislature, traveling extensively, becoming active in the Republican Party on the national level, and building another home in Yakima, Washington, before dying unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1916. Read more about Congdon here.

Chester Adgate Congdon. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)ongdon