Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OGDEN, William Butler, first mayor of Chicago, born in Walton, New York, 15 June, 1805; died in New York city, 3 August, 1877. He was intended for the law, but the death of his father in 1821 compelled him to take charge of the latter's business affairs. In 1834 he was elected to the legislature, where he advocated the construction of the Erie railway. Becoming convinced of the early development of western property, he removed to Chicago in 1835, where he established a land and trust agency that still exists. He soon became closely identified with the growth of the various enterprises that centre around Chicago, and on its incorporation as a city in 1837 became its first mayor. Mr. Ogden was active in the initial movement that led to the construction of the Chicago and Galena railroad, and, among others, pledged his private fortune for its completion as far as Elgin, Illinois, becoming, in 1847, its president. In 1853 he visited Europe, and made a special study of the canals of Holland, which convinced him of the importance of enlarging and deepening the Illinois and Michigan canal, so as to make it navigable for steamboats plying between Chicago and New Orleans. He was also an earnest advocate of the construction of a ship-canal across the southern portion of the Michigan peninsula. In 1855 he became president of the Chicago, St. Paul, and Fond du Lac railway company, and in 1864 he effected the consolidation of that road with the Chicago and Galena railroad, out of which grew the Chicago and Northwestern railroad company, of which he was made president. Mr. Ogden presided over the National Pacific railroad convention at Philadelphia in 1850, and on the formation of the Union Pacific railroad company was elected its first president. He was a firm believer in the final success of the Northern Pacific railway, and was largely concerned with its inception. Various other interests of public importance were controlled by him, notably the great lumbering establishments at Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and at the time of his death he was considered the owner of the largest plant of that kind in the world. His charities were extensive, and nearly all of the institutions of the northwest, including the Rush medical college, of which he was president, the Theological seminary of the northwest, the Chicago historical society, the Academy of sciences, the Astronomical society, the University of Chicago, and the Chicago woman's home, were recipients of his bounty. Shortly after his death a chapel was erected to his memory in Elmira by his widow. Mrs. Ogden also presented in 1885 a chime of ten bells to Trinity cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, in her husband's memory, and has also erected in Elmira, New York, the Arnot-Ogden memorial hospital in honor of her own family and that of her husband.
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