Pictures and Illustrations.
William B. Ogden, Chicago's First Mayor.
Chicago Historical Society.
THE Hall of the Chicago Historical Society was filled by prominent citizens and old settlers to witness the proceedings on the presentation of the portrait of William B. Ogden.
On the platform were the Hon. Elihu B. Washburne, Judge Thomas Drummond, ex-Chief-Justice John Dean Caton; and on the right were the ex-Mayors of Chicago, B. W. Raymond, Isaac L. Milliken, John C. Haines, Julien S. Rumsey, Roswell B. Mason, Joseph Medill, and Thomas Hoyne, and many old settlers of Chicago.
Edwin H. Sheldon, Esq., on behalf of Mrs. Ogden, said:
"MR. PRESIDENT: — The Chicago Historical Society, some months since, passed a resolution, requesting Mrs. Ogden, the widow of the late William B. Ogden, to give to the Society a portrait of her late husband, who had been one of its founders, and always, during his life, a liberal benefactor. The resolution referred to Mr. Ogden, in apprpopriate terms, as one of the founders of the City, and as one who had projected and largely aided the execution of many great enterpirises, the benefits of which the peole of Chicago, and the North-West, are reaping in such full measure today.
"It is the special duty of this Society to perserve the history and faces of those who have conspicuously aided in developing and building up this great Western Empire, and in this spirit the resolution referred to was passed.
"Mrs. Ogden very generously gave the commission for the desired picture to Mr. George P. A. Healy, an artist of high repute in the art-centres of the world, who for a generation had been a personal friend of Mr. Ogden, and to whose pencil the Society, in years gone by, had been indebted for may valuable contriubtions to its colelctions. The picture before us is the result of that commission. Mr. Healy had painted Mr. Ogden from life a number of times; but, of all these picutres, only one survived the
4disastrous fire of 1871. The present portrait is painted from a photograph taken some ten or twelve years ago, and is the best presentation we have of Mr. Ogden, as he happeared in his later years.
"In all that has been said and written of Mr. Ogden, his public spirit and enterprise have stood forth prominelty. This is but a fair tribute to a noble trait, so useful in a new country. Although a man of large fortune, his spirit was not one of accumulation, but rather of development; and his improvements and active enterprises were always, not only fully up to, but often in advance of, his ready means. His fellow-citizens have done full justice to this feature of his character.
"But there is another trait, of which I feel impelled to speak — one not so well known, to which I wish briefly to allude. I lived under the same roof with Mr. Ogden for a quarter of a century, and for nearly all that time we carried out our house jointly, thus enforcing a very close and long-continued intimacy. These years brought to each of us, as they do to all, days of trial, of suffering, and of sorrow, and yet in all that time, looking back with careful scrutiny, I can not recall one harsh or unkind word received from him. His patience and forbearance were great; his friendship steadfast; and his good will unbounded. I speak strongly, perhaps; but only as I feel justified in doing, from an acquaintance of over forty years.
"I am charged with the pleasant duty of presenting this portrait, in behalf of Mrs. Ogden, to the Chicago Historical Society, in response to its resolution, which I now gladly do."
At the conslusion of Mr. Sheldon's remarks, Mr. Arnold said:
"On behalf of the Chicago Historical Society, I accept with grateful thanks this valuable present. Thanks are due to Mrs. Ogden, not only from the members of this Society, but also from the citizens at large, all of whom will be glad to see upon these walls the portrait of the first Mayor of the City."
Mr. Arnold then proceeded to read the address, which follows:
William B. Ogden.
The most prominent figure, in the history of Chicago, from 1835 until his death in 1877, was William B. Ogden. For the first forty years of our existence as a City, he was our representative man. His active mind originated most, and aided largely, in the execution of nearly all our public improvements. He built, or caused to be, the first drawbridge across the Chicago River. He laid out and opened many miles of streets in the north and the west divisions of the City; aided in digging the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal; advocated, with ability, laws necessary for its construction and enlargement; projected and built hundreds, nay, thousands of miles of the Railways which have built up Chicago; he had much to do with our water-supply, our sewerage and park systems, and, indeed, nearly all our great enterprises of public improvements. It is, therefore, peculiarly appropriate that his portrait should have an honored place on these walls; that his life and character and great public services should be recorded here; and here his history should be perpetuated. Besides, he has special claims on this Society, as one of its founders, one who liberally contributed to its support, and one who felt in honor to preside over its deliberations.
He was born June 15th, 1805, at Walton, a town in the wild and mountainous county of Delaware, New York, and died August 3d, 1877, at his country-seat, Boscobel near High Bridge, on the Harlem. His father died while he was yet a lad, and, being the oldest son, he was early placed in a position of responsibility, as the head of a large
6family, and very soon developed those qualities of executive ability, sagacity, and courage, good sense, energy, and determination which made him always a recognized leader among men, and caused his influence to be powerfully felt in this City and State, and throughout the North-West.
Wild Adventures as a Lumberman on the Delaware. Deer-Hunting.
His boyhood was passed in the picturesque valleys and among the hills of Delaware County, which were then covered with a dense and magnificent forest of sugar-maple beech, birch, and elm, while the sides of the mountain were thickly clothed with pine and hemlock fir. Vast raft of logs and lumber were, with the spring floods, sent down the Delaware to Philadelphia.
The raftsmen had rude and sometimes dangerous experiences in running the dams of the swollen river, and Mr. Ogden had many a tale of exciting adventure occurring these rough days. But it was in hunting the deer among the hills on the Delaware, and on the Unadilla and other tributaries of the Susquehanna, which furnished the most exciting stories of the days of his youth. Clubs of hunters then existed in the Counties of Otsego, Chenango, and Delaware; packs of hounds were kept, and the hunters who gathered at the annual autumn hunts, coming often from forty to sixty miles, were as well mounted with horses of as good blood and equal endurance as the best English stock. Judges, lawyers, and gentlemen-farmers joined in the exciting sport, and among them all there was no keener sportsman, no more fearless rider than young Ogden. I have heard him repeat some doggerel verses describing these hunting parties, as nearly as I can recall the lines something like the following:
To join in the chase for six days and six nights."
The Meet of the Hunters was then Described.
But a far fleeter gelding does Starkweather back.
Cox Morris' bay, full of metal and bone,
And gayly Skin Smith, on a dark-sorrel roan,
Was Ogden's fleet charger, and that is a gray.
Their horses were all of the very best blood;
They'll make the snow fly, and they'll dash through the mud;
And for hounds, their merits with thousands they'll back,
Not Deveraux, Storrs, nor Livingston can show such a pack.
Forty stags are laid low, at forty rods how they fall!
Forty bucks are made venison, by the keen hunter's ball.
Forty saddles now smoke, on the plentiful board,
Forty corks are now drawn, from Bacchus' hoard;
Forty hunters' club-wits — every man in his place.
Forty stories are told of the Unadilla Chase."
I have often heard Mr. Ogden describe these hunts, and he said the music of the fox-hounds reverberating and echoing from hill to hill, now the lone cry of a single hound, and then swelling into the full chorus by the whole pack — with the wild speed of the horses, and the frequent crack of the rifle at the run-ways, was a scene of adventure and excitement never to be forgotten.
Here he became familiar with wood-craft, and a very skilful shot with the rifle. Some of his feats would rival those of Cooper's Leatherstocking. I have heard of a
8scene at a shooting-match in Delaware, very like that so graphically described in the "Pioneers," as occurring in the adjoining County of Otsego. A negro put up his live turkeys, as a mark, at one hundred yards, at a quarter of a dollar a shot. If the turkey was hit in the head, it belonged to the person shooting, but if hit anywhere else, it was still the negro's property. So certain was Ogden's aim, that the negro insisted on his paying double price for his shot It was amusing to see the negro's antics as Ogden was about to fire. He would dance up in dangerous proximity to the turkey, shouting, "Gib a niggar fair play!" "Dodge dodge, ole gobbler, Ogden is going to shoot." "Shake ye head, darn ye, don't ye see dat rifle pointing at ye?"
But it was rare that the old negro saved his turkey when Ogden held the rifle.
It was amidst such scenes and without the advantage of college-training that Ogden was educated. I recall an incident which illustrates his energy, and is characteristic. On one occasion, in conversation with a lady who, born to affluence, was reduced to poverty, and who was asking his advice how her inexperienced sons and daughter could earn a livelihood, to the question, "What can they do?" He replied, "If I was in the position of your sons, if I could do nothing better, I would hire myself out to dig potatoes with my fingers, and when I had earned enough to buy a hoe, I would dig with it, and so I would climb up."
"Madam," said he, "don't have the least concern. If your sons are healthy and willing to work, they will find enough to do, and if they can not begin at the top, let them begin at the bottom, and very likely they will be all the better for it."
He meant that persons obliged to earn their own livelihood must not be too fastidious, and that work, if ever so humble, was honorable. He was then a prosperous and wealthy man, and to encourage her, he said:
"I was born close by a saw-mill, was early left an orphan, was cradled in a sugar-trough, christened in a mill-pond, graduated at a log-school-house, and, at fourteen, fancied I could do any thing I turned my hand to, and that nothing was impossible, and ever since, madam, I have been trying to prove it, and with some success."
Speech at Albany, 1835, On the Erie Railway Bill.
In 1834, Mr. Ogden had become a leading man in his native county, of great and deserved popularity, and was selected to represent Delaware in the New-York Legislature. Here, as a member of the Assembly, he became intimately acquainted with the able and distinguished men who, under the name of the "Albany Regency," so long controlled the politics of New York. Among these remarkable men were, Martin Van Buren, Silas Wright, William L. Marcy, Benjamin F. Butler, Azariah C. Flagg, Edwin Croswell, and John A. Dix. Mr. Charles Butler, a brother of Benjamin F. Butler, Attorney-General of the United States, under Jackson and Van Buren, married a sister of Mr. Ogden.
He was selected as the special advocate and champion of the New-York and Erie Railroad, then lately projected, and on the 20th, 21st, and 22d days of March, 1835, he made a very remarkable speech in favor of the road. It was reported in full in the Albany Argus, of those dates. He was then less then thirty years old, and the railway system, now grown to such wonderful proportions, was in its early inception.
It was a bold, sagacious, prophetic speech, and, as I lately read it, I was surprised at the wonderful foresight and ability of the speaker. He made a most earnest appeal to the state-pride of the Empire State to aid in the construction of the Erie road. "Otherwise," said he, "the sceptre will depart from Judah. The Empire State will no longer be New York." "Philadelphia," continued he, "is your great rival, and, if New York is idle, will gather in the trade of the great West." He alluded to Maryland's efforts in behalf of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and then looking to the future, he said, "Continuous railways from New York to Lake Erie, and south of Lake Erie, through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, to the waters of the Mississippi, and connecting with railroads running to Cincinnati, and Louisville in Kentucky, and Nashville in Tennessee, and to New Orleans, will present the most splendid system of internal communication ever yet devised by man." He continued, "to look forward to the completion of such a system, in
10my day, may be considered visionary," but he expressed "the hope that he should live to see it realized."
He did live to see all, and more than all, this "splendid system" realized. Not only roads from New York to the Mississippi, but continuing north to St. Paul and Lake Superior, and crossing the continent itself, to the shores of the Pacific. And I add, in language carefully considered, that he himself contributed to that consummation more than any other man, and it is not extravagant to say that Wm. B. Ogden did for the North-West what DeWitt Clinton did for New York.
Comes to Chicago.
In 1835, Mr. Ogden became associated with a company of Eastern capitalists, who, under the name of the "American Land Company," were making very large investments at Chicago, and elsewhere in the West. At the instance of Charles Butler, who had large investments in Chicago, he removed to this City, to manage these large interests. Coming myself to Chicago in October, 1836, I formed the acquaintance of his brother, Mahlon D. Ogden, and in the spring of 1837, we became law partners, and for many years managed the legal business of this company, and also of the very large real-estate investments of the late Frederick and Arthur Bronson, of New York — all of which were in the immediate charge of William B. Ogden.
St. James' Church.
The first time I ever saw Mr. Ogden was in the early spring of 1837, at St. James' Church. This was the pioneer Episcopal Parish in Chicago, and for it was built the first brick-church erected in this City. It stood near the S.W. corner of Cass and Illinois Streets. The Rev. Isaac W. Hallam was the rector. John H. Kinzie and J. W. C. Coffin were the wardens, and among the prominent members, in addition to the Kinzie family, were, William B. Ogden, Gurdon S. Hubbard, Eli B. Williams, John Rodgers, George W. Dole, General David Hunter, Dr. Phillip Maxwell, James B. Campbell, Alonzo Huntington, Hans Crocker, and others. Mrs. Mark Skinner and her sister, Mrs. Barstow, then the Misses Williams, with their cousin, Mrs. J. N. Balestier, then Miss Wolcott, the belles of the City,
11led the choir, and I need not say the singing was good. After church, I was presented by Mahlon D. Ogden to his brother. As we waited for him to come out of church after service, it seemed that he had a kind word and friendly greeting for every man, woman, and child in the congregation. He was evidently a great favorite. He had lately arrived from the East, and every body stopped to shake hands with and welcome him home. The cordial manners of the early settlers, and the founders of St. James' would contrast favorably, I think, with the cold, reserved, and somewhat frigid manners of some of its members in these days. Those were the days of open-handed hospitality and friendship, and every one was willing and anxious to aid and help his neighbor. Mr. Ogden was, from the beginning, a most liberal member of the congregation.
His Personal Appearance.
He was at this time about thirty-one years of age. You might look the country through and not find a man of more manly and imposing presence, or a finer-looking gentleman. His forehead was broad and square; his mouth firm and determined; his eyes large dark gray; his nose large; hair brown; his complexion ruddy; his voice clear, musical, and sympathetic; his figure a little above the medium height, and he united great muscular power with almost perfect symmetry of form. He was a natural leader, and if he had been one of a thousand picked men cast upon a desolate island, he would, by common, universal, and instinctive selection, have been made their leader.
Anecdote of Dr. William B. Egan.
The church was built on lots donated, for that purpose, by John H. Kinzie. Indeed, St. James' in those early days was so associated with the Kinzie family that it was sometimes called the Kinzie Church. Above the very high and conspicuous mahogany pulpit, in the dim and religious light, were painted on the wall the letters I. H. S., not very unlike J. H. K. — the initials of J. H. Kinzie. Soon after the church was finished, Mrs. Kinzie invited the witty and genial, and not over reverent, Dr. William B. Egan to attend church. He accepted, and, after service, accompanied
12Mrs. Kinzie home to dinner. On the way, she said, "Well, Doctor, how do you like our church?"
"Very much, indeed," he replied; "but is it not a little egotistical, and won't the people think it a little vain in John to put his initials so conspicuously over the pulpit?"
The Old Lake-House.
Until the erection of his own beautiful residence on Ontario Street, Mr. Ogden lived at the old Lake-House. This was a large, brick structure, far in advance of the times, and would have been deemed a comfortable hotel even in these days of luxury and extravagance. It was built in 1835, and opened in 1836, situated on Rush Street and, running through from Michigan to Kinzie Street, it faced across the river, on the south, the neatly-kept and bright whitewashed stockade, pickets, and buildings of old Fort Dearborn. The river was spanned by a rope-ferry, and across it was this military post, with its grass-plot shaded by the old historic honey locust, and within the pickets stood the granite boulder, which tradition said "had been the Indian stone of sacrifice and death," and on which Daniel Webster, in 1837, stood, while the great orator mingled his words with the murmur of the waves of Lake Michigan. There from all parts of the ambitious little City could be seen, above the low, wooden buildings, the flag of the Fort, its bright and beautiful colors waving in the breeze.
How much more beautiful and romantic was Chicago then than now! The river, now choked with filth, and offensive alike to smell and sight, was then a clear, transparent, running stream, its grassy banks fringed with foliage and flowers. Toward the east, from the Lake House, there was nothing to hide the bright waters of the Lake, except the fine old cotton-wood, which had long shaded and sheltered the residence of the Kinzie family. The grounds of this old-Kinzie house, the home of the father of John H. Kinzie, sloped gently toward the river, and the banks were grassy, and the broad piazza was pleasantly shaded by four large Lombardy poplars.
The young ladies, in those days, were accustomed to the saddle, and horseback-riding was a common amusement. Virginia and New England, as well as the daughters of
13some French and Indian families, furnished equestrians of great beauty, grace, skill, and fearlessness. There was a fine natural forest between Clark and Pine Streets, and north on the lake shore, and along its grassy paths lay fallen and decaying trees. Over these, we practised our horses and Indian ponies in leaping. Our favorite steeds were Ogden's old Delaware parade-horse, "Paddy"; Garrett's "Eagle," a beautiful cream-colored animal, with black mane and tail; and Capt. Allen's splendid chestnut charger.
One day, Ogden and I were riding along the beach, on the lake shore, between Twelfth and Eighteenth Streets. Ogden was riding "Paddy," and I was mounted on "Eagle," when my horse on the edge of the water plunged into a bed of quicksand. Fortunately, one of his forefeet struck firm ground, and, with a tremendous spring, he reached terra firma, and saved me from the awful fate of the Master of Ravenswood, so graphically described by Sir Walter Scott.
Few now living can recall those gay scenes, but those who can, will not have forgotten the almost unequalled beauty of a daughter of Col. Whistler, nor those black-eyed, dark-haired Virginia girls, nor the belles of mixed French and Indian races, who united the grace and beauty of both; and I am quite certain that no one, who was so happy as to participate in these rides, will have forgotten that rosy-cheeked, golden-haired lass, the most fearless and graceful of all, whom the Indians in their admiration called,
The Wild Rose."
The Race to Danville.
In May, 1837, Mr. Ogden sent for me one day, saying he had a claim of $10,000 against a resident of Danville, in this State, who had just failed. He wished me to go there as soon as possible and try to secure it. He also advised me that Henry G. Hubbard, as one of the firm of Hubbard & Co., was also a large creditor, and that it was important that Hubbard should not know of my departure, for if Hubbard reached Danville first, the debtor would probably turn over all his property to secure the Hubbards, but if I could get to Danville first, and attach
14the property of the debtor, the claim, very large in those days, might be secured. I was instructed to get my attachment writ, go to Nickols, who kept the best livery in Chicago, and get a famous gray saddle-horse, Nickols then had, of great speed and endurance, and beat Hubbard to Danville. There was not then any road to Danville, except a path called "The Hubbard Trail," which Gurdon S. and Henry G. Hubbard had made in taking goods from Chicago to that place, where for several years they had kept a trading-post. When the sun was an hour high, I had obtained my legal process, and the gray stood impatiently pawing before my office door, on Dearborn Street, between Lake and South-Water Streets. As I threw myself into the saddle, I said, "My gallant gray, you will be quiet enough before you get back."
I hoped to reach Rexford's tavern, at the Calumet, that night, and, if I could get away, and cross the Calumet and Kankakee swamps before Hubbard overtook me, I felt pretty sure I should beat him. Arriving at Rexford's, I saw that special care was taken of my horse, and ordered an early breakfast, and that my horse should be ready in the morning at sunrise. But, to my surprise and chagrin, when I started to mount, Henry Hubbard's sulky, with his fast trotter before it, stood at the door. We greeted each other, but not as cordially a usual.
"Go ahead, Henry," said I; "you know these swamps and sloughs, and you must be my guide and pilot. I'll follow you."
And so, each knowing the business of the other, but neither speaking of it, we started. Nothing of special interest occurred, except, I fancied, from the places through which he led me, he was quite willing I should be stalled, swamped, or thrown into the mud. But my horse had long legs, and was accustomed to these prairies and sloughs, and would often stand with all his feet on a bunch of rushes, or other hard space, twelve or twenty inches in diameter, and then reach out one of his forward feet and actually feel for a firm footing before he would move. I gave him his head, and he took me safe across. On the way, we had to cross the "Grand Prairie," thirty miles without house, cabin, tree, or bush. As far as the eye
15could reach, nothing but blue sky above, and the green, tender grass of early May and wild flowers beneath. It was a lonely ride. Hubbard was far ahead. I remember, after riding for hours, I dismounted, lay down upon the turf, and let my horse crop the new grass and fragrant violets, and, I think, never before or since have I had such a sense of solitude and lonesomeness. I was miles away from any human being, and I realized that such a prairie is more solitary than the ocean or the forest.
Hubbard generally took the lead, and I got sight of him only two or three times a-day. It was obvious both were saving the strength of our horses for the last 15 or 20 miles. The last night, we stopped about fifteen miles from Danville, and slept in the same log-cabin. The morning sun saw us both ready for the final struggle; both our horses being in prety good condition. As Hubbard went to the stable, a man dressed in blue jeans, with a coon-skin cap on his head, came up to me, and said, "Stranger, I don't know ye, nor kere much about ye; but I don't like t' other fellow. He is troubled with the big head; and he has been oncivil to me. I hearn say, 't is a tight race between ye, which shall git to Danville first. Now, Stranger, I'll help ye. But don't let on. Let him," pointing to Hubbard, "start ahead; I'll put my boy there on your gray, and let him follow slowly behind, not too far, a mile or more behind, so your gray horse can be seen, but the rider won't be known." He continued, "I've got a pair of colts I'll hitch up, and I'll take ye by another road into Danville, thirty to sixty minutes ahead of that fellow."
I saw it was my only chance. My gray was saddled, and when Hubbard had got too far ahead to distinguish the rider, the boy was mounted, and told not to shorten the distance, but just keep the sulky in sight. Hubbard, seeing the gray behind him, traveled slowly, saving his horse for the last five or six miles. Meanwhile, the colts had been harnessed, and attached to a light wagon, and making a circuit, we struck a cross-road, and, traveling at a three-minute pace, passed on ahead of Hubbard into Danville. Arriving, I found the sheriff; had him quickly seize and attach the store and property of the defendant, and when, an hour later, Hubbard came in, you may judge of
16his surprise and vexation when he found me, whom he had supposed far behind, with the sheriff, in possession of all the debtor's property. And it was thus I won the race and secured Ogden's debt. The gallant gray did not long survive, and I missed him sadly, for I had often ridden him; but Ogden did not object to pay Nickols liberally for the gray horse with which I beat Hubbard.
A Flag for the Steamer Illinois.
On Tuesday afternoon, July 23d, 1839, forty-two years ago, there lay, just below where Rush-Street Bridge now is, at the wharf of Newberry & Dole, a magnificent steamer, that in size, model, and external appearance might be compared with the finest "Cunard" or "White Star" ship that now traverses the Ocean. At that time, we had no completed line of railways to the Atlantic coast, and our intercourse with the East, socially and commercially, was by means of steamboats.
The steamer that lay at the wharf of Newberry & Dole was the "Illinois," named for our State. She was new, and this was her first season on the Lakes. The citizens of Chicago had purchased and were now to present to Capt. Blake, her commander, and to Oliver Newberry, her owner, a suit of colors worthy of such a splendid boat. Wm. B. Ogden, then, as ever, one of our most prominent citizens, was selected to make the presentation speech. It was a lovely summer afternoon, and our little City of scarcely 4000 people turned out, en masse, to witness the spectacle. Fort Dearborn, directly opposite, and all the shipping in the river were gay with the national colors floating from every flag-staff, peak, and mast-head.
Mr. Ogden was a natural orator, and his manly voice, on this occasion, could be distinctly heard by the crowd on the wharf as well as on the deck of the steamer. After complimenting the "splendid specimen of naval architecture" on which he stood, and expressing his pleasure in being the organ of presenting the "appropriate gift" to the steamer bearing the name of our State, he spoke of the wonderfully rapid advance of our country, and the mean of communication, bringing the East and the West, the Hudson and the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi into convenient
17neighborhood. I remember a bold and striking figure in which he compared the "prairie fires," which at that time annually were seen to invade our wide, and then unsettled, city limits, to the "pillar of fire by night," lighting the "path of Empire on its westward way." He then paid a glowing tribute to the memory of Robert Fulton, but for whose genius, he said, "the lake and the prairie around us would have still remained in the wild solitude of nature. There would have been, but for Fulton, no Steamer ‘Illinois,’ no Chicago, and the broad and beautiful prairies around us would have continued long ‘to waste their sweetness on the desert air’." Turning to Capt. Blake, and unfurling a splendid silk banner, fit for an admiral, Maj.-Gen. Scott standing at his side, he said: "We present to you our country's flag. * * * To you it is no stranger; under a most valiant chief (bowing to Gen. Scott), whom a grateful people have not forgot to praise, bravely and honorably have you defended it in war. * * * Stand by it in peace — stand by it forever." In conclusion, he said: "For this noble craft, we would ask of Him who rules the raging storm and bids the rising waves be still, to save her from storm and tempest, from rocks and shoals, and bring her in safety to her destined haven. * * * Oft shall she bring to us, as she cuts through the swelling waves, many that we love, and when, with eager haste, it shall be our privilege to return once more to scenes of childhood's happy hours; once more to seek a parent's blessing, a sister's, brother's fond embrace; once more to view our native hills, and valleys, and streams; where, when a child, we gambolled wild and free, through every wooded glen; safely, swiftly, will she bear us, until we greet again our Fatherland."
Walter L. Newberry, on behalf of his brother, Oliver Newberry, replied, and then, with Gen. Scott and a gay and merry party, she steamed north to Gross-Point, near where now is Evanston, thence down to the Calumet, and returned to her dock.
While on her way, Chicago's earliest ballad-singer, Geo. Davis, sung a beautiful song, composed by himself, for the occasion, from which I extract the following:
Queen of the Prairie Sea.
Oh, long may thy fame on the billows float,
And thy colors wave high on the breeze.
From shoals may she ever steer free,
And long may Blake sail, till the wild waves ring
As she sails o'er the Western sea."
Speaking of Gen. Scott brings to my mind an incident which, although having no relation to Mr. Ogden, I trust you will pardon me for mentioning. A few years after the presentation of these colors to the "Illinois," and before there was any railway communication with the East, I sailed around the Lakes with Gen. Scott and his brilliant staff of young officers. He had been much talked of for the Presidency, and was gracious and affable, and added greatly to the pleasure of the long voyage. We arrived on Friday evening, Aug. 2d, 1844, the General stopping at the Lake House. Soon after our arrival, Mrs. Kinzie sent for me, and stating that the rector of St. James' was out of the City, and, as Gen. Scott would be at church on Sunday, some one must read a sermon. She asked if I would do so? "If so, I will send you," she continued, "a volume of sermons from which you can make your own selection." I promised to read the sermon, some one else having been selected to read the prayers and service. I found a most brilliant sermon upon "Vanity," a weakness for which Gen. Scott, with all his great qualities, was notorious. As a good joke, and without much consideration, I thought I would improve the opportunity to preach what my clerical friends, I suppose, would call a practical sermon. On Sunday, the church was filled with a great crowd, eager to see Gen. Scott. He came in, attended by a numerous and brilliant staff, in full uniform, and they were assigned places in the front seats, directly before the reading-desk. I began the sermon, and, as I read, I could not help emphasizing the passages which seemed applicable to the General. Soon I noticed his staff exchanging sly glances with each other, and then others giving indications
19that they were applying the sermon to my distinguished hearer. With too little reverence I thought it all a good joke, and went on and finished my sermon.
On Monday, I called to pay my respects to Gen. Scott, and after a courteous interview, he said, "Mr. Arnold, you read a very good sermon yesterday, but some of my young men have been saying you intended to make a personal application to me; but I have assured them it was a mere accident that your sermon was on vanity."
I replied, "that like the clergy, I simply read the sermon, leaving the hearers to make the application." "‘If the coat should fit, let him whom it fitted put it on.’"
"Well," said the noble old soldier, "the world and the newspapers call me vain. Perhaps I am, and perhaps I have done some things of which a man might justly be proud, if not vain — of this posterity will judge." "But," continued he, after a pause, "it seems to me the newspapers are harsh in their judgments. Clay has his vices," and he named some of which that statesman was accused. "Webster has his faults, and the world knows what they are — faults graver than vanity; and yet some people make much more ado about my vanity, which, if I am vain, only injures me, than about the graver errors of Clay and Webster."
Will you pardon me for another reminiscence of these early days, illustrating, shall I say, the deterioration of manners. Gen. Worth was a warm, personal friend of Mr. Ogden. He visited him in Chicago. I remember that, in those days, when a steamer signaled its approach, and when distinguished strangers were coming, we used to go down to the wharf, some to welcome and others to see those who came. I witnessed on the landing of Gen. Worth one of the saddest spectacles I ever saw. Among the crowd of citizens, who met him, was a retired army officer, his old classmate, as I was told, at West Point. He had been intrusted by the Government with a large sum of public money, and, in the tempest of speculation, had used it, doubtless with the expectation of making it good; but disastrous times came on, and he proved a defaulter to a large amount. He went forward with others
20to greet and welcome his old comrade and schoolmate. As he extended his hand, I shall never forget the look of Worth. Drawing his tall martial form up to his full height, and throwing his military cloak over his shoulders, he stood a moment, looking at the defaulter, and then turning upon his heel, seemed to say, "I can not touch the hand of a defaulter." Scott's lines in Marmion came to my mind:
And never shall in friendly grasp,
The hand of such as Marmion clasp."
The act seemed cruel. It was terrible in its severity. In those days, and with such a high sense of personal honor, a defaulter among officers of the army was rare indeed. If those who cheat and plunder the Government were today, as in those early days, visited with absolute social ostracism, such offences would become far less numerous.
The Case of M'Cagg, Reed and Co. vs. Galena, Chicago Union Railroad.
The father of the vast railway system in the North-West, a system which has done so much to develop and build up this portion of our country, was Wm. B. Ogden. Beginning with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, from Chicago to Fox River, with a far-seeing sagacity and bold enterprise, and a faith which led him to invest in these works not only his private fortune but his credit, he kept pace with, or anticipated, the growth of the West; until from the strap-railway, from Chicago to Elgin, he went on step by step until he was the President of the Union Pacific, being connected more or less with all the great roads from the East by the Lakes to the Mississippi and on to Lake Superior.
In the earlier of these great enterprises he met many associates who were more conservative, less sagacious, and more prudent than he. Some of them thought him wild and extravagant, and his schemes most hazardous. These views and their influence caused a division in the Stockholders holders and Board of Directors of the old Galena Road, of which Mr. Ogden was the first, and for some time, President,
21and, during a severe depression in all business affairs, he was dropped from the presidency, and an attempt was made to injure his reputation. When president or acting-director of the Galena Road, he was also special partner of the firm of McCagg, Reed & Co., a firm largely engaged in the manufacture and sale of lumber. The Road having little money, this lumber firm, of which he was a partner, at his request, furnished on credit a large number of ties for the Road. When Mr. Ogden retired from the presidency, the ties not having been paid for, the new officers refused payment, on the ground that Mr. Ogden as president had contracted with himself as a member of the firm of McCagg, Reed & Co. for the ties, and that such contract was tainted with fraud, and therefore void.
On behalf of McCagg, Reed & Ogden, I brought a suit against the Road for the ties, and proved not only that the price charged was below the market price, but, also, that the Road, in its crippled condition, could not procure the materials elsewhere, and that without this purchase it could not have been built, and, of course, a recovery and judgment was obtained for the amount claimed. The suit was most bitterly and obstinately contested, and the defense was ably conducted by Messrs. Collins & Butterfield and Judd & Wilson. Mr. Ogden was then my most intimate friend; he had given his time, his money, and his credit to push on the Road, and had risked in it his private fortune, and I regarded the defence of this case, and the attack made upon his integrity, as most unjust and ungrateful. I remember few, if any, cases in my professional life, in which I felt a deeper personal interest. A verdict against him would have left a stain upon his character. In the course of the trial it came out in evidence that the officers of the Road, after he had been compelled to retire, had received a public dinner (I think at Elgin), in which they drank toasts to each other and every body, except Mr. Ogden. The omission of his name, the man who every one knew had built the Road, only made him the more prominent. This dinner and the omission of Mr. Ogden's name among the benefactors of the Galena Road was the subject of much comment on the trial. His case was compared to that of Cromwell, whose omission among the kings of England had only made him the more conspicuous.
Mr. Ogden's triumph and vindication were complete, and his opponents, on this occasion, became afterward his warm friends, aiding him in conducting to success many important enterprises.
As illustrating the wonderfully rapid advance in the value of property in our City, which, in forty years, grew from a population of about 4500 in 1840, to 500,000 in 1880, let me quote two or three examples from Mr. Ogden's note-book. He says "I purchased in 1845, property for $15,000 which, twenty years thereafter, in 1865, was worth ten millions of dollars. In 1844, I purchased for $8000, what, eight years thereafter, sold for three millions of dollars, and these cases could be extended almost indefinitely." This rapid advance turned the heads of many sober-minded men, and produced a frenzy which unfitted them for ordinary business.
We had, in those days, the jocose, genial, witty Dr. Egan before mentioned, whose real-estate transactions were bold, off-hand, and sometimes as reckless as the wildest gambling. The result was, that the Doctor had his ups and downs from poverty to wealth, from luxurious extravagance to bankruptcy; today, a Jay Gould, tomorrow, ruined. In those days, "Canal Time" had a clear and universally understood meaning, and signified one quarter of the purchase-money in hand, and the balance in one, two, and three years, the terms on which the Canal Trustees sold canal lots and lands. One day, in the midst of this excitement, Dr. Egan was called to see a lady, who was very ill. After examining her, he left such medicine as he thought she required, and, as he was hastening away, the lady discovered he had left no directions. Calling him back, she said, "Why, Doctor, you have given me no directions, how much or how often I am to take the medicine." "Oh!" replied he, as in his impatience he held the door open, his mind evidently on some land purchase, "Oh, one-quarter down, balance in one, two, and three years!"
There is not, today, in our wealthy and luxurious City,
23there never has been, a residence more attractive, more home-like, more beautiful than that of Mr. Ogden, and which, with all its treasures of art and books, was destroyed in the great fire of 1871. I wish I could reproduce it, or create such a picture of it as would enable those who never gathered around its hospitable fireside, to realize its simple elegance and comfort.
The house, built in 1836, stood in the centre of block 35, in Kinzie's Addition to Chicago, and was bounded on the east by Rush, on the south by Ontario, on the west by Cass, and on the north by Erie Streets. W. L. Newberry's residence directly east and occupying an entire block; my own house, the only building on Block 41, one street north; and St. James' Church on Block 40, between Erie and Huron; Judge Mark Skinner's home directly south; and diagonally south-west was the fine residence of H. H. Magee, with the majestic elm near State Street; all these grounds being covered with a natural forest, gave to the neighborhood a rural, suburban aspect, novel for a locality so near the centre of the City. Indeed, so dense was the foliage around us that standing in my front door in June, and looking south, I could see nothing but a mass of green leaves, except at times a flag from the top of a high mast in the river.
The block occupied by Mr. Ogden was covered with a fine growth of maple, cotton-wood, oak, ash, cherry, elm, birch, and hickory trees, in the centre of which stood his large double house, built of wood. A broad piazza with a projecting pediment, supported by pillars, extended across the south front. On the north-east, and extending from Rush on Erie one hundred and fifty feet, was a conservatory always bright and gay with flowers, also, fruit houses, consisting of a cold grapery and a forcing house in which he raised exotic grapes, peaches, apricots, and figs. A drive around the house, and neatly-kept gravelled walks, traversed the natural forest of noble trees, festooned with the wild grape, the American ivy, and other wild vines; and everywhere were ornamental shrubs, climbing roses, and other flowers. His flower and fruit-houses were not made bright and fragrant, "to waste their sweetness on the desert air." He grew fruits and flowers for his friends and
24especially for the sick. He never forgot in his busiest days to visit the suffering, and he always took with him the choicest products of his fruit and green-houses, and his cheering smile, his encouraging words, and his exhilerating tonic presence, were better than medicine.
Within his house was a good working library, a few pieces of statuary, and many fine pictures and engravings. Durand, Cropsey, Wier, Kensett, Church, Rossiter, Powers, Healy and others were all well represented.
In this home of generous and liberal hospitality was found no lavish or vulgar exhibition of wealth, no ostentatious, or pretentious display, such as is too often seen, exhibiting alike the owner's riches in money and poverty in culture and intellect, and utter lack of taste. On the contrary, here were refinement, broad intelligence, kind courtesy, and real hospitality. Here he gathered from far and near the most worthy, the most distinguished representatives of the best American social life. Here all prominent and distinguished strangers were welcomed and entertained, and here, too, the most humble and poor, if distinguished for merit or culture or ability, were always most cordially received. Here he entertained VanBuren, Webster, Poinsett, Marcy, Flag, Butler, Gilpin, Corning, Crosswell, Tilden, Bryant, Emmerson,
In this connection, let me read a note from Mr. Healy:
With the clear good sense of Mr. Ogden there was mingled a vein of sentiment, of poetic feeling, and an appreciation of the beautiful in nature and art, which made him exceedingly attractive. While there was no formality, and while everybody was mad e to feel quite at home and perfectly at ease, there was always a high-bred courtesy and consideration for others, a respect for age and reverence for God and religion, a tone of elevation and regard for worth and merit, which made his home a positive influence, a real power for good. He early brought to his house his mother and sisters, and it is difficult to overestimate the influence of such a home in molding the early social life of our City. No one ever saw excess or intemperance at his abundant table; a glass of good wine, but no excess. I think this example had considerable influence in establishing that freedom from intemperance and vice for which the best society in Chicago has always been distinguished.
He was a lover of music and painting and poetry. Indeed, he possessed a sensibility to beauty in every form, and to the expression of noble sentiment in the arts and in literature, very rare in a man so absorbed in business and in great enterprises. He was never more attractive than in his library reciting the poetry of Bryant, Halleck, Holmes, Burns, Moore, and Scott; or at his piano, playing an accompaniment to his own voice as he sang with expression, if not with artistic skill, the simple ballads of Burns and Moore, and other songs popular thirty years ago.
Perhaps I ought to make an exception, when he was driving his own carriage, filled with guests, over the prairies of the North-West, for then he would make the longest day short by his inimitable narration of incidents and anecdote, his graphic descriptions, and his sanguine anticipations of the future. His was one of those sympathetic natures that brought gladness into every circle he entered. His smile was like the sunshine to the landscape. He developed and brought into action whatever was good in
27those with whom he associated. I fear, those of you who did not know him intimately, will think me extravagant, but it was really true that those who saw much of him were so helped that they were capable of doing more and better than they could otherwise have done. His nature was an inspiration and a stimulant. We sometimes meet those whose faces and presence are like a sombre cloud upon a landscape, it was the reverse with him. He brightened the path of every one with whom he walked. No one entered his presence who was not made happier, and made to think better of themselves, and of others, of life and humanity. He was a warm-hearted, generous man, and his attachment to his family and friends was rarely equalled. I know of some circumstances, exhibiting his tenderness and affection almost too sacred for public disclosure. But there is one incident I will venture to mention. His intimate friends knew of his early and romantic attachment to a beautiful girl, whose death, after their engagement and before the day fixed for their marriage, cast a shadow upon, and tinged with a tender sadness, much of his afterlife.
I recall a dark, stormy night, in Dec., 1843, when we were living together, at his house on Ontario Street. The wild winter wind was moaning through the trees, which stood close to the building, a great wood-fire was burning upon the old-fashioned andirons. It was late in the evening, we were alone, and had been narrating to each other incidents of boyhood — on the Delaware and the Susquehanna. We had been speaking of schoolmates and early friends.
Earlier in the evening, he had been humming old and half-forgotten ballads. In this way, time passed on, but he took no note of it, and seemed wholly absorbed in his memories. The fire burned low, the hour grew late, but still he kept on speaking of the past, and, finally, he went to his own room, and soon returned with a parcel of carefully-preserved, but long-ago-faded flowers; roses, pansies, some old garden flowers, — a ribbon, a glove, — some notes, and a little poem, — all tenderly-cherished relics of one from whom, many and long years before, he had been separated by death, and around whose grave, amidst all
28the active and absorbing scenes, in which he was living, his memory still lingered fondly and faithfully. He never forgot the Sabbath chimes, with which her voice had mingled. Half-a-century after her death, when making his last "will and testament," he remembered this romance of his youth, and made liberal and generous provision for the nearest-surviving relatives of one to whose memory he was so faithful. If Ogden had faults and failings, — and who has not, — if there are any who would harshly recall them, let such remember his fidelity and affection, and in the recollection of his noble nature forget his failings.
His Love of Nature.
He was a real lover of nature, and Bryant was his favorite poet, because in his poetry he found such graphic descriptions of natural objects. The "scolloped hills" and the murmuring streams, in the picturesque valleys of old Delaware and Otsego and Chenango, were to him never-ending scenes of pleasant recollection. As illustrating his love of nature, I recall a visit we made together in 1838, to the Calumet and its neighborhood. His observing eye had marked it as peculiarly rich in wild and ornamental flowering shrubs and vines. One morning in early May, we started, with picks and spades, with a pair of strong horses, to dig up and bring to his new home a wagon-load of this wild shrubbery. We found and brought back the Carolina rose, the dog-wood, the red ozier, the kinnekanink, the Virginia creeper, the bittersweet, and many other wild vines.
At another time, we made an excursion to the Calumet for that queen of lilies, the Lotus (Nelumbium Luteum). Not the Nile itself could exhibit a more magnificent spectacle than the Calumet in those early days, with acres and acres — nay, miles — of this glorious flower, with its broad leaves floating upon the water, and its gorgeous color illuminating the surface. Here one might linger,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil."
We felt that success could be obtained alone by those
What He Did for Chicago and the North-West.
I have thus far given you a narrative of personal incidents, with the hope, in this way, of making you better acquainted with Mr. Ogden than I could by attempting to describe in detail the active and useful life he lived and the great and important works which he initiated and carried forward to success.
In the spring of 1837, he was elected mayor — the first mayor of Chicago. From that time until his death, in 1877, he was constantly engaged in public works. He made miles upon miles of streets; he zealously advocated the public parks; he was a leading contractor on the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal, and ever one of its ablest and most efficient advocates; he was President of the Board of Sewerage Commissioners; and there is scarcely a railroad leading to or from Chicago, east, west, north or south, with which he has not had important association, and to which he did not render efficient service, so that his acts are written in lines of iron all over the West.
I shall not attempt to enumerate these, his important services, in detail. But there is one circumstance which, in this connection, can not in justice to him be omitted. We have today great railroad kings, as they are called: Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds, and others; but they build, manage, and sometimes some of them, it is said, wreck railroads, to accumulate and control vast fortunes. Mr. Ogden's Great work in constructing railroads was as a pioneer, and his services were to a great extent gratuitous and unselfish. In June, 1868, he retired from the Presidency of the Northwestern Railroad, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, railroad corporations in the world; and when retiring, stated that he had been connected with the Road for twenty-one years, since 1847. On that occasion, the following resolution was unanimously adopted by the Stockholders:
30"Resolved, That his (W. B. Ogden's) connection with this Company, dating back for a period of twenty-one years, his disinterested labors in its behalf without fee or reward during the whole time, the benefit he has conferred upon it and the country, demand our grateful acknowledgments, and we hereby tender him our warmest thanks for his long services and our best wishes for his long-continued health and prosperity."
One other fact in this connection: In 1859, he was offered the Receivership of the Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, pending its consolidation, at a salary of $25,000 per annum. He declined on account of other important public and private obligations; but finally, when told that the parties interested could agree upon no other person he accepted the position, refusing the salary, $25,000 because, he said, the Road could not afford to pay it, and accepting only $10,000, when pressed upon him.
"Strike, But Hear Me."
Let me recall an incident illustrating his power over men. When building some of his Wisconsin railroads, he and others had obtained large stock-subscriptions from the farmers and villagers along the line. Hard times came on; the subscriptions had been paid, but the Road was not finished, and the people became extremely exasperated against him. They thought they had been swindled, and they declared they would shoot him if he ever came into that part of the country. He heard of these threats, and sent hand-bills along the line, calling a public meeting and announcing that he would address the people. A great crowd of excited men gathered. Believing themselves wronged, they were ready for any violence. His friends tried to prevail on him not to go. They thought his life was in danger. He declared he had no fear, and went to the meeting. He was received with hisses, and groans, and denunciation. He was alone and unarmed and appealed to their sense of justice and fair-play to give him a hearing, and adding, after that, they might condemn and shoot if they pleased. In his own clear and candid way, he detailed the facts; told them of his own sacrifices and losses for the Road, and by what unavoidable disasters it had been delayed; and then, in his sanguine manner, he painted its success in the future, pointed out
31that it would double the value of every farm, and when he concluded, instead of Lynching him, they appointed a committee to wait upon him, which said —
"Mr. Ogden: We are authorized by the farmers, and other stockholders along the road, to say, if you wish it, we will double our subscriptions."
In early life, he was, as he called himself, a Jeffersonian Democrat. He went into the New-York Legislature as a democrat, and was elected Mayor of Chicago by the Democratic party, defeating John H. Kinzie, who was the Whig candidate for that office. But he was never a partisan; and when the question of slavery became prominent by the annexation of Texas, he was an earnest anti-slavery man. He was in full sympathy with those of us from Illinois who, in 1848, went to the Buffalo Convention and organized the Free-Soil Party, and he headed the electoral ticket in this State, in favor of Van Buren and Adams; and from that time on, to 1860, he was an active member the Free-Soil and Republican parties. He supported earnestly Mr. Lincoln for the Presidency, and was elected to the Illinois Legislature on the same ticket.
Between 1860 and 1862, he seems to have fallen under influences which finally alienated him from the policy of Mr. Lincoln. He expressed, and I doubt not entertained, fears that the Administration, by the exercise of what were called the "War Powers," was revolutionizing the government. He did not approve of the "Emancipation Proclamation." These considerations brought Mr. Ogden into political antagonism with many of his old personal and political friends in Chicago.
He was liberal and generous in his contributions to the various charitable and literary enterprises of the City. As head of the Ogden family, he was a most devoted brother uncle, and relative. Somewhat late in life, Feb. 9th, 1875 he married Miss Arnot, a daughter of Judge Arnot, of Elmira, New York. He had been a warm personal friend of her father, and intimate in her family for many years, and they had known each other, in the most friendly way,
32from her school-days, and the only mistake about the marriage was, that it did not take place twenty or thirty years earlier.
The Fires of 1871.
In 1871, Mr. Ogden was living in quiet at Boscobel. He had, as his friends supposed, done his work. He had built a City, and had helped to create an Empire in the North-West. He was still interested in many and vast and various enterprises; but he had entrusted the direct management to others, and he had retired to his country-seat and was seeking, after a long and active life, well-earned repose. His picturesque home, situated on a rocky hill, overlooked the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, and the arches of High Bridge; and, in the distance, Washington Heights. He was realizing Downing's ideal of the beautiful in landscape gardening. No one had earned, by long and successful work, a better title to his "otium cum dignitate" He had placed the helm of his great enterprises in other hands. He was indulging in this repose, when, on the 8th of October, at Boscobel the startling intelligence came thrilling along the wires, "All Chicago is on fire!" "Chicago is burning!" "Chicago is burned up!" "A whirlwind of fire is sweeping over Peshtigo."
It has been wisely said that nothing tries a man like adversity — like some crushing calamity. I know of few scenes in history or fiction more thrilling than Mr. Ogden arrival in Chicago, on the 10th of October. At ten o'clock on Tuesday evening, he reached the smoking ruins of what had been Chicago. He had received despatches along the railroad of the progress of the flames, but he was unprepared — no one could be prepared, for no one could conceive — the utter and complete desolation which met him on every side. Coming in on the Fort Wayne Road, had to traverse the track of the ocean of flame, as it had swept with annihilating vehemence over the south side of City. Public buildings, City Hall, churches, banks, hotels, stores, warehouses, offices, homes — every thing gone. He had been informed that his own house was the only one the North division which had escaped. Crossing the river
33into that part of the city which he had built and in which he had lived, he drove to Ontario Street, eargerly seeking his old home. He could not find it; he could not find any body's home, nor place of business. Every house — every structure — from the river to Lincoln Park, in ashes. He was bewildered and lost in this scene of utter desolation. All was gone except, not his house — but the house of his brother, Mahlon D. Ogden. This stood solitary and alone amidst the smouldering ruins, where a few hours before had been the homes of 100,000 people. Do you remember Milton's description of Hell, in "Paradise Lost?" Recall it, and it will help you to realize the fiery ruin which surrounded him. As he drove north along the still-smoking wooden pavements of Clark Street,
As one great furnace flamed.
* * * * * *
The dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation. Void of light
Save where the glimmering of the lurid flames
Cast pale and dreadful."
At last, and late at night, he found the house of his brother; and as he approached he was halted and challenged by the guard on duty. The criminal classes had been plundering the burning city, and they had threatened to burn this house also, where it was supposed money and treasure had been stored, and it had been decided to set a guard, with rifles, around the premises. Mr. Ogden, on announcing his name, was passed in by General Strong.
As in the obscurity of night he took his lonely, gloomy drive, he must have recalled Chicago as he first saw it — this scene, now so black and lurid, where not a tree, nor shrub, nor leaf, could be found — every thing charred — all ashes — fragments of charcoal and melted iron — he had first seen green with grass, foliage, and forest. With the aid of others, he had transformed it into a beautiful city, and now all was destroyed — the work and toil of half a century was annihilated. But he met all — I will not say like a hero, but like a Christian hero. The following day, he received intelligence of the utter destruction of his immense
34lumber establishment at Peshtigo, and this was aggravated by a horrible destruction of life. His individual loss, in the two fires, exceeded two millions of dollars. Staying in Chicago only long enough to inspire hope, courage and energy, in the stricken people, on Saturday he started for Peshtigo, where he was much more needed by the almost despairing survivors. He was accompanied General Strong, who has written a most graphic description of the Peshtigo fire, from which I quote, and which I trust will be printed, so as to perpetuate so powerful a sketch of one of the most terrible calamities which ever befell any village.
They paused, in their approach, on an elevation which overlooked the burnt district. All was gone! Factories, mills, shops, stores, hotels, boarding-houses, dwellings, warehouses, sheds, fences, bridges — every thing burned. And so clear and complete had been the destruction, not enough was left to mark localities. The poor animals also, the horses and mules, and the domestic animals, all burned, and still more shocking, three hundred and fifteen of the men, women, and children perished in the cruel flames. I quote a few sentences from General Strong's description. He says:
"At 9 o'clock, on the evening of October 8th, many of the Peshtigo people were returning to their homes from their respective churches. The night was dark, and the smoke hung in low and heavy masses over the doomed village. Not a breath of air was stirring. The stillness of death prevailed. Suddenly away to the South-West could be heard a roar like the roar of the sea. Men, women, and children stopped in the streets to listen with wildly-beating hearts. The roar increased. It came nearer and nearer — it spread out — it grew louder, and more continuous, more frightful in its tone. Something terrible was about to happen, but of what nature? * * * It was fire, and it was close by, and yet there was no blaze, no flame, but the terrible roaring was there, and away to the South-West it grew in volume at every breath, at every throb of the heart. The people in the streets rush wildly now for their homes and loved ones. * * *
The buildings, on both sides of the river, seemed to be on fire at the same instant. Many of the survivors claim to this day that the fire came straight down from the clouds. Many of the citizens made no effort to escape, thinking the Judgment-day had
come; and, it is said, that a number of elderly persons knelt in prayer in their homes, and were burned to death in the act of praying. The village was on fire about 9:30 o'clock, and in less than two hours was destroyed. The mass of the people were paralyzed with fear. It is known that a large number of women and children were burned in the Company's boarding-house. They were urged to leave it, and take refuge in the river, which was but a few hundred feet away, but would not make the effort. Many were burned in the churches, and near the river, north of the village."
In the face of his terrible calamity — of these tremendous losses, sweeping away the accumulations of a life of almost unparalleled activity and enterprise — Mr. Ogden was calm. He did not murmur nor complain. "It is the act of God," said he; "we are not responsible." "We will," continued he, "rebuild this village — the mills, the shops — and do a larger winter's logging than ever before."
And so, with the energy of early manhood, he took oft his coat, and went to work to restore what was gone. He remained all through October, November, into December, superintending and directing the work. At daylight in the morning, he was up, and worked with the men till dark; instantly exposed to the rain and sleet and snow. When light came, he would go on an open car, drawn by mules, eight miles to the harbor. All the evening, until late in the night, he was engaged with his clerks and assistants, in drawing plans, writing letters, and sending telegrams to his agents, and the next morning, break-of-day would find him again at the head of his men at Peshtigo. During all this period, he was cheerful and pleasant, and inspired every body with courage and faith in the future. This terrible strain upon him, and overwork, for a man of his years, probably shortened his life. I can not forbear quoting the closing paragraph of General Strong's paper. He says:
"Thus far in life, I have been associated with no one equal to him, in business capacity, in energy, in perseverance. He assessed many of the qualities of a great and successful General, viz.: Unflinching courage, coolness in times of danger, rare presence of mind in emergencies, decision, a constitution of iron, great physical strength, executive power of a high order, ability
to master quickly the details of any thing he had on hand, firmness of purpose, faith in his own judgment and plans, and an unbending will to carry through to completion, and against all opposition, any thing he undertook. In the planning and management of large enterprises, while in the prime of life, he had superior, and I believe few equals."
Mr. Healy has attempted to represent on canvas this princely man. Mr. Healy is a great artist; he has painted more distinguished men, perhaps, than any artist living. In this country, he has painted Governors, Generals, Senators, Presidents, Heroes, and Statesmen; abroad, Earls, Dukes, Field-Marshals, Princes, Kings, Popes, and Emperors have sat to him, but it may well be doubted, if among them all, he ever had a finer subject than Ogden. But yet how little of such a man can be reproduced by pen or pencil.
We know this; however the artist or the writer may fail, the man, we have tried tonight to honor — will not be forgotten. His name will be forever connected with this City and the North-West.
Perhaps, the most striking trait of his character was his absolute faith in Chicago. He saw, in 1836, not only the Chicago of today, but in the future the great City of the continent. From that early day, his faith never wavered. Come good times — come bad times — come prosperity or adversity — Chicago booming, or Chicago in ashes, its great future was to him a fixed fact.
The fame of the founders of Cities and States grows as time passes on, and so it will be with him. When, some centuries from now, after obscurity shall have gathered over the present, when fable and legend and myth shall obscure our early history, as moss gathers over the ruins of ancient temples, the first Mayor of Chicago will be remembered. Who dare prophesy what Chicago will be then? But this we know, when, centuries from now, the birth of Chicago as a City, and the inauguration of its first Mayor shall be commemorated, the name of William B. Ogden will be honored and cherished by the millions who shall join in that celebration.
Since the foregoing was written, I have received the following note, which with your permission I will now read. The incident mentioned strikingly illustrates Mr. Ogden's wonderful power over men, and his ability to inspire personal attachment and confidence in those with whom he associated:
403 LASALLE AVENUE,
CHICAGO, Dec. 18, 1881.
DEAR SIR: — I gladly respond to your request to furnish an incident that may help to set forth the characteristics of our late distinguished fellow-citizen and neighbor, Mr. W. B. Ogden.
Perhaps there was no one feature of his character more marked than his wonderful power of attracting people to him. How great this power was, the following incident attests. As you are aware, Mr. Ogden spent some time abroad about the years 1856-7; in the course of his travels he met, and for a day or two traveled with, a Scotch lord, whom he so attracted as to bring from him, when a few years later Mr. Ogden was in somewhat stringent financial surroundings, the following note:
"MY DEAR MR. OGDEN: — I hear you are in trouble. I have placed to your credit in New York, 100,000. If you get through I know you will return it, if you don't, Jeanie [his wife] and I will never miss it."
This note, which Mr. Ogden read to me, I believe, on the day of its reception, so impressed me that I think I have given it nearly verbatim, except the names, which I don't remember.
Allow me, my dear sir, to express to you my thanks as a citizen for your efforts to preserve for coming generations the incidents in life of one to whom Chicago owes so much.
Very truly yours,
O. B. GREEN.
Hon. I. N. ARNOLD,
104 Pine Street.
Several of his friends in this country made similar offers. Among others, Mathew Laflin, of Chicago, sometimes said to be a close and penurious man, offered him $100,000. One would almost be willing to fail if it were the occasion of such exhibitions of friendship and confidence.
At the conclusion of the Memorial Address by Mr. Arnold, the Hon. Thomas Hoyne was called to the chair.
Whereupon, the Hon. E. B. Washburne said:
"MR. PRESIDENT: — I feel that I may be the interpreter of the sentiments of all the members of the Society, and all those who are present here tonight, in expressing the gratification and pleasure every one must have felt, in listening to the admirable memoir of Mr. Ogden, from the gifted and facile pen of our worthy President, Mr. Arnold. Nothing, in my judgment, can be more fitting than the tribute he has paid to Mr. Ogden. It is worthy of that distinguished man, who was so long and so honorably identified with Chicago, and who had left the impress of his name and character, not only on this City, but on the State and the North-West.
"I knew Mr. Ogden longer and better than any prominent business man in Chicago, during his time.
"The gracious gift to the Society, by his widow, of his splendid portrait, which now adorns these walls, where the cunning fingers of Chicago's most distinguished artist, Mr. Healy, have so faithfully delineated the marvelous features of the man, will be prized so long as the Society shall exist.
"Mr. Ogden was a man of education, intelligence, and refinement. As a businessman, he had broad and enlightened views, a bold spirit, and unerring sagacity. Of courtly and polished manners, there is no society in the world he would not have adorned.
"As a conversationalist, I have hardly ever known superior, or even his equal. If a public speaker is to be measured by results accomplished, there were but few men ever more happy or more successful. I have never known a man who could better address himself to the intelligence, the understanding, the judgment, and the sympathy of men, than Mr. Ogden. I had occasion to know how successfully he could move men. The audience have been told of his connection with the pioneer railroad of Chicago the ‘Galena and Chicago Union Rail-Road,’ and all contemporaries knew of the zeal and energy with which he entered into that work, destined to have such a vast influence
on the future of Chicago and the State. It was in the first throes of that enterprise, strange as it may seem today, that Chicago turned to Galena and the Lead-mines for help, and that little city, then so full of enterprise, with its unrivalled business men, its merchants, its bankers, its lead-brokers, its miners, and its smelters, together with the neighboring villages, contributed more money in the first instance, if I mistake not, to the building of the road, than Chicago. It was the then ‘Galena and Chicago Union Railroad,’ and now, alas! even the name does not exist!
"It was in a crisis in the affairs of the road that Mr. Ogden, the president, with some other Chicago gentlemen, appeared at Galena, to solicit additional subscriptions to the stock of the road, and raise money to go forward with the work. Great interest was felt in the road all through the mining region, and meetings were called, not only at Galena, but at Hard Scrabble, New Diggings, and Schullsburg, to consider the subject, and to be addressed by Mr. Ogden. I attended all of these meetings, and I never heard so effective speeches as those made by him. A master of the whole subject, he presented all the considerations so fully, so clearly, and so intelligently, as to carry conviction home to every mind, resulting in subscriptions to be paid in gold and silver, for that was then the currency of the mining region, to an extent that not only amazed our Chicago friends, but surprised the Galena people, who thought they knew something of the wealth of the lead-mining region at that time.
"The Galenians of that day will always hold the memory of Mr. Ogden in respect. In the difficulties which grew up afterwards in the Board of Directors of the Company, and which resulted in the most grievous wrong to Galena that was ever inflicted on any town, and which proved a great misfortune for the Company, Mr. Ogden always stood by Galena, and fair play, and honest faith. Notwithstanding all the money and influence Galena contributed to the work, in the hour of its weakness and trial, the road never reached there. Instead of being pushed forward to its destination, and becoming the pioneer road to the Mississippi, it made its terminus at Freeport, where it remains today, a reminder of a colossal mistake, such as
was rarely ever made, even in the case of a corporation. For Mr. Ogden's course in that matter, as well as for the high respect in which I have always held him, I am glad to join in this tribute to his memory."
At the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Washburne offered the following resolutions, which were seconded by Julian S. Rumsey, and unanimously adopted, to wit:
"RESOLVED, That the sincere and grateful thanks of the Chicago Historical Society be and are hereby tendered to Mrs. Marianna A. Ogden, for the splendid portrait, by Healy, of her husband, the late Hon. William B. Ogden, a former member and officer of the Society.
"RESOLVED, That the said portrait shall be hung in the rooms of the Society, where it shall ever be treasured as a souvenir of Mr. Ogden, as a liberal and enlightened patron of the Society.
"RESOLVED (further), That the Secretary of the Society be directed to transmit the above resolutions to Mrs. Ogden.
"RESOLVED, That the thanks of the Society be hereby tendered to the Hon. Isaac N. Arnold, the President of the Society, for the very able, interesting, and instructive memoir of the late Hon. William B. Ogden, former member and officer of this Society, read before it this evening; and also to E. H. Sheldon, for his very appropriate remarks.
"RESOLVED, That Messrs. Arnold and Sheldon be requested to deposit the same in the archives of the Society, and also furnish copies for publication."
October, 31, 1881.
"My Dear Mr. Arnold: — I Shall long remember your agreeable visit to this Hotel to see my works, and your conversation with my sister, a mutual friend of long standing. You mentioned that you were on your way to see Mrs. William B. Ogden, who has given to the Chicago Historical Society my portrait of her late husband, on the presentation of which, to that noble Institution, you are to make some remarks, in memory of Mr. Ogden. You expressed a wish that I should write you a note giving some traits of Mr. Ogden's great charm of manner.
"In the summer of 1855, Dr. Brainard presented to me Mr. Ogden, who also sat to me. I found him in conversation a worthy rival of the three best I ever met, viz.: Louis Phillippe, John Quincy Adams, and Dr. O. A. Bronson. M. Guizot once called at my atelier, in Paris, accompanied by the Due de Montebello, to see the whole-length portrait of Mr. Ogden, that was lost in the Chicago fire. Said the great historian and statesman, "That is the representative American, who is a benefactor of his country, especially the mighty West: he built and owns Chicago."
I remarked, ‘Pardon me, M. Guizot, doubtless he owns much, but not all.’ He answered, with spirit;
"‘Yes; all, all.’
"I am indebted to Mr. Ogden and Dr. Brainard, more than to any others, for my visit to Chicago, in the autumn of 1855. My intention was to remain a month or six weeks, and I was delightfully entertained for fourteen years! My first patrons were the late Dr. Brainard and Hon. I. N. Arnold, those works, alas, were lost in the fire.
"Mr. Ogden invited me to pass my first winter there in his house, where I had a full opportunity to observe how charmingly he entertained. In his conversation with ladies, I was reminded of what the Dutchess of Argyle said of Robert Burns — She never derived so much pleasure from an hour's conversation with any one, as in the company of that gifted man. Mrs. Henry D. Gilpin of Philadelphia, absolutely made use other Graced words, in regard to Mr. Ogden.
"I am afraid, my dear friend, that I shall be unable to see you and my many other friends in Chicago, before I return to Europe. My son, of the firm of Healy & Miller, is with you, where my heart will ever be.
"Present my affectionate regards to your family.
"Faithfully yours, GEO. P. A. HEALY.
"HON. ISAAC N. ARNOLD."