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Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) online

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the private school taught by his father. His pre-
cocity and the thoroughness of his education are
vividly shown by the fact of his entering college
at the almost unparalleled age of thirteen years.
After spending two years at Columbia College,



New York, circumstances necessitated the aban-
donment of the further prosecution of his studies
except as a private and independent student
but in this latter capacity it can be no more truly
said of any other man in the city of Chicago,
that he was throughout his life a devoted, ear-
nest and successful student, consecrating himself
to the acquisition of knowledge for the purpose
of making it most useful to those for whose inter-
ests he spent a lifetime of toil.

In 1839 the elder Johnston, tiring of the con-
straint of New York, came West by way of the
Lakes to Detroit, and thence, in company with his
eldest son, Shepherd, crossed Michigan on po-
nies to Chicago, which they found to be a muddy
city of about four thousand inhabitants. Not
liking Chicago, they pursued their way westward
to Kane County, and there the father bought a
thousand or more acres of land near Big Rock,
to which he removed his family soon after.
There he spent seven years, but, not being adapt-
ed either by education or taste to farm lite, at
the end of that period he returned to New York,
where he died in 1853.

After a residence of five or six years on the
farm, young Johnston tired of the monotony of
rural life and settled in New York City, when
twenty-one years of age, and obtained a position
as teacher in the Institute for the Blind. He filled
this position with that fidelity and ability which
characterized his life work in any capacity in
which he was called upon to act. On the 27th of
July, 1849, at Whitlockville, Westchester Coun-
ty, New York, he married Mary Ann Wild, a
native of Sheffield, England, a daughter of James
and Mary Ann Outram (Hobson) Wild. Imme-
diately after his marriage he came to Illinois, and
tried farm life for a few months, but again re-
turned to New York City in 1850. There for a
year he was employed in the ticket office of the
Hudson River Railroad. In 1851 he engaged in
the retail grocery business in New York, in which
he continued for seven years. In the fall of 1859
he again removed to Illinois, locating at Aurora,
and in the following year settled in Chicago,
where he resided until the time of his death. In

February of the same year he began work as
clerk in the office of the Board of Education, and
remained there continuously until his life work
was finished. He saw the public-school system
grow from comparatively insignificant propor-
. tions to the wonderful educational power which it
is at the present time. When he began work
in the office of the Board the population of the
city was one hundred and ten thousand, and the
number of teachers was one hundred and twenty-
three. Now the total enrollment of pupils is one
hundred and fifty thousand, and the number of
teachers in the public schools is three thousand
two hundred and twenty-eight, and the amount
required to pay this vast army is two and one-
half millions of dollars.

Mr. Johnston died at his home on the 3rd of
October, 1894, leaving a widow and one daugh-
ter, the latter, Laura Ann, being now the wife
of John M. Stanley, of Chicago. His only son,
Charles Sherwood Johnston, died in 1889, at the
age of thirty-nine.

Not only as a worker in the field of education,
but also as a zealous laborer in the cause of relig-
ion, was Mr. Johnston known. For nearly a
score of years he was a member of the Episcopal
Church, in which he held the office of vestryman.
He also took a deep interest in the affairs of the
Sunday-school, of which he was Superintendent.
He was a devoted student of the Bible, to the
study of which he gave many hours of his crowd-
ed life. As might be expected of a man of his
intelligence, taking the interest he did in public
affairs, a knowledge of and an interest in politics
were not overlooked. He was a member of the
Republican party, whose great underlying princi-
ples he fully understood, endorsed and supported.
But he was far above the petty broils of partisan
strife, and contented himself with working for
those higher principles and ends which interest
the thinker and philosopher.

A fitting summary of the life and works of Mr.
Johnston can be no more aptly expressed than is
done in the following eloquent tribute paid to his
memory by the members of the Board of Educa-
tion, taken from the records of said body:



"At a special meeting of the Board of Educa-
tion of Chicago, held October 5, 1894, the follow-
ing memorial was unanimously adopted:

" 'The Board of Education of the City of Chi-
cago learns with the most profound sorrow of the
death of their scholarly, faithful and most tireless
Secretary, Shepherd Johnston, after a continuous
service of thirty-four years of unparalleled devo-
tion to the educational interests of this great me-

" 'He had reached the limit of years allotted to
man. He closed his books at the office, went to
his quiet home, retired to sleep, and awoke no
more to consciousness here. The book of his life
was gently closed, and he was transferred to the
unknown realm which is beyond our mortal sight.

" 'Mr. Johnston possessed those habits of mind
and character which made him eminently fitted
for the responsible duties of the office which he
held so long and filled so efficiently. His early
training and experience as a teacher made him
acquainted with the details of educational work,

and gave him a familiarity with the school sys-
tem of the country, as shown in the financial and
statistical reports which were published annually.
As his labors multiplied, his ability to cope with
them multiplied in like ratio. There was no detail
of his office with which he was not familiar. He
was a well of information, imparting courteously
to all who desired to know aught of the historical
progress of the city for nearly two score of years.
In the varied and perplexing duties of his office,
he won the confidence and esteem of the members
of the Board of Education, the Superintendents,
his associates in the office, the teachers and citizens
of Chicago. The members of the Board of Edu-
cation take this method of expressing their appre-
ciation of his valuable services and their high
regard for his life and character.

" 'THEREFORE, Be it resolved, that this memo-
rial be entered upon the records of this Board, and
that a copy be suitably engrossed and presented to
the family.'"


(TULIAN S. RUMSEY, a very early resident
I of Chicago and one of the founders of its
G) Board of Trade, was born in Batavia, Gene-
see County, New York, on the 3d day of April,
1823. His parents were Levi Rumsey, of Fair-
field, Connecticut, and Julia F. Dole, of Troy,
New York. The line of descent is traced from
Robert Runisie, who is supposed to have been of
Welsh ancestry, and who settled at Fairfield,
Connecticut, before 1660. His name appears in
the town records under date of January 23, 1664,
the earliest entry in said records bearing date of
January 12, 1649, which must have been about
the time of the first settlement there. The will
of Robert Rumsey appears in the same record,

under date of November 28, 1710, in which he
bequeaths to his widow and children a large
amount of land and personal property, his inter-
est in commonage and his negro man, Jack. The
early residents of New England had to contend
with conditions differing widely from those sur-
rounding pioneers of the present day, and few can
realize the energy and perseverance required to
make a home in the wilderness. Only those of
strong body and mind could survive the rigorous
climate and overcome the obstacles to human
progress. Among the present generation, only
those who have made a study of the subject can
realize, in a faint degree even, what were their
surroundings, ideas and character.


Levi Rumsey was one of the first graduates of
Williams College, at Williamstown, Massachu-
setts (in 1800), and settled at Batavia in 1822,
becoming one of the foremost attorneys of western
New York and serving as District Attorney of
Genesee County. He died there in 1834. At
the solicitation of her brother, George W. Dole,
already a resident of Chicago, the widow decided
to move to the new and growing city with her
younger son (the subject of this biography) and
two daughters, in the spring of 1835, Dut death
interposed and removed the mother before this
purpose could be consummated. With an aunt,
Mrs. Coffin, and her husband and MissTownsend
(who afterward became Mrs. Dole), Julian Sid-
ney Rumsey and his two younger sisters came to
Chicago, arriving on the steamer "Michigan"
July 28, 1835. This vessel was owned by Mr.
Dole's partner, Oliver Newberry, of Detroit, and
was by far the finest vessel then on the Lakes.
The trip was made from Buffalo to Chicago, with
a stop at Green Bay, in a little over eight days.
Among the passengers were George Smith, who
afterward became a wealthy banker of the city;
Mr. and Mrs. John H. Kinzie and a young infant,
and Miss Williams, who became the wife of Mark
Skinner, one of the judges of Chicago in later life.

Young Rumsey had attended a private school
in Batavia taught by Rev. John F. Earnst, a
widely-known educator of that place and Buffalo,
and after his arrival here he had the benefit of
such schools as the new town afforded for a few
months. He soon took employment in the ship-
ping house of Newberry & Dole, where his elder
brother, George F. Rumsey, was already estab-
lished. This association made him acquainted
with all the boats coming to Chicago and their
officers. These included the bark "Detroit" and
brig "Queen Charlotte," former'British vessels,
which had been sunk in the bay at Erie, Penn-
sylvania, by Commodore Perry in 1813, and sub-
sequently raised and fitted for commerce.

In September, 1839, the Rumsey brothers, while
still in the employ of Newberry & Dole, shipped
the first cargo of grain ever sent out of Chicago,
consisting of about 2,900 bushels of wheat, put on
board the brig "Osceola" for Buffalo. This had

been taken from farmers' wagons and stored,
awaiting an eastbound boat. In 1841 Capt. E. B.
Ward brought eighty tons of bituminous coal to
Chicago, which was probably the first here, and
this was sold out by the Rumsey brothers in two
years' time, thus indicating that the consumption
was small in those days. The firm of Rumsey,
Brother & Company ultimately succeeded New-
berry & Dole, and became one of the heaviest
grain shippers and dealers in the city.

Mr. Rumsey was one of the organizers of the
Board of Trade early in 1848, and continued his
membership with his life. During the early years
of its existence, it was his custom, with others of
the younger members, to visit business men in
their offices and urge them to go "on "Change,"
in order that it might be truthfully recorded that
such a meeting had been held. He was elected
President of the Board in 1858 and again in 1859,
and in the latter year he drew and secured the
passage of its charter and code of rules. He also
secured, in the face of much opposition, the pres-
ent system of grain inspection Chicago being the
first city to adopt the plan. During his adminis-
tration, the current plan of obtaining and publish-
ing statistics of trade was inaugurated, and the
first annual report of the Board issued, and in the
same period the membership doubled and the
permanency of its existence was established.

Mr. Rumsey was one of the organizers of the
Volunteer Fire Department in 1844, an d at one
time was Foreman of Engine Company Number
Three, and did much to improve the old and or-
ganize new companies. In those days, many of
what are now the most prominent and wealthy
citizens regularly "ran with the boys." The
venerable Stephen F. Gale was Chief Engineer
and Mr. Rumsey Foreman in 1847, when the pa-
rade was made in honor of the famous River and
Harbor Congress of that year. In his report to
the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley said: "I
never witnessed anything so superb as the appear-
ance of some of the fire companies, with their en-
gines drawn by led-horses, tastefully caparisoned.
Our New York firemen must try again. They
certainly have been outdone." Thurlow Weed
wrote to his paper: "I<et me here say that the


firemen's display in this infant city to-day excited
universal admiration. I never saw anything got
up in better taste. The companies were in neat
uniforms. The machines were very tastefully
decorated. There was also a miniature ship,
manned and full-rigged, drawn by twelve horses,
in the procession. While moving, the crew on
board 'The Convention' made, shortened and took
in sail repeatedly."

In early life Mr. Rumsey associated himself, as
a political factor, with the Whig party, and joined
its successor the Republican at its inception.
He was often a delegate in the county and State
conventions, and was a member of the State Cen-
tral Committee of his party when Abraham Lin-
coln was first elected to the Presidency. He had
the honor of entertaining Mr. Lincoln at his home
in Chicago, was present at his inauguration, and
was a member of the committee on which devolved
the sad duty of receiving his remains when brought
back to Chicago, preparatory to final interment
at Springfield. In 1871 Mr. Rumsey was elected
County Treasurer and Collector on the "Fire-
proof" ticket, the result of a political compromise,
and served two years in that responsible capacity.

Before the actual commencement of hostilities,
in the War of the Rebellion, early in 1861, a Com-
mittee of Safety was organized in Chicago, and
Mr. Rumsey was made a member of the sub-com-
mittee to carry out its objects. This involved the
judicious expenditure of nearly fifty thousand
dollars, and required the labor of its members for
nearly two years, much of it of a secret character,
and all of vast importance to the State and Nation.
One of the first undertakings was the fitting out of
an expedition to take possession of Cairo, and thus
save Illinois to the Union. After four days and
nights of arduous effort, a force of five hundred
men was dispatched by the Illinois Central Rail-
road, and the plan successfully carried out. Mr.
Rumsey never asked for office, but was elected
Mayor of the city in the troublous days of 1861,
and maintained the high financial standing of the
municipality. During his term of service, the
Government sent twelve thousand rebel prisoners
here from Fort Donelson, without any warning
or previous provision for their care. They were

quartered in the sheds of an old race track, after-
wards known as Camp Douglas, until suitable
barracks could be erected for their care and reten-
tion. Among them were about two hundred offi-
cers, most of whom possessed knives or pistols,
and with the small police force and absence of
firearms (caused by the drain in supplying Union
troops) , the city seemed entirely at the mercy of
its unwilling guests. Through the vigilance of
Mayor Rumsey, and his appeals to the Govern-
ment, the danger was averted the officers being
removed elsewhere, and the privates speedily pro-
vided with suitable lodgings, and safeguards cre-
ated for the city.

July 31, 1848, at Chicago, occurred the wedding
of J. S. Rumsey and Miss Martha A. Turner.
Mrs. Rumsey, who still survives her husband, is
a daughter of John B. Turner, one of the most
honored and worthy of Chicago's early citizens,
whose biography will be found on another page
of this work. This union resulted in eleven chil-
dren, eight of whom were daughters. One of the
latter died in infancy, and one after a short mar-
ried life. Two daughters are married and reside
in Massachusetts and New York, respectively,
and the eldest son and two daughters, also mar-
ried, reside in Chicago.

Mr. Rumsey passed away in Chicago April 20,
1886, aged sixty-three years. He was ever inter-
ested in the city and its welfare, and did much to
place it in its present proud commercial position.
He did not shirk any duty as a citizen, and left to
his children an honored name. His recollections
of early Chicago are very interesting, and extracts
from his pen picture are here given:

"When the 'Michigan' arrived off Chicago in
July of 1835, a dense fog covered the surface of
the lake, and the town could not be easily located.
After reaching the mouth of the Calumet River,
the captain was set right by the direction of an
Indian, and returned to the city. In the mean
time the fog had lifted and when the boat came to
anchor the fort and Government pier and light-
house seemed the most prominent features. No
entrance to the river existed for lake craft, and
even the yawlboat which brought the passengers
ashore grounded on the bar at the mouth of the



river, and a passage had to be carefully sounded
before it could be brought in. The river was then
but little more than half as wide as at present,
and portions of its shores were occupied by wild
rice, and near the mouth the abode of the musk-
rat was prominent. Fish and wild fowl were
abundant. There was one 'gallows-frame' hoist
bridge at Dearborn Street, crossing the river, one
pontoon over the South Branch, between l,ake
and Randolph Streets, and another across the
North Branch, just south of Kinzie Street. The
Tremont House was then a yellow wooden build-
ing at the southeast corner of I^ake and Dearborn
Streets, kept by Star Foot.

"The population was about twenty-three hun-
dred, divided in something like this proportion:
Eight hundred on the North Side, twelve hundred
on the South Side, and three hundred on the
West Side. The Postoffice was located in the
angle at the intersection of Lake and South Water
Streets. There were no sidewalks or improved
streets, and cattle, pigs and wolfish dogs occupied

the thoroughfares at will, and sometimes at night
wolves came into the settlement Street lights
were unknown, as were sewers, cellars or water
service, and there were very few brick buildings.
The people came from all parts of the world and
included many half-breeds, and all were exceed-
ingly democratic in habit. It was no uncommon
thing for ladies to employ a dump-cart, uphol-
stered with hay or buffalo robes, as a means of
transportation when making social excursions.
There was still a garrison at the fort, and on two
subsequent occasions Indians to the number of
thirty-five hundred and five thousand, from the
Pottawatamie, Winnebago and Sacs and Foxes
tribes came here to receive pay for their lands from
the Government. During the summer of 1835,
the 'Michigan' made four trips between Chicago
and Buffalo, and one or two other vessels visited
the port. While anchored in the bay off Milwau-
kee, on her first trip, only one house was dis-
cerned at that point, though the weather was


Gl NDREW ORTMAYER, who was for nearly
LJ half-a century a resident of Chicago, was
| | numbered among the most substantial and
well-known citizens of German birth. He was
born in Bartenstein, Wurtemberg, Germany, on
the first day of May, 1826. His father, Joseph
Ortmayer, was a native of Neuoetting, Bavaria,
and his mother, Margaret Uhlman, was born in
the same village as her son, where her ancestors
had for several generations carried on the saddlery
business. Joseph Ortmayer was also a saddler,
and when the son had completed the prescribed
German term of school, ending at the age of
fourteen years, he entered the shop and was able
through being the son of a master to become

a journeyman at the age of sixteen. He first
sought employment in his father's native city,
where he remained one year, and was afterwards
employed in Saalzburg and other Austrian cities.
By the time he had attained his majority, he
determined to follow the sun towards that land of
promise, the United States, as he saw little op-
portunity for a mechanic to better his condition
in Europe. His was the same spirit which not
only led to the discovery of the Western continent,
but to the development of its resources, east and
west. Being in I^ondon, England, in the spring
of 1849, he took passage in March of that year
on board the sailing-vessel "Apeona" for New
York, where he arrived on the fourth day of


July, the voyage consuming nearly four months.
He proceeded directly to Buffalo, New York,
where he was able to maintain himself at his
trade until the following spring.

Again moved by the spirit of enterprise, he
took the first steamer which left the port of Buf-
falo for the upper lakes in the spring of 1 850,
and landed in Detroit on the 3Oth of March, after
a two days' voyage. Thence, he proceeded di-
rectly by rail to Chicago, arriving on the last
day of the month.

His first employment in this city was with J.
O. Humphrey, the first carriage manufacturer in
Chicago, by whom he was engaged as a carriage
trimmer. This continued until Mr. Humphrey
went out of business two and one-half years later,
when Mr. Ortmayer rented a room in the now
idle factory and engaged in trimming carriages
on his own account. He had by this time formed
business acquaintances and established a reputa-
tion for honest and faithful work, and did a fairly
prosperous business. At the end of six months,
he established a shop on Franklin Street, and in
the fall of 1854 he opened a harness shop on
Randolph Street, between Canal and Clinton
Streets. Though his work as a carriage trim-
mer had proved satisfactory to his patrons, it did
not satisfy himself, on account of the unsteadiness
of the demand, and he found business much more
remunerative in the harness and saddlery line.

In 1863, he began the wholesale trade at No. 42
Lake Street, in partnership with William V. Kay
and William H. Turner, under the style of A.
Ortmayer & Company. For a quarter of a cen-
tury, beginning with 1866, the business was
located at Nos. 16 to 22 State Street. Messrs.
Turner and Kay successively retired from the
firm, and after the great fire of 1871, it was
known as Ortmayer, Lewis & Company, until
it became A. Otrmayer & Son in 1882. In 1891,
the firm purchased of the Farwell estate the
building now occupied, on Illinois Street, be-
tween La Salle Avenue and Wells Street, to
which two stories were added, and the building
was fitted for the extensive manufacture of har-
ness and saddlery ware now carried on there.

Mr. Ortmayer was married at Buffalo, New

York, in the spring of 1850, to Miss Marie Cher-
bon, who was born in the same place as himself,
and is descended from French ancestors, her
grandfather having moved from France to Ger-
many. In 1876, he built a pleasant mansion at
No. 496 Dearborn Avenue, where dwells a united
and happy family. Mr. Ortmayer was also pos-
sessed of other improved real estate, which was
secured through his own industry and prudent
management. Having made his way from hum-
ble beginnings, he was in sympathy with all hon-
est efforts for success, and held out encourage-
ment not only by word but by his own example,
which any American youth may well emulate.
The same steadfast and persistent effort which
characterized his career in life is sure to bring
prosperity to any one. He never spent time or
money in the follies which are all too prevalent
among young men of the present day, but re-
solved on a course of industry and thrift, and ad-
hered to his plans through "good" and "bad

Of the seven children born to Mr. and Mrs.
Ortmayer, three died in early childhood. The
eldest of the others, Annie, died while the wife
of Albert Kuhlmay. Carl G. is manager of the
business of A. Ortmayer & Son. Carrie is now
the wife of Albert Kuhlmay, and Emma is Mrs.
Theophile Pfister, all of Chicago.

Though always a busy man, until failing
health compelled him to abandon his activities
three years ago, Mr. Ortmayer found time to cul-
tivate pleasant social relations, and was always
deservedly popular among his fellow-citizens.
He was for many years an active member of the
Germania Club, and held membership in Accor-
dia Lodge, No. 277, of the Masonic order. He
cherished liberal religious views, and always ad-
hered to Republican principles in politics. He
was never ambitious to hold public office, but
always strove to fulfill the duties of a good

Online LibraryJohn MorleyAlbum of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) → online text (page 48 of 111)