8.7. ROBERT SCHUYLER’S NY&NH STOCK FRAUD IS UNCOVERED AND THE IC STATION IS BUILT

Otto Matz, the Illinois Central Station, S. Water Street Elevation, 1855. (Jevni & Almini, Chicago Illustrated)

The timing of the announcement of such an extravagant building, in that it came after Robert Schuyler, who on July 11, 1853, had passed the presidency of the IC on to William Burrall, and had also resigned as the president of the NY&NH on July 4, 1854, immediately once his sale of $2 million fraudulent, unauthorized NY&NH stock was uncovered, indicates not only a change of management policy pertaining to the quality of the IC’s construction, but also to a directed public relations campaign designed to restore confidence in the post-Schuyler IC. Schuyler had resigned from the IC, more than likely, following the worst train accident of the decade.  On May 6, 1853, an eastbound NY&NH morning express ran through an open drawbridge at South Norwalk, CT, killing 46 passengers.  Schuyler was also the president of this company at this time and probably felt he needed to focus on the resolution of this disaster, resigning from the IC within two months of the accident.  The railroad eventually would end up paying over $500,000 in damages.  

This may have been the reason that within five months of the accident, Schuyler had started to issue fake stock certificates in the NY&NH, as he was its Transfer Agent as well as its President, using three sets of accounting books in order to enable him to pocket every penny.  His fraud was caught by chance, after he had been taken ill on June 29, 1854, and was out of the office when a number of fraudulent certificates were innocently presented for transfer.   The Vice-President was, therefore called in to act as Transfer Agent, who needed to see the books to affect the transfer.   The following day Schuyler matter-of-factly resigned from the NY&NH, never to be seen again in the U.S. This was the first-time fraud of this magnitude had hit Wall Street, and although he had resigned from the IC the previous year, guilt through association once Schuyler’s fraud was publicized, resulted in the IC’s stock declining more than 40 points and its bonds dropping on the market to sixty-three.  The IC was forced to sell its last $4.5 million construction bonds at 35% under par (a loss of $1.55 million), in order to continue its construction and to meet its interest payments. In the face of this economic disaster, the erection of such a magnificent edifice at the mouth of the river speaks to a major public relations campaign on the part of the IC to restore public confidence.  Even so, such a costly building could have been afforded at this time by a private company only if it had been subsidized by the Federal government, which was exactly what the landgrant had done.  

The Fort Dearborn Reservation and the IC Railroad Station. (upper) Before construction of the station: landfill almost completed with a temporary station at the foot of S. Water St. (bottom) After the construction of the station. (Chicago Historical Society)

The IC had achieved a major real estate coup with the acquisition of the prime lakefront property that Fort Dearborn had once occupied that had managed to elude private ownership since the founding of the town in exchange for the initial capital outlay of the breakwater. The station was designed in 1854 by the company’s architect Otto Matz.  Matz had been born in Berlin in 1830, where he had completed the traditional polytechnic training for architecture.  He had immigrated to the U.S. where he was hired in 1853 by the IC and assigned to Mason’s engineering corps.  He had risen to the position of company architect upon the death of his predecessor, just prior to the start of the design of the Chicago terminal that was to be erected at the foot of South Water Street, depositing passengers conveniently at the eastern edge of the Lake Street business district.  

Otto Matz, the Illinois Central Station, 1855. View from the south, approaching the Train Shed. (Douglas, Rail City: Chicago, USA)

The train shed was the longest clear spanned space in the U.S. when it was completed.  Matz employed arched iron-lattice trusses that spanned 166’ and rose 42’ from the ground.  (This structure’s span was second in the world only to the recently completed 211’ span of New Street Station in Birmingham, U.K.) To the north of the train shed, Matz placed the freight house, in which the company’s offices were housed on the top floor. So while the MS had won the race into the city, Common Council had kept its station at the far southern edge of the business district; the MC and the IC, with a little help from its friends Sen. Douglas, Rep. Wentworth, and the new aldermen elected in the municipal election of March 2, 1852, were allowed to lay tracks directly to the mouth of the river and to the foot of the city’s commercial center, Lake Street.  Nonetheless, Common Council, with the assistance of the trestle in the lake, had still managed to keep the IC’s locomotives out of the streets of the business district, while getting the IC to pay for the breakwater that reduced the erosion along Michigan Avenue.

Richmond House, northwest corner of S. Water and Michigan, 1856. (Gilbert, Chicago and Its Makers)

Accompanying the erection of the IC station was the construction of a covey of hotels immediately to the west of the station to provide the railroad’s arriving passengers with appropriate accommodations.  The first constructed was the Richmond House, a six-story hotel located on the northwest corner of S. Water and Michigan.  The Massasoit House was constructed the following year one block farther south on Michigan Avenue at the northeast corner of Lake and Michigan. The Adams House was built in 1858 on the corner of S. Water and Central (now Beaubien Ct.).

Massasoit House, southwest corner of S. Water and Central (now Beaubien Ct), 1857. The view is taken in 1863 looking west down S. Water Street, with the Richmond House, the tallest building across from the Massasoit House. The north face of the IC Station is at the far left. Looking west down S. Water Street. (Chicagology)
W.W. Boyington, Adams House (far right), northeast corner of Lake and Michigan, 1858. Looking west sown Lake Street. (Gilbert, Chicago and Its Makers)

FURTHER READING:

Ackerman, W.K., History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and Representative Employees, Railroad Historical Company, 1900.

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

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge:     Harvard University Press, 1967.

Mahler, Michael, “Robert Schuyler’s Stock Fraud on the New York and New Haven Rail Road: the Paper Trail,” 2009.

Meeks, Carroll L.V., The Railroad Station, New York: Dover, 1995.

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

Stover, John F. History of the Illinois Central Railroad. New York: Macmillan, 1975.

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

8.6 CONSTRUCTING THE IC BREAKWATER AND TRESTLE

The Illinois Central Complex, looking southwest from the station. Note the construction of the breakwater: a timber crib filled with large stones. (Jevni & Almini, Chicago Illustrated)
The Illinois Central’s Trestle in Lake Michigan. This is the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body back to Springfield parked on the IC trestle during the memorial service at City Hall on May 2, 1865. (Kogan and Wendt, Chicago: A Pictorial History)

On May 21, 1852, the MC’s route was completed to the city limits and the first MC construction train pulled into a temporary depot on the lakeshore, south of 22th Street.  For this to have occurred, the IC would have obviously had to purchase the 200’ wide right-of-way along the lakefront from 35th to 22nd from Douglas that it did for the handsome sum of $21,310.  However, construction had halted here because the city still had not yet approved the railroad’s conditions in its petition for permission to build tracks within the city limits.  Eventually enough council votes were procured so that a veto-proof majority approved the IC proposal on June 14, 1852, giving the IC the right-of-way to place its tracks in Lake Michigan.  

In September 1852, construction commenced at 12th Street, where a temporary depot had been constructed in the meanwhile on the southeast corner of Michigan and 13th, of the IC’s breakwater that consisted of a twelve-foot-wide timber crib, made with 12x12s laid horizontally upon one another, that was filled with stone and kept in place with timber piles driven into the lakebed at ten-foot intervals.   This preceded the erection of the timber trestle in the lake, upon which the tracks would take the trains to their final destination at the mouth of the river.  Therefore, while the city got the breakwater that would slow down the erosion of the lakefront along Michigan Avenue and also created a lagoon that at times provided quite pleasant recreation, and at other times, was the repository for the rotting carcasses of dead animals, the railroad for its initial expenses of the breakwater and trestle got the free and unencumbered use of the lakefront that it needed to bring its trains to the mouth of the river, next to the site of old Fort Dearborn.  

The Fort Dearborn Reservation and the IC Railroad Station. (Above) Before construction of the station: landfill almost completed with a temporary station at the foot of S. Water St. (Below) After the construction of the station. (Chicago Historical Society)

In the meantime, the IC had also finally managed to acquire the fort’s reservation from the Federal government on October 14, 1852, for the relatively inconsequential sum of $45,000.  (Thus began the long-standing litigation between the IC and the city over this land.  The IC argued that the fort’s reservation was to be included in the original Federal landgrant bill.  As the Fort Dearborn land was under the jurisdiction of the General Land Office, Chicago lawyer Justin Butterfield, who had been appointed by Whig Pres. Taylor as its Commissioner, somewhat surprisingly rejected this interpretation of Democrat Douglas’ IC landgrant bill.  However, Butterfield suffered a stroke and was replaced in Sept. 1852 with a more “sympathetic” individual who approved the sale of reservation to the IC for the “compromise sum.”  Douglas and Wentworth had smoothed the route of the IC once again.  Nonetheless, the IC would continue to litigate the issue during the foreseeable future.) The purchase agreement also allowed the company to extend its breakwater north of Randolph another 775′ farther east into Lake Michigan, that when backfilled, gave the railroad a very large tract of land upon which to build.  The IC Station to be built here was planned to be not only one of the nation’s largest, dwarfing that of the MS’s, but also, at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars, one of its most expensive stations. 

The Illinois Central Complex, 1858. Looking northeast from Michigan Avenue. (Jevni & Almini, Chicago Illustrated)
Otto Matz, the Illinois Central Station, S. Water Street Elevation, 1855. (Jevni & Almini, Chicago Illustrated)

FURTHER READING:

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

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Ericsson, Henry L. Sixty Years a Builder: The Autobiography of Henry Ericsson. Chicago: A. Kroch,    1942.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Lewis, Lloyd and Henry Justin Smith. Chicago: The History of its Reputation.  New York: Blue Ribbon, 1929.

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

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free; The Struggle For Chicago’s Lakefront. Chicago: Regnery, 1972.

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)

8.5. THE SOLUTION:  THE IC PROPOSES TO BUILD ITS TRACKS IN LAKE MICHIGAN

These demands by the movers and shakers who lived in the South, however, fell on deaf ears across the river in the city’s North and West Divisions, whose residents had no stomach for paying the higher taxes needed to protect what they saw as the private investments of whom they already considered to be some of Chicago’s richest families.  This sectional jealousy played right into the hands of the IC that was looking for a way to politically circumvent the covenant protecting the lakeshore.  While the covenant strictly declared that no building or obstruction could be built on the ground along the lakefront, no one in 1836 had conceived that there would ever be any need for anyone to propose to build anything in the lake, away from the lakefront.  Although such an idea ran counter to the spirit of the covenant, there seemed to be no legal prohibition of construction in the lake.  Therefore, on October 16, 1851, the IC eventually proposed to council to do just that: to build a trestle in the lake to carry their tracks from 12th Street to the Fort Dearborn reservation: the “lakefront” would not be built upon, thereby respecting the letter of the covenant.  The proposal would have the added advantage for the IC of not requiring any private land to be purchased within the city limits at inflated values, although this savings would be somewhat offset by the cost of constructing the trestle (which needed to be built anyway because the land was so marshy due to its proximity to the lake).  To sweeten the pot for Common Council, the IC volunteered to build the breakwater needed to stop the erosion along Michigan Avenue (that would be needed anyway for the construction of the trestle).  All that the railroad asked for in return was to be able to place its trestle and puffing locomotives in the lake, directly in front of the majestic, unbroken view of Lake Michigan that the Michigan Avenue residents had understood was to remain forever unobstructed when they had originally purchased their property.  But this restriction of no buildings along the lakefront pertained only as far south as 12th Street; the trains still had to be able to make their way on land up to this point, and here is where Stephen Douglas’ real estate foresight and political clout became manifest.

Councilmen from the North and West Divisions were obviously inclined to vote in favor of the proposal, taking the bait of the solution offered to the erosion problem without the need of raising and expending any public funds.  This solution would also have the added benefit of causing no interruption whatsoever to the business district’s street traffic (the argument that Council had used to defend its decision to keep the MS’s terminal farther to the south at Van Buren).  The city’s elite who resided along S. Michigan Avenue, including Norman Judd, the attorney for the Michigan Southern, however, were incredulous that anyone could even consider the idea that the “city’s” view of the lake could be so irreparably disfigured by the interests of a private company.  The IC, however, had its own powerful and influential friends that came to the support of the proposal.  Rep. Wentworth, who was also the publisher of the Daily Democrat,owned a fortieth of the IC’s stock, but the one who obviously stood to cash in big time if the IC’s proposal was approved was Douglas.  Therefore, two of Chicago’s most powerful political celebrities had very significant personal financial stakes in the IC’s lakefront proposal.  Douglas did all he could to help the cause and Wentworth printed daily editorials supporting the issue, quoting the same arguments he had used so successfully in Washington a year earlier: the railroad would bring fresher produce, more jobs, and economic growth.  In addition, the proposed lakefront entry would solve the lakefront erosion problem at no cost to the taxpayers. 

To generate enthusiasm and muster support, the IC held simultaneous groundbreaking ceremonies in Chicago and Cairo on December 23, 1851.  This action also complied with the letter of its charter requiring construction to begin by January 1, 1852, even though it had no practical value, for Roswell Mason had yet to complete his estimate in order to invite bids by contractors.  The staged construction ceremonies were simply a symbolic public relations event, meant to sway the minds of Chicago’s citizens and their reluctant council representatives.  The interests of the North and West (and those of Douglas and Wentworth) prevailed and on December 29, 1851, Council approved with a vote of 10-6, an ordinance that gave the IC a tract of land in the lake defined as a 300′ width that ran from Randolph to 22nd Street.  In order to avoid any conflict with the lakefront covenant, the closest edge of the IC property was located 400′ east of the west side of Michigan Avenue.  The battle then grew more intense as Mayor Gurnee vetoed the ordinance two days later, offering the specious defense that he was trying to prevent the two lines from forging a bypass of Chicago altogether.  In reality, politics in Chicago are seldom this straightforward, and indeed, this proved to be the case with the IC tracks.  Mayor Gurnee happened to be one of the city’s powerbrokers who resided on S. Michigan Avenue, on the southwest corner of Michigan and Monroe, and his neighbors were those who had bought their lots because of the guaranteed unobstructed view of Lake Michigan.  His action might not have been appreciated across the river, but City Hall was in the South Division, and at least when he walked home along Michigan Avenue, his neighbors would still talk to him.  However, cries of sell-out to the rich rose from those across the river, while those with financial ties to the IC and MC, including Douglas and Wentworth, accused Gurnee of being in league with his neighbor, Judd’s MS.  Whether or not he was financially involved in the decision, it must be admitted that his veto threw another roadblock into the path of the MC, giving the MS more time to complete its tracks into the city.

Following the New Year’s holiday, Common Council overrode the veto on January 2, 1852, and the resolution was sent to the IC management in New York for its final approval.  Schuyler accepted the offer and sent word to Mason to commence work on the line into Chicago from Lake Calumet to where the MC had illegally built (at its own cost), as soon as the weather would permit.  During the time it took the resolution to get to New York, however, Chicago’s leaders had undergone a change in heart and three days later, on January 5, had voted a compromise proposal that was not as favorable to the IC, but satisfied the concerns of the south side and the mayor.  When word of the change reached New York, the IC management simply chose to ignore it, assuming that its own supporters would eventually succeed in getting what the company wanted but told Mason to stand down in the meanwhile.  Forbes was so frustrated by the IC’s inaction that he was forced to capitulate and sign a second, albeit secret agreement with the IC on February 7, 1852, in which the IC agreed to complete the Chicago branch, connecting with the track that Forbes had illegally built in Illinois toward Joliet, while Forbes grudgingly agreed to quietly buy $2,000,000 more of IC bonds to help finance the construction of the IC line south of Chicago to Centralia.

The Routes into Chicago of the Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central, the Rock Island, and the Illinois Central: 1851-56. You can follow the tracks of the MS as they hug the lakefront until they hit the Illinois border. At this point Farnam kept going straight, veering away from the lakefront until at Englewood, he was directly in line with La Salle Street. He then laid tracks north to the south side of Jackson Street. He had built a defensive ring around the downtown, hoping to force the MC/IC to enter downtown on the western side of the south branch. The IC had other plans, however, that forced the railroad to breech the MS tracks somewhere in order to reach the lakefront. This intersection quickly became known as Grand Crossing, site of a number of accidents.

While all this bickering was taking place, Farnam had continued laying track towards Chicago, with the first MS train arriving at the city limits on February 20, 1852.  Eleven days later, on March 2, (the MC was forced to wait another agonizing two months) the municipal election became a plebiscite on the IC lakefront proposal.  Although Mayor Gurnee was re-elected, the council elected was more favorable to letting the railroad pay for the breakwater.  Thus, the IC felt comfortable that it could finally start construction without worrying that Common Council would throw another wrench into its plans and on March 15, Mason wasted no time in telling his Chicago superintendent to immediately advertise for construction bids on the portion of the track that started at Kensington where the MC tracks had stopped in Illinois.  Meanwhile, the MC finally began construction of its track from Kensington towards Chicago’s southern border. The MS attempted to further stall its completion, however, by denying a request by the MC to construct a crossing through the defensive perimeter of the MS’s tracks around the Loop, requiring instead the construction of an expensive and time-consuming overpass. To enforce its intention, the MS posted guards along its track in the suspected area of intersection.  This maneuver proved to be inconsequential, for one night an MC crew overpowered an MS guard and by morning a new crossing had breached the MS’s tracks at 76th and Woodlawn. This location would become known as Grand Crossing, scene of many close encounters between locomotives of the rival companies.  

Grand Crossing, 76th and Woodlawn, Chicago. (Chicagology)

FURTHER READING:

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

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Gilbert, Paul T., and Charles L. Bryson. Chicago and Its Makers. Chicago: F. Mendelsohn, 1929.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Mack, Edwin F. Old Monroe Street: Notes on the Monroe Street of Early Chicago Days. Chicago: Central Trust Company, 1914.

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway. Polo:Transportation Trails, 1989.

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

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free; The Struggle For Chicago’s Lakefront. Chicago: Regnery, 1972.

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)

8.4. SOLVING THE LAKEFRONT’S EROSION PROBLEM

Coincidentally, this same piece of property, the lakefront south of the river, was generating discussion in Common Council on a seemingly unrelated issue: erosion of the lakefront and the corresponding problem of the lake’s waters flooding Michigan Avenue during storms and periods of high waves.  Between 1848, when Ogden had started construction of the G&CU and 1852, when the first MS train had pulled into town four years later, the city had nearly doubled in size from 20,023 to 38,733.  Despite two cholera outbreaks, Chicago’s population, now being fed by direct railroad links from the East, continued to grow at its breakneck pace, so that by 1855 Chicago’s size had exploded to 80,023.  With three of every four of the city’s residents having arrived during the past seven years, the population explosion fueled by the railroads was causing a massive reconfiguration of Chicago’s residential pattern.  Providing housing for 60,000 new people in a seven-year period naturally forced a town that could barely accommodate its base of 20,000, to grow outwards if only to provide sufficient horizontal area on which to build the new housing required.  The railroads had also brought a parallel increase in commercial activity to the center of town that also vied for new space to locate and build upon.  As the business district had continued to expand, those who could afford to do so had moved their residences farther away from the center of town.  Demand for properties in the business district and their corresponding values soared, while the increased hustle and bustle of business, with its accompanying noise, filth, and crime, in addition to the new smoke pollution brought on by the introduction of steam-powered tugboats, locomotives, and grain elevators, had had a considerably negative impact on the quiet atmosphere of Chicago’s original residential neighborhoods in the South District, especially those adjacent to the Public Square.  Those who could afford to move farther away from the original heart of the city along the riverfront to quieter areas did so, initiating Chicago’s first wave of urban flight.

The lakefront along S. Michigan Avenue prior to the construction of the IC trestle. (Lake Shore Drive)

A favorite location farther to the south along Michigan Avenue with its unobstructed view of the lake and the local government’s covenant that Lake Park, across the street, would remain “forever free,” had become the choice residential location in the South Division for many of the city’s elite (including Mayor Gurnee, J. Young Scammon, Norman B. Judd, Bishop Duggan, Lt. Gov. Bross, Judge H.T. Dickey, and Philip F.W. Peck), especially those who had a business in the south and did not cherish the inconvenience of waiting to cross one of the city’s bridges. Those who either were not quick enough to snap up a lakefront property, or could not afford the price of one, settled for being close to the lake and its elite residents by settling one block inland on Wabash Street.  The erosion problem that had developed along this stretch of the lakefront that Council was currently debating seems to have been a result of the construction of the north pier at the river’s mouth.  As the pier was being built ever farther into the lake in the ongoing effort to keep the mouth of the river from silting up, there was a corresponding loss of land along the lakefront south of the river, due to the effect that the lengthening of the pier had on the lake’s current.  The increased flooding of Michigan Avenue and the fear that one day they would wake up to find their homes floating in Lake Michigan as the erosion of the lakefront had finally claimed their lot, had the wealthy residents of South Michigan Avenue clamoring for the city government to do something to physically stop the problem and protect their investments.

Map Showing the Accretion of Silt at the river’s north bank between 1833 and 1855. (Holland, Maps in Chicago)

FURTHER READING:

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

Bluestone, Daniel. Constructing Chicago. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

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

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free; The Struggle For Chicago’s Lakefront. Chicago: Regnery, 1972.

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

8.3. WHERE TO LOCATE THE STATION FOR THE IC/MC?

While Farnam, during the latter half of 1851 was laying the MS’s tracks straight into Chicago and thereby, attempting to cut off any possible direct route into Chicago by the MC, John Murray Forbes was understandably fuming as the MC had been stalled at the Michigan and Indiana border since October 30, 1850.  Brooks finally had uncovered another Indiana company, the New Albany & Salem, and with the purchase of $500,000 of its stock, Brooks had the legal authority to lay tracks in Indiana, but not as of yet in Illinois.  Even though the state legislature had made the decision on February 10, 1851, to accept the Schuyler group’s proposal to build the IC, Schuyler had yet to make any preparations for construction which had continued to infuriate Forbes to no end.  The legislature had added the provision that construction on the IC had to start prior to January 1, 1852, and Schuyler seemed to be in no hurry to incur any costs prior to that date, no matter what Forbes might threaten to do for Schuyler did, indeed, hold all the cards.

The Routes into Chicago of the Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central, the Rock Island, and the Illinois Central: 1851-56.  Note the first six miles of the MC tracks from the Indiana border into Illinois were built due west/northwest to Kensington, on a line that could have taken it to Joliet and bypassed Chicago altogether. Note the location of Grand Crossing at 76th and Woodlawn. 

Out of pure frustration, Brooks and Joy made the suggestion to Forbes that they attempt to force the IC, as well as Chicago’s Council into action, by taking matters into their own hands and build (illegally because it had no charter) a 6.5 mile stretch of tracks into Illinois from the Indiana border on a route straight to Joliet, that could threaten to bypass Chicago altogether. Word of this plan was strategically leaked and MS proponents, including the company’s attorney, Norman Judd, immediately resurrected the threat of the IC/MC bypass plan, identifying Joliet as the potential rival railroad hub. Wisely, the MC’s authorities had consulted with Mayor Walter Gurnee and Sen. Douglas, apparently giving them private assurances that the MC would not bypass Chicago, but did, indeed, intend to build into Chicago, if only it would be allowed to do so.  Douglas, for all practical purposes, ended the controversy by publishing a letter to the editor that stated that it was his opinion (which carried a great amount of weight) that neither the C&RI nor the IC could make a through connection at the Indiana State line, but were required to terminate their lines at a depot in Chicago.The MS/RI had laid its tracks northwest from the bottom of Lake Michigan in a blocking maneuver that attempted to completely ring off the business district from the IC, choosing to enter the city limits as close as possible to the east bank of the South Branch. The MC, therefore, had initially planned to enter the city along the west bank of the South Branch of the river, a route that would not require it to cross the MC tracks, but would connect with the original G&CU station at Kinzie and Canal Streets. This would have allowed the MC to make a direct connection with Brooks’ Aurora Branch that was using the G&CU’s tracks into the city.  The MS had gotten wind of the MC’s plan, however, and purchased the right-of-way along this path before the Bostonians had even made an attempt to do so (could the MS have been tipped off by Ogden who had other plans for this property as we will discuss later, or had it been Douglas who had favored an alternative entry route for the IC that was on a line with his lakefront property?).

The Routes into Chicago of the Michigan Southern and the Michigan Central: 1851-56. Note the location of Grand Crossing at 76th and Woodlawn. Here you can see that Ogden had denied the IC from using the west bank of the South Branch because he was planning to use it to bring the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, and Chicago into a direct connection with his G&CU/I&W station. (Wade and Meyer, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis)

With both banks of the South Branch denied them, the IC and MC had to look for another route into Chicago.  If the Bostonians were to be denied a direct link to their Aurora Branch, as they looked around Chicago for a favorable site, the vacant land of the Fort Dearborn reservation at the mouth of the river, the heart of Chicago’s commerce, appeared to be an ideal location: immediate proximity to the lake and to the river with a large area of open land that could also be expanded limitlessly into the lake as operations grew (without having to make inflated purchases from greedy owners) that also was located only a short walk to Chicago’s retail center at Lake and Wabash.  (This site would also provide a convenient link, with only one bridge and a short five-block carriage ride to get to the connecting trains of the Aurora Branch at the Wells Street Station of the G&CU then being planned.)  Quite frankly, there was no better location in Chicago with this many advantages.  Only one thing seemed to pose a problem: how to get the tracks to this location from the city’s southern limits in the face of the 1836 declaration that the lakefront east of Michigan Avenue between Madison and Twelfth Street was to be kept “forever clear of any buildings or obstructions.”

FURTHER READING:

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

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Douglas, George H. Rail City: Chicago U.S.A. San Diego: Howell-North Books, 1981.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

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.

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free; The Struggle For Chicago’s Lakefront. Chicago: Regnery, 1972.

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)

CHAPTER 8. BUILDING THE SPOKES: NORTHWEST, WEST, AND SOUTH

8.1. OGDEN EXPANDS INTO WISCONSIN

Some historians of Chicago’s railroads imply that Ogden had apparently decided to take a well-deserved break following his resignation in June, tending to blur it with a tour of Europe he took with his older sister Eliza, her husband Charles Butler and their family, a trip that kept Ogden out of the U. S. that stretched for the eighteen months from 1853 to the middle of 1854.  But this ignores the eighteen months between his resignation and his departure for Europe.  It appears that Ogden, having secured Sheffield’s financing for the Rock Island, that would assure that his objective of building a route to the Mississippi would become a reality, he had bowed out of the G&CU strategically at this precise moment in order to initiate his expansion into Wisconsin.  Three days after he had tendered his resignation as the president of the G&CU, he accepted the presidency of the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad.  Events as well as his previous actions tend to point to the fact that Ogden had actually been planning this move for some time.   Ogden had already begun to purchase the timberlands centered along the Peshtigo River that emptied into Green Bay, some ten miles south of the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan border, that he would eventually make into a company town named Peshtigo.  In addition to wanting to connect this operation to Chicago with a railroad, Ogden also wanted to divert as much of the Upper Mississippi valley’s wheat crop away from Milwaukee and towards Chicago.  Milwaukee’s harbor represented a direct threat to Chicago’s wheat trade as it was about 100 miles north of Chicago’s, meaning that lake vessels would have a 200-mile shorter (quicker and less expensive) round-trip between Lake Michigan and Buffalo.  

Milwaukee was not far behind Chicago in building its first railroad to the Mississippi.  Although the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad had been chartered on February 11, 1847, only a year after Ogden had gained control over the G&CU, its President, Milwaukee’s Mayor Byron Kilbourne was quite aware by this early date of the threat that Ogden’s GC&U, even though it had not yet started construction when he gave his inaugural speech, represented to his city’s economy and stated it directly:

“Boston enterprise compelled New York to build her Erie Canal.  Will not Chicago enterprise induce Milwaukee to build the Mississippi Railroad? Unless she is content to see the business of the finest region of the country wrested from her grasp, she must do it without delay.”

Although Kilbourne had sounded the alarm, he was not an Ogden and it took fifteen long manths before construction began on the M&W in October 1849, over a year after The Pioneer had made its first run on the G&CU.  It would be another sixteen months before the line, renamed the Milwaukee & Mississippi on February 1, 1850, was completed the short twenty miles to Waukesha, so that the first train could make the run on February 25, 1851.

By this date, however, Ogden had already started his campaign to completely cordon off Milwaukee from its own region.  He had learned from the Bostonians how to take ownership of a bankrupt company without costing him a dime, and following his experience with the IC, understood that the most profitable method of building a railroad was to have it subsidized by the Federal government with a generous landgrant.  As he was thoroughly immersed in financing and constructing the first few miles of the G&CU in 1848 and 1849, he also had his surveyor, Richard Morgan, who, incidentally, had also surveyed Kilbourne’s route to Waukesha the previous year, secretly chart the route of two railroads forming a line around Milwaukee, from Beloit at the Illinois stateline, to Fond du Lac on Lake Winnebago, from where it would take only a short extension between Appleton and Green Bay to complete the line around Milwaukee. At the same time, he was quietly arranging a takeover of both companies.

Above: Map of Wisconsin Railroads as of 1854, showing the start of Ogden’s ring around Milwaukee from Fond du Lac (Rock River Valley Union Railroad) to Beloit. (Lorenzsonn, Steam & Cinders); Below: Map of the completed Chicago & NorthWestern Railroad as built by Ogden. The Illinois & Wisconsin route runs from Chicago northwest straight to Janesville. (Harpster, Ogden)

On February 12, 1851, two days after the Illinois legislature had resolved the IC landgrant in Schuyler’s favor, and five days after it had passed the revised charter of the Rock Island, it approved the charter of the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad, with a proposed route from Chicago directly on a line to Janesville, WI, only a few miles north of Beloit.   Three and  a half months later on June 2 Ogden resigned as the President of the G&CU, not from exhaustion, but to assume the presidency of the infant I&W three days later on June 5, 1851.  With his good friend Turner taking over control of the G&CU’s operations and further construction, Ogden began construction within a month of the I&W tracks, at almost the exact spot he had begun laying the tracks for the G&CU, some three years earlier, one block north of the corner of Kinzie and Halsted.  But this time, the tracks went not to the west, but to the northwest, beginning the wall around Milwaukee.  Meanwhile, a few days later at Fond du Lac at the other end of the wall, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 10, 1851, for the Rock River Valley Union Railroad, that began laying its tracks to the south.

The Routes into Chicago, 1855. Ogden had erected the I&W depot one block northwest of the original G&CU depot at Kinzie and Halsted. Meanwhile, Farnam had begun the tracks for the Rock Island at Englewood.

8.2. FARNAM STRIKES OUT FOR THE MISSISSIPPI

While Ogden had refocused his energies northwestward to Wisconsin, once the MS tracks had reached Chicago’s city limits, Farnam hired “Ogden’s surveyor,” the ever-faithful Richard Morgan to survey the western route to Rock Island, anticipating the eventual passage by Congress of the Iowa railroad landgrant.  This was approved on April 2, 1852, and Farnam wasted little time by starting to lay the C&RI tracks only eight days later on April 10, out of Chicago from the station at Englewood, straight to the Mississippi.  The MS’s management was also eagerly anticipating the completion of the lines along the southern shore of Lake Erie between Toledo and Buffalo, that eventually would be consolidated in 1868 into the Lake Shore Railroad.  By January 1853, through travel from Chicago to Erie, PA, where the Erie Railroad had finally reached the year before, was possible, for all practical purposes completing a continuous railroad route from New York City to Chicago via the south shore of Lake Erie. With the prospect of the eventual completion of both the eastern and the western extension routes, the MS&NI and the C&RI commenced construction during the fall of 1852 on a permanent terminal and train shed (fig. 4.10) on Van Buren in line with La Salle Street, the property for which the company had already quietly purchased was as far as Common Council was willing to allow a railroad to push its tracks into the traffic of the business district.  La Salle Street had been extended only to Jackson by this date so Council had kept the railroad short of making a direct connection with La Salle Street.  Nonetheless, the new station was inline with La Salle Street, where the new combined City Hall/County Courthouse had just been completed.  The train shed ran 355′ from Harrison to Van Buren.  It had 22′ high masonry walls that supported arched Howe trusses that rose another 20′ at their apex.  These spanned 116,’ although Andreas recorded that there was a single line of interior supports.  Another building that contained the companies’ offices was constructed on the block immediately to the north, which fronted Van Buren Street.  The total investment in both buildings came to $60,000.

The MS/RI depot and train shed in line with La Salle Street, 1855. At this time La Salle stopped at Monroe. (McLellan and Warrick, Lake Shore & Michigan Southern)

FURTHER READING:

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

Condit, Carl W. Chicago: 1910-1929, Building, Planning, and Urban Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

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

Lorenzsonn, Axel S. Steam and Cinders: The Advent of Railroads in Wisconsin: 1831-1861. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2009.

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway. Polo:Transportation Trails, 1989.

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

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)

7.27. OGDEN RESIGNS AS THE GALENA’S PRESIDENT

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)

FURTHER READING:

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)

7.26. THE COMPLETION OF THE ERIE RAILROAD

Map of the route of the New & Erie Railroad, c. 1844. (Online)

Bliss had good reason to believe he was winning the battle at this time.  In addition to currently having the upper hand in the entry to Chicago, an alternate eastern link to New York City to the Bostonian’s New York Central for his MS (via a steamer across Lake Erie) had finally clawed its way to Lake Erie.  On May 14, 1851, only twelve days before Common Council voted to permit the MS to lay track within Chicago’s city limits, the New York & Erie had finally finished its twenty-year campaign and completed its 460-mile line to Dunkirk, some 50 miles south of Buffalo.  Its president, Benjamin Loder, sponsored a fitting celebration for the occasion: a two-day gala train ride along the completed route, during which a host of political dignitaries that included Pres. Fillmore, Sec. of State Daniel Webster, three other cabinet members, and at least six of the country’s leading 1852 presidential hopefuls, including Stephen Douglas, were entertained.  The ride began in New York City, with an overnight stop at Elmira, New York, that included seven hours of feasting and grand oratory.  This was far eclipsed, however, by the 300-foot-long banquet table of food and spirits that greeted the revelers at the end of the ride in Dunkirk.  All that now remained to forge a continuous rail route from New York City directly to Chicago was a line of track which was already under construction, through northern Pennsylvania and Ohio, along the southern shore of Lake Erie to Toledo. (The tracks of the MC’s route to Albany via the Canadian Great Western were located along the northern shore.)

The Routes of the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern: 1846-1852.

Especially pleased among the dignitaries in attendance at the Erie’s celebration must have been William Ogden.  Besides being able to promote his ideas for a transcontinental railroad with the nation’s leading politicians, he had to have felt a measure of pride in his heart that day, for sixteen years earlier in 1835, he had been one of the first legislators in the New York statehouse to vote in favor of the initial charter of the Erie (see Chap. 3.11) before he had moved to Chicago.  Ogden’s jubilation was short-lived, however, for within a month, he was forced to resign the presidency of the G&CU, the road that he had started singlehandedly, the result of an apparent internal struggle among its Board of Directors.

FURTHER READING:.

Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

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

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

7.25. OGDEN HELPS THE MS TO OBTAIN THE ROCK ISLAND RAILROAD TO REACH CHICAGO

Ogden, Chicago’s leading political figure had sensed that Schuyler’s group, aligned not only with the MC but also at least Sen. Douglas, Rep. Wentworth, and a number of men with very close ties to Springfield’s politics, was gaining the upper hand in the IC decision as it was well-known that Douglas had been trying to steer the legislature away from the two Illinois bids made the Holbrook and Wadsworth groups and toward Schuyler’s bid. Ogden, therefore, also understood that Sheffield’s MS&NI, following the loss of the IC, would be forced to look for another company chartered to build tracks in Illinois in order to reach Chicago. During November 1850, while the MC was stalled at the Michigan/Indiana border as Henry Farnam was racing to complete the MS tracks in Indiana to the Indiana/Illinois border, and supporters of both companies were hard at lobbying down in Springfield for the IC contract, Ogden invited Farnam to come to Chicago reportedly under the guise of advising him on the further construction of the Galena route.  

The facts of Farnam’s visit, however, point more to Ogden’s interest in not only assisting the MS to gain access into Chicago but also the possibility of Sheffield’s financing his long-term objective that Ogden had first signaled in his 1848 GCU Annual Report, a road from Chicago to the Mississippi, by taking over control of the stillborn Rock Island & La Salle, originally incorporated in February 1847 to run from Rock Island (where Redfield had terminated his proposed railroad from New York to the Mississippi in 1829) to the end of the canal at La Salle.[i]  Andreas in his History of Chicago stated outrightly that “the men of the state gifted with the powers of persuasion and foresight, headed by William A. [sic] Ogden” had secured the successful construction of the Rock Island.  Following Ogden’s second rebuff by the MC’s Weld in early 1849 that had almost cost him control of his G&CU, the facts point to Ogden having seen the writing on the wall and his need to find alternative financing for his railroad to the Pacific as he was barely keeping the wolves from the door of the G&CU.  Ogden accompanied Farnam on an inspection of the route from La Salle to Rock Island, where a meeting between Farnam and the chartered company’s president, Judge James Grant of Davenport, IA, located directly across the river from Rock Island, seems to have been arranged by Ogden.  This succeeded in piquing Farnam’s interest in the potential of the company to provide tracks into Illinois for the MS, for he contacted Sheffield and his business partners, recommending that they purchase a controlling interest in the RI&LS.  On February 7, 1851, the Illinois state legislature approved an amended charter for the company with two significant revisions: at Farnam’s urging, the eastern terminus of the route was extended to Chicago, via Joliet, (in order to give the MS the right to build its tracks into the city) and a corresponding revision in the company’s name to the Chicago & Rock Island.  The Board of Directors of the MS, namely George Bliss, Edwin Litchfield, and John Stryker, were among the board of the new company that also now included Ogden’s associate, Norman Judd, who was also to serve as the company’s attorney.

Only three days later, the legislature approved the Schuyler group’s control over the IC, leaving Elisha and Julius Wadsworth’s Aurora Branch still dependent upon Ogden’s G&CU.  On March 19, 1851, the Schuyler investors met in New York City to formally accept the legislature’s proposal and to incorporate the Illinois Central as a legal entity, with Schuyler as its president.[ii]  Three days later, Schuyler appointed his Gen. Superintendent from the NY&NH, Col. Roswell B. Mason, as the superintendent and engineer of the new railroad and authorized him to assemble an engineering staff in order to survey the IC routes and prepare an estimate of the cost of construction.  A fourth railroad company (in addition to Ogden’s G&CU, Bliss’ MS, and Forbes’ MC) with its own financial agenda and supporters had entered the Chicago scene to only further complicate what was already an all-out war.

Within two weeks of Schuyler’s election as president of the IC, Sheffield’s Rock Island named the MS’s John Jervis to be its president in April (while Jervis would be responsible for organizing the company’s operational infrastructure, the company would contract with Sheffield & Farnam to actually construct the route), with a contract between the C&RI and the MS soon to follow that gave the MS the authority to use the C&RI’s charter to purchase a right-of-way in Illinois to Chicago.  Bliss and Farnam then only needed to secure Common Council’s blessing to allow the MS to build tracks within Chicago’s city limits.  Speculators holding real estate within the city along the projected line of tracks inline with S. La Salle Street, especially around the planned location of the terminal on the southside of Jackson, used every trick in the book to get the number of Council votes needed to approve the scheme.  

The Routes into Chicago of the Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central, the Rock Island, and the Illinois Central: 1851-56. You can follow the tracks of the MS as they hug the lakefront until they hit the Illinois border. At this point Farnam kept going straight, veering away from the lakefront until at Englewood, he was directly in line with La Salle Street. He then laid tracks north to the south side of Jackson Street. He had built a defensive ring around the downtown, hoping to force the MC/IC to enter downtown on the western side of the south branch. This would have forced their passengers to have to navigate the time-consuming crossing of a bridge. (Online)

The political and financial support that the Southern enjoyed (with Ogden’s tacit approval in the background) was such that council approved the resolution allowing the MS to lay tracks within the city on May 26, 1851 (it would not be until seven months later, on December 29, 1851, that the IC would receive similar authority).  Bliss finally had his ducks in a row and let Farnam start his run to Chicago.  In an attempt to completely wall off Chicago’s entire business district from the MC, the MS laid the C&RI’s tracks northwest from the tip of Lake Michigan in a blocking maneuver, aiming to enter the city limits as close to the east bank of South Branch of the river as possible thereby physically closing off the entire business district from the MC. This placement would bring the MS’s tracks in line with La Salle Street and the Public Square, for which plans for a new City Hall were then under consideration.  Finally, on February 20, 1852 (some three and a half years after Ogden had begun constructing the Galena), the first MS train pulled into a hastily constructed depot erected at the city limits at 22nd and Clark Streets.  The Western Citizen described the entry of the first eastern train into Chicago:

“At exactly three minutes before twelve by our watch, the cars arrived from the east.  Before the light train was a neat little engine, Monroe.  Before the passenger cars was the large and beautifully decorated engine Bronson [in honor of Arthur Bronson, the New York banker responsible for helping Chicago begin its meteoric growth, including sending Ogden-see Sec. 3.5].  Three cheers were given Mr. Farnam.”

The first train from the East had finally arrived in Chicago.  It would still take a few more years to complete an all-rail route from New York City around the southern shore of Lake Erie, but Ogden had got the railroad to Chicago (and not just to Gary, IN).

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Hayes, William Edward, Iron Road to Empire: The History of the Rock Island Lines, H. Wolff Book Manufacturing, 1953.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

McLellan, David and Bill Warrick. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway. Polo:Transportation Trails, 1989.

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

Stover, John F. History of the Illinois Central Railroad. New York: Macmillan, 1975.

“William B. Ogden, Fellow A.S.C.E.,” Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. IV, May 1878.

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

7.24. ROBERT SCHUYLER GAINS CONTROL OF THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL

When Douglas had moved to the Senate in early 1847, the IC project was a relatively straightforward issue of internal improvement that was, for the most part, unanimously supported by Chicago’s leaders as well as by the MC.  That was, however, before Bliss and the MS entered the scene and bought the Northern Indiana in October 1849, changing the unanimity (or monopoly, depending on one’s viewpoint) within Chicago’s railroad community with the specter of a competing group of investors.  By the time the IC bill had become law in the fall of 1850, new allegiances among former associates (including Ogden) had formed or were in the process of evolving that were realigning the political groups that were now pursuing the IC charter and its landgrant.  Once signed into law, Douglas’ IC bill had delegated to the Illinois legislature the responsibility to award the landgrant to the group of investors that it thought was best suited for the project from among those who would apply for the company’s charter, so the scene of debate had shifted from Washington to Springfield.  The upcoming state election in November 1850 became quite heated between the various factions jockeying for influence in the final decision.  

Although Sidney Breese had been defeated by Douglas’ man in his Senatorial reelection bid during the previous year, the former Judge and Senator still had many powerful friends in Springfield who backed the claims that Breese continued to make in representing a group of downstate Illinois investors led by Darius Holbrook, known as the “Cairo City and Canal Company” who still held the majority of the original chartered company’s bonds and, therefore, argued that they should be given control of the landgrant.  However, a group of Chicago investors led by Julius Wadsworth, then the State of Illinois’ Financial Agent in New York City, and his brother Elisha, the President and one of the major investors of the Aurora Branch (that had connections with the MC through Brooks) that if they won, could use the new IC tracks to enter Chicago (as might the MC), thereby freeing it from its dependence upon Ogden’s G&CU’s tracks), had entered the contest with its own group of vocal supporters. This was the climate in which the newly-elected Illinois legislature convened in January 1851, into which had also spilled the battle into Chicago between the MS and MC.

For as of January 1, 1851, as Farnam was laying the MS’s tracks across northern Indiana toward Chicago while the MC sat helplessly at the Michigan/Indiana border, neither company had yet succeeded in making arrangements with an Illinois company chartered to lay tracks within the state.  The proposed IC would be so chartered, hence, the stakes in the Illinois legislature’s decision to award the contract to build the road were, quite simply, enormous.  Supporters of both railroads tried every conceivable means to curry favor with the public, Common Council, and the state legislature, to keep each other from being granted the IC contract.  John Wentworth championed the MC’s proposal in the pages of the Daily Democrat, while Alfred Dutch did likewise for the MS in the Commercial Advertiser.  The battle logically spilled over into the state legislature when it convened in January 1851, and again both sides managed to fight each other to a standstill with Rep. Thomas Dyer, one of Wadsworth’s partners and one of the Galena’s directors arguing for the MC, and State Sen. Norman Judd, representing those who had already made speculative purchases of real estate along the Southern’s planned entrance into town, pleading the MS’s case. (To clarify the sides here, you may remember that all of these men were on the same, i.e., original G&CU team when Ogden first started construction. However, once the Bostonians of the MC had shown their true colors, Ogden had quietly, at first, switched his allegiance to the MS.  Judd was one of his followers, Dyer and Wadsworth, both owners of the Aurora Branch, had continued to work with the MC.)

The temptation of 2.5 million acres of “free” land, however, did not go unnoticed in the East by “speculators,” including some in the U.S. Congress, who previously had not been at all interested in Illinois but could smell a deal almost too good to be true.  Following the 1850 election, a proposal pertaining to the control of the IC and its landgrant was presented to the Illinois legislature on December 28, 1850, by Boston attorney Robert Rantoul, Jr., who represented a group of investors, primarily from New York City and Boston, headed by none other than Joseph Sheffield’s nemesis, Robert Schuyler, then the president of both the NY&NH and the Harlem. Rantoul had just been elected to the U. S. House of Representatives and seemed to be a well-placed spokesman for the new group trying to influence the decision.  In Rantoul’s IC proposal, Schuyler’s name was accompanied by those of George Griswold and David A. Neal, two of the MC’s major investors.  By this time, it was fairly well known that the MC was using its political and financial resources both in Congress and in the Illinois legislature to support the Schuyler group’s bid to gain control of the IC, with the hope that an arrangement between the two Central railroads could eventually be fashioned through the auspices of Griswold and Neal that would at least gain access into Illinois and to Chicago for the MC’s trains.

FURTHER READING:

Andreas, Alfred T. History of Chicago. 3 vols. Chicago, 1884-1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Brownson, Howard Gray. History of the Illinois Central Railroad to 1870. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1915.

Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas, New York: Oxford, 1973.

Johnson, Arthur and Barry E. Supple. Boston Capitalists and the Western Railroads. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Lueckenhoff, Sandra K., “A. Lincoln, a Corporate Attorney and the Illinois Central Railroad,” Missouri Law Review, Vol. 61, Issue 2 Spring 1996, pp. 411-2.

Milton, George Fort. The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War. New York: Octagon, 1969.

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

Stover, John F. History of the Illinois Central Railroad. New York: Macmillan, 1975.

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