William Butler Ogden

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William Butler Ogden (June 15, 1805 – August 3, 1877) was the first Mayor of Chicago.

Ogden was born in Walton, New York. When still a teenager, his father died and Ogden took over the family real estate business. He assisted Charles Butler, his brother-in-law, with business matters related to opening a new building for New York University, attending the law school for a brief period himself. In 1834, he was elected to the New York state legislature, where he helped build the Erie Canal.[1]

In Chicago

In 1835, Ogden traveled to Chicago to look over land bought by his brother-in-law, Charles Butler, for $100,000. Ogden informed Butler that he had "been guilty of the grossest folly. There is no such value in the land and won't be for a generation."[2] Despite that, Ogden recovered the $100,000 by selling off one-third of the property that Butler had purchased. This experience helped change his impression of the city.[1]

During his term as Chicago's first mayor, 1837–1838, the land rush that had brought him to the Midwest collapsed, but Ogden managed to help the city weather the storm by pledging personal funds and arranging for the city council to issue unsecured scrip.[3] William B. Ogden was a business associate of Chicago and Springfield-based industrialist and financier, Jacob Bunn. Ogden and Bunn were among the reorganizers and co-founders of the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company.

Ogden designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River[3] and donated the land for Rush Medical Center.

Ogden was a leading promoter and investor in the Illinois and Michigan Canal, then switched his loyalty to railroads. Throughout his later life, Ogden was heavily involved in the building several railroads. "In 1847, Ogden announced a plan to build a railway out of Chicago, but no capital was forthcoming. Eastern investors were wary of Chicago's reputation for irrational boosterism, and Chicagoans did not want to divert traffic from their profitable canal works. So Ogden and his partner J. Young Scammon solicited subscriptions from the farmers and small businessmen whose land lay adjacent to the proposed rail. Farmer's wives used the money they earned from selling eggs to buy shares of stock on a monthly payment plan. By 1848, Ogden and Scammon had raised $350,000—enough to begin laying track. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was profitable from the start and eventually extended out to Wisconsin, bringing grain from the Great Plains into the city. As president of Union Pacific, Ogden extended the reach of Chicago's rail lines to the West coast."[4]

In 1853, the Chicago Land Company, of which Ogden was a trustee, purchased land at a bend in the Chicago River and began to cut a channel, formally known as North Branch Canal, but also referred to as Ogden's Canal.[5] The resulting island is now known as Goose Island.

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