Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Beginning of Chicago's Horse Railways.

The first ordinance regarding horse-railways was passed March 4, 1856, and granted to Roswell B. Mason and Charles B. Phillips the privilege of laying a track or tracks from the corner of State and Randolph Streets, down State to the southern city limits at Twelfth Street, and from the corner of Dearborn Street and Kinzie, and the corner of Kinzie and Franklin Streets, to the northern city limits at North Avenue. There were various connecting sections. The principal one is the line extending from the corner of State Street and Archer Avenue, down Archer to Twelfth Street.

Colonel Mason was at this time actively engaged in the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad and therefore left the prosecution of the horse-railway enterprise principally to Mr. Phillips. A short section of track was laid on the North Side as legal compliance with the ordinance. The Panic of 1857, and the preceding and succeeding instability of business, made this first “enterprise" a very dead one indeed. Colonel Mason sold out his interest, for a nominal sum, to his associate, Mr. Phillips, who afterward unavailingly sought to establish the validity of a title by legal proceedings.

Matters lay dormant until August 16, 1858, when the Common Council passed an ordinance granting permission to Henry Fuller, Franklin Parmelee, and Liberty Bigelow to lay tracks on State Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, on Archer Avenue and on Madison Street, to the city limits. It was required that the construction of one of these lines should be commenced on or before November 1, 1858; that the State Street line should be completed to Ringgold Place (Twenty-second Street; now Cermak Road), by October 15, 1859; the Madison Street line by October 15, 1860; and the Cottage Grove Avenue line by January 1, 1861. The ground was broken for the State Street line on November 1, 1858, in front of Garrett Block near Randolph Street. As a portion of the appropriate ceremonies which there took place, Henry Fuller wielded the spade, and ex-Governor Bross drove the first spike. A section of track was first laid between Randolph and Madison Streets, and two cars that had been brought from Troy, N.Y., were placed on this brief initial line and run back and forth, greatly to the amusement of the people. There were not lacking, however, property owners on State Street, who did not join in this good-natured greeting, but were preparing to fight the enterprise. Its projectors obtained from the Legislature a confirmation of their rights by an act, approved February 14, 1859, which incorporated Franklin Parmelee, Liberty Bigelow, Henry Fuller, and David A. Gage, in the order named, as the “Chicago City Railway Company,” for a term of twenty-five years, to operate street lines “within the present or future limits of the South and West divisions.” 

Section 8 of this act recited that “Nothing herein contained shall authorize the construction of more than a single track with the necessary turnouts, which shall only be at street crossings upon State Street between Madison and Twelfth Streets, by the consent of the owners of two-thirds of the property, in lineal measurement, lying upon said State Street between Madison and Twelfth.” State Street to Twelfth beyond which the city limits had but recently been moved southward—was then a busy thoroughfare in the transformation from residence to business property, and the feeling of opposition to the railway, among many property owners, was such that their consent had to be bought on private terms. Harmony is restored, the line was opened to Twelfth Street on April 25, 1859. State Street was then paved with Chicago Street Paver Bricks to Twelfth, and beyond was a Plank Road to the Cottage Grove suburb, better known as Camp Douglas and the scene of stirring war incidents. The entire line, from Randolph Street south, as first laid, was a single track, with turnouts at street crossings.
This map shows the lines of road given to horse railway companies within the city limits. The dotted lines are section divisions. The whole plat of the city is shown from east to west. Half a section is cut off from both the north and south ends of the city. June of 1856.
Of the projectors of this second and successful street railway enterprise, Messrs. Parmelee, Bigelow, and Gage constituted the firm of F. Parmelee & Co., owning street omnibuses and depot transfer wagons, and Mr. Fuller was a large owner of real estate. Street travel in Chicago was then a thing of frustration to man and weariness for animals. 

Even a brick-paved street like State Street had little to boast of, and the most aristocratic plank road was too often a delusion and a snare. Street railways were thus already a public necessity and were certain to become more and more so. It is a reminder of those days, however, and has been true of many an enterprise of greater moment, that stock subscriptions to the Chicago City Railway Company did not open with a rush in 1859, and as human nature repeats itself so that peoples rights to stock subscription were claimed by some who had at first refused to buy in.

On the 25th of April, 1859, as stated, cars were running along State Street to Twelfth Street and in June to the city limits. By May 1, a single track had been completed from Madison to Twenty-second Street (Cermak Street), on State, and two horse cars were run every twelve minutes. In the summer, the track was extended, from Twenty-second Street and Cottage Grove Avenue to Thirty-first Street, and, by fall, cars were running every six minutes as far as Twenty-second Street. A state fair was to be held at Cottage Grove in the autumn of 1859, and in order to be ready for it, the company spiked down the rails on the planking as it lay.

An ordinance of the City Council, passed May 23, 1859, specified additional Streets on which lines might be laid in the West and South divisions, on Lake, Randolph, and Van Buren Streets, in the South and West, and on Milwaukee and Blue Island Avenues in the West. This ordinance prescribed the time when each of these lines should be commenced and opened. Still, as Clark Street was then occupied by the Michigan Southern Railroad below Harrison Street, and property owners were themselves fighting for a thoroughfare, it was agreed that the street railway company should defer action, to Clark Street, for ten years. In pursuance of that purpose, an ordinance of the Council, February 13, 1860, extended the rights of the company in that thoroughfare to cover the proposed period of delay. The Madison Street line, built under the original charter, was opened to Halsted Street on May 20, 1859, and reached Robey Street (Damen Avenue) on August 8 of the same year. The Randolph Street line began to come into use on July 15, 1859. Meanwhile, the State Street line was not neglected.

In 1861, the financial medium was first vitiated. The daily varying quotations of “stump tail " made its possessors often glad to be rid of it on any terms. The city railway company was, of necessity, made the recipient of much of this poor paper. Up to this time, the company had not issued “punch tickets” for fares, and so long as silver change held out, it had not thought of doing so. When, however, silver disappeared, and recourse was had to postage stamps as the readiest expedient, the Chicago City Railroad Company may be said to have come to the rescue of the people. 

Their earliest issue of tickets hastily flung from a job press and as hastily stamped were hailed as a public boon. An uncancelled twelve-ride ticket was good in the city or vicinity and unquestioned for its face value of 50¢ ($14.50 today or $1.21 per fare)
It would pass in almost any transaction, indeed, anywhere in preference to a greasy little envelope of postage stamps that were certain to be damaged if they were not short in the count. It is even related that church contributions brought in no small store of them. Though redeemable only in rides, so much were they in demand as a circulating medium that they were counterfeited, and it is a tradition that known counterfeits have been unhesitatingly accepted in trade. This issue of what may be called “the emergency tickets of 1861" amounted to about $150,000 ($4,324,850 today). Because of counterfeits they were, as soon as possible, called in for redemption for other tickets of more elaborate preparation. 

The second issue was readily divisible into denominations of twenty-five, fifteen and ten cents to the greater convenience of the people. Until the postal currency of the United States came into circulation in the summer of 1862, the issues of the Chicago City Railway were the most acceptable small change Chicago had or could furnish. Long after their use as currency had ceased, Mr. Fuller, the treasurer, continued to receive these tickets by letter from distant points. Many have doubtless been retained as souvenirs of an eventful time.

In 1863, a comprehensive scheme was carried through the Legislature, under the title of the “Wabash Railway Company,” which gave to the incorporators— Thomas Harless, Horace A. Hurlbut, and Charles Hitchcock, and to their associates, etc.—the right to occupy Wabash Avenue and Michigan Boulevard, and other principal streets in all directions from the center, and to extend their lines into indefinite suburbs. The act passed the Senate on January 22. Being reported by a senator from southern Illinois and was read only by its title, it went through under a misapprehension. The Legislature took a recess from February 14 to June 2, and upon its reassembling, the fact for the first time dawned upon Chicago that a vast franchise was hidden under a misleading title. The bill passed the House on June 8, and not until then were its provisions publicly known. It was at a time of intense excitement, in a critical period of the war, and the Legislature was not in harmony with the administration on war measures. On Wednesday, June 10, Governor Yates prorogued the two houses, and the incident was perhaps the most exciting ever known in the legislative history of the State. The Tribune of June 11 said:
“We were to have seen a peace commission instituted, peace measures set on foot, and a deep and deadly stab inflicted upon the loyal history of our State. But huge above all, the roc's egg of this whole affair, looms up the Wabash Horse Railroad swindle.”
A public meeting in Metropolitan Hall on the evening of June 11 endorsed the Governor's action and denounced the Wabash bill. The Common Council, by resolution, requested the Governor to veto it. The veto, dated June 19, says:
“The fact that over three months intervened between its passage in the Senate and in the House, and that during this long interval, the citizens of Chicago were not even apprised of its existence, is evidence that those having control of it were unwilling to have it submitted to the test of public scrutiny."
The Chicago City Railway Company continued to extend its line in the South Division. During the month of October 1864, a branch track was laid upon Archer Road from State Street to Stewart Avenue and completed to Bridgeport during the ensuing year. At the end of 1869, the company was operating seventeen and one-quarter miles of track.

In the early part of 1871, the running timetable was as follows: “Cars leave corner State and Randolph Streets, via State, to Twenty-second Street, every minute, and to Cottage Grove Avenue and Douglas Place (35th Street) every four minutes; leave southern limits every four minutes for Twenty-second, Twenty-second every minute, and Archer Road every eight minutes for the corner of State and Randolph Streets.” 
Indiana Street Horse Car, circa 1880.
The same act of the Legislature of February 14, 1859, which incorporated the Chicago City Railway Company, conferred like immunities and privileges upon William B. Ogden, John B. Turner, Charles V. Dyer, James H. Rees, and Voluntine C. Turner, by the name of the North Chicago Street Railroad Company, for the North Division of the city of Chicago.
  1. On Clark Street, from North Water Street to Green Bay Road, and then to present and future city limits.
  2. From Clark Street west, on Division, to Clybourn Avenue, and thence on Clybourn Avenue to city limits. 
  3. From Clark Street east, on Michigan, to Rush, thence north on Rush to Chicago Avenue. 
  4. Commencing on Wells Street at North Water, thence north to Division Street, west to Sedgwick and north on Sedgwick to Green Bay Road (Clark Street).
  5. West on Chicago Avenue, from Rush Street to the North Branch of the Chicago River.
At this time, Clark Street was planked, and the first railway was laid, by spiking the rails to the planks, an additional thickness of plank being placed in the horse path. The track was laid double to Division Street; beyond that, a single track to Fullerton Avenue. Eaton, Gilbert & Co., of Troy, N. Y., furnished the first Car.
The North Chicago Street Railway Company, Car № 8, built in 1859.
The Clark Street line to city limits, the Clybourn Avenue, and the Chicago Avenue lines were completed in 1859, the Sedgwick Street line in 1861, and a line to Graceland, with a steam dummy, in 1864. The Michigan Boulevard and Rush Street lines were never built, and the rights thereon were forfeited.
A North Chicago Street Railway two-horse streetcar traveling along Fullerton Avenue to its destination at Fullerton/Halsted.
In 1864, the company was authorized to connect its tracks with those of the Chicago City Railway, thereby making continuous lines of horse railway between the different divisions of the city. 

The same year, also, permission was granted to lay a single or double track on Larrabee Street, from Chicago Avenue to Little Fort Road (Lincoln Avenue) and on Little Fort Road to present or future city limits. This branch was completed the same year. The lines were gradually extended on the streets and in the directions specified until, in 1871, the company was operating about twelve miles of road.

By the time of the Great Chicago Fire, the company lost $350,000 ($7,569,300 today), their stables, rolling stock and tracks being entirely consumed. Their vigorous and energetic recovery from the great disaster and the complete rehabilitation of their system will be recounted in the third volume of this history.
VOLUNTINE C. TURNER, president of the North Division Horse Railway Company, was born in Malta, Saratoga Co., N.Y., February 25, 1823. Previous to preparing for college, he received a good primary education, and also was employed by his father, while engaged upon the construction of the Erie Railroad and the Genesee Valley Canal. Young Turner prepared for college at the Troy and Oxford academies, New York, graduating at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., in the year 1840. In the fall, he moved to Chicago and soon afterward commenced the practice of law, which he continued for a period of twelve years. From 1848 to 1858, he was in partnership with A. Clarke, and from that year until 1860, with the exception of a short time, during which he was in partnership with B. F. Ayer, Mr. Turner engaged alone in the general practice of his profession. In February 1859, he first became connected with the North Side Railway Company, as its secretary and treasurer, continuing thus to act until July. 1865. From that date until January 1867, he was vice-president of the company and has been president from that time up to date. During all this period, he has been general manager of the road—in fact, is its active and untiring superintendent, and confining himself to the upbuilding of its interests. He has never held a public office, and never aspired to one. Mr. Turner was married to Eliza Smith, daughter of Colonel Henry Smith, the old partner of William B. Ogden, on the 20th of May, 1851. For twenty-five years they were prominent members of the St. James (Episcopal) Church. At present, however, they are members of Professor Swing's congregation.
On the 21st of February, 1861, the Legislature of Illinois enacted, that Edward P. Ward, William K. McAllister, Samuel B. Walker, James L. Wilson, Charles B. Brown, Nathaniel P. Wilder, and their successors, be created and constituted a body corporate and politic, by the name of “The Chicago West Division Railway Company,” for the term of twenty-five years.
A Chicago West Division Railway Brass Horse Car Bell.
It's marked C W DIV RY on the outside edge and
still retains some of its original green paint.
This company was authorized to acquire any of the powers, franchises, privileges, or immunities conferred upon the Chicago City Railway Company by the act of February 14, 1859, as may by contract between the said railway corporations be agreed upon. Nothing seems to have been done by this company, under their charter, until the summer of 1863. At that time, the gentlemen composing the company sold out their stock to J. Russell Jones, John C. Haines, Jerome Beecher, W. H. Bradley, Parnell Munson, and William H. Ovington of Chicago, and E. B. Washburne, Nathan Corwith, and Benjamin Campbell, of Galena. The new company was organized with J. Russell Jones as president and superintendent and William H. Ovington as secretary and treasurer.

On the 30th of July, 1863, a sale was made to this company by the Chicago City Railway, of their road and franchises in the West Division, for the sum of $200,000 ($4,209,500 today), cash. The deed of transfer was dated the 1st of August, 1863, and had a border of United States revenue stamps amounting to $580.

The tracks laid at that time were on Randolph and Madison Streets, extending to Union Park.

The new company entered vigorously upon the work of extending the lines. A track was laid upon Blue Island Avenue, and cars were running to Twelfth Street by December 22, 1863. In June 1864, the Milwaukee line was opened, and in October, the Clinton and Jefferson Street lines. 
Chicago City Railway Company Two-Horse Car № 3 on Milwaukee Avenue.
Year after year, the lines were extended until, in 1871, the company owned and operated over twenty miles of track. By the charters of February 14, 1859, and February 21, 1861, passed by the Legislature, incorporating the foregoing horse railway companies, the franchises and privileges were granted for a term of twenty-five years. On the 6th of February, 1865, the legislature passed, over the Governor's veto, an act amending the charters with respect to time and granting terms of ninety-nine years instead of twenty-five.
J. Russell Jones, president of the Chicago West Division Railway Company, is descended from an old and noted English family. Colonel John Jones, one of his ancestors, married the second sister of Oliver Cromwell, in 1623, and was put to death October 17, 1660, upon the restoration of Charles the II. The son, Honorable William Jones, came to this country with his father-in-law, Honorable Theophilus Eaton, first Governor of the colony of New Haven and Connecticut. Mr. Jones acted as deputy governor for years and died on October 17, 1706. Samuel, the grandfather of J. Russell Jones, was an officer under George II., and served with credit in the French and Indian and the Revolutionary wars. His parents were Joel and Maria (Dart) Jones, J. Russell being the youngest of four children. He was born at Conneaut, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, February 17, 1823. When he was thirteen years of age, his mother, who had been left a widow, moved to Rockton, Winnebago Co., Ill. The young boy was left at home to support himself, and when, in 1838, he announced his determination to join the family in the Far West, he had so established himself in the confidence and love of the community, that the members of the Conneaut Presbyterian Church offered to educate him for the ministry if he would remain with them. But even at this early age, to determine was to act, and he accordingly took passage for Illinois, in the schooner “J. G. King,” and arrived at Chicago August 19, 1838.
After some difficulty, he reached his new home in Winnebago County, where he faithfully assisted his family for about two years. In June 1840, with one dollar in his pocket, but with a hardy constitution and an iron will, he moved to Galena. First going into a retail store, he soon after went into the employ of Benjamin H. Campbell, a leading merchant of that flourishing town, and subsequently became a partner in the firm. Until 1856, the business transacted was on a scale commensurate with the importance of Galena as the leading commercial emporium of the Northwest. The partnership was then dissolved. Ten years previous to this date, Mr. Jones had been appointed secretary and treasurer of the Galena and Minnesota Packet Company, which position he retained until 1861. In 1860, he was elected to represent Jo Daviess and Carroll counties in the Twenty-second General Assembly, and the next year was appointed United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, commencing his term of service in April.
In the fall of that year, he moved to Chicago, and, in 1863, organized and was elected president of the Chicago West Division Railway Company, retaining that position until June 1869, when he was appointed minister to Belgium by President Grant. He was also re-appointed United States Marshal in 1865. Upon his return from abroad, in 1875, he has tendered the position of Secretary of the Interior, but declined and was appointed Collector of the Port of Chicago, and was again elected president of the Railway Company, which position he now holds. Mr. Jones was married, in 18 48, to Elizabeth Ann, daughter of the late Judge Andrew Scott, of Arkansas. They have had three sons and three daughters.
ADDITIONAL READING: Plank Road History in the Chicago Area.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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