William Butler Ogden

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William Butler Ogden

Birthplace: Walton, Delaware County, New York, United States
Death: August 03, 1877 (72)
Bronx, North Hempstead, Bronx County, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Bronx County, NY, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Abraham Ogden and Abigail Ogden
Husband of Marianna Tuttle Ogden
Brother of Eliza Abigail Butler; Phebe Ogden; Albert Abraham Ogden; Mahlon Dickerson Ogden; Emily Butler Wheeler and 2 others

Managed by: Ned Reynolds
Last Updated:

About William Butler Ogden

William Butler Ogden was an American politician and railroad executive who served as the first Mayor of Chicago. He was referred to as "the Astor of Chicago."

Ogden was born on June 15, 1805, in Walton, New York. He was the son of Abraham Ogden and Abigail Weed Ogden.

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.

He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Delaware Co.) in 1835. In 1837, he was elected the first mayor of Chicago, serving the customary one year term until 1838.

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 of 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."

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.The resulting island is now known as Goose Island.

Ogden designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River and donated the land for Rush Medical Center. Ogden was also a founder of the Chicago Board of Trade.

Later Ogden served on the board of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad and lobbied with many others for congressional approval and funding of the transcontinental railroad. After the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Ogden was named as the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ogden was a good choice for the first president, but his railroad experience was most likely not the primary reason he was chosen; Ogden was a clever man who had many political connections. When Ogden came to lead the Union Pacific, the railroad wasn't fully funded and hadn't yet laid a single mile of track—the railroad existed largely on paper created by an act of Congress. As part of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Congress named several existing railroad companies to complete portions of the project. Several key areas needed to link the East (Chicago) to the West had none, and hence the Union Pacific was formed by Congress. Ogden was a fierce supporter of the transcontinental railroad at a time of great unrest for the country and was quoted as saying "This project must be carried through by even-handed wise consideration and a patriotic course of policy which shall inspire capitalists of the country with confidence. Speculation is as fatal to it as secession is to the Union. Whoever speculates will damn this project." As history now shows, eventually Ogden and many others got their wish.

In 1860, Ogden switched his loyalty to the Republican Party, which shared his views regarding slavery, although he left the party over a dispute with Abraham Lincoln. Ogden felt that the Emancipation Proclamation was premature. Following his defection from the Republican party, Ogden retired from politics and moved back to his native New York.

On October 8, 1871, Ogden lost most of his prized possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. He also owned a lumber company in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which burned the same day.

He married Marianna Tuttle Arnot (1825–1904) on 9 February 1875. Marianna was the daughter of Scottish born John Arnot and Harriet (née Tuttle) Arnot. In New York, he named his home in Highbridge, Bronx (named after the bridge now called Aqueduct Bridge over the Harlem River connecting Manhattan and the Bronx) Villa Boscobel.

Ogden died at his home in the Bronx on Friday, August 3, 1877. The funeral was held August 6, 1877, with several prominent pallbearers including, Gouverneur Morris III, William A. Booth, Parke Godwin, Oswald Ottendorfer, William C. Sheldon, Martin Zborowski, and Andrew H. Green. He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.

Namesakes of William B. Ogden include a stretch of U.S. Highway 34, called Ogden Avenue in Chicago and its suburbs, Ogden International School of Chicago, which is located on Walton Street in Chicago, and Ogden Slip, a man-made harbor near the mouth of the Chicago River. Ogden Avenue in The Bronx is also named after him, as is Ogden, Iowa. The Arnot-Odgen Memorial Hospital, founded by his wife Mariana, also bears his namesake.



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William Butler Ogden's Timeline

June 5, 1805
Walton, Delaware County, New York, United States
August 3, 1877
Age 72
North Hempstead, Bronx County, New York, United States
Bronx County, NY, United States