Thomas R. Potts

Last updated
Thomas Reed Potts


c. 1855
1st Mayor of St. Paul
In office
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Robert Kennedy
Constituency Saint Paul, Minnesota
Personal details
Born(1810-02-10)February 10, 1810 [1]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 6, 1874(1874-10-06) (aged 64) [1]
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Spouse(s) Anna Abby Steele
Children 4
Profession physician

Thomas Reed Potts (February 10, 1810 October 6, 1874) was an American physician, civic leader and the first Mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from medical school, Potts moved across the country and eventually found his way to the young settlement of St. Paul. Active in civic life and popular in his medical practice, he was elected as the first President of the Town Board. Despite a successful tenure, he tired of politics and retired after one term to continue his practice; however he did hold several key health-related positions. By the time of his death, he was the oldest doctor in the city and one of its most respected.

A medical school is a tertiary educational institution, or part of such an institution, that teaches medicine, and awards a professional degree for physicians and surgeons. Such medical degrees include the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Doctor of Medicine (MD), or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). Many medical schools offer additional degrees, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Master's degree (M.Sc), a physician assistant program, or other post-secondary education.


Early years

Potts was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Rev. George Charles Potts, D.D., of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. [2] In 1831 he graduated with a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. [3]

After medical school, Potts settled in Natchez, Mississippi for ten years. He moved to Galena, Illinois in 1841, and then to Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1849. [1] In 1847 he married Anna Abbian Steele (born 1821 in Steelville, Pennsylvania, died 1901 in St. Paul), sister of prosperous Minneapolis businessman Franklin Steele, in Fort Snelling. [1] [2] [4] They had four children: daughters Mary Steele and C. W. and sons Charles and Henry. [5]

Natchez, Mississippi Sole incorporated city in Mississippi, United States

Natchez is the county seat and only city of Adams County, Mississippi, United States. Natchez has a total population of 15,792. Located on the Mississippi River across from Vidalia in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, Natchez was a prominent city in the antebellum years, a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade.

Galena, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Galena is the largest city in and the county seat of Jo Daviess County, Illinois, with a population of 3,429 at the 2010 census. A 581-acre (235 ha) section of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Galena Historic District. The city is named for the mineral galena, which was mined by Native Americans in the area for over a thousand years. Owing to these deposits, Galena was the site of the first major mineral rush in the United States. By 1828, the population was estimated at 10,000, rivaling the population of Chicago at the time. The city emerged as the largest steamboat hub on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. Galena was the home of Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Today, the city is a tourist destination known for its history, architecture, and resorts.

Saint Paul, Minnesota Capital of Minnesota

Saint Paul is the capital and second-most populous city of the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of 2017, the city's estimated population was 309,180. Saint Paul is the county seat of Ramsey County, the smallest and most densely populated county in Minnesota. The city lies mostly on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the area surrounding its point of confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Minneapolis, the state's largest city. Known as the "Twin Cities", the two form the core of Minneapolis–Saint Paul, the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the United States, with about 3.6 million residents.

Potts was a pioneer physician in St. Paul and one of the organizers of the Minnesota Historical Society, which formed in 1849. [6] He practiced medicine in St. Paul for 26 years. During his years of practice he served as contract physician to Fort Snelling, physician to the Dakota, Medical Purveyor of the district, and Pension Surgeon. [1]

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. state of Minnesota. It was founded by the territorial legislature in 1849, almost a decade before statehood. The Society is named in the Minnesota Constitution. It is headquartered in the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul.

Dakota people native American people in the mid northern U.S. and mid southern Canada

The Dakota are a Native American tribe and First Nations band government in North America. They compose two of the three main subcultures of the Sioux people, and are typically divided into the Eastern Dakota and the Western Dakota.

President of the Town Board of St. Paul

On May 6, 1850, according to the provisions of the newly formed town's charter, the first election of "house-holders of the town" was held. [7] Potts was elected as the first President of the Town Board, an office equivalent to mayor, in an election was not seriously contested. He served alongside future St. Paul mayor Edmund Rice, who served as City Recorder. [1] The role of President of the Town Board, in addition to the duties currently held by the Mayor of St. Paul, also included the role of conservator of the peace; this included acting as the early municipal court and exercising jurisdiction over all criminal matters within the town. As the police force of the city consisted of one man, Potts would have to summon him to keep order over any cases he would hear. Since St. Paul did not yet have a jail, those sentenced would be sent to Fort Snelling. Potts served until 1851 and, tired of politics, declined reelection. [8]

Edmund Rice (politician) American politician

Edmund Rice was an American politician. Rice served in the U.S. Congress in Minnesota's 4th District from March 4, 1887, to March 3, 1889.

Later years and legacy

Potts in 1872. ThomasRPotts1872.jpg
Potts in 1872.

In 1853 he was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Medical Association, serving as its first president. [9] In 1866 he was elected as City Physician, and as health officer of St. Paul in 1873. It was while serving as health officer that he died suddenly on October 6, 1874. By the time of his death he was the senior practicing physician of the city. [1]

Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) is a non-profit professional association representing physicians, residents, and medical students, working together for a healthy Minnesota. With 10,000 members, the MMA is an advocate on health care issues at the State Capitol and in Washington D.C. It provides a connection between physicians and lawmakers through a variety of events at the State Capitol and in legislator's home districts.

Potts lived for many years in a small, white house on Roberts Street in St. Paul, and despite having a large practice and many offices did not care much about money. He left little in ways of property to his widow, who later lived for a time with the family of Henry Hastings Sibley, who was her brother-in-law. [5] His daughter Mary Steele married Crawford Livingston, a successful banker and businessman, on January 28, 1875. [2] His widow went to live with them at their home on 432 Summit Avenue, and later died there on February 1, 1901; she was 80 years of age. [5] [10] His son Henry S. Potts worked as a county surveyor in Ramsey County, led a party up to the Klondike Gold Rush, and returned to continue public service. [11]

During his years in St. Paul, Potts was described as an "institution" and "a man everybody liked and of whom an unkind word was never said." [5] [8] His personality was described as fun, humorous and social, and his practice was termed "kind-hearted". [5] He was considered a strong candidate for any elected position in Ramsey County; however he despised politics and after his brief term as mayor decided to stick to the practice of medicine. [8]

Related Research Articles

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson English physician and feminist

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was an English physician and suffragist. She was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. She was the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as Mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.

Richfield, Minnesota City in Minnesota, United States

Richfield is a city in Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States. An inner-ring suburb of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul region, it is bordered by Minneapolis to the north, Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport to the east, Bloomington to the south, and Edina to the west. Best Buy, the U.S.'s largest electronics retailer, has its headquarters in Richfield. The population was 35,228 at the 2010 census.

Fort Snelling historic fort in Minnesota near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota River

Fort Snelling, originally known as Fort Saint Anthony, is a United States military fortification located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers in Hennepin County, Minnesota. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a National Park Service unit, includes historic Fort Snelling.

Saint Anthony Falls waterfall on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Saint Anthony Falls or the Falls of Saint Anthony, located northeast of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River. The natural falls were replaced by a concrete overflow spillway after it partially collapsed in 1869. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, a series of locks and dams was constructed to extend navigation to points upstream.

Henry Hastings Sibley first governor of Minnesota

Henry Hastings Sibley was the first Governor of the U.S. state of Minnesota and a U.S. Representative of the Minnesota Territory and the Wisconsin Territory.

History of Minnesota history of the US state of Minnesota

The history of the U.S. state of Minnesota is shaped by its original Native American residents, European exploration and settlement, and the emergence of industries made possible by the state's natural resources. Minnesota achieved prominence through fur trading, logging, and farming, and later through railroads, and iron mining. While those industries remain important, the state's economy is now driven by banking, computers, and health care.

A. A. Ames American Civil War surgeon, mob boss and politician

Albert Alonzo "Doc" Ames was a doctor and politician who held four non-consecutive terms as mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His fourth term was marked by allegations of widespread corruption which were popularized by muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens in a 1903 article in McClure's Magazine titled The Shame of Minneapolis. Ames was found guilty of corruption, but after a successful appeal and multiple mistrials the charges were dropped.

Chris Coleman (politician) American mayor

Christopher B. "Chris" Coleman is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 54th Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota between 2006 and 2018. He defeated incumbent mayor Randy Kelly in 2005 and took office on January 3, 2006. He was later succeeded by city councilman Melvin Carter on January 2, 2018

Nicholas David Coleman was a Minnesota politician and a former member and majority leader of the Minnesota Senate. A Democrat, he was first elected in 1962 and reelected in 1966, 1970, 1972, and 1976. He represented the old districts 45, 46, and 65, which changed through the years due to legislative redistricting, and included portions of the city of Saint Paul in Ramsey County.

William Dawson, was mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States, from 1878 to 1881. He was born in County Cavan, Ireland on October 1, 1825. He was a successful banker. When he was elected as mayor, he became the first mayor to be Irish in Saint Paul. He died on February 19, 1901. He died poor after his Bank of Minnesota failed five years before he died. There is a two-acre park named after him in Saint Paul. He is the namesake of the city of Dawson, Minnesota.

History of Minneapolis

Minneapolis is the largest city by population in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the county seat of Hennepin County. The origin and growth of the city was spurred by the proximity of Fort Snelling, the first major United States military presence in the area, and by its location on Saint Anthony Falls, which provided power for sawmills and flour mills.

Franklin Steele American settler

Franklin Steele was an early and significant settler of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States. Born in Chester County, Pennsylvania of Scottish descent, Steele worked in the Lancaster post-office as a young man, where he once met James Buchanan.

History of the Irish in Saint Paul

Irish in Saint Paul, Minnesota have played an integral part in the founding and the growth of the city. The first Irish to settle in Saint Paul were three soldiers from Fort Snelling who were natives of Ireland. They became the first settlers in the area of downtown Saint Paul. Helped by Archbishop John Ireland, thousands of Irish emigrated from Ireland and Eastern cities in the United States to Minnesota; the majority settled in Saint Paul.

William Freeborn was a pioneer in Minnesota, Montana, and California. Freeborn County, Minnesota is named in his honor.

John Jay "J.J." Dewey was an American physician and Minnesota territorial legislator.

George Loomis Becker

George Loomis Becker was an American lawyer and Democratic politician who served as mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Fort Snelling (unorganized territory), Minnesota Unorganized territory in Minnesota, United States

Fort Snelling is an unorganized territory of Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States named after historic Fort Snelling, located within its boundaries. The territory also includes Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and various government facilities, and as of the 2010 census had a population of 149.

John Steele (pioneer)

John Steele was an Irish-American pioneer, local politician, physician, and astrologist. Born in Ireland, after converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Glasgow, Steele and his wife emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois. Steele joined the Mormon Battalion and traveled to Salt Lake City with the Mormon pioneers. He was one of the founders of Parowan, Utah. Steele also contributed to the development of Iron, Kane, and Washington counties in Utah.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 John Fletcher Williams, A history of the city of Saint Paul to 1875, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1983, accessed December 5, 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 Cuyler Reynolds, Genealogical and family history of southern New York and the Hudson River Valley, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1914, accessed December 5, 2010.
  3. General alumni catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania. General Alumni Society, 1917, accessed December 5, 2010.
  4. T. M. Newson, Early Settler is Gone, St. Paul Daily Globe, February 2, 1901, accessed December 6, 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 T. M. Newson, Pen Pictures of Saint Paul, Minnesota, St. Paul Daily Globe, April 20, 1884, accessed December 6, 2010.
  6. Ralph Budd, The History of the Society and the Community, Minnesota History, December 1939, accessed December 5, 2010.
  7. History of the Police and Fire Departments of the Twin Cities, 1899, Saint Paul Police Historical Society, accessed December 5, 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 Over Forty Years Ago. The Early Mayors of This Municipality, St. Paul Daily Globe, July 8, 1894, accessed December 5, 2010.
  9. History of The Medical Practice of Neurology in St. Paul, University of Minnesota Medical School -- Department of Neurology, accessed December 5, 2010.
  10. T. M. Newson, Early St. Paul Settler Gone, The Minneapolis Journal, February 02, 1901, accessed December 6, 2010.
  11. T. M. Newson, Henry S. Potts - Candidate for Democratic Nomination for County Supervisor, St. Paul Daily Globe, September 18, 1904, accessed December 6, 2010.