By Caryl Clem:
Many Chicago firsts lay quietly documented in print unknown to current Chicagoans.
A wealthy man traveled to Chicago in 1835 during heavy storms to supervise his brother-in-laws purchase of land in a settlement along Lake Michigan. The roads were muddy trails trapping stagecoaches, too swampy to even walk. The steady flow of settlers buying property along the Lake cumulated in a quick profit after selling only 1/3 of the land. William Butler Ogden, keenly aware of Chicago’s potential, stayed to build this city into a Midwest commercial center. He gave up his New York Senate seat.
In 1837, William Ogden and 2 others ushered Chicago into cityhood complete with seal and motto Ogden had been the railroad genius consulted by Vice President Marin Van Buren to enable railroads to stretch from the East to Pennsylvania and New York. Ogden as a member of the New York Assembly convinced members to fund railroads. He served as President on the committee that planned the western railroad expansions. Believing transportation development was crucial for growth, he merged over 20 small railroads into the C & NW by 1863 cementing Chicago’s future success.
The marshy canal laced land tracts were bought by the Chicago Land Company in 1853; Chicago’s first mayor was a principal stockholder. Ogden had this land drained. . Originally, Goose Island was heavily populated by Irish immigrants. Alderman Thomas Keane recalled homeowners in the 1890’s loved raising chickens and gardening in the city while living near work. After the Depression, failed businesses, fewer occupants decreased to three residents by 1970. In 1990, Daley’s Planned Manufacturing District push revived this area.
The first beer research and brewing company in the United States in 1968, founded by a German chemist, John Edward Siebel became Siebel Institute of Technology. Famous graduates John W. Stroh, Jr. and August A. Busch III demonstrated the quality of instruction offered. John Hall bought a brewery in 1988 on Goose Island and created Chicago beers. all opens a brewery In 2003, Siebel Institute offered classes at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourne Ave.
Ogden lost his childhood sweetheart weeks before the wedding; he remained single until age 70. He built a large house for his sister and mother hosting affairs for future Chicago supporters with a piano accompanied sing along and dinner party, truly Chicago’s first tycoon. He entertained famous guests Martin Van Buren and Daniel Webster. He was active in real estate, iron ore mining, lumbering, banking, and city transit systems. His personal lawyer to secure land title transfers was Abraham Lincoln. After the Great Fire in 1871, he moved back to New York City. His ability to shape greatness enabled Chicago to come roaring back, better and stronger from the fire’s ashes.