J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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was a graduate of William and Mary's College, as was his son, Carter H. Harrison,
the father of him whose name introduces this review. Carter H. Harrison, Sr.
received from his father a large tract of land thickly grown with cane, and in the
one-room log house which he built thereon, his son and namesake was born. Eight
months later the father died, leaving Carter H. Harrison the only child of his
widowed mother, who was a daughter of Colonel William Russell of the United
States army, a lady of character and education, whose devotion to her son was
ever one of his most pleasant memories. She taught him reading, writing and
geography and assisted him in his lessons after he became a pupil in the primitive

Vol. V 10


public schools of Kentucky. She often led him to his father's grave and impressed
upon his mind the story of his father's unassailable integrity. When fifteen years
of age he attended a school conducted by Dr. Lewis Marshall, brother of Chief
Justice John Marshall, and two years later became a sophomore at Yale, where
he was graduated in 1845 at the age of twenty. Following his return home he took
up the study of law but, unwilling to leave his mother and go to the city to practice,
he decided to devote his attention to the management of his paternal estate, six
miles from Lexington. In April, 1851, his mother having married a clergyman who
had been her friend and earliest adviser, he went abroad, thoroughly touring Eng-
land and Scotland, where he was the guest of noblemen and freely mingled with
the plebeians. He paid a long visit at the country seat of the Earl of Ducie, from
whom he purchased blooded cattle for his Kentucky plantation, and during his
travels in France and Germany he acquired a familiarity with the language of the
people that was not only of great benefit to him in his European travels but after-
ward in his political campaigns and official intercourse at home. He visited most
of the European continent, also Egypt, and with Bayard Taylor visited Syria and
Asia Minor. In Taylor's volume, Land of the Saracen, he speaks in his preface of
"my traveling companion, Mr. Carter Henry Harrison, of Clifton, Kentucky."

In 1853 Mr. Harrison became a student in the Transylvania University Law
School at Lexington, Kentucky, and soon after his graduation in the spring of
1855 was admitted to the bar. In April of that year he married Sophonisba Pres-
ton, of Henderson, that state, and they became parents of ten children but six died
in childhood. The others, Lina, the wife of Heaton Owsley, Carter H., now for
the fifth time mayor of Chicago, William Preston and Sophie G., are all residents
of this city.

While making a bridal trip through the then "northwest" Mr. Harrison was
so impressed with Chicago and its possibilities that he decided to make this city
his home and twelve days after his arrival invested his available capital thirty
thousand dollars received from the sale of his plantation in real estate and opened
a real-estate as well as law office, continuing in the practice of his profession and
in the sale of his lands until 1874, when he went abroad to join his wife and chil-
dren, the former having gone to Europe upon the advice of her physician. He
spent the spring and summer in traveling with them through Germany, Austria,
the Tyrol and Switzerland and after comfortably installing his family in Germany,
the older children at school, he returned home. In 1875 he again went to Europe
and his travels with his family through northern Europe were terminated at Paris.
His family then returned to Germany and he to America. While in congress in
September, 1876, the news of his wife's death at Gera, Germany, reached him and
subsequently her remains were brought back to Chicago for interment.

An observing eye and retentive memory so enabled Mr. Harrison to store his
memory while abroad that he could thereafter call upon it again and again for fact
or incident and this knowledge served him in good stead when he entered upon his
political career, which, however, did not begin until he was forty-five years of age.
In Kentucky he had voted with the whigs, had advocated emancipation and in 1 860
became a Douglas democrat, although an ardent Unionist through the war. The
first office he ever held was that of county commissioner, to which he was elected
on a mixed ticket called the "fireproof." His capable service and efforts in the


interests of the majority won wide commendation and led to his nomination for
congress in 1872. Although defeated in that year by Hon. J. D. Ward, he in turn
defeated him in 1874. He retired from the office of county commissioner in Decem-
ber, 1874, and in the following March took his seat as a member of the forty-
fourth congress. Those who knew him in his later public career can scarcely realize
that during his practice as a lawyer he experienced great diffidence and embarrass-
ment in attempting to speak in court and when county commissioner spoke only
when the occasion seemed to demand. His first notable public address was at a
Philadelphia banquet in the interest of the Centennial Exposition, and he left
congress with the reputation of being its most humorous speaker because of his
remarks concerning a pending motion to strike out of an appropriation bill an item
for the Marine Band. His latent gifts of oratory were seemingly called forth at
that time and he made many speeches thereafter, including one on the repeal of
the resumption act and on the enlargement of the Illinois and Michigan canal into
a ship canal. He was always an advocate of improved waterways and while in
congress and afterward did effective work along that line. In March, 1880, he
was chairman of the executive committee of the Ottawa canal convention and pre-
pared an address to congress on the importance of canal improvement. He was
likewise greatly interested in bettering the highways and was elected the perma-
nent president of the State Road Association of Illinois, his labors being effective
in securing legislation resulting in an appropriation for the improvement of the
public roads. His second nomination for congress came to him ten days after he
had sailed for Europe on account of the death of his wife. In 1878 he declined a
renomination, expecting to return home to private life, but found on reaching Chi-
cago that his name was being put forth by his friends in connection wtih the mayor-
alty candidacy. He cared so little for it that he went to Kentucky to enjoy a short
rest, but six days after his nomination on the 15th of March returned and on the
1st of April was elected by a plurality of five thousand. Again he declined to
become a candidate but was nominated by acclamation in 1881, receiving an in-
creased majority of eight thousand.

The following year Mr. Harrison again went to Europe and in London, in
August, 1882, wedded Miss Marguerite E. Stearns, of Chicago, who at that time
was traveling with her parents abroad. While in England he accepted the invita-
tion of Parnell and other national members to visit Ireland, and in Dublin was
tendered the hospitality of the city by Lord Mayor Dawson. At a banquet there
held he made a speech in which he boldly criticised England's policy toward Ire-
land, which awakened widespread attention throughout Europe and America, win-
ning him the thanks of the nationalist members of parliament and the severe
criticism of their opponents. His return to Chicago was made a matter of an
ovation. The newspapers said that between fifty and one hundred thousand people
gathered on the Lake Front park to welcome him September 19, 1882, and he was
cheered by thousands all the way from Michigan boulevard to his home on Ashland
avenue. In the spring of 1883 he was once more nominated by acclamation for the
position of mayor and during his third term in the office was nominated by acclama-
tion for governor. About the same time he was also prominently mentioned in
connection with the nomination for vice president of the United States but declined
to be a candidate. At the state election for governor in 1884 he was defeated, but


his position in his home city was indicated when he was chosen mayor for the fourth
time in 1885. At its close he emphatically stated that he would not again become
a candidate but, in defiance of his expressed wish, the party nominated him by
acclamation, whereupon occurred such a scene as is seldom witnessed. In response
to the demands of the people he appeared upon the platform and received a tre-
mendous greeting. When quiet was restored so that he could be heard, he said
that he could accept only on condition that every man in the convention should
raise his right hand as a pledge of loyal support. Instantly every hand was raised
and the building trembled with applause. A few days later, however, he wrote to
the committee, peremptorily declining, and reaffirming his purpose to retire to
private life. Twelve days after he had left the office of mayor his wife passed
away and the public offices were closed, flags placed at half-mast and the city and
county officials attended the funeral in a body a mark of respect seldom, if ever,

In the summer of 1887, for needed rest, Mr. Harrison went abroad accompanied
by his younger son, William Preston, and John W. Amberg, the son of a friend.
He visited China, Japan, Siam, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Roumania,
Hungary, Austria, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France and Eng-
land, and an account of his travels was published in a series of fifty letters to a
Chicago newspaper and afterward appeared in book form under the title "A Race
with the Sun," receiving favorable comment from literary critics. A series of let-
ters concerning his trip to the Yellowstone National Park, Puget Sound, Alaska
and the Canadian Rockies, in the summer of 1890, were published in the Chicago
Tribune and later in book form under the title "A Summer Outing." In 1889 he
declined the tendered nomination for the mayoralty and in 1891 contested the
nomination with DeWitt C. Cregier. His friends always asserted that he received
a majority of the votes in the primary elections. He afterward decided to run
independently and on that occasion, because of the division in the party, Hempstead
Washburne, republican, was elected. In the spring of 1893 Mr. Harrison was
once more his party's candidate and made a brilliant canvass which was a personal
ovation from start to finish. All of the newspapers of the city except one were
against him but the people were with him and he received a majority of twenty-one
thousand. It was a critical hour in the history, of the city, for the mayor would be
Chicago's official representative at the World's Fair, would receive commissioners
and royal visitors from all nations, together with the officials of our own land. The
public re'cognized that Mr. Harrison was preeminently fitted for the position. His
linguistic powers, his broad knowledge of various lands and their peoples, his elo-
quence and versatility, his courtliness combined with simplicity of manner, his
boundless hospitality and his thorough familiarity with every detail of executive
duty, were the qualities which made him above all others the one man for the office.
He failed in not one single instance to live up to the expectations of his fellow
townsmen and his last public address was made at Music Hall, at the World's
Columbian Exposition, on what was known as All Cities' Day, October 28, 1893,
when mayors from all over the country were the guests of Chicago. On that occa-
sion he said; at the close of an address which held the close attention of every
hearer: "This fair need not have a history to record it. Its beauty has gone forth
among the people, the men, the women, aye, the child has looked upon it, and they


have all been well repaid for this wonderful education. No royal king ordered it,
but the American people, with the greatest of pluck, born under the freedom of
those Stars and Stripes, made this thing possible possible to a free people. It is
an educator of the world. The world will be wiser for it. No king can ever rule
the American heart. America extends an invitation to the best of the world, and
its Stars and Stripes will wave from now on to eternity. That is one of the lessons
we have taught. But I must stop. If I go on another moment I will get on to
some new idea. I thank you all for coming to us. I welcome you all here, in the
name of Chicago. I welcome you to see this dying effort of Chicago Chicago that
never could conceive what it wouldn't attempt and yet has found nothing it could
not achieve. I thank you all." Late that afternoon he returned home to dine with
his family and an hour later was shot down in his own residence by one Prender-
gast, who had been admitted to the house on the plea that he desired to see the
mayor on important business. Chicago was plunged into gloom and the plans that
the Exposition should go out in a blaze of glory were abandoned. It seemed that
all Chicago gathered to pay tribute to him at the funeral obsequies and during the
day in which the body lay in state in the city hall. A contemporary biographer has
written: "For twenty years, covering the period of his official life, Carter Harri-
son was a unique character in Chicago. In many respects his life was picturesque.
That he was honest none ever questioned. That he loved Chicago as his own being,
none ever doubted. He was a man of strong personality, little understood abroad
because grossly caricatured at home. He was thoroughly familiar with the details
of even' department of the municipal government and the duties of every responsible
head. He insisted upon honest administration. He possessed remarkable executive
and administrative ability. He was always alert, guarding his official prerogatives
and the public interests with sleepless vigilance. He sought to protect the treasury
from useless appropriations. His habit of personal economy controlled his official
recommendations. His character abounded in contradictions and paradoxes. A
heavy taxpayer himself, he protected the interest of taxpayers. Moved with sym-
pathy for the destitute, he favored increasing the public work to give them em-
ployment. He governed without repression. He planned his campaign as a genius
and led the assault as a hero. He never engaged in defensive warfare, however
vigorously the enemy attacked. He was always aggressive and impetuous. He
carried his measures by the force of his intellect and the fury of his manner, con-
vincing or overawing the opposition. His purpose accomplished, he was gracious
and conciliatory. He was a manly antagonist, a magnanimous victor. No man who
contended with him ever doubted his courage or his resources after the battle was
over. He had no conception of fear and no apprehension of danger. He encoun-
tered the antagonism of newspapers and secured the support of their readers. He
was a piquant, popular, versatile public speaker, adapting his oratory with equal
facility to the educated and the ignorant, the refined and the rough. Naturally
genial and courteous, he could, if the occasion demanded, assume a reserve, hauteur
and frigidity of manner that chilled advances. He was a consummate actor, an
earnest man. Thoroughly democratic in principle and mental characteristics, he
was equally agreeable to the laborer and the millionaire. He knew no classes ; all
occupied one plane. The masses regarded him with unbounded affection. He was
wonderfully felicitous in adapting himself to his surroundings.- He was a man of


superb presence and chivalrous bearing. His supremest devotion was to his home
and his family. He had little use for the club. His nature united the courage of
a lion with the gentleness of a child."


His clarity of vision, laudable ambition and strong purpose led Irenus Kit-
tredge Hamilton from the more restricted fields of New England and the east
to the Mississippi valley which, in the middle part of the nineteenth century, of-
fered almost limitless opportunities for business advancement through the develop-
ment of its natural resources. Coming to this section of the country, Mr. Hamilton
made for himself a notable position in connection with the development of the
lumber industry and for many years figured conspicuously as a representative of
the lumber trade of Chicago. The sturdy and sterling traits of the Scottish and
of the New England ancestry were salient features in the life of Mr. Hamilton,
who came to be recognized as one of the foremost representatives of industrial
and financial circles in Chicago. His birth occurred in Lyme, New Hampshire,
December 1, 1830, and he came of Scotch-Irish lineage, although for some gen-
erations the family has been represented in New England. His grandfather, Dr.
Cyrus Hamilton, was a prominent medical practitioner of Lyme and the maternal
grandfather, Jonathan Kittredge, followed the same profession in Canterbury,
New Hampshire. Deacon Irenus Hamilton, the father, devoted much of his life
to farming and also operated a saw and gristmill. He was prominent in the
public life of New Hampshire, occupying various positions of honor and trust,
including that of state senator. He occupied the old family homestead built by
his father, which is still one of the most attractive residences of Lyme Plains.
The ancestral home was the birthplace of our subject and of his brothers and
sisters, Woodman C., Charles T., Alfred K. and Mary Esther, the latter becoming
the wife of Dr. Henry M. Chase, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Irenus K. Hamilton was reared amid the refining influences of a home of cul-
ture and after he had attained his majority established a household of his own by
his marriage, in October, 1853, to Miss Mary Louisa Waterbury, of Brooklyn,
New York. They became the parents of two daughters, Amy, now the wife of
R. J. O. Hunter, and Louise, now Mrs. William Waller, of whom the latter is a
resident of Chicago and the former also resides in this city. There were also two
sons in the family: Nathaniel W., who married Miss Harriet Chase, of Chicago,
and is in business in Pasadena, California; and Irenus K., who is now in the
manufacturing business at Hartford, Connecticut. The mother of these children
passed away in 1886 and in 1889 Mr. Hamilton wedded her sister, Mrs. Charlotte
L. Williamson, of Boston, Massachusetts, who by her former marriage had one
daughter, Caroline L., now the widow of Dr. Frank Hugh Montgomery, mentioned
elsewhere in this work.

At the time of his marriage Mr. Hamilton was well qualified to take up the
responsibilities of life because of his thorough home and school training. He had



attended the public schools of Lyme and later St. Johnsbury Academy of Vermont,
and had been trained at home to habits of industry, diligence and integrity. Like
most of the boys of that day, he and his brothers were trained to work and to
realize the value of persistent labor. When his academic course was completed
he found employment in a general store at St. Johnsbury and carried to his new
duties the habits of thoroughness which he had formed. His industry and capa-
bility soon attracted the attention of Governor Fairbanks, -then at the head of the
immense scale manufacturing plant of the E. & T. Fairbanks Company, and he
offered to Mr. Hamilton the position of bookkeeper in their New York branch.
At the end of a year and a half the manager of the New York house, Charles
Fairbanks, was obliged to go to Europe on account of his health and Mr. Hamilton
became his successor, filling the position to the entire satisfaction of those whom
he represented for the next eighteen months, when Charles Fairbanks returned:

It was during this period that Mr. Hamilton learned more thoroughly the ad-
vantages of persistence, the study of minute details, of self-reliance and of hon-
orable business methods, all of which were brought into constant requisition in
his after business life. He received from the Fairbanks Company flattering offers
to continue in their employ, but feeling that better opportunities might be found
elsewhere, he joined the firm of A. Latham & Company, car locomotive and gen-
eral machinery manufacturers, at White River Junction, Vermont. The financial
depression of 1854 wrought such changes that the company went out of business.
He was now free to carry out plans which he had been formulating for some time
and in the summer of 1855 came to the middle west. He investigated various
sections and then decided to join his brother, W. C. Hamilton, at Fond du Lac,
Wisconsin. There they built a sawmill, entered lands from the government and
carried on business in a profitable way for twelve years. In 1868, for the purpose
of enlarging their interests, they sold out in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and in con-
nection with A. C. Merryman erected a gang and circular mill at Marinette, Wis-
consin. They acquired large tracts of pine land on the Menominee river and its
branches and in 1893 incorporated the business under the name of the Hamilton
& Merryman Company, with Irenus K. Hamilton as the president, W. C. Ham-
ilton as vice president, and A. C. Merryman, secretary. In connection with the
mill, in 1875 they opened a lumberyard at the corner of Loomis and Twenty-
second streets, in Chicago, and purchased three vessels to convey the lumber from
the mill to the yard, building up a business which resulted in the sale of thirty
million feet of lumber annually. In the year when the Chicago branch of the
business was established Mr. Hamilton removed his family to this city and here
made his home until his death. The company of which he was president became
the owners of valuable tracts of timber lands in Michigan, under which there were
found to exist rich deposits of iron ore and other minerals. On one section at
Iron Mountain, Michigan, is located the famous Hamilton Iron Mine, which has
the deepest iron shaft in the country fourteen hundred feet. At that time, in
addition to the interests mentioned, each member of the corporation was a large
owner of the stock of the Marinette & Menominee Paper Company, of Marinette,
Wisconsin, an immense establishment with a daily capacity of sixty tons of paper
manufactured from wood pulp. Moreover, members of the firm became active fac-
tors in the development of the lumber trade in the south, especially in the pine


lands of Louisiana, and their operations in that section of the country contributed
much to its development.

Irenus K. Hamilton was a director of the American Exchange National Bank
of Chicago and also of the First National Bank of Englewood, and was identified
with several other interests of a semi-public character. For a long period he
served as trustee of St. Luke's hospital, in which connection he rendered valuable
service. No good work done in the name of charity or religion sought his coopera-
tion in vain and he gave liberally in support of many benevolent projects and of
various denmoinations in addition to his liberal gifts to the Protestant Episcopal
church, in which he held membership. A friendly disposition and unfeigned cor-
diality made him popular in social circles and yet he found his greatest enjoyment
in his own home. In manner he was quiet and unassuming and never obtruded his
views upon others, yet his opinions were well formed and were based upon broad'
reading and wide experience. That he made splendid use of his time, talents and
opportunities was indicated in the success which crowned his labors. His busi-
ness interests were always of a constructive character, never sacrificing the welfare
of others, and thus in industrial, commercial and financial circles his name was
ever an honored one. His death occurred March, 1908, and interment took place
at Graceland cemetery.


Chicago, whose growth has been one of the wonders of the world, owes its pre-
eminence not alone to the men of light and learning of the early days but as well
to the men of ability who are being continually attracted by the ever broadening
opportunities of the city which has become one of the world's centers of commerce
and finance. A representative of its later day development, Elisha Paxton White-

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 21 of 74)