Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men in Chicago, Photographically Illustrated by John Carbutt, 1868, Pages 11-24
William B. Ogden is a native of Delaware County, N. Y. He was born in the town of Walton, on the 15th of June, 1805. He is of the Eastern New Jersey Ogden family.
His grandfather was in the Revolutionary War. His father, Abraham Ogden, when eighteen years old, left Morristown, N. J., soon after the close of that war, intending to settle in the new city of Washington, the future Capital of the United States. He had proceeded on his journey as far as Philadelphia, when he met a brother or relative of his friend, the late Governor Mahlon Dickerson, of New Jersey, who gave him such a glowing account of the Upper Delaware country, and of the immense forests of pine timber upon the banks of the Delaware, promising great prospective wealth from its accessibility to the Philadelphia market, that he was induced to accompany Mr. Dickerson to that, then, wilderness country, where he finally settled, and passed a life of active usefulness, engaged in such employments as were best suited to develop and build up the home of his adoption. He was regarded as a man of sound judgment and good business tact. He was social and domestic, fond of reading, yet very hospitable in his disposition. His advice was sought and valued, especially by those younger than himself. His active usefulness was much impaired by a stroke of paralysis in 1820. He died in 1825.
The mother of William B. Ogden was a daughter of an officer of the Revolutionary War, James Weed, of New Canaan, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Mr. Weed seems to have been very patriotic, or somewhat military in his character, for we find him, at the early age of fourteen years, volunteering in the “French War.”
At the termination of the Revolutionary struggle, like most of his brother officers, lie was out of cash and out of business. Several of these officers, including Mr. Weed, determined to colonize and settle upon and around a “patent” of land which one of their number held upon the Delaware River. This land was a primitive forest, west of the Catskill Mountains, eighty miles (those were not railroad days) beyond the Hudson, and sixty miles beyond the, then, Western frontier or any carriage road. It was a great undertaking; yet these brave men had the courage to seek an independent home with their families in the wilderness. In 1790-2, they took their families, upon pack-horses, to their forest homes; established a settlement in that “Sequestered Section ” of the State, as it was afterwards called by Governor Clinton, where, though remarkable for neither numbers nor wealth, patriotism found a home, amid dignified courtesy and genuine hospitality. The society formed and developed through the influence of these pioneers was distinguished through all the surrounding country no less for its general intelligence and intellectual cultivation, than for its moral and religious character. It was here that the parents of the subject of this sketch were married, and the earlier years of the latter were passed. Allusion has not been made to the ancestors of Mr. Ogden from any feeling that worthy parentage can confer honor without regard to the character of the offspring. The writer holds that such ancestry only add to the dishonor of him who is not true to his inherited blood. But when worthy parentage is blessed and honored by corresponding qualities in the child, any biography of the latter is deficient, which does not acknowledge the indebtedness of its subject to its parent stock.
Mr. Ogden, when a lad, was large for his years. When not more than ten or twelve years old, he was very fond of athletic exercise, and the sports of robust boyhood. It was his delight to hunt, to swim, to skate, to wrestle and to ride. These were the sports suited to his “Sequestered” home; and if they trespassed too much upon his time, it was from no indisposition to study, or want of fondness for books. He must have been very fond of these sports in his early youth, for he recollects that his father was obliged to limit his hunting and fishing excursions to two days in the week. As he grew older, the advice of his father awakened in him a consciousness of the necessity of greater application to books, and of the duty of preparing himself for the serious business of life. His father’s counsels were not unheeded.
Permitted by his indulgent father to choose his future occupation, he determined to acquire a liberal education, and devote himself to the practice of law. No sooner had he made this determination, than, with the decision of character and earnestness which have marked all his subsequent life, he set to work to fit himself for his chosen profession. He had but little more than commenced his academic course, when the sudden prostration of his father’s health required him, though only sixteen years of age, to return home, to take his father’s place in the management of the latter’s business, and the care of the family. It was with no little regret that the young Ogden bade adieu to the academic halls, yet he could not hesitate between inclination and duty.
The management of his father’s business exacted great activity and energy from its youthful conductor. It took him much over the country, and frequently to the large cities, and in it he acquired that taste and inclination for diversified business pursuits which have rendered his subsequent life one of untiring and diversified activity.
Although his father’s business required great attention, it did not absorb all his strength. He found opportunity to cultivate his mind by reading ; and, being a ready observer, and his mind of a strong practical turn, he did not fail to profit by every tour he made. Travel proved to him, as it always does to persons of thought and observation, an efficient educator. It enlarged his views, expanded his thoughts, and increased his powers. Yet, at this time, he had not seen very much of the world. He was only twenty-one years of age, when he was induced to engage as a partner in a mercantile firm, and enlarge his operations. These were moderately successful, but did not satisfy his ambition. After spending a few years more in his native county, his unwearied exertions being rewarded by only moderate gains, he determined, in 1835, to turn his attention westward. He arrived at Chicago in June, 1835, having then recently united with friends in the purchase of real estate in this city. He and they foresaw that Chicago was to be a good town, and they purchased largely, including Wolcott’s Addition, and nearly the half of Kinzie’s Addition, and the block of land upon which the freight-houses of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad now stand.
Before leaving his native State, at eighteen, the age at which military duty was at that time required of young men in the State of New York, Mr. Ogden entered upon that service. He was elected a commissioned officer, the first day of doing duty; and on the second was appointed Aid to his esteemed friend, Brigadier-General Frederic P. Foote, a gallant and polished gentleman, long since deceased. The late Hon. Selah B. Hobbie, the distinguished Assistant Postmaster-General of the United States, for many years, and from boyhood the intimate friend of Mr. Ogden, was a member of General Foote’s Staff, at the same time, as Brigade Inspector, with the rank of Major. Mr. Ogden succeeded his friend, Major Hobbie, in the office of Brigade Inspector, and did its duties for several years.
In General Jackson’s time, Mr. Ogden was made Postmaster of his village (Walton,) and so remained until after his removal to Chicago.
The year before coming to Chicago (1834,) Mr. Ogden was elected to the Legislature of the State of New York, especially to advocate the construction of the New York and Erie Railroad, and to obtain the aid of the State for that great work, which then commanded his hearty exertions, and in which he has ever since felt a deep interest. He spent the winter of 1834-5 in the Assembly at Albany, but it was not until the following year that aid was granted by the State.
Chicago was selected as his place of residence, because of its prominent position at the head of Lake Michigan, or rather, because of its being the Western terminus of Lake navigation.
His attention had been more particularly drawn to it by his brother-in-law, Charles Butler, and his friend, Arthur Bronson, of New York, both of whom had visited Chicago, in 1833, and made purchases here.
At first Mr. Ogden’s principal business in Chicago was the management of the real estate which he and his friends had purchased; but gradually, and almost accidentally in the beginning, he established a Land and Trust Agency in Chicago, which he carried on in his own name from 1836 to 1843, when it had so increased that he associated with himself the late William E. Jones. Since then the business has been carried on successively by Ogden, Jones Co., and Ogden, Fleetwood & Co., in which last name it is still managed. The business has become so large that it may be called one of the institutions of Chicago.
Mr. Ogden was very successful in his operations in 1835-6; but he became embarrassed in 1837-8, by assuming liabilities for friends, several of whom he endeavored to aid, with but partial success. He struggled on with these embarrassments for several years. Finally, in 1842-3, Mr. Ogden escaped from the last of them; and, since then, his career of pecuniary success has been unclouded. They were gloomy days for Chicago when the old internal improvement system went by the board, and the Canal drew its slow length along, and operations upon it were finally suspended, leaving the State comparatively nothing show for the millions squandered in “internal improvements.”
His operations in real estate have been immense. He has sold real estate for himself and others, to an amount exceeding ten millions of dollars, requiring many thousand deeds and contracts which have been signed by him. The fact that the sales of his house have, for some years past, equalled nearly one million of dollars per annum, will give some idea of the extent of its business. He has literally made the rough places smooth, and the crooked ways straight, in Chicago. More than one hundred miles of streets, and hundreds of bridges at street corners, besides several other bridges, including two over the Chicago river, have been made by him, at the private expense of himself and clients, and at a cost of probably hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Ogden’s mind is of a very practical character. The first floating swing-bridge over the Chicago River was built by him, for the city, on Clark street, (before he ever saw one elsewhere), and answered well its designed purpose. He was early engaged in introducing into extensive use in the West, McCormick’s reaping and mowing machines, and building up the first large factory for their manufacture—that now owned by the McCormicks. In this manufactory, during Mr. Ogden’s connection with it, and at his suggestion, was built the first reaper sent to England, and which, at the great Exhibition of 1851, in London, did so much for the credit of American manufactures there.
He was a contractor upon the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and his efforts to prevent its suspension, and to resuscitate and complete it, were untiring.
There is no brighter page in Mr. Ogden’s history than that which records his devotion to the preservation of the public credit. The first time that we recollect to have heard him address a public meeting was in the autumn of 1837, while he held the office of Mayor. Some frightened debtors, assisted by a few demagogues, had called a meeting to take measures to have the courts suspended, or some way devised by which the compulsory fulfilment of their engagements might be deferred beyond that period, so tedious to creditors, known as the “law’s delay.” They sought by legislative action, or “relief laws,” to virtually suspend, for a season, the collection of debts. An inflammatory and ad captandum speech had been made. The meeting, which was composed chiefly of debtors, seemed quite excited, and many were rendered almost desperate by the recital by designing men, of their sufferings and pecuniary danger. During the excitement, the Mayor was called for. He stepped forward, and exhorted his fellow citizens not to commit the folly of proclaiming their own dishonor. He besought those of them who were embarrassed, to bear up against adverse circumstances, with the courage of men, remembering that no misfortune was so great as one’s own personal dishonor. That it were better for them to conceal their misfortunes, than to proclaim them; reminding them that many a fortress had saved itself by the courage of its inmates, and their determination to conceal its weakened condition, when, if its real state had been made known, its destruction would have been inevitable and immediate. “Above all things,” said he, “do not tarnish the honor of our infant city.”
To the credit of Chicago, be it said, this first attempt at “repudiating relief” met, from a majority of that meeting, and from our citizens, a rebuff no less pointed than deserved; and those who attempted it merited contempt.
Since then has our State needed all the exertions of its truest and most faithful citizens to repel the insidious approaches of the demon of repudiation. When Mississippi repudiated, and Illinois could not pay, and with many sister States had failed to meet her interest, there were not wanting political Catalines to raise the standard of repudiation in Illinois. The State seemed almost hopelessly in debt; and the money for this immense indebtedness, except so much as had been expended upon the Canal, had been wasted, chiefly in the partial construction of disconnected pieces of railroads, which were of no value to the State or people.
The State was bankrupt, and private insolvency was rather the rule than the exception. Many were discouraged by their misfortunes, some of the hopeless were leaving the State on account of its embarrassments, and immigration was repelled by fear of enormous taxation. Then it was that the wily demagogue sought to beguile the simple and unsuspecting, and to preach the doctrine of repudiation as a right, because ” no value had been received” for the money which our public creditors had loaned us, and on account of the hopelessness and utter impossibility of our ever paying our indebtedness. Mr. Ogden then, though his party in its State Convention refused to adopt a resolution which was submitted, “repudiating repudiation,” in common with the great mass of his Northern fellow citizens, did not hesitate to proclaim the inviolable nature of our public faith, and the necessity of doing our utmost to meet our obligations, and redeem the credit of our noble State.
In politics, Mr. Ogden, though not much of a partisan, has always been a democrat of the Madisonian school. He has not hesitated to oppose the nominations of his party, when, in his opinion, the public interest required it. He has often been in the City Council, and frequently solicited to be a candidate for official positions. He was nominated in 1840, by the Canal party, for the Legislature, and in 1852, by the Free Democracy for Congress. This nomination he declined. In the recent struggle, he was found with freedom’s hosts, in support of the nominees of the Republican party, believing, in common with the great mass of the North, that the encroachments of slavery upon territory dedicated to freedom by the plighted faith of the nation, must be resisted; and that the “principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution, are essential to the preservation of our republican institutions.”
Mr. Ogden is a man of great public spirit, and in enterprise unsurpassed. To recapitulate the public undertakings which have commanded his attention, and received his countenance and support, would be to catalogue most of those in this section of the Northwest. He has been a leading man—President or Director, or a large stockholder—in so many public bodies or corporations, that we shall not undertake to make a list of them. Among the prominent places he has occupied, we recollect the following:
In 1837, at the first election under the city charter, he was chosen Mayor. He was the first and only President of Hush Medical College. He was President of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad Company, from its resuscitation on its present basis, until its construction, in part, and earnings had raised its stock to a premium, when he resigned. He was President of the National Pacific Railroad Convention of 1850, held in Philadelphia; of the Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad Company; of the Buffalo and Mississippi Railroad Company, in Indiana, until merged in the Michigan Central; of the Chicago Branch of the State Bank of Illinois, at Chicago; and is President of the Board of Sewerage Commissioners for the City of Chicago.
It was Mr. Ogden who first started the resuscitation and building of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. He negotiated for the purchase of the charter and assets of the Company, of the proprietors in New York, in 1847, and was the first President of the Company. He was indefatigable in his exertions to commend the enterprise to public attention, and secure its commencement and energetic construction. But for his exertions, and those of J. Y. Scammon, it could not have started when it did. It was their exertions, in the country and in Chicago, that obtained the necessary subscriptions to justify the commencement of the undertaking. Without them, it would not have moved for years.
In 1854-5, Mr. Ogden visited Europe, and was away from Chicago for about a year and a half. He was an accurate observer, while abroad, of men and things. The institutions and great public works of Europe did not escape his attention, and some of them were carefully examined by him. It was the canals of Holland, and especially the great ship canal at Amsterdam, that first suggested to him the practicability, as well as importance and necessity of a channel for the free flow of the waters of Lake Michigan, through the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers, into the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, in aid of navigation in those rivers ; and at the same time furnishing free, direct and unbroken steamboat navigation between the Mississippi River and all its tributaries and Chicago. His letters from Europe were published in the “Chicago Democratic Press” at the time, and have attracted attention to this great subject, which has already many strong friends. While in Europe, Mr. Ogden gave attention, also, to works of art, and purchased quite a number of pictures and articles of virtu, many of them the productions of American artists of merit abroad, and which not only adorn his mansion, but do credit to their authors, and are valuable contributions for the improvement and gratification of the public taste in this new world.
Mr. Ogden is a man of commanding person, and most agreeable manners—of extensive general information, and cultivated taste. We have never known a more amiable or gentlemanly man in intercourse with others. His strong practical sense and great presence of mind make him at home almost everywhere. He is rarely at a loss. Although his education has not been such as to make him a belles lettres scholar, or an accomplished orator, he writes well, and is always listened to with attention when he addresses an audience; and few, if any men, exert more influence in a public body, upon any practical subject, than he does.
As a traveling companion, we have never seen his equal. His prudence and foresight, and his love of doing the agreeable to others, relieve his compagnons de voyage of all care. It is natural for him to love to aid others. It affords him great satisfaction to be of service to his friends. Amidst the pressure of his enormous business, he finds time to relieve the distressed and to aid the deserving; and many a family in Chicago, who are now basking in prosperity, owe their success to his kind assistance; many a poor widow and orphan have been preserved from want by his care and foresight.
Mr. Ogden is now immensely rich; yet he retains the same fondness for enterprise, the same love for building roads, and developing the country, which have characterized his previous life. He is now President of the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad Company, and of the Wisconsin and Superior Land Grant Railroad Company; and, under his auspices, Chicago will, ere long, in all probability, be brought into direct communication with Lake Superior; and should he live long enough, we should not be surprised to see him building the Northwestern Railroad to the Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Ogden has never married. In 1837, he built a delightful residence, in the centre of a beautiful lot, thickly covered with fine native growth forest trees, and surrounded by four streets, in that part of the city called North Chicago; and there, when not absent from home, he indulges in that hospitality which is, at the same time, so cheering to his friends and so agreeable to himself.
The preceding sketch of the life of our eminent townsman was written and published in 1857. In continuing it to the present date, we but recount the history of Chicago and the Northwest for the last ten years.
Impelled by his love of public improvement, and desire to develop the great West, Mr. Ogden, during the year 1857, was pushing forward with all his energy the construction of the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad, two sections of which, from Chicago to Janesville, and twenty-eight miles from Fond du Lac south, were completed and in operation when the memorable financial crisis of that year swept over this country and the commercial world, upsetting many of the strongest commercial houses, and producing general embarrassment in all the business enterprises of the land. The Fond du Lac Railroad was carrying a large floating debt, pending a sale of its mortgage bonds, and the negotiations abroad suddenly failing, in the crash the paper of the Company went to protest. Upon this paper Mr. Ogden was endorser to the extent of nearly a million and a half of dollars, and was consequently called upon to provide for the payment of this large sum. With his usual energy he set about the herculean task. These were days of trial, requiring fortitude and good judgment. Aided by the advice and confidence of such friends as William A. Booth, President of the American
Exchange Bank, Caleb O. Halsted, President of the Manhattan Company, and his Counsellor, Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, he made an exhibit of his affairs, and was allowed by the creditors of the road to continue in its control, and arrange and liquidate its paper, according to his own judgment; and through the assets of the Company, and the free use of a large portion of his private estate, he succeeded ere long in retiring all the paper of the Company upon which he was endorser. It is due to our common humanity that we should here acknowledge several acts of confidence and good will, so noble as to deserve especial mention.
The house of which Mr. Ogden was the head at Chicago, had for many years been the agents of Samuel Russell, of Middletown, Connecticut, a wealthy retired merchant, the founder of the well-known house of Russell & Co., of Canton, India. Immediately upon learning that his friend was embarrassed, Mr. Russell wrote to Mr. Ogden’s partner at Chicago, to place his entire estate in their hands, amounting to near a half million of dollars, at Mr. Ogden’s disposal. Robert Eaton, of Swansea, in Wales, an English gentleman of wealth and cultivation, at once sent to Mr. Ogden eighty thousand dollars to use in his discretion. Our well-known citizen, Matthew Laflin, wrote from Saratoga, where he was sojourning, and tendered, from himself and friends, a hundred thousand dollars; and Colonel E. D. Taylor, long an enterprising citizen of Chicago, repeatedly tendered like substantial aid. Although this princely liberality was not accejDted, we can readily understand how gratifying it must have been to Mr. Ogden, and how such exhibitions of confidence and esteem at such a time cheered and encouraged him in his trying and difficult position. The responsibility which he had assumed for the road was not prompted, mainly, by the prospect of private gain. Others had a larger pecuniary interest in the road than he, and others in Chicago had as large an indirect interest as he in the extension of the road, and the development of the country, and of the city of his adoption. Undaunted by the reverse which had overtaken him, and confidently forecasting the future in a large mould, he did not hesitate, before he had retired all the paper of the road upon which he was endorser, to push on the project towards completion. In the summer of 1859, he undertook the construction of sixty miles of the road from Janesville northward, to connect the two sections of the line already in operation, and this was accomplished in the, then, unprecedented time of fifty-eight working days. The failure of the road, in 1857, involved its sale and re-organization, after which it took the name of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, and, under that title, Mr. Ogden and his friends continued to jmsh on the line towards Lake Superior, competing for the trade of the Northwest. The old Galena road was seeking for the same trade, and each company was projecting competing lines through territory already supplied with facilities for transportation. Mr. Ogden thought this policy injurious to both interests, and that neither the trade and commerce of Chicago, nor the great region lying beyond the points then reached by the roads, were being developed and benefitted in a degree at all commensurate with the capital likely to be expended. He thought that by a concentration of interests, mutually beneficial to the stockholders, it would be possible for Chicago, through these roads, and to their profit, to speedily put herself in communication, by rail, with Lake Superior to the North, St. Paul and Minnesota to the Northwest, and the Missouri River, with the boundless region and resources to the West. Moved by these considerations, in the winter of 1864, Mr. Ogden projected the purchase of the Galena Railroad; and this being accomplished by himself and a few friends, the two rival interests were consolidated at the next annual election. The Directors of the Galena Company having, some years previously, abandoned to the Illinois Central their line from Freeport to Galena, the word “Galena” was dropped at the consolidation as a misnomer, and thenceforward that line took the name of its younger and more enterprising rival. The wisdom of this movement has been more than vindicated by results already accomplished.
At an early day Mr. Ogden was interested in securing railroad connections for our city with the first by the Michigan Central, and subsequently by the Michigan Southern road. On the organization of the Fort Wayne and Chicago Company, in 1853, he became a Director, and has, we believe, always continued his active interest in that enterprise. The line to Pittsburgh then embraced three distinct companies, all weak and all engaged, with limited means and credit, in the work of construction. He regarded a grand trunk line, under one management, from Chicago to Pittsburgh, as essential to a valuable business connection with the latter city, as well as with Philadelphia. The roads were subsequently united, but, wanting the strength of a completed line, the enterprise was forced to succumb to the pressure of the times, and in 1859 steps were taken for the appointment of Receivers—and a Sequestrator was appointed in Pennsylvania, and a Receiver in Ohio. A want of harmony in the several States seemed likely to end in ruinous litigation, and in defeating the project, or at least suspending it indefinitely. This would have been a great misfortune to Chicago; would have involved large losses on the line, not to individuals only, but to counties Avhich had subscribed largely to the stock, and the danger was so imminent that a general meeting of stock and bondholders, as well as creditors, was convened at Pittsburgh. We have been informed by gentlemen who were present on that occasion, that the sagacity and discretion of Mr. Ogden were never more strikingly illustrated than on this occasion. He had such a clear perception of what was certain to follow division and strife on the one hand, and of the favorable results sure to be attained by harmony and co-operation on the other, and he spoke with such earnestness and power that he succeeded, to the surprise of his friends, in reconciling the conflicting parties. The plan which he urged with so much force, provided for preserving existing preferences and priorities, sacrificed no interest, but created a new or re-organized company, composed of holders of bonds, stockholders and creditors, all sharing equally in the future control and management of the road. The adoption of it involved the appointment of a Receiver for the whole line, pending the proceedings which were necessary to carry out the project. The Receivership was at once tendered to Mr. Ogden, at a salary of $25,000 per annum, with entire unanimity. This he was forced to decline, as he was already overburdened with his private affairs, and his health seriously impaired. It was found difficult, if not impossible, however, to unite upon any other name, and after again and again declining, he yielded to the solicitation of some of his personal friends, whose fortunes were largely involved, and accepted the position, although declining the large compensation proposed, as not warranted by the circumstances of the road. This action secured the reorganization on the plan proposed, and the completion of the to-day it is one of the longest, most successful and important roads in the country, with a daily connection between Chicago and New York, without change of cars.
We have reverted to Mr. Ogden’s early interest in a railroad to the Pacific. When the Company was organized under the Act of Congress, incorporating the Union Pacific Railroad Company, Mr. Ogden was chosen its first President. His accumulated business cares, however, induced him, subsequently, to retire from this position, although advising and co-operating in the construction of the road, and having an active interest in all that concerns it. He has an abiding faith that, ere many years are past, a second road will be constructed to the Pacific, on what is known as the Northern route, and steps have already been taken to inaugurate that project.
Mr. Ogden’s practical mind and enterprising spirit have led him into great and varied undertakings. In 1856, he became interested in a large lumbering establishment on the Peshtigo River, in Northern Wisconsin. To this estate he has been adding, from time to time, until the company which he organized, and of which he is the principal owner, now has nearly a hundred thousand acres of pine lands, on which are extensive mills; a thriving village of several hundred inhabitants; a fine harbor, constructed on Green Bay, at the mouth of the Peshtigo River, and the company manufactures for the Chicago market some 16,000,000 feet of lumber annually. A large steam mill has just been commenced at the mouth of the river, which will increase this product to 50,000,000 a year.
In 1860, he purchased at Brady’s Bend, on the Alleghany River, in Pennsylvania, an estate of 5,000 acres, on which were extensive mines of iron and coal, rolling-mills and furnaces, and a village of some fifteen hundred inhabitants. Here, with some friends, who subsequently joined him, he organized the Brady’s Bend Iron Company, with a capital of $2,000,000, which employs some six hundred men, and makes two hundred tons of rails daily.
His business causing him, of late years, to spend much of his time in New York, he purchased a handsome villa, in the spring of 1866, in Westchester County, at Fordham Heights, adjoining the High Bridge. To this he has made some additions, so that he now has a farm of a hundred and ten acres, with a frontage of near half a mile on the Harlem River. He has recently enlarged and improved his old homestead at Chicago, where he still retains his residence, and at both of these establishments he continues to dispense that large-hearted hospitality for which his name has become almost a synonym.
Nearly every public institution in Chicago, including the Rush Medical College, the Theological Seminary of the Northwest, the Historical Society, the Academy of Sciences, the Astronomical Society, and the University of Chicago, are greatly indebted to him for timely aid. He is President of the Board of Trustees of the latter institution, and his presence at all meetings of the Board is welcomed by every friend of the University with great satisfaction.
We have previously alluded to Mr Ogden’s political life. Since the former sketch was written, he has mainly eschewed politics, and concentrated his energies upon internal improvements—his great central idea being the growth and development of the great Northwest. Nevertheless, in 1860-1, he consented to accept from the Republican party a seat in the State Senate, where, though laboring under great anxiety on account of the disturbed condition of the country, and feeling under great apprehension as to the result of the threatened rebellion, he rendered good service to his constituents and the public in seeking in all things to promote the welfare of his adopted State, and increase the facilities for making Chicago, what it is destined to be, the great interior city of America.
William B. Ogden is a man of noble mould. We claim not that he is faultless, or free from the imperfections and failings of our common humanity; but as a man, a brother, a citizen, a public-spirited, charitable, benevolent, and capable man, we acknowledge no superior, and no name in the Northwest calls up so many acknowledgments of public indebtedness for general benefits resulting from individual energy, enterprise, and ability, as that of William B. Ogden.
Former generations have commemorated the deeds of the worthy in monuments of bronze and marble. It is the glory of the nineteenth century, that general utility and the elevation and amelioration of the condition of all classes are its primary objects. In this century, men are to be measured and praised or censured by their works.
The public improvements of the Northwest, radiating from the home of his adoption, are noble monuments, commemorating in their usefulness both the character and enterprise of the subject of this sketch.
In 1837, when Ogden moved to Chicago, he invited architect John Mills Van Osdel to come with him to design his house. The house, 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. 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.”—Isaac N. Arnold, 1881.