J. Young Scammon

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Jonathan Young Scammon

Birthdate: (77)
Death: March 17, 1890 (77)
Immediate Family:

Son of Eliakim Scammon and Joanna Scammon
Husband of Mary Ann Haven Scammon
Brother of Brig General Eliakim P. Scammon (USA)

Managed by: Private User
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About J. Young Scammon


J. Young Scammon (Jonathan Young Scammon, July 27, 1812 - March 17, 1890) was an early settler in Chicago, Illinois, arriving in the city in 1835. He went on to become politically important as a lawyer, banker, and newspaper publisher.

Scammon was born in Whitefield, Maine. He came to Chicago when he was twenty-three. An attorney and a Whig, upon arriving in the city, he entered a legal partnership with Buckner Stith Morris, who was himself recently arrived from Kentucky. Their partnership lasted less than a year before Morris left the practice. In 1843, he served as the court reporter for the Illinois Supreme Court.

In 1844, Scammon founded the city's first newspaper, the Chicago Journal, a Whig-leaning newspaper that eventually became a Republican newspaper. Several years later, in 1861, Scammon sued the Democratic Chicago Democrat for libel after publisher John Wentworth published a cartoon which depicted Scammon as a wildcat banker. Scammon dropped the quarter million dollar suit only after Wentworth closed his paper, giving the subscription list to the Chicago Tribune.

Along with William Butler Ogden, he built the first railroad from Chicago in 1848, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, which ran from Chicago to a point ten miles west of town. When Eastern financiers refused to support the railroad, Ogden and Scammon raised the money by riding on horseback along the proposed route and taking donations from the farmers he passed.

Branching out, in 1851, Scammon founded the Marine Bank. He served as President of the Chicago Board of Education. He helped create Oak Woods Cemetery in 1854 and was the cemetery's first president. In 1856, a group of men meeting in Scammon's law offices created the Chicago Historical Society.

Scammon was apparently active in the Underground Railroad, although he never publicly admitted as such. When he was accused of working to help slaves escape from law officers, he was asked what he would do if called upon to be part of a posse to capture fugitive slaves. Scammon replied, "I would certainly obey the summons, but I should probably stub my toe and fall down before I reached him."

In 1863, when the Chicago Astronomical Society determined to build an observatory affiliated with the University of Chicago, Scammon offered to pay for the construction of the observatory tower and dome as long as the observatory was named after his wife, Mary Ann Haven Dearborn. The group took him up on it and named the building the Dearborn Observatory. Scammon also paid the director's salary until he hit financial difficulties following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

In 1870, he donated the land and buildings for the Scammon Hospital, which was renamed following the Fire to the Hahnemann Hospital.

Scammon died in Chicago in 1890.


SCAMMON, Jonathan Young, lawyer, born in Whitefield, Maine, 27 July, 1812. He studied at Waterville college (now Colby university), from which he received the degree of EL. D. in 1869, studied law in Hallowell, Maine, was admitted to the bar, and removed in 1835 to Chicago, where he began the practice of his profession. He prepared a new edition of the laws of Illinois (" Gale's Statutes"), was appointed reporter of the supreme court, and published "Seammon's Reports" (4 vols., 1832-'43). He associated Ezra B. McCagg with him in 1847, and subsequently Samuel W. Fuller, in the firm of Scammon, McCagg, and Fuller. He took an important part in pioneer enterprises, was one of the main organizers and directors of the first railroad west of Lake Michigan, the Galena and Chi-ca, go (now the Northwestern), laid the foundation of the first successful public-school system in Chicago, and actively identified himself with many societies. He was one of the founders of the Chicago astronomical society and its first president, and built and maintained at his own expense for many years Dearborn observatory, in which was placed the first grand refractor that was manufactured by Alvan Clark and Sons, of Cambridge, Massachusetts The observatory cost $30,000. He acquired wealth, most of which was lost in the great fire of 1871 and the panic of 1873, and he was at the head of several large and successful financial institutions. Mr. Scammon was a Whig, and is a Republican in politics. He was one of several gentlemen that established the " Chicago American " in 1844 to aid in the election of Henry Clay, and when, in 1872, the Chicago "Tribune" favored the election of Horace Greeley, he established the "Inter-Ocean " as a Republican paper. He is a Swedenborgian, was the first of that belief in Chicago, instituted the Chicago society of the New Jerusalem and the Illinois association of that church, and was for ten years vice-president of the general convention of his denomination in the United States. He was the first lawman to introduce the homoeopathic system of medicine in Chicago, and founded the Hahnemann hospital, of which and the Hahnemann medical college he has been for many years a trustee. Many acts of the legislature have originated with him, especially those reforming the circulating medium and driving out of circulation the depreciated currency that inundated Illinois and the northwest. He has been officially connected with the city, county, and state government, and a member of the legislature, and of the Republican national conventions of 1864 and 1872. Mr. Scammon has contributed largely to the periodical press.--His brother, Eliakim Parker, soldier, born in Whitefield, Maine, 27 December, 1816, was graduated at the United States military academy in 1837, and promoted 2d lieutenant of artillery. In 1838 he was appointed 2d lieutenant of topographical engineers, and he was assistant professor of mathematics at West Point from 1837 till 1838, arid of ethics from 1841 till 1846. He was aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott in Mexico in 1846-'7, engaged on the survey of the northern lakes in 1847-54, in 1853 became captain. In 1856 he was dismissed the army for " disobedience of orders." He was then professor in Mount St. Mary's college, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1856-'8, and president of the polytechnic college in that city from 1859-'61. He became colonel of the 23d Ohio regiment in June, 1861, served in western Virginia and Maryland, and was promoted brigadier-general of volunteers, 15, October, 1862, for gallant conduct at the battle of South Mountain, Maryland He commanded the district of Kanawha from November, 1862, till 3 February, 1864, was a prisoner of war from the latter date till 3 August, and then led a separate brigade at Morris island, South Carolina From November, 1864, till April, 1865, he was in charge of the district of Florida. He was United States consul in Prince Edward island from 1866 till 1870, and afterward professor of mathematics and history in Seton Hall college, Orange, New Jersey--Another brother, Charles Mellville, navigator, born in Pittston, Maine, 28 May, 1825, became a ship-captain and sailed to California in 1850. He engaged in the whale-fishery and discovered the habitat of the gray whale in a bay on the coast of California, which was named Scammon lagoon. At the beginning of the civil war in 1861 he became commander of a United States revenue cutter in San Francisco, and he was subsequently appointed captain in that branch of the service, in which he still remains. He is the author of a work on "The Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of America and the American Whale Fishery " (San Francisco, 1874).

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J. Young Scammon's Timeline

July 27, 1812
March 17, 1890
Age 77