I was born close to a saw mill, was early left an orphan, christened in a millpond, graduated at a log school house, and at fourteen fancied I could do any thing I turned my hand to, and that nothing was impossible.
If that doesn't summarize the great Chicago spirit, I don't know what does. Here's to William Butler Ogden, Chicago's very first mayor.
Chicago Fire, please win Saturday's game for William Butler Ogden.
Follow me after the jump
On March 4, 1837, a group numbering in the small thousands decided to make it official. The city of Chicago came to exist and it occupied what is currently the area surrounded by the streets of Kinzie, Des Plaines, Madison and State. If you want to picture it better, think of LaSalle & Randolph as being the center of this new town. The man elected to be mayor was none other than William Butler Ogden. In news that should boost Rahm's candidacy for mayor, Ogden had won election to the New York legislature just three years prior but still won the voters over in Chicago. I'm sure if Rahm does run, he will get more than a couple thousands of votes. I'm going to go out a limb and put good money on that actually.
Back to Ogden, his most important accomplishment is maintaining a calm in the city when the economy crashed nationwide in 1837. He pledged personal money and glorified gift certificates to cover other Chicagoans suffering from real estate speculation gone awry. Other cities suffered but Chicago grew (be ready for this to be a theme time and time again). Ogden also went ahead and secured the very first Chicago City Hall at the southeast corner of Clark & Lake. This was not a separate building for the City Hall, merely space on the second floor of a structure called "The Saloon Building". The Saloon Building was named for what we would think of today as a French Salon but feel free to think of Chicago City Hall existing in a bar. If you ever talk to a great city historian, they will tell you some of the best city legislation was written up in such establishments. However we should pay respects to the fact that the City Council was established in the same building as a French Salon atmosphere and a young Illinoisan named Stephen A. Douglas (yes, that Stephen A. Douglas) was one of the first individuals to give a grand speech inside those hallowed walls.
Odgen also contributed to the city's growth by investing in Chicago's first 'swing bridge' at Clark Street over the Chicago River. The Chicago History Museum has a wonderful model on their first floor but the cheap .gif file on Wikipedia will have to do if you have never pictured a swing bridge before. Swing bridges were a relatively new concept at the time that allowed for tall boats to travel upstream west to east while still allowing for quick pedestrian and cart traffic over the river north to south. Swing bridges don't exist today because they significantly minimize the width of boats able to navigate a river and they take a lot of time to move into place. In fact the current raised Clark Street Bridge was already in place by the 1920's. There is some claim to Ogden being a part of the company that formed Goose Island but I'll leave that for someone else. Similar to Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, William Butler Ogden moved away from Chicago after living here for about a decade and did not lay to rest here.
Why should we care about William Butler Ogden? Well if it weren't for him, Chicago might have collapsed in the Panic of 1837. The city was very young at that point and many of its citizens were losing money from land speculation in the Midwest gone sour. Without Ogden's personal financial support that helped many Chicagoans get back on their feet, those people probably do not stick around Chicago and perhaps others stay away for the same reason people would leave.
Even after Wednesday's 3-0 victory over San Jose, the Fire have an immense, uphill, basically impossible playoff mountain to climb. As our first mayor said though, "nothing is impossible". Three points Fire, we need it every game.