Patten, Frank Chauncy (1855–1934)

By: Melbourne Jordan

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: September 24, 2020

Frank Chauncy Patten, librarian, was born on June 15, 1855, at Rochester, New York, the son of English parents Horace and Olive Maria (Rice) Patten. When Frank was four years old the family moved from Groton, Massachusetts, to Shields, Wisconsin, under the leadership of Benjamin Hall, an advocate of the Adventist movement. The Patten family lived in the Hall community for about three years before moving to a farm. Patten first attended college at the State Normal School at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1874, then taught in the Wisconsin public schools intermittently until 1881. He made his first trip to Texas in 1879, traveling most of the 1,750 miles by foot. He carried tools with him and found work as a repairman to help with expenses for the four-month trip. He lived on San Luis Peninsula that summer in a hut he constructed from driftwood. He was examined for a teacher's certificate in Brazoria County and organized a school of about twenty-five Blacks at Live Oak Point, which he taught until January 1880, when it was closed by the county judge because its money was exhausted. From 1884 to 1886 Patten attended Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin, where he also worked as a student library assistant. Before he left Wisconsin he also worked as a farm laborer, carpenter, and teacher. Between 1887 and 1901 he graduated from the first class of the Columbia College School of Library Economy and attended Harvard University. He subsequently spent seven years as librarian of the Helena, Montana, Public Library. On July 10, 1900, the state of Texas granted a charter to the Rosenberg Library Association of Galveston, and in 1903 Patten was appointed to supervise the completion of the library, which opened in June of 1904. Under his supervision the Negro Branch of Rosenberg Library was opened in January 1905. Patten emphasized children's services, the reference collection, public lectures, and the collection of materials concerning Galveston and Texas history. In 1918 he published a biography entitled Henry Rosenberg, 1824–1893. Patten was a member of the American Historical Association, the Texas Library Association, the Texas Historical Society of Galveston (see GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION), the Sons of the American Revolution, the Masonic order, and the Odd Fellows. He never married. In March 1931 Patten was baptized and confirmed in Trinity Episcopal Church of Galveston. He died on January 6, 1934. Funeral services were conducted at Trinity Episcopal Church, followed by Masonic services at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Patten left $12,000 of his estate to the Rosenberg Library.

Emory A. Bailey, Who's Who in Texas (Dallas: John B. McCraw Press, 1931). Mel Jordan, "Frank Patten and the Rosenberg Library," East Texas Historical Journal 14 (Fall 1976). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 24. Who's Who in Library Service, 1933.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Melbourne Jordan, “Patten, Frank Chauncy,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
September 24, 2020