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Reminiscences of
Early Chicago




Reminiscences of
Early Chicago




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' preface

F I AHE great interest aroused a year ago by
the publication of the Autobiography
of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard in the
annual volume of The Lakeside Classics has
influenced the publishers to seek more mate-
rial pertaining to the pioneer days of Chicago
as the subject for this year's volume. Unfortu-
nately no one work of appropriate size and sus-
tained interest has been found available; but
in the selections from the writings of Charles
Fenno Hoffman and Harriet Martineau, two
talented travelers who visited Chicago when it
was a village, in an historical address by John
Wentworth, and in the reminiscences of Mr.
Wentworth, Mr. J. Y. Scammon, and Judge
John Caton at the Old Settlers' Reunion of the
Calumet Club in 1879 tne publishers believe
they have found material that teems with the
spirit of the days of early Chicago, and gives
an intimate picture of what Chicago really
was in the thirties.

To Miss Mabel Mcllvaine is due great credit
for her untiring efforts in searching out these
selections from the great mass of material in
the library of the Chicago Historical Society,
and for her Introduction. Acknowledgment
is also due the officers of the Calumet Club


for permission to print the three selections from
the report of the Old Settlers' Reunion, and to
Mr. Moses J. Wentworth for the copy from
which the portrait of his uncle is reproduced
as a frontispiece.

The subject-matter of these little volumes
and the fact that they began their annual
appearance ten years ago is liable to obscure
the purpose of their production, to furnish
a concrete example of how useful and good
a book can be made at small expense. The
fact that they are the work of the indentured
apprentices of The Lakeside Press gives them
additional interest in these days of agitation
for vocational education. The book is not for
sale, but at this kindly season is sent to the
friends and patrons of The Press with the
good wishes of






Selection from "A Winter in the West"


Selection from "Society in America"


Lecture before the Sunday Lecture Society


Address at the Reception to the Settlers of
Chicago Prior to 1840


Address at the Reception to the Settlers of
Chicago Prior to 1840


Address at the Reception to the Settlers of
Chicago Prior to 1840



A \HE history of Chicago in the early por-
tion of its cityhood is, to a large extent,
the history of the American frontier in
the thirties and early forties. Hence a study
of early Chicago's people and institutions is
of more than local interest. To the Chicago
Historical Society we are indebted for the
privilege of reprinting, from rare volumes in
their possession, such matter as illustrates this
theme from the viewpoint of a well-known New
York writer, of an Englishwoman of letters,
and of three typical Chicagoans.

Mr. Charles Fenno Hoffman, M. A., from
whose Winter in the West we have selected
the portion about Chicago, was born in New
York in 1806, graduated from Columbia College,
and in 1827 was admitted to the bar. From
1833 to 1847 he was editorially connected with
The American Monthly Magazine, founded
The Knickerbocker Magazine, edited The New
York Mirror, and, in 1846-47, instituted The
Literary World. His Winter in the West,
published first in the form of letters in The
American Monthly, was in 1835 brought out
in book form in New York and London, under
the pseudonym "A New Yorker." It filled
two duodecimo volumes, from the first of which

our selections are made. Poet and novelist,
as well as editor, Mr. Hoffman was, at the
time of his visit to Chicago, beginning to be
regarded as one of America's foremost litte-
rateurs. Oddly enough, however, it is by his
two early books of travel, A Winter in the
West, and Wild Life in Forest and Prairie,
that he is best known to-day. Mr. Hoffman
had, in youth, lost a leg through an accident,
but had persisted with athletic exercise, and
made the trip to Chicago on horseback. Of
his adventures by the way and of his impres-
sions on his arrival we shall learn in the pages
that follow.

The next visitor of note to Chicago from
whom we have derived a picture of the early
conditions here, was no less a personage than
Miss Harriet Martineau, the distinguished
English authoress. In the preface to her work
on Society in America, published in 1837, she
states that her object in coming to this country
was "to compare the existing state of society
in America with the principles upon which it
was professedly founded." In her Autobi-
ography, written long years after, she states
that her own choice for a title to the book was
"Theory and Practice of Society in America"
obviously implying a doubt of our adherence
to those principles. It must be remembered
that when she came to this country, in 1834,
America was in the utmost confusion on the
subject of slavery a question which England

had practically settled at that time. Miss
Martineau, in response to urgent request, at a
meeting in favor of Abolition expressed some
sentiments in favor of equality of the races, and
was reported as being an advocate of Amalga-

Too considerate and too courageous to be
intimidated by this, however, Miss Martineau
continued her tour of the country, visiting all
sections, and remaining two years. As the
author of the thirty-four-volume series of Illus-
trations of Political Economy, besides numerous
tales for the young, and as the friend of such
men as Carlyle, James Stuart Mill, Hallam,
Grote, Browning, Coleridge, and most of
the other great names in English politics
and letters herself, notwithstanding her deaf-
ness, a woman of much social grace Miss
Martineau was well received by all people
of larger vision. Her interest in political
matters led her to Washington for the session
of Congress, where she was sought out by the
eminent men of all parties, among them Chief
Justice Marshall, Ex-President Madison, Henry
Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster.
Then followed a trip through the South while
the Virginia Legislature was in session, a long
visit at the home of Dr. Channing in Newport,
and a winter in Boston during the session of
the Massachusetts Legislature.

"My last journey," she wrote in the Intro-
duction to Society in America, from which work

we reprint the part devoted to Chicago, "was
with a party of friends far into the West,
visiting Niagara again, proceeding by Lake
Erie to Detroit, and across the territory of
Michigan. Here we swept around the south-
ern extremity of Lake Michigan to Chicago,
went a day's journey down into the prairies,
back to Chicago, and by Lakes Michigan,
Huron, and St. Clair to Detroit, visiting Mack-
inaw by the way, and returned to New York
from Pittsburg by the canal route through
Pennsylvania and the railroad over the Alle-

That Miss Martineau included Chicago in
her itinerary is matter of congratulation to its
inhabitants. In her clear prose are presented
invaluable portraits of some of our local heroes
and heroines, and the social atmosphere of the
place is preserved. In the "wife of the
Indian agent, ' ' with whom she dined, we recog-
nize Mrs. John H. Kinzie, the authoress of
Waubun, and in what follows, the latter's
version of the Fort Dearborn massacre. In
speaking of the land speculation in Chicago,
which was at its height during her visit, Miss
Martineau mentions a young " lawyer" who had
been "realizing $500 per day for five days by
merely making out land titles." This lawyer
has been identified by Mr. Augustus H. Burley
and by Fernando Jones as Isaac N. Arnold, the
friend of Lincoln and founder of a family which
is still of social prominence in Chicago. In the

"town crier" a familiar figure in the streets
has been recognized "Darkey George," or
George White, whose office took the place of a
newspaper in announcing land sales.

It is evident that Chicago was doing her best
to entertain the distinguished guest, for besides
the "fancy fair" given on the evening of her
arrival, Mr. Jones used to speak of going with
his sister to meet Miss Martineau at the home of
William B. Ogden, the mayor, and Mr. Burley
told of a reception being held for her at the home
of Mrs. John Wright, "at the point where
Madison Street and Michigan Avenue now
meet," adding that there was then no other
house between that point and Fort Dearborn
on the river bank. At that time Mr. Burley
was quizzed a little about "getting into a liter-
ary circle," but explained, with his usual wit,
that he had come to Chicago a short time
before and entered his brother's book store,
hence "knew enough book titles to put on
literary airs." He added that Chicagoans of
that time were "fully aware of Miss Martineau's
importance in the literary world," and that
"her manners left a favorable impression."
In this connection it is interesting to note Miss
Martineau's own comment: "There is some
allowable pride in the place about its society. It
is a remarkable thing to meet such an assem-
blage of educated, refined, and wealthy persons
as may be found there, living in small, incon-
venient houses on the edge of a wild prairie."

Turning now to the more intimate annals of
early Chicago as witnessed by the men actu-
ally engaged in making history here, we have
the honor to present to the reader "Long
John" Wentworth perhaps our most char-
acteristic specimen of the early thirties.

Mr. Hoffman, in describing a ball which he
attended in Chicago, alludes to the "broghans"
worn by the gentlemen. In the Museum of
the Chicago Historical Society is a certain
exhibit labeled: " Slipper of Long John Went-
worth." Had the "New Yorker" seen this
particular exhibit, a stronger expression than
"broghans" might have escaped him. The
slipper measures fourteen inches from stem
to stern, and five or six through the beam.
Its owner was built in proportion, measuring
six feet seven in his stockings, and weighing in
his prime over three hundred pounds.

It is said that when Long John arrived in
Chicago, October 25, 1836, he was barefoot,
carrying his shoes on a stick over his shoulder,
and his other baggage in a blue-and-white
bandanna. Dick Whittington arriving in
London with nothing but his cat by the way of
luggage, could hardly have come in humbler
guise, nor have fulfilled in lordlier fashion the
later fortune which awaited him.

The first meal eaten in Chicago by this
mayor-in-the-making and congressman-to-be
was served to him by Mrs. John Murphy, in
the historic Sauganash Hotel. It is said that

in memory of that meal Long John dined with
Mrs. Murphy on the anniversary of the occa-
sion to the end of his life.

When starting out from his home in New
Hampshire, young Wentworth had one hun-
dred dollars in money and two letters of intro-
duction. The money must have been consumed
on the long journey, for soon after^he arrived
in Chicago, he is reported to have borrowed
from Mark Beaubien enough funds to set him
up as a printer, promising in return to print
a newspaper. On the twenty-third day of the
following month he issued Volume I, Number
I, of The Chicago Weekly Democrat, and his
career was begun.

John Wentworth was born in Sandwich,
New Hampshire, March 5, 1815, the grand-
son of John Wentworth, a member of the Conti-
nental Congress, and of Amos Cogswell, a
colonel in the Revolutionary Army. In May,
1836, he was graduated from Dartmouth Col-
lege, at the age of twenty-one.

During the winters of 1836 and 1837 meet-
ings were being held in Chicago to consider
the expediency of organizing the little six-
square-mile village into a city. Long John
attended these meetings and helped Chicago
obtain a city charter.

When matters had reached a point where a
municipal election was to be held, he became
secretary of the Nominating Committee. In
August, 1837, came the convention to nomi-

nate officers for the County of Cook, and again
Long John was the secretary. When Chicago's
first corporation printer was elected, it was
twenty-two-year-old "Long John" Wentworth
who secured the office, which he held for the
better part of twenty-five years, his paper,
The Weekly Democrat, thus becoming the offi-
cial organ of the city council.

In 1840 The Weekly Democrat became a
daily paper, the chief newspaper of the North-
west, and, with Long John as its editor,
publisher, and proprietor, so continued until
1 86 1, being known as the "hard money" paper
of the Jackson type.

Incident to his other labors, Long John
studied law in Chicago, attended lectures at
Harvard, and was admitted to the bar in 1841.

John Wentworth was elected to the Congress
of the United States and took his seat Decem-
ber 4, 1843, at tne a e f twenty-eight, the
youngest member in the House. He served
until March 3, 1851, and again from December,
1853, until March 3, 1855, twelve years in all.
Of national politics, he wrote: "My con-
gressional terms embraced every crisis in the
slavery agitation, beginning with the discussion
respecting the propriety of annexing Texas,
and ending with the adoption of the constitu-
tional amendments establishing the equality of
all persons before the law." He adds, "In
view of my frontier residence, the speaker
placed me upon the Committee upon Terri-


tories, and I was the only northwestern man
upon it. I had to be the mouthpiece upon
that committee of all the settlements in the
wilds of Wisconsin and Iowa, extending to the
British possessions on the north, and to the
Rocky Mountains on the west."

A wonderful group of men were in Wash-
ington in Wentworth's time. In his Congres-
sional Reminiscences Long John has left us vivid
personal anecdotes of John Quincy Adams,
John C. Calhoun, Thomas Benton, Henry
Clay, and Daniel Webster.

When Webster had visited Chicago in 1837
to make his great Whig speech, John Went-
worth had reviewed it in his Chicago Democrat.
When the River and Harbor bill of 1846 was
pending, Wentworth came before the Com-
mittee to defend the construction of a harbor
at Little Fort (now Waukegan) in Illinois.
None of the senators knew the needs of this
part of the Great Lakes, and the Committee
was hostile. Long John, meeting Daniel
Webster in the street in Washington, reminded
him that on his visit to Chicago in 1837 his
vessel might have been sunk had a storm arisen
around the southern end of Lake Michigan.
With this as a text, Webster made one of his
great flights of oratory, depicting such a storm.
The bill passed. President Polk vetoed it.
"And out of his veto," wrote Wentworth,
"grew that wonderful event in the history of
Chicago, the River and Harbor Convention of


1847, a vast assemblage, composed of the most
talented, enterprising, wealthy, and influential
men of all parts of the country."

On the morning after the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise passed the House, there
was a gathering of Democrats and Whigs at
Crutchet's in Washington, and among them
was John Wentworth. It was resolved to ignore
all party lines and form an anti-slavery party.
Out of this grew the Republican party, with
which Wentworth afterwards acted.

Long John Wentworth was elected mayor
of Chicago in 1857, and again in 1860 the
first Republican mayor elected in the United
States after the formation of the party. And
what a mayor he did make! To this day in
Chicago the older men may be heard to say,
when certain manifestations of corruption
appear, "That would not have happened in
Long John's time." In these days of vice
investigation and careful dealing with socio-
logical questions of all kinds, it is not out of
place to mention the destruction, under Long
John's leadership, of a far-reaching district of
disrepute known as "The Sands, ' ' which existed
near the lake shore, north of Kinzie and east of
Pine Street. Finding all ordinary and legal
procedure insufficient, Long John caused to be
printed a quantity of hand-bills announcing a
dog fight on the West Side. While the
denizens of "The Sands" were largely attend-
ing the dog fight, he, axe-in-hand and followed

by an army of police, tore down and burned
their shanties and completely effaced this blot
on Chicago's lake front.

Countless legends of Long John's mayoralty
are current in Chicago. It was one of his
customs to prowl about the streets at night,
to ascertain if the police were doing their duty,
and many a criminal found himself conveyed
to the lock-up by the long arm of His Honor,
the Mayor. A saloon-keeper who had cheated
one of Long John's employees was thus dragged
bodily across his bar and clapped into jail,
without a warrant, all for a deficit of thirty-
five cents in change.

Wentworth's most distinguished duty dur-
ing his mayoralty was the entertainment of
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who, as a
stripling on a voyage of discovery, visited
Chicago. Charles Harpel quotes an intro-
duction of the Prince to the crowd standing
around the balcony of the Richmond House:
"Boys, "said Mr. Wentworth, "this is the
Prince of Wales. He has come here to see
the city and I am going to show him around.
Prince, these are the boys!" Another story,
for which the writer is indebted to Fernando
Jones, of fruitful memory, is as follows:
Standing on Rush Street bridge watching the
loading of a cargo of grain to be shipped to
Queen Victoria as a gift from the city of
Chicago, the young prince carelessly spat into
the grain. "Stop that, young man!" yelled


Wentworth. ' 'Don't you know any better than
to spit into a load of grain that is going to
your honored mother? Don't let me see you
do that again!"

One of John Wentworth's favorite haunts
was the Chicago Historical Society. He
attended every meeting. Finding himself and
one other the only members present on the
occasion of a certain quarterly meeting, he
promptly made the other man secretary, ap-
pointed himself chairman, and proceeded to
hold a meeting which was devoted to an hour's
address on "The Life and Achievements of
Long John Wentworth" all duly reported
in the papers the next day.

Had John Wentworth possessed no other
talent, he might have made a name solely as
an historian. A three-volume history of the
Wentworth family marks his activities in the
genealogical field. But his great delight was
in local history and Chicago owes the preser-
vation from oblivion of her earlier years largely
to the indefatigable researches of this true
Chicagoan. Nothing was too much trouble.
At the meetings of the Calumet Club or at the
Historical Society, where old settlers were
wont to gather, he would stand for hours reel-
ing off names of citizens, with the date of their
arrival, and something about each. He had
the true historian's instinct the faculty for
preserving "local color." And yet he never
romanced. Employing his large means for


he died worth a fortune he amassed from
every quarter the sources of information,
and urged upon others the preservation, in a
fire-proof building, of such things as old news-
papers, pamphlets, letters, deeds, and the like.

Among the most valued possessions of the
Chicago Historical Society is a volume en-
riched by his own manuscript emendations and
additions, and containing two addresses, the
first of which is entitled : ' 'Early Chicago, a
lecture delivered before the Sunday Lecture
Society, at McCormick Hall, on Sunday after-
noon, May 7, 1876, by Hon. John Wentworth,
late editor, publisher and proprietor of the
1 'Chicago Democrat,' the first corporation news-
paper; member of Congress for the Chicago
district for twelve years; two terms mayor;
and a settler of 1836. ' ' This lecture we here

The second occasion upon which Wentworth
appears in his own person and as the chief
performer, in this book of Reminiscences, is the
now famous reception to the settlers of
Chicago prior to 1840, by the Calumet Club
of Chicago, Tuesday evening, May 27, 1879.

It is proposed of late to preserve in libraries
by means of the phonograph, for future ages,
the very voices of the speakers on such occa-
sions. Long John is said to have had a voice
to match his person. If he had spoken into
a phonograph what a "record" he might
have made! In his speeches we have the very


quintessence of Chicago. If nothing else ex-
isted to tell us of "the early day," these frag-
ments would suffice. They are the more valuable
in that the speaker felt that he need not impress
his hearers with his importance. Long John
was talking to his friends of half a century, and
no little quip or quirk by which any old-time
figure could be brought vividly to mind was
beneath his dignity.

On October 16, 1888, occurred the death of
Hon. John Wentworth in his long-time domi-
cile, the old Sherman House. The journals
of the day are full of headlines such as "Long
John is no more"; "The remains lying in
state"; and the obituary notices filled whole
pages, as if for a President. But one President
has ever occupied a larger place in the horizon
of the state of Illinois, or done more to create
an actual body politic out of the scattered

settlers of a nation's frontier.


On the same platform with John Wentworth
at that memorable meeting of the Calumet Club
were two other men who had, each in his way,
occupied almost as conspicuous a place in
the public attention of Chicago Ex-Chief
Justice John Dean Caton, and the Hon. J. Y.
Scammon. Both had precedence of Went-
worth in point of early arrival in Chicago,
Caton having come in June, 1833, an< ^ Scammon
in September, 1835.

John Dean Caton was born in Monroe

County, New York, March 19, 1 8 12. His
grandfather, who was once connected with the
British Army, settled on the Potomac, in Vir-
ginia, at the time of the Revolution. His son
Robert, Judge Caton's father, served through
the war on the American side, and afterwards
became a preacher in the Society of Friends.
John, his twelfth son, at the age of nine began
work on the farm, attending the district school
in the winter, and beginning to teach at the
age of seventeen. Thus far his life is not
unlike that of the poet Whittier, whom he
somewhat resembled in appearance, and also
in his Quaker origin.

The call of the West was very strong in
those days, and in 1833, after a short course
at the Academy at Utica, and in the high
school at Rome, New York, and in the law
office of Beardsley & Matteson, he started
out to seek his fortune in the wilds of Mich-
igan. Chancing to hear of a place called Chi-
cago, he came thus far and halted. Chicago
had no lawyer, and young Caton became its
attorney. It is said that his office was at
that time anything but a fixed affair, being
usually the first convenient corner, with any
box or barrel that stood there, by way of

To obtain admission to the bar, John Caton
was obliged to journey three hundred miles on
horseback across the prairie and through the
forest to Greenville, near the Ohio River. In


1836 he formed a partnership with Norman B.
Judd, a former schoolmate and friend. In 1839
he purchased a farm near Plainfield, built a log
house, and for several years devoted himself to
farming and to a more exhaustive study of the
law. Meanwhile he was riding the circuit
as occasion required, and has left us many
amusing tales of pioneer experiences in his
Early Bench and Bar of Illinois. In 1842,
he was appointed one of the Judges of the
Supreme Court of Illinois, a position which he
held until June, 1865.

When Caton came to Illinois, a single vol-
ume of law reports existed here those of
Judge Sidney Breese. When he left the bench
he had added thirty volumes of invaluable
material to these legal resources of Illinois.

A story is told of Judge Caton which illus-
trates the primitive conditions in Illinois in
th forties, though not the Judge's habitual
frame of mind. At a time when the Supreme
Judges were receiving only twelve or fifteen
hundred dollars per annum, Judge Caton went

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