Ogden’s shift in support from the Bostonian’s MC to Sheffield’s MS and the new C&RI, however, did not necessarily reflect the opinion of all the Galena’s board on this issue, as the Galena still had a contract with the Aurora Branch, whose construction had been aided by the MC’s John W. Brooks, that allowed it to use the G&CU’s tracks to enter Chicago to connect with the MC.  The President of the Aurora Branch was Elisha Wadsworth, whose brother, Julius, had been the leader of the Chicago group that had tried to secure the IC landgrant in an attempt to sever the Aurora’s dependence on the G&CU’s tracks into Chicago.  The Wadsworths’ long-time business partner, Thomas Dyer (who also owned the Lake House that stood at the corner of N. Water and Rush Streets), was also a G&CU director who was a staunch supporter of the MC.  He had significant real estate interests in the North Division and had been pressing Ogden to extend the Galena’s tracks eastward across the North Branch and down seven blocks to Walcott Street, where he and others were holding Block 1 of the original town’s section for the potential erection of a new depot.  The eastern extension of the G&CU’s tracks would also bring them closer to a potential location for the IC/MC depot on the Fort Dearborn reservation.

The First Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Station, Canal and Kinzie, 1848. Looking northwest. (Wade and Meyer, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis)

Such real estate speculation, however, had been expressly forbidden by the G&CU’s Board of Directors.  In addition, Ogden was reportedly not to have been in favor of the extension (it was claimed by his opponents that his real estate interests had moved to the Western Division, that was somewhat true as the company’s depot was currently located there).  Scammon had put a quick stop to these efforts and the culprits knew that he was keeping an eye on their every move.  Within months of the legislature’s decision to give the Schuyler group the IC, the group of conspirators had hatched a plan to vote Scammon off the G&CU’s Board that involved pitting Ogden versus Scammon, the two founders of the road, against each other by telling lies to each other’s supporters.  Scammon once again figured out the plot in time and offered to resign before the annual meeting, in time to avoid a public fight that would have had only negative complications on the stock of the struggling company.  Nonetheless, as soon as Ogden was reelected president, the speculators then turned on him within a week of Common Council’s contentious granting on May 26, 1851, to the MS the right to lay tracks within the city limits (for it was finally quite apparent that Ogden, who was still the leading political force in the city, had changed allegiances to the MS) and demanded that he resign, citing the contract that he had made during the tough financial times at the start of road’s construction with McCagg’s lumber firm (of which he was a silent partner), for timber ties on credit that he was supposed to have repaid, but as of yet had not.  (The actual names of Ogden’s antagonists were purposely kept out of the company’s minutes.  The pertinent facts, as we will see in a later chapter point to Elisha and Julius Wadsworth and, maybe their long-time partner, Thomas Dyer.  We also cannot discount the influence of Gurdon Hubbard in this conspiracy, who had been completely shut-out in 1845 by Ogden and Scammon of the company that his cousin, Elijah Hubbard, had started.  Dyer’s role in the affair was even more complex for he had married the widow of Elijah, thereby triangulating the emotions of both the Wadsworths and the Hubbards towards Ogden and Scammon.)

Birdseye view of the north bank of the main branch. From top to bottom: A: Original G&CU station; B: the 1852 G&CU station; Mc: McCormick’s Reaper Factory. (Online)

Ogden, who had suffered a series of four close family deaths over the past eighteen months, including that of his beloved mother, Abigail, as well as his business partner and brother-in-law, William Jones, only the month before, seemingly was burned out from the six-year campaign to build the Galena, and chose not to fight the conspirators, resigning on June 2, 1851. (An important footnote to the Ogden resignation to remember later was that while he had resigned as the G&CU’s president, he did not sell any of his stock in the company.)  Ogden would have had no concerns over his decision to “abandon” his pioneering railroad, however, as he was well aware that John B. Turner, his longtime trusted associate (whose son, Voluntine, would marry the daughter of Henry Smith, Ogden’s longtime business partner from upstate New York, some three years later) was to be elected the following day on June 3, 1851, to replace him as president. The extension plans eastward across the river went ahead with the construction of a drawbridge across the North Branch in the fall.  Tracks were laid down the middle of North Water Street to Walcott, eventually continuing until they stopped at McCormick’s Reaper Factory.  In November 1852, construction began on a new stone passenger station on the north side of Water Street, fronting Wells.  The site was a short, six-block carriage ride to Dyer’s Lake House, with no bridges to impede the G&CU’s passengers’ travel to it.  The station consisted of a 50′ by 230′ long shed with a two-story office block in the front.

The Second Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Station, Kinzie (left) and Wells (right), 1852. (Douglas, Rail City: Chicago, USA)


Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago- vols. 1&2. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Fergus Historical Series, No, 18. Chicago: Fergus, 1882.

Harpster, Jack. A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 2009.

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago– 2. New York: Knopf.  1940.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

Young, David M. The Iron Horse and the Windy City. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

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