William B. Ogden
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|William Butler Ogden|
|1st Mayor of Chicago|
|Succeeded by||Buckner Stith Morris|
June 15, 1805|
Walton, New York
|Died||August 3, 1877
New York City, New York
|Political party||(Before 1860)
|(beginning in 1860)
|Occupation||Real Estate Developer|
Ogden was born in Walton, New York. When still a teenager, his father died and Ogden took over the family real estate business. He assisted Charles Butler, his brother-in-law, with business matters related to opening a new building for New York University, attending the law school for a brief period himself. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Delaware Co.) in 1835. He married Marianna T. Arnot.
Ogden was a leading promoter and investor in the Illinois and Michigan Canal, then switched his loyalty to railroads. Throughout his later life, Ogden was heavily involved in the building of several railroads. "In 1847, Ogden announced a plan to build a railway out of Chicago, but no capital was forthcoming. Eastern investors were wary of Chicago's reputation for irrational boosterism, and Chicagoans did not want to divert traffic from their profitable canal works. So Ogden and his partner J. Young Scammon solicited subscriptions from the farmers and small businessmen whose land lay adjacent to the proposed rail. Farmer's wives used the money they earned from selling eggs to buy shares of stock on a monthly payment plan. By 1848, Ogden and Scammon had raised $350,000—enough to begin laying track. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was profitable from the start and eventually extended out to Wisconsin, bringing grain from the Great Plains into the city. As president of Union Pacific, Ogden extended the reach of Chicago's rail lines to the West coast."
In 1853, the Chicago Land Company, of which Ogden was a trustee, purchased land at a bend in the Chicago River and began to cut a channel, formally known as North Branch Canal, but also referred to as Ogden's Canal. The resulting island is now known as Goose Island.
Later he served on the board of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad and lobbied with many others for congressional approval and funding of the transcontinental railroad. After the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Ogden was named as the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ogden was a good choice for the first president, but his railroad experience was most likely not the primary reason he was chosen; Ogden was a clever man who had many political connections. When Ogden came to lead the Union Pacific, the railroad wasn't fully funded and hadn't yet laid a single mile of track—the railroad existed largely on paper created by an act of Congress. As part of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Congress named several existing railroad companies to complete portions of the project. Several key areas needed to link the East (Chicago) to the West had none, and hence the Union Pacific was formed by Congress. Ogden was a fierce supporter of the transcontinental railroad at a time of great unrest for the country and was quoted as saying
- This project must be carried through by even-handed wise consideration and a patriotic course of policy which shall inspire capitalist of the country with confidence. Speculation is as fatal to it as secession is to the Union. Whoever speculates will damn this project.
In 1860, Ogden switched his loyalty to the Republican Party, which shared his views regarding slavery, although he left the party over a dispute with Abraham Lincoln. Ogden felt that the Emancipation Proclamation was premature. Following his defection from the Republican party, Ogden retired from politics and moved back to his native New York.
He named his home in the High Bridge area of the Bronx (now called Aqueduct Bridge over the Harlem River) Villa Boscobel. He passed away there Friday, August 3, 1877. The funeral was held August 6, 1877, with interment following at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.   
Namesakes of William B. Ogden include a stretch of U.S. Highway 34, called Ogden Avenue in Chicago and its suburbs, Ogden International School of Chicago, which is located on Walton Street in Chicago, and Ogden Slip, a man-made harbor near the mouth of the Chicago River. Ogden Avenue in the Bronx is also named after him.
- Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833–2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
- "Miss Arnot" seen in obituaries; "Marianna T. Arnot" found at http://archive.org/stream/theogdenfamilyel00vana/theogdenfamilyel00vana_djvu.txt
- Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833–2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
- "William Butler Ogden". American Experience. PBS. 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- Hill, Libby (2000). The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 1-893121-02-X.
- A Representative of America. New York Times (newspaper), August 4, 1877, page 4, column 5.
- Obituary. New York Times (newspaper), August 4,1877, page 4, column 6.
- Simple and Impressive Services in St. James' Church at Fordham. New York Times (newspaper), August 7, 1877, page 5.
Further reading 
- Harpster, Jack (2009). The railroad tycoon who built Chicago : a biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0809329174 9780809329175 Check