The charter of the city of Chicago bears date March 4,1837, and the first election for city officers was held on the first Tuesday in May, 1837. Not a few of the men and women who saw it when an Indian trading post, with Fort Dearborn to defend the settlers, are still among us, and the ladies certainly would not feel complimented were they called old. Hence whatever is said about "The Early Times in Chicago" must be regarded as relative, for the city had not yet numbered thirty-eight years. As I first saw Chicago in October, 1846, and commenced my permanent residence here on the 12th of May, 1848, I can scarcely be called an old citizen, and yet in that time it has grown from a city of about 18,000 (later in the season the census gave us 20,023) to nearly, if not quite, 450,000 — an increase never before equaled by any city in the history of the world. From a city then scarcely ever mentioned, she has become fourth in rank and population upon the American Continent.
2But granting for the moment that I am an old citizen, I recognize the duty of placing on record — as myself and others have doubtless often been urged to do — what I know personally of the history of Chicago. Though this may require a too frequent use of the personal pronoun, your Directors are responsible if I bore you with it. If each citizen would do it, the future historian could select what best suited his purpose, and Chicago would have what no other city has, a history from its earliest times, written by its living inhabitants. In 1854 I prepared and published some notes on the history of the Town of Chicago — in fact, going back to the discovery of the site by the French Jesuit missionaries, Marquette and Joliet, — and I shall devote the hour to giving you a supplement to what used to be called "Our Pamphlet" of 1854. This was ably continued by my friend, Elias Colbert, in 1868; but neither of them pretends to give much of how Chicago appeared to the visitor in the "earlier times" of its history.
Your speaker, as above stated, first arrived in Chicago early in the morning of the second Sabbath in October, 1846, now of course nearly thirty years ago. We landed from the steamer Oregon, Captain Cotton, near the foot of Wabash Avenue, and, with others, valise in hand, trudged through the sand to the American Temperance House, then situated on the northwest corner of Wabash Avenue and Lake
3Street, Soon after breakfast a tall young man, made apparently taller by a cloth cloak in which his gaunt figure seemed in danger of losing itself, and whose reserved, modest manners were the very reverse of what we had expected to find at the West, called on the clergy of our party and invited one of them to preach and the rest of us to attend service in the Second Presbyterian Church. That cloak would now be well filled by its owner, the Rev. Dr. Patterson, who has grown physically as well as intellectually and morally with the growth of the city, to whose moral welfare he has so largely contributed. Of course we all went to what by courtesy, as we thought, was called a church. It was a one-story, balloon, shanty-like structure that had been patched out at one end to meet the wants of the increasing congregation. It stood on Randolph Street, south side, a little east of Clark. It certainly gave no promise of the antique but splendid church that before the fire stood on the corner of Washington Street and Wabash Avenue, or that still more elaborate and costly building, the Rev. Dr. Gibson's church, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Twentieth Street.
That afternoon and Monday morning afforded ample time to see the city. The residence portion of it was mainly between Randolph and Madison streets, and there were some scattered houses as far south as Van Buren, on the South Side, four or five blocks north of
4the river on the North Side, with scattering residences about as far on the West Side. There were perhaps half a dozen or more wooden warehouses along the river on Water Street. The few stores that pretended to be wholesale were on Water Street, and the retail trade was exclusively done on Lake Street. Stores and dwellings were, with few exceptions, built in the balloon fashion. To some of my hearers this style of building may already be mysterious. Posts were placed in the ground at the corners, and at proper distances between them blocks were laid down singly or in cob-house fashion. On these foundations were laid, and to these were spiked, standing on end, 3x4 scantling. On these sheathboards were nailed, and weatherboards on the outside of them; and lath and plaster inside, with the roof, completed the dwelling or store. This cheap, but for a new town, excellent, mode of building, it is claimed, was first introduced, or, if you please, invented, in Chicago, and I believe the claim to be true. Of course the fire made sad havoc with them at times; but the loss was comparatively small, and they were quickly and cheaply rebuilt. True, Chicago was ridiculed as a slab city; but, if not pleasant, to bear ridicule breaks no bones. When our merchants and capitalists had grown rich enough to build permanent buildings, of course they did it. Then there were not as many bricks laid in walls in the whole city as there
5are now in single blocks anywhere near the business center of the city. Chicago need not shrink from comparing them with those in any other city upon the continent.
My first objective point in northern Illinois was Batavia, on Fox River, forty miles distant, where some Orange County (N. Y.) friends resided. As Frink & Walker's stages did not pass through the town except on the road along the river, the problem was how to get there. The streets were full of farmers' teams, and in half an hour's tour among them we found a man who, for a small sum, agreed to land us there Monday evening. It was nearly noon before we got started, and as two of my traveling companions lived three or four miles west of Fox River, and were bound to get home that night, they soon began to use all their arts to urge our Jehu onward. At the old tavern on the west side of the Aux Plaines, near the bridge, they treated the old farmer freely, and again at Cottage Hill, Babcock's Grove, and other places; but sooth to say, the whisky, though it had a marked effect upon the old man, must then, as now, have been "crooked," for the more he got of it inside of his vest the slower he stubbornly determined to drive his team; but he assured us he would "root along" and get to Batavia that evening, and he did. Of course, an account of my journey to St. Louis and up the Ohio homeward has no place in this lecture.
6As a specimen of traveling in 1848, I mention that it took us nearly a week to come from New York to Chicago. Our trip was made by steamer to Albany; railway cars at a slow pace to Buffalo; by the steamer Canada thence to Detroit; and by the Michigan Central Railway, most of the way on strap rail, to Kalamazoo; here the line ended, and, arriving about eight o'clock in the evening, after a good supper, we started about ten in a sort of a cross between a coach and a lumber box-wagon for St. Joseph. The road was exceedingly rough, and, with bangs and bruises all over our bodies, towards morning several of us left the coach and walked on, very easily keeping ahead. In this tramp I made the acquaintance of John S. Wright, then, and for many years afterward, one of the most enterprising and valuable citizens Chicago ever had. He gave me a cordial welcome and a great deal of valuable information. On Sabbath he called and took me to church, and embraced many opportunities to introduce me to Mayor Woodworth and other leading citizens, giving me a lesson in courtesy to strangers which I have never forgotten. I beg to impress it upon you all as a duty too much neglected in the hurry and bustle that surrounds us on every side.
The steamer Sam Ward, with Captain Clement first officer, and jolly Dick Somers as steward, afterwards Alderman, brought us to the city on the evening of the 12th of May,
71848, and here, at 121 Lake Street, with Dr. Scammon's drug-store on one side and Lock's clothing store on the other, the stranger from the East settled down quietly as a bookseller. The city had added four thousand to its population in the year and a half after I first saw it; but it had changed very little in appearance. It was still pre-eminently a slab city. The Illinois and Michigan Canal had been opened the month before, and during the summer packets were put on, and, running in connection with steamers on the Illinois River, quite an impetus was given to travel through the city. To them it did not present a very inviting aspect. The balloon buildings above spoken of were mostly dingy and weather-beaten. The only two stone buildings in the city, built of blue limestone brought as ballast from the lower lakes, stood on Michigan Avenue between Lake and South Water streets, on the site now occupied by the Illinois Central Railroad offices. They were the aristocratic mansions of the city. There were a few brick residences and stores, but these were the exception. It was curious to notice how long some of the old balloon buildings would escape the fire. The old store in which Mosely & McCord commenced business, between Clark and La Salle streets, on the north side of Lake, was built when the proprietors could look south to Blue Island with not a building in front to obstruct the view. There it stood, with the
8sign "Mosely & McCord " just below the roof, till it was all surrounded by brick buildings, and the insurance on it has cost ten times what the building was ever worth. Subtract the few scattering brick buildings on South Clark Street, in the vicinity of Twelfth Street, and the dingy shanties in that vicinity on Clark Street and Third and Fourth avenues will best represent what most of Chicago was in 1848.
And here I may as well mention the sources from which our fine building materials are derived. Till after that year it was supposed that we had no good rock for building anywhere near the city. The blue-limestone quarries from which the stone for the two dwellings above mentioned was taken, were thought to be our best and cheapest source of supply. Besides these, there had been brought from the lower lakes some sandstone flagging. It lay in front of the Laflin residence block, corner of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue, where it served for a sidewalk up to the time of the fire in 1871. Discussions, held for a long time by the trustees of the Second Presbyterian Society, when it was proposed to build a new church edifice in 1849, resulted in their determining to use stone found near the western limits of the city. The location has become somewhat famous as the site of our first artesian well. The rock is a porous limestone, with sufficient silex mixed with it to make it very hard. It seems to have been
9formed under a bed of bitumen, or coal, for the pores in the rock are filled with it, and hence some of the less porous stones in the church were of a pale creamy color, while others were so filled with pitch or bitumen that it oozed out in hot weather, and they were as black as tar. Hence it was called the speckled or spotted church, a name which, referring to an unfortunate occurrence in its after history, my friend Sam Bowles said was derived from its speckled morality. The same rock was used in rebuilding the church at the corner of Twentieth Street and Michigan Avenue. The use of this rock was really the first important event of the kind in the building history of the city.
While this material was regarded as a most excellent one for church purposes, giving them an antique and venerable appearance, it was not considered the thing for the Cook County Courthouse in 1852 or '53 — I did not have time in this, as in some other cases, to look up the exact date. Our wise men of that ancient period, after due deliberation, determined to use a rock found at Lockport, New York, a bluish-colored limestone. Fortunate it was that official plundering had not then, as now, been reduced to a science, or the entire county would have been forever swamped in the debt contracted for the money to build it. This was regarded as the cheapest and best rock that could be had for building — for such
10structures — and was the second really progressive step in the building of the city.
During all this time it is remarkable that no one had thought of the limestone quarries through which the canal had been cut for several miles this side of Lockport. The reason probably was that some of the strata were not well crystallized and rotted readily; but tens of thousands of cords of it that showed no signs of decay lay scattered along the canal. In 1852 or 1853 some one, if I mistake not, ex-Mayor Sherman, built a store on Randolph Street, — it was afterwards removed to Clark Street opposite the Courthouse, — facing it with this stone. Everybody was delighted with its beautiful color. It was found to become very hard when seasoned, and pronounced a marble by President Hitchcock, of Amherst College. It very soon came into general use. In December, 1853, the Illinois Stone and Lime Company was formed, with A. S. Sherman, now of Waukegan, as its efficient manager. The next summer, Harry Newhall built two very fine dwellings of it on Michigan Avenue between Adams and Jackson streets, and M. D. Gilman followed with another next to Newhall, and after that its use became general. It is conceded to be one of the best and most beautiful building materials in the world. Cheaply quarried and easily accessible by water, Chicago owes much of her prestige and prosperity to these Athens
11marble quarries. From it also Chicago constructs the best sidewalks in the world, for, resting on an inner and outer wall, they are unaffected by frost, and are always smooth and pleasant to the pedestrian. Before, and especially since the fire, Chicago has drawn upon the beautiful sandstone quarries of Ohio; the red sandstone of Connecticut and of Lake Superior; she has cheap access to the marble deposits and the granite of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, 150 miles west of the head of Lake Superior, and it is now conceded that no city in the world has a better variety of building material or is making a more judicious and liberal use of it.
Going back to 1848, after remaining a week at the City Hotel, corner of State and Lake streets, I was admitted to a most excellent home, that of the late Rev. Ira M. Weed, corner of Madison and State streets, where Buck & Rayner's drug-store now is. This was considered far south, and as the sidewalks were not all good, the best that could be found was south on Dearborn to Madison, where a very large sign on a paintshop, where the Bank of Commerce now is and directly opposite the Tribune office, reminded me to turn eastward. The sidewalks, where such luxuries were indulged in, lay in most cases upon the rich prairie soil, for the stringpieces of scantling, to which the planks were originally spiked, would soon sink down into the mud after a
12rain, and then as one walked, the green and black slime would gush up between the cracks to the great benefit of retailers of blacking. One's disgust can be understood when it is stated that this meant some minutes of active personal service in the morning, for this was long before the professional bootblack was born — certainly before he made his advent in Chicago.
In March, 1849, — I think March was the month, — my family having arrived per steamer Niagara the August previous, we commenced housekeeping on Wabash Avenue between Adams and Jackson streets, in a cozy little house at the modest rent of twelve dollars per month. In May following I bought of Judge Jesse B. Thomas forty feet on Michigan Avenue, commencing eighty feet south of the corner of Van Buren Street, for $1,250. The Judge had bought it at the canal sales in the spring of 1848 for $800, on canal time; viz., — as Dr. Egan afterward directed in taking his pills, — one-quarter down, balance in one, two and three years. I paid the Judge his profit and what he had advanced on the first payment, and assumed the balance due the canal trustees, and took the deed to me directly from them. It was in a safe place during the fire, and of course is now a very ancient document. In the fall of 1849 I bought a small wood house that I found moving along on Wabash Avenue, and moved
13it on my lot. In this modest home we spent some six very happy years. Judge Manierre lived on Michigan Avenue, corner of Jackson Street, where the Gardner House now is. Harry Newhall lived on the block north. Mine was the only house on block nine, except a small tenement on the rear of a neighboring lot, where lived an African friend and brother named William. There were at first no sidewalks for a considerable distance north, and hence we were not troubled with promenaders on the avenue. The lake shore was perhaps a hundred feet east of the street. There my brother John and myself, rising early in the morning, bathed in summer for two or three years. We had an excellent cow — for we virtually lived in the country — that, contrary to all domestic propriety, would sometimes wander away, and I usually found her out on the prairie in the vicinity of Twelfth Street. I saw a wolf run by my house as late as 1850. An incident in the purchase of the lot will illustrate the loneliness of our situation. The rule of the speculators at the canal sales was to buy all the property on which the speculator could make the first payment, and then sell enough each year to make the others. Judge Thomas had followed this plan, and advertised a large list of property in the spring of 1849. He sold to myself and the Rev. Dr. Patterson adjoining lots at $1,250 at private sale; but it was agreed that these should be sold with the
14rest, so as to attract customers, as Michigan Avenue had become somewhat popular as a prospective place of residence. When my lot was struck off to me for $1,300, Harry New-hall came across the room, and said, "Bross, did you buy that lot to live on? Are you going to improve it?" "Yes," was the reply. "Well," said he, "I'm glad of it; I'm glad some one is going to live beyond me. It won't be so lonesome if we can see somebody going by night and morning." We then lived, as above stated, on Wabash Avenue, between Adams and Jackson streets.
In the winter of 1851-52 my friend, the late Charles Starkweather, insisted on selling me fourteen acres of land immediately south of Twenty-sixth Street, and east of State to Michigan Avenue. Captain Clement and myself went out of town to look at it, going across lots south of Twelfth Street. It was away out on the prairie, and I made up my mind that the price ($500 per acre) was too much. I could raise the $1,000 to make the first payment; but where was the six per cent on the balance for the next ten years to come from? Captain Clement took the property, paid the $1,000, and, in seven months, sold it for $1,000 an acre, clearing in that time $7,000 on an investment of $ 1,000. But the Captain let a fortune slip through his hands, for that fourteen acres is now valued by James H. Reese, Esq., at $560,000, or $40,000 per
15acre. In that case, as in scores of others, I too just escaped getting rich; but I have an abundance of good company, for hundreds of my fellow-citizens have missed opportunities equally good.
Take the following instances: Walter L. Newberry bought the forty acres that form his addition to Chicago, of Thomas Hartzell, in 1833, for $1,062. It is now valued at $1,000,000. Major Kingsbury had been off on an exploring expedition about this time, till his pay as an army officer, above his immediate necessities, amounted to some six hundred dollars. A brother officer advised him to salt this down for his two children. He bought for it 160x180 feet corner of Clark and Randolph streets, and twenty-seven acres on the North Branch. It is now worth from $600,000 to $1,000,000. One quick at figures could probably show that at compound interest the cost of the land would have realized much more than it is now worth. In time this certainly will be true; but if the rents of the land are taken in place of the interest, let him who has time to make the figures determine what would have been the more profitable investment.
I said we had no pavements in 1848. The streets were simply thrown up as country roads. In the spring, for weeks, portions of them would be impassable. I have at different times seen empty wagons and drays stuck on Lake and Water streets on every block between
16Wabash Avenue and the river. Of course there was little or no business doing, for the people of the city could not get about much, and the people of the country could not get in to do it. As the clerks had nothing to do, they would exercise their wits by putting boards from dry goods boxes in the holes where the last dray was dug out, with significant signs, as, "No Bottom Here," "The Shortest Road to China." Sometimes one board would be nailed across another, and an old hat and coat fixed on it, with the notice "On His Way to the Lower Regions." In fact, there was no end to the fun; and jokes of the boys of that day — some were of larger growth — were without number.
Our first effort at paving, or one of the first, was to dig down Lake Street to nearly or quite on a level with the lake, and then plank it. It was supposed that the sewage would settle in the gutters and be carried off, but the experiment was a disastrous failure, for the stench at once became intolerable. The street was then filled up, and the Common Council established a grade from two to six or eight feet above the natural level of the soil. This required the streets to be filled up, and for a year or two Chicago lived mostly on jack-screws, for the buildings had to be raised as well as the streets. Until all the sidewalks were raised to grade, people had to go up and down stairs from four to half a dozen steps
17two or three times in passing a single block. A Buffalo paper got off a note on us to the effect that one of her citizens going along the street was seen to run up and down every pair of cellar stairs he could find. A friend asking after his sanity, was told that the walkist was all right, but that he had been in Chicago a week, and, in traveling our streets, had got so accustomed to going up and down stairs that he got the springhalt and could not help it.
The Court-house Square should not be forgotten. On the northwest corner of it stood, till long after 1848, the Jail, built "of logs firmly bolted together," as the account has it. It was not half large enough to hold the aldermen that, if standing now, ought to be in it, not to speak of the Whisky Ring, and certainly it was not strong enough to keep them there. The Courthouse stood on the northeast corner of the Square — a two-story building of brick, I think, with offices in the lower story. They stood there until 1853, when they where torn down to give place to the new building completed in that year.
I said we had no gas when I first came to the city. It was first turned on and the town lighted in September, 1850. Till then we had to grope on in the dark, or use lanterns. Not till 1853 or '54 did the pipes reach my house, No. 202 Michigan Avenue.
But the more important element, water, and its supply to the city, have a curious history.
18In 1848, Lake and Water, and perhaps Randolph streets, and the cross streets between them east of the river, were supplied from logs. James H. Woodworth ran a grist-mill on the north side of Lake Street near the lake, the engine for which also pumped the water into a wooden cistern that supplied the logs. Whenever the lake was rough the water was excessively muddy, but in this myself and family had no personal interest, for we lived outside of the water supply. Wells were in most cases tabooed, for the water was bad, and we, in common with perhaps a majority of our fellow-citizens, were forced to buy our water by the bucket or the barrel from water-carts. This we did for six years, and it was not till the early part of 1854 that water was supplied to the houses from the new works upon the North Side. But our troubles were by no means ended. The water was pumped from the lake shore the same as in the old works, and hence, in storms, it was still excessively muddy. In the spring and early summer it was impossible to keep the young fish out of the reservoir, and it was no uncommon thing to find the unwelcome fry sporting in one's washbowl, or dead and stuck in the faucets. And besides they would find their way into the hot-water reservoir, where they would get stewed up into a very nauseous fish chowder. The water at such times was not the only horror of all good housewives, but it was justly
19thought to be very unhealthy. And, worse than all this, while at ordinary times there is a slight current on the lake shore south, and the water, though often muddy and sometimes fishy, was comparatively good, when the wind blew strongly from the south, often for several days the current was changed, and the water from the river, made from the sewage mixed with it into an abominably filthy soup, was pumped up and distributed through the pipes alike to the poorest street gamin and to the nabobs of the city. Mind you, the summit level of the canal had not then been dug down and the lake water been turned south. The Chicago River was the source of all the most detestably filthy smells that the breezes of heaven can possibly float to disgusted olfactories. Davis' filters had an active sale, and those of us who had cisterns betook ourselves to rain-water — when filtered, about the best water one can possibly get.
As Chicago, with all her enterprise, did not attempt to stop the south wind from blowing, and her filthy water had become unendurable, it was proposed to run a tunnel under the lake to a point two miles from the shore, where the water was always pure, — one of the boldest and most valuable thoughts ever broached by a civil engineer, — but our able fellow-citizen, E. S. Chesbrough, not only planned but carried out the great enterprise to a successful conclusion. Ground was broken March 17,
201864; it was completed December 6, 1866, but it was not till March 25, 1867, that the water was let in and began to be pumped into the pipes to supply the city. A few words as to the way it was constructed: In digging under the city a hard blue clay is reached at the depth of a few feet. Experiments proved that this bed of hard, compact clay extended under the lake. At the foot of Chicago Avenue, where it was proposed to sink the shore end, a bed of quicksand had to be passed through. To do this, cast-iron cylinders were procured, nine feet long. The flanges by which they were to be bolted together were on the inside, so that they could sink smoothly through the sand. These were lowered successfully, as the material from the inside was taken out, till the hardpan was reached. Brick was then used. The water two miles from shore was thirty-five feet deep. In order to start that end of the tunnel an octagonal crib was built of square timber, framed and bolted firmly together, with several water-tight compartments and a space in the center left open sufficiently large to receive the same kind of cast-iron cylinders as were used at the shore end. The crib was nearly one hundred feet in diameter, and, if I mistake not, fifty or sixty feet high. It was built in the harbor, and during a calm it was towed out two miles and anchored due east of Chicago Avenue; then scuttled, the compartments were filled with
21stones and it was imbedded firmly into the mud at the bottom of the lake. The cylinders were bolted together and forced down into the hardpan, the water was pumped out and the brickwork was fairly commenced. The shore shaft was sunk ninety feet, and then at the crib eighty-five feet, and then the workmen at each end commenced excavating and bricking up the tunnel towards each other. Of course I need not give more particulars, nor speak of the four-mile tunnel to the corner of Ashland Avenue and Twenty-second Street, where new pumping works are in process of erection — our works on the lake shore being found only capable of supplying the 450,000 people now said to be in the city. Chicago may well be proud of her water works, for they are truly splendid, and furnish her with an abundance of as pure water as can be found in any city in the world.
We had no sewers in 1848. The first attempts were made a year or two later with oak plank, I think on Clark Street. I have no time nor space for particulars, but will only add that a thorough and effective system has been extended through all the more thickly settled portions of the city, and the deepening of the Illinois & Michigan Canal carries the sewage down the Illinois River, and, except when ice covers the canal and river for many weeks, it does no damage whatever, and does not even make itself known by offensive odors.
22Our mails from the East came by steamer from St. Joseph or New Buffalo, or by stage from the west end of the Michigan railways, till February 20, 1852, when the Michigan Southern was opened to this city. Of course during severe storms, while navigation was open, and during the winter and spring, when the roads were about impassable, they were very irregular. Sometimes we would be a week or two without any news from the outside world. Our long winter evenings were employed in reading, — much more so than now, — in attending lectures and debates at the Mechanics' Institute, in going to church, and in social life. Chicago people have always had abundant means to employ their time fully and profitably. The postoffice stood on Clark Street, on the alley where the north side of the Sherman House now is. It had a single delivery window a foot square, opening into a room with a door on the alley, and another on Clark Street. All the city could see the flag flying from the Sherman House, when the mail steamer from the other side of the lake was signaled. Each one knew how long it would take her to reach her dock and the mails to get distributed. For a long time before the delivery window would open, the people would begin to assemble, the first taking his station at the window and the others forming in line through the rear door into the alley, often far into the street, like a long line of voters at
23election. Here I saw one day an incident which I mention as a tribute to one of the best and noblest of men, and as an example for all of us to follow. At one time when we had been without mail for a week or more, I stood in the line perhaps a dozen from the window and Robert Stewart two or three ahead of me. Just as the window opened and the column began to move, a woman, poorly clad and evidently a foreigner, rushed in at the front door, and, casting her eye down that long line of men, the muscles of her face twitched and she trembled with anxiety. She evidently expected a letter from dear ones far away over the broad Atlantic. Not a word was uttered by the crowd, and there she stood, waiting in agony for the crowd to pass by, till it came to Mr. Stewart's turn. With a kindly wave of the hand he said, "Come here, my good woman," and, placing her directly in front of him, she grasped her letter, and with a suppressed "Thank the Lord and you, sir," she left, the most happy person in the crowd. Any man might do such an act for a lady in silks; but only a noble, Christian gentleman like Robert Stewart would do it for a poor, forlorn woman in calico.
There was not a railway entering the city from any direction in 1848. Some strap rails were laid down that fall, or during the winter following, on the Galena & Chicago, now the North Western, and in 1850, through the
24personal endorsement of ex-Mayor B. W. Raymond and Captain John B. Turner, men to whom Chicago is greatly indebted, it reached Elgin, forty miles westward. So cheaply and honestly was it built, and from the time it was finished to Elgin, forty miles, so large and lucrative was its business, that it paid large dividends, and demonstrated that Illinois railways could be made profitable investments. It became, in fact, the parent of the vast railway system of the West. It was marvelous how rapidly railways were projected in all directions, and how quickly they were built.
The Michigan Southern Railway was the first great eastern line to reach this city, which it did on the 20th of February, 1852. The Michigan Central was opened May 20th of the same year. These gave a very great impulse to the growth and prosperity of the city. These were times when the coming of great enterprises seemed to fill the air, and the men were found who where ready to grasp and execute them. The necessity of binding the South and the North together by iron bands had been broached and talked of, in Congress and elsewhere in 1848, and a few sagacious men had suggested the granting of alternate sections of the public lands to aid in the construction of the road as the only means by which it could be built. It had worked admirably in the case of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and it was agreed that the importance
25of the work would justify a similar grant in aid of a great through line from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. With the characteristic forecast and energy of her citizens, Chicago furnished the man who combined all interests and furnished the friends of the measure in Congress the means to carry it. That man was John S. Wright, who, as before stated, was one of the most far-seeing and valuable citizens Chicago ever had. The whirl and excitement in which he lived clouded his mind toward the close of his life; but if any one among our earlier citizens deserves a monument to his memory, that man is John S. Wright. I had the same office with him in 1849, and hence know personally of what I speak. At his own expense he printed thousands of circulars, stating briefly, but with sufficient fullness, the arguments in favor of building the road, its effect upon the commerce and the social and political welfare of the Union; that in granting the lands the Government would lose nothing, as the alternate sections would at once command double the price of both. To this a petition to Congress to make the grant was attached. At that time such mail matter went free to postmasters, and with a small circular asking them to interest themselves in getting signers to the petitions, or to put them in the hands of those who would, Mr. Wright (giving employment to his clerk for weeks) sent two or three of them to
26every postmaster between the Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. In the early part of the session of 1849-50 these petitions began to pour into Congress by the thousands, and still all through the summer of 1849 they kept coming. Members from all sections stood aghast at this deluge of public opinion that seemed about to overwhelm them, unless they at once passed a law making a grant of lands to the states to open a railway from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico. Our senators, Douglas and Shields, and representatives, Wentworth and others, saw their opportunity, and the bill was passed on the 20th day of September, 1850. On the 10th of February, 1851, the Illinois Legislature chartered the company, and its construction was placed in the hands of Colonel R. B. Mason. I need not add that a better selection could not possibly have been made.
Permit me to say here, by way of parenthesis, that omnibuses and horse-cars were introduced nearly ten years after this time. The City Railway Company was chartered February 14, 1859. Pardon the remark, that whatever honor attaches to driving the first spike belongs to your speaker. It was done on State, corner of Randolph. The road reached Twelfth Street on the 25th of April, 1859, only seventeen years ago. Now the whole city is gridironed with them, and they are essential to its business life.
27I should like to give you the history of the Rock Island, the Alton & St. Louis, the Burlington & Quincy, the Pittsburgh & Fort Wayne, and other roads, but time and space forbid. For several years succeeding 1854 the leading men of Chicago had to endure a great deal of eating and drinking, as our railways were opened to cities in all directions; and for this service, as for all others, they showed a capacity and willingness, as well as a modesty, which has made them distinguished all over the country. On the 10th of May, 1869, the Central and Union Pacific railways joined rails at Promontory Point, thus completing the grand railway system across the continent. And here I may be permitted the incidental remark that we who live with them, and enjoy the first fruits of their enterprise, do not sufficiently honor the men who bridge our great rivers and bind every section of the Union together in bands of iron and steel, never to be broken, — such men as Wm. B. Ogden, John B. Turner, R. B. Mason, Thomas C. Durant, Leland Stanford, and scores of others that might be named. History shows that it was not only the men who bore the victorious eagles of old Rome through distant nations, but who built roads to connect them with the Eternal City, that received the highest honors. Thus it was that great national thoroughfares were built thousands of miles long, from the North to the Black Sea, and as in that case all roads
28pointed towards Rome, so at least nine-tenths of all the roads in all this broad land point to Chicago. Do you know that the title even now worn by the Pope of Rome has come down to him from those old road-builders? Pontifex Maximus simply means the greatest bridge-builder, the proudest, and thus far the most enduring, title ever worn by earthly monarch. Let our city honor the men for making Chicago commercially in this centennial year what imperial Rome was politically in past ages. While we give all honor to these men, let not the name of John S. Wright be forgotten, who, addressing himself to even the greater work, in 1849, combined and gave direction to the political and moral forces that enabled them to complete the grandest system of improvements ever made in the history of the world.
You will expect me to say something of the press of the city. In 1848 the Journal had rooms in what was then the Saloon Building, on the southeast corner of Clark and Lake streets. The Gem of the Prairie, and the Tribune, as its daily, maintained a precarious existence in an old wooden shanty on the northwest corner of Lake and Clark streets. Messrs. Wheeler, Stewart, and Scripps were the editors. It was burned out, and then located at No. 171 1/2 Lake Street. My friend the Honorable John Wentworth published the Democrat in very aristocratic quarters — at
29Jackson Hall, on La Salle Street, just south of Lake. He had the only Hoe power press in the city. In the fall of 1849, finding I preferred my old occupation of using books rather than of selling them, I disposed of my interest in the bookstore to my partners. It was the original of the great house of Jansen, McCLurg and Company. The leading member of the firm now — my brother-in-law — I left in the store a mere boy, whose duties were to sweep out, carry packages, and generally to do a boy's business. I mention this as an example for the boys who hear me to follow.
I then formed a partnership with J. Ambrose Wight, then editor of the Prairie Farmer, — a most valuable paper owned by John S. Wright, — and we bought out the Herald of the Prairies, a religous paper, the organ alike of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists of the Northwest. The latter half of the concern survives in the Advance. It was then published on Wells Street, on the corner of the alley between Lake and Randolph streets. We soon moved to 171 Lake Street, next door to the Tribune; and in the rear building, on an old Adams press, the first power press ever brought to the city, we printed our own paper, and also the Tribune, for Messrs. Stewart, Wheeler & Scripps. The press was driven by Emery's horsepower, on which traveled, hour by hour, an old black Canadian pony. So far as my interest in the splendid machinery
30of the Tribune is concerned, that old blind pony ground out its beginnings, tramping on the revolving platform of Emery's horse-power.
By the autumn of 1851 Mr. Wright, a man who, as editor of the Prairie Farmer, did very much toward laying the foundations of the rapid progress and the great prosperity of the West, and now pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Bay City, Michigan, and myself, found out by sad experience that the Prairie Herald, as we then called it, could not be made to support two families, for we had scarcely paid current expenses. I therefore sold out to Mr. Wright, taking in payment his homestead lots on Harrison Street. That winter rather than have nothing to do I remained in his office with him, working for the large sum of one dollar per day. After a vacation of a few months, the late John L. Scripps and myself formed a partnership and issued the first number of the Democratic Press on the 16th of September, 1852. We started on a borrowed capital of $6,000, which all disappeared from sight in about six weeks. We put in all our services and profits, and about all the money we could borrow, never drawing a cent from the firm till after the first of January, 1855. This required nerve and the using up of funds, to a very considerable amount, which we had obtained from the sale of real estate; but we thought we could see future profit in the business and we
31worked on, never heeding discouragements for a moment. The hard times of 1857-58 brought the Democratic Press and the Tribune together, and Dr. Ray, J. Medill, John L. Scripps and myself became equal partners, with Mr. Cowles as business manager. Dr. Ray and Mr. Scripps have ceased from their labors, but not till they had done most effective and valuable work in the development and progress of Chicago. Mr. Scripps was postmaster during Mr. Lincoln's first administration. Both he and Dr. Ray were able and very cultivated gentlemen, and the memory of them should have a high place in the esteem and gratitude of their fellow-citizens. Mr. Medill, Mr. Cowles, and myself still stand by the old Tribune, with what efficiency and success the reading public can best judge.
I should like to have an hour to pay a passing tribute to the men who gave character to Chicago in 1848 and the years that followed. To Thomas Richmond, still with us; to John P. Chapin, Charles Walker and Captain Bristol, heavy dealers on Water Street; to Judge Giles Spring, Judge George Manierre, S. Lisle Smith, William H. Brown, George W. Meeker, Daniel McIlroy, James H. Collins, and others of the bench and bar; to Drs. Maxwell, Egan and Brainard; to Editors Dick Wilson, T. A. Stewart, John E. Wheeler, and James F. Ballantyne, as well as to Ray and Scripps; to the Rev. Dr. Tucker, Parson Barlow, and
32perhaps several others of the clergy. I should like to speak of Mayors F. C. Sherman, James Curtiss, J. H. Woodworth, and Thomas Dyer, all of whom have been relieved of earthly cares. Many of our oldest citizens still linger among us. Of these Colonel Gurdon S. Hubbard first came to Chicago in 1818, the year Illinois became a state. Still hale and happy, may he long bless Chicago with his presence. Of our ex-mayors previous to 1860, William B. Ogden, the first, Buckner S. Morris, B. W. Raymond, Walter S. Gurnee, Charles M. Gray, Isaac L. Miliken, Levi D. Boone, John Wentworth, and John C. Haines are still living. Of the clergy we still have the Rev. Dr. R. W. Patterson, "Whose praise," like one of old, "is in all the churches." Of our leading citizens we still have a host, almost too numerous to mention. The names of Jerome Beecher, General Webster, Timothy and Walter Wright, S. B. Cobb, Orrington Lunt, Philo Carpenter, Frederick and Nelson Tuttle, Peter L. Yoe, C. N. Holden, Charles L. and John Wilson, E. H. Haddock, E. D. Taylor, Judge J. D. Caton, J. Y. Scammon, Grant Goodrich, E. B. and Mancel Talcott, Mahlon D. Ogden, E. H. Sheldon, Mat. Laflin, James H. Reese, C. H. McCormick and brothers, P. W. Gates, A. Pierce, T. B. Carter, General S. L. Brown, Peter Page, William Locke, Buckner S. Morris, Captain Bates, and many others, will at once recur to our older citizens.
33Some of these gentlemen were not quite so full of purse when they came here as now. Standing in the parlor of the Merchants' Savings, Loan and Trust Company, five or six years ago, talking with the president, Sol. A. Smith, E. H. Haddock, Dr. Foster, and perhaps two or three others, in came Mr. Cobb, smiling and rubbing his hands in the greatest glee. "Well, what makes you so happy?" said one. "Oh," said Cobb, "this is the first day of June, the anniversary of my arrival in Chicago in 1833." "Yes," said Haddock, "the first time I saw you, Cobb, you were bossing a lot of Hoosiers weatherboarding a shanty-tavern for Jim Kinzie." "Well," Cobb retorted, in the best of humor, "you needn't put on any airs, for the first time I saw you, you were shingling an outhouse." Jokes and early reminiscences were then in order. It transpired that our solid president of the South Side Horse Railway left Montpelier, Vermont, with forty dollars in his pocket, but by some mishap when he reached Buffalo he had only nine dollars left. This was exactly the fare on the schooner to Chicago, but the captain told him he might buy some provisions, and if he would make no trouble and sleep on deck the boy could come to Chicago for what was left. Cobb got some sheeting, which some lady fellow-passengers sewed up for him, and he filled it with shavings, and this made his bed on deck. He got a ham, had it boiled,
34bought some bread, and, thus equipped and provisioned, he set sail for Chicago. There was then no entrance to the Chicago River, and the vessel anchored outside, a long way out, and the cabin passengers went ashore with the captain in a Mackinaw boat. A storm springing up, the mate lay off for three days between Michigan City and Waukegan. When the vessel returned, a cabin passenger, who had returned for baggage, was surprised to find Cobb still aboard. Cobb told him that the captain had gone back on him, and would not let him go ashore without the other three dollars, and what to do he did not know. This gentleman lent him the three dollars, and Cobb gladly came ashore. Though he knew nothing of the carpenter's trade, he accepted a situation to boss some Hoosiers, who were at work on Mr. Kinzie's excuse for a hotel, at $2.75 per day, and soon paid his friend. From that time to this he has seldom borrowed any money. Mr. Haddock also came to Chicago, I think, as a small grocer, and now these gentlemen are numbered among our millionaires. Young men, the means by which they have achieved success are exceedingly simple. They have sternly avoided all mere speculation; they have attended closely to legitimate business and invested any accumulating surplus in real estate. Go ye and do likewise, and your success will be equally sure.
Having seen Chicago in 1848 with no
35railways, no pavements, no sewers, scarcely an apology for waterworks — a mere city of shanties built on the black prairie soil — the temptation to imagine for her a magnificent future is almost irresistible.
I beg leave with characteristic Chicago modesty to refer to a prophecy which I ventured to make in 1854. I had just written and published the first exhaustive account of our railway system, followed by a history — the first also — of the city. In the closing paragraph I had the following sentences. The city had then not quite completed the seventeenth year of its existence, and I asked:
"What will the next seventeen years accomplish? We are now (1854) in direct railroad connection with all the Atlantic cities from Portland to Baltimore. Five, at most eight, years will extend the circle to New Orleans. By that time also we shall shake hands with the rich copper and iron mines of Lake Superior, both by canal and railroad, and long ere another seventeen years have passed away we shall have a great national railroad from Chicago to Puget Sound, with a branch to San Francisco."
By the time the building of the road was fairly undertaken, San Francisco had grown so largely in wealth and population that the main line was forced to that city. But in June, 1869, two years before the thirty-four years in the life of the city had passed away, I rode from
36Chicago to Sacramento with my good friend George M. Pullman in one of his splendid palace cars, with a dining car attached, and no one could possibly fare better than we did on the entire trip. Another line was open from Sacramento to Vallejo, nearly right across the bay from the City of the Golden Gate, so that practically the prophecy was literally fulfilled. Perhaps it was only a fortunate guess, and as I was educated in New England, you will permit me to guess again, and to bound the city for you on the nation's second centennial; viz., on the 4th of July, 1976. I think the north line will probably begin on the lake shore half-way between Evanston and Winnetka, and run due west to a point a least a mile west of the Aux Plaines River; thence due south to an east and west line that will include Blue Island, and thence southeast from Blue Island to the Indiana State line, and thence on that line to Lake Michigan. With my eye on the vast country tributary to the city, I estimate that Chicago will then contain at least 3,000,000 of people, and I would sooner say 4,000,000 than any less than 3,000,000. I base my opinions on the fact that the gastronomic argument controls mankind. Men will go and live where they can get the most and best food for the least labor. In this respect what city in the world can compete with Chicago? And I also assume that the nation for the next hundred years will remain one united, free and happy people.