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)

7.23. DOUGLAS LINKS THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 AND THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL BILLS

The 1848 election of Taylor meant that the Whigs could fill the many patronage positions in the Federal government, none being more crucial to Douglas’ landgrant bill than the Commissioner of the U. S. General Land Office, in charge of overseeing all landgrants and sales of Federal lands.  Political horse-trading within Taylor’s cabinet had determined that the office would be given to a Whig from Illinois to be named later.  The two top contenders for the position were Chicago lawyer Justin Butterfield, and Springfield lawyer Abraham Lincoln who had been elected as a Whig to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1846 stating that he would serve but one term.  The freshman Congressman, after having been in Washington for less than a month, had stood in the House of Representatives on Dec. 22. 1847, and offered eight “Spot Resolutions” that challenged then Pres. Polk’s veracity on the events that he quoted as having led up to the declaration of war on Mexico.  Lincoln had supported Taylor in the 1848 election and thought that he had the inside track.  The prior Congress, however, had formed a new Department of the Interior, into which the General Land Office had been merged.  Taylor appointed Ohio’s Thomas Ewing as the Secretary of the new department, who requested that the President appoint his friend Butterfield, which he did.  Therefore, it would be Butterfield, and not Lincoln, who would be responsible for working with Douglas to flesh out the IC landgrant bill.

The new Congress that was seated in March 1849 was divided politically and Sectionally more so than ever before, as the political resolution of the territories of the Mexican Cession continued to be vexed by the issue of the extension of slavery.  Northern abolitionists supported the Wilmot Proviso’s prohibition of slavery from all the territories, while Southern extremists began to threaten secession (hence, Calhoun’s call for the Mississippi convention on October 1, 1849) if the “peculiar institution” was not allowed to expand beyond the Rio Grande River and the Missiouri Compromise line of 36° 30.’  The final disposition of the states of California and Texas, and the territories of New Mexico and Utah, as well as the impact of the composition of Congress itself, hung in the balance.  This was the political situation in Congress when the first proposals to fund a transcontinental railroad began to be debated.  

1850 Map of the Proposed Illinois Central Railroad. Note that Galena was shown to be the northern terminus. The original route to Chicago veered off from Bloomington, 120 miles farther north than the final route from Centralia. Obviously, moving the junction south to Centralia added more land to the final landgrant. It also brought the Chicago line to intersect directly east of St. Louis, drawing traffic away from Cincinnati. (Online)

Into this inferno Douglas determinedly reintroduced his Illinois Central bill on Jan. 3, 1850, but still had to utilize all his political savvy to make the appropriate deals to revise the proposal to secure the votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate.  In order to gain the votes of Southern legislators, Douglas had agreed to extend the scope of the route to Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico, with the construction of the Ohio & Mobile Railroad, thereby extending the landgrant into Mississippi and Alabama and, in essence, creating a manmade alternative to the Mississippi River south from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico that would, unintentionally, divert to Chicago most, if not all traffic originally bound for St. Louis.  More importantly, with this stroke of political genius Douglas had, at one and the same time, managed to transcend sectional jealousies by creating a railroad that would link the NorthWest and the South (running north/south rather than the more typical east/west proposals) to insure that both, if not all three sections would support his proposal: while the Northeast would view the railroad, as it had the Chicago canal, as a means of furthering the economic bond between its Great Lakes system and the emerging NorthWest, Southerners saw the extension of the line to Mobile as an opportunity to forge a stronger counterbalancing link with the NorthWest.  In essence, Douglas’s southern extension of the IC had increased the scale of the project to the point where it would be the longest route ever attempted to be constructed in the U.S. at this time.  The total length of the proposed route was over 700 miles, which was almost double that of the longest railroad then being attempted, the Erie (450 miles), whose problems at this time only seemed to reinforce the doubts of those who voted against the measure.  As it stretched across the country (albeit in a north/south direction) the IC, together with the Ohio & Mobile would be a dry run for the eventual construction of the much more ambitious transcontinental railroad to the Pacific.  On May 2, 1850, the amended bill once again passed the Senate, but was stopped dead in its tracks in the House because by this date, the more inflammatory issues of California and Texas had grabbed center stage in the halls of Congress.  Calhoun had called for a second convention to discuss the option of secession to be held in Nashville on June 3-11, 1850, as the threat of the Wilmot Proviso, like the sword of Damocles, still hung over the Congress.

Three months earlier on January 29, 1850, the “Great Pacificator,” Kentucky’s Sen. Clay had once again stood up in the Senate and offered a series of resolutions that attempted to address all these issues in a compromise to settle the heated Congressional debates, in which everyone got something they wanted, but no one got everything for which they were fighting.  At the suggestion of Southern Senators, a Committee of Thirteen was formed to flesh out each resolution, that were eventually combined, against both Clay’s and Douglas’ better judgment, into one omnibus bill, that Clay introduced in the Senate on May 8, only six days after the Senate had approved Douglas’ IC bill.  The all or nothing nature of the omnibus bill allowed the bill’s various opponents to unite and defeat it on July 31, after which Clay, thoroughly exhausted from the marathon, was forced to withdraw to nurse his tuberculosis.  Clay handed his leadership of the compromise effort over to Douglas, recommending that Douglas return to his original idea of passing individual bills.

Douglas’ challenge in getting these bills passed in August and September 1850 had been eased, however, with both the accidental death of Pres. Taylor from food poisoning on July 9, who had been opposed to the extension of slavery, and the move into the White House of Millard Fillmore who was more interested in resolving these issues so as to move forward on more pressing items. Not one to dally, Douglas successfully singlehandedly shepherded a series of five bills individually first through his Committee on Territories, that he began the very next day, August 1, that followed the final defeat of the omnibus bill, and then through the Senate and House, ending with a bill that abolished the slave trade in Washington, DC, that was passed on September 16.  These five bills compromised what is known as the Compromise of 1850, and may represent Douglas’ finest moment in the Congress.  It was in this atmosphere of compromise and collaboration that Douglas had wisely waited before he had his supporters in the House bring the IC bill for a final vote, but, once again he wasted little time in which some might change their mind because it was finally approved by the House on September 17, 1850, the “day after” much celebration had occurred the night before (can you say hungover?) following the passage of the DC slave trade bill by the Senate.   

Map of the Illinois Landgrant to the Illinois Central Railroad. (Online)

As Douglas’ biographer, Robert Johannsen stated, “much of the story of the [IC’s] bill’s treatment in the House still remains shrouded in mystery, but it is clear that private bargaining and logrolling, carried on through personal contacts and behind closed doors, greatly contributed to the bill’s eventual success.”  One of those whose personal contacts played a crucial role in securing the support of the Northeast was “Free-Soiler” John Wentworth, who could deal with those Representatives who were appalled by Douglas’ support of “Popular Sovereignty.”  Pres. Fillmore signed the IC bill into law three days later, unleashing the great Illinois Central landrush.  Douglas had succeeded not only in finally getting the IC off the ground, but with the Compromise of 1850, is also credited by many historians as having postponed the Civil War by ten years.  As the Congress adjourned, Douglas was forced by his doctor to take to his bed for a week as a severe abscess had formed on his hip, thought to have been the result of the excessive amount of sitting he had to endure during the debates.  Nonetheless, while William Ogden was beating the bushes in the western prairie for every dollar he might cajole from a farmer in order to keep the construction of Chicago’s first railroad progressing ever westward to the Mississippi River, Sen.  Douglas had secured full financing from the Federal government for Chicago’s second railroad.  The two companies thus represented the two extremes between which such American companies would traditionally operate: one was financed completely privately, while the other was to be subsidized by the Federal government through the sales of a landgrant.  The stations that the companies each build would reflect this reality.  Our interest lies in where these stations were to be built, for their location would greatly influence Chicago’s urban fabric and structure.

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.

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

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.

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.

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)

7.22. “FREE-SOIL” AND THE ELECTION OF 1848

Douglas had added the Chicago branch to his bill also for political, as well as economic reasons.  With the Presidential election of 1848 on the horizon, the issue of slavery was becoming the divisive political issue that would eventually tear the country apart. David Wilmot’s proposed proviso of August 8, 1846, of course, had gotten nowhere in the Southern-controlled Senate, but that had not stopped the country’s nascent abolitionists from pursuing their agenda, who began to use the support of the Proviso as a litmus test for political candidates.  This issue played directly into the hands of Martin Van Buren and his political machine, who, following his defeat by Calhoun’s machinations in the 1844 Democratic Convention, had been planning his last shot at the Presidency.  After Van Buren and his opponent in 1844, Lewis Cass, had agreed to back Polk as the compromise candidate,  Polk then had proceeded to throw salt into the party fissure by refusing to appoint any of Van Buren’s men to patronage positions during his entire term in office. Van Buren and his supporters (of which Ogden was the leader of the Chicago faction), after suffering eight years of humiliation, were determined to have their revenge and carried Van Buren’s support of the Proviso as its banner into the fray, as Cass, his opponent once again, was a member of the new “Young America” movement and a well-known advocate for the competing ideology of “Popular Sovereignty” that argued that Congress had no power to legislate on the slavery issue and, therefore, the issue was best resolved in the new territories that were approaching statehood by the vote of its citizens.

As Van Buren’s power base was still in upstate New York, he had launched his campaign in the fall of 1847 at the Democratic State convention in Syracuse.  Van Buren’s men, who supported the Proviso were nicknamed “Barnburners” by their opponents, after the fabled Dutch farmer who had burned his barn in order to rid it of rats, while those who opposed him and the Proviso in favor of Popular Sovereignty were called “Hunkers” by Van Buren’s men because they “hunkered” after the patronage jobs that government doled out. The Hunkers had the majority and thus, named the State ticket that the Barnburners refused to support and instead, named their own slate of candidates at a separate convention held a few weeks later in December.  The split of the Democrats in New York State did not portend well for the national party, that had scheduled its Presidential Convention for Baltimore to open on May 22, 1848.  The split within the Democratic Party grew beyond the Empire State as Chicago’s Van Buren supporters, led by William Ogden and Isaac Arnold, had staged a “Free-Soiler” mass meeting in support of the Wilmot Proviso on April 1, 1848, some two and a half months before Ogden began construction of the G&CU.  Both New York factions had sent delegations to the Baltimore convention, setting the spark that eventually resulted in Van Buren’s Barnburners leaving the convention that allowed Lewis Cass to be named the Democratic nominee.  The anti-slavery position of the “Free-soilers” began to attract similarly minded Whigs and Independents, who gathered in Buffalo in early August to form the “Free-Soil” Party, that nominated Van Buren as its Presidential candidate, and as its candidate for Vice President, Charles Francis Adams, the son of former President John Quincy Adams, with the slogan, “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men!”

The split of the Democratic vote allowed Whig Gen. Zachary Taylor to win the election and had also placed Stephen Douglas between a rock and a hard place, in that while he was an advocate of Popular Sovereignty, Chicago, led by Van Buren’s good friend Ogden, was a “Free-Soil” Democratic city. Ogden and Arnold launched Van Buren’s “Free-Soil” candidacy that they ran as a non-stop campaign in Chicago that eventually resulted in gaining a majority of the city’s votes for Van Buren.  In the same election that saw Taylor elected as President, Sen. Sidney Breese, who was supported by many of Chicago’s Democrats, was defeated for reelection to the Senate in the Illinois legislature by James Shields, for whom Douglas had personally stumped.  In addition to their differences over the IC bill, the reason for Douglas turning on Breese’s reelection effort was quite straightforward: with Breese removed from the Senate, his chair of the Senate Committee for Public Lands would be vacated and easily picked up by Douglas.  During Breese’s lameduck session in the winter of 1849, he was able to get his own IC bill passed in the Senate but ran into stiff opposition in the House (led by Rep. Wentworth and encouraged by Sen. Douglas) and returned to Illinois empty-handed. Douglas was just where he wanted to be: in charge of dolling out large amounts of free land that used to be the home of Native Americans.

FURTHER READING:

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

Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago. Chicago: Wilson & St. Clair, 1868.

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

Howe, Daniel Walker.  What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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

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

7.21. STEPHEN DOUGLAS AND THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL

The railroad’s entry into Chicago from the east, however, was just the tip of the iceberg of the battle being fought between a number of competing railroad companies at this moment, for by the start of 1850, an economic and real estate boom in Chicago had been unleashed by the anticipation of the arrival of the railroads from the East.  The interest in building a railroad to the Pacific had increased exponentially only the year before with the discovery of Gold in California, but the real prize being fought over during the second half of 1850 was which group of investors would gain control of the largesse of 2.5 million acres of Illinois prairie (that consisted of a 200′ wide right-of-way and the even-numbered sections within six miles of both sides of the right-of-way) recently earmarked by the Federal government to finance the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad, for Sen. Stephen Douglas, Rep. John Wentworth, and Justin Butterfield, Commissioner of the Federal Land Office, had finally succeeded in getting the Federal government to approve the project on September 20, 1850, culminating a seven-year campaign in Washington by some of Illinois’ ablest legislators.

Map of the Illinois Landgrant to the Illinois Central Railroad. (Online) The Federal government was giving to a private company the even-numbered sections in the bordering six-mile wide swath on both sides of the railroad’s route: 2.5 million acres.

Sidney Breese, who together with Darius Holbrook were the original company’s two major investors and had been some of the earliest supporters of the IC since 1836, had been elected to the U.S. Senate in November 1842, where he was named as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Lands, the ideal position to eventually promote the Central Railroad proposal.  One of his first acts was to sponsor a bill in 1844 to study the feasibility of building a Federal Naval Depot on the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL, at the mouth of the Ohio River, that if constructed, could help justify the construction of the Central Railroad in the future with the aid of a Federal land grant so that it would link the new depot with Lake Michigan.  By this date, Stephen Douglas had joined John Wentworth in the House of Representatives, who could offer their combined support to the campaign as well.  The following year, Douglas had published his open letter to Asa Whitney, outlining his plan to construct a transcontinental railroad from Chicago.  In 1846, Breese, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Lands, had published the first Congressional study of just such a railroad.  Douglas then joined Breese in the Senate following his election in November 1846, and once in the Senate, Douglas made the Central Railroad his top priority.  He had, however, become suspicious of Breese and Holbrook’s motives with the project, believing that their land speculation in Cairo was more important than the successful completion of the railroad, and, therefore, had proposed a bill that differed from the bill that Breese was sponsoring in two important ways.

The Route of the Illinois Central: 1850-1856. (Johnson & Supple, Boston Capitalists)

Douglas appreciated, more than most, the geopolitical advantage that Chicago would gain if it, rather than St. Louis became the intersection of an east-west transcontinental railroad with the Great Lakes and the north-south running IC linking Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico, via the Mississippi River albeit downriver from St. Louis.  In order to gain support for the Central Railroad from both Northeast Illinois, as well as from the northern states that surrounded the Great Lakes, Douglas added an amendment into his bill that allowed the company to build a branch line from Centralia into Chicago (that was not part of the company’s original charter that called for the line to connect with the canal at its western terminus, La Salle, before angling northwest to the Mississippi River at the Illinois/Wisconsin border) that also increased the size of the final landgrant by some 40%. 

Douglas’ bill also granted to the State of Illinois the authority to enter into a contract with a private company to build the railroad in exchange for free ownership of the landgrant.  Douglas’ bill, therefore, differed from Breese’s bill in that the Breese bill granted the land directly to the company (owned by Holbrook and himself) slated to build the railroad.  Being a known real estate investor, as was Breese, Douglas also appreciated the profit potential represented by the proposed Central Railroad and quietly purchased 160 acres of land that bordered Lake Michigan and was centered around 31st and Cottage Grove.  Sixteen of these acres were along the lakeshore outside of the city’s southern boundary at 22nd Street, that extended to 35th Street, and Douglas hoped to eventually sell some of the property (some of which was under water, no less) to the new railroad at a tidy profit once he succeeded in having the project approved by Congress. 

FURTHER READING:.

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.

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– v.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.

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

7.20. THE MICHIGAN SOUTHERN BEATS THE MICHIGAN CENTRAL INTO INDIANA

Sheffield had chartered the HRR as a response to Schuyler’s double-cross at about the exact same time that George Bliss had been removed as the president of the Western Railroad.  As Bliss calculated his campaign to launch the Michigan Southern, somehow he secured financing from Sheffield (either Bliss had already made Sheffield’s acquaintance through his construction of the Northampton Railroad or Ogden had brought these two men together), and with Sheffield’s money came Henry Farnum as Superintendent and John Jervis as Chief Engineer.  

An 1850 Map of the Michigan Southern and the various roads along the southern shore of Lake Erie. All roads shown are either constructed (alternating black and white) or planned (two parallel lines). Note there are only four “trunk lines” from the Atlantic. From north to south these are: New York Central (from Boston/Albany); New & Erie (New York); the Pittsburgh & Philadelphia, i.e., the Penn (Philadelphia); and the Baltimore & Ohio (Baltimore). Ogden’s G&CU’s route is shown. This map should give one pause at the scale of gamble that Ogden was taking in the summer of 1848. (Online)

With his route through Indiana already secured with his acquisition of the Northern Indiana, Bliss had only to effect a connection between the two routes at the Michigan/Indiana border.  The MS’s charter stated that the road was to terminate at Lake Michigan in New Buffalo, but as the MC was already there and making its way along the lake to the border, it made little business sense to construct a duplicate route.  Therefore, Bliss favored a more direct route straight to the tip of Lake Michigan, with the hope of beating the MC to that point and thereby, physically blocking its competitor from entering Indiana. The Michigan legislature approved the change with the proviso that the Southern’s route extend at least to the St. Joseph River before crossing the border.  On December 10, 1850, the MS reached Coldwater, MI, and headed for the Indiana border.  During this time, the MC had finally reached Michigan City only five weeks earlier on October 31, but with the loss of the Northern Indiana, it was stalled at the border, for it had no legal authority to construct tracks in Indiana.  Bliss (and Ogden), therefore, had completely outflanked the MC and owning the Northern Indiana, moved quickly to consolidate his route into Chicago by laying tracks straight to the tip of Lake Michigan.  Boston’s MC was left in a very compromised position, requiring some sophisticated action from its owners if the MC was to regain the initiative.

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

FURTHER READING:.

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

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

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

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)