From 1857 until the Fire of 1871
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Title Page
Harbor and Marine [v. I, to 1857]
From 1857 until the Fire of 1871
River, Harbor And Marine
The Custom House
Harbor Improvements
Life-saving Service
United States Marine Hospital
Harbor And Marine [v. III, 1871 to 1885]
Table of Illustrations


The increase in capacity of the grain elevators in Chicago, may be learned from an examination of the appended tables. The increase in capacity was not so much due to an increase in the number of the elevators as to their enlargement. Several of the smaller elevators went into disuse during this period, and were replaced by others of greater size. It is enough to say that the total increase in capacity in two years was 1,500,000 bushels; during the following year the increase in capacity was 900,000 bushels; in 1863, Chicago's facilities for storage were increased 2,650,000; during the eight years following, statistical tables show a further growth in elevator capacity of 1,365,000 bushels.

1868--Seventeen reported; storage capacity, 10,680,000 bushels. 1869 -- Seventeen reported; storage capacity, 11,580,000 bushels. 1870--Seventeen reported; storage capacity, 11,580,000 bushels. 1871--Fifteen reported; storage capacity, 11,375,000 bushels. The great conflagration of October 9, 1871, destroyed six elevators, having an aggregate storage capacity of 2,475,000 bushels, and, containing, at the time they were burned, 1,559,395 bushels of grain.

During this period, the storage capacity increased from 4,095,000 bushels in 1858, to 11,375,000 bushels in 1871. Each succeeding year found the warehouses full during the winter months, and often loaded vessels were lying in winter quarters, along the adjoining docks, to relieve the overflowing bins.

The receiving and handling of bulk grain from cars and canal-boats, and transferring the same, of like quality, kind and grade, to other cars, or ships, with greater expedition and at the least possible expense, was the all-important function to be performed. Thus, every railroad entering the city found elevators, with one side fronting navigable water, the other adjoining their tracks, as necessary a part of their system as the rails, engines or cars; and each new railroad completed, either laid rails to warehouses already built, or caused another of these huge structures to appear upon the banks of the river, or along the canal. In the construction of the elevators, working efficiency was of no less importance than storage capacity.

No elevators of large size were erected prior to 1854. That year, the Galena elevator was built as well as the Munger & Armour warehouse, on North Water Street, on the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad track. The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Company's elevator was built in 1855.

ELEVATORS ESTABLISHED.--WALKER, BRONSON & Co. established an elevator in 1856, or earlier. In 1858, the style of the firm was changed to Walker, Bronson & Cole (Charles H. Walker, Tracy J. Bronson, Josiah D. Cole and George C. Walker). In 1859, the firm name was changed to Walker Brothers; in 1860, to Walker, Washburne & Co.; and in 1863, to Walker, Bronson & Co. The firm disappeared from the elevator business in 1864. HIRAM WHEELER built a new elevator and established himself in the business in 1859. He continued alone until 1863, when he consolidated his business with, and became a member of the firm of, Munger, Wheeler & Co., of which he is still a member. ORRINGTON LUNT & BRO. (Orrington and Stephen P.) established an elevator in 1860, and continued in business until October 9, 1871, when their elevator was destroyed in the great fire. SMITH & STURGES established an elevator in 1860. The style of the firm was changed to Sturges, Smith & Co., in 1861, and again, in 1862, to Albert Sturges & Co. The firm disappeared from the list of elevator firms in 1863. STEEL & TAYLOR (George Steel and Isaac Taylor) did business during the year 1863, having a capacity for storage reported at 1,250,000 bushels. They were succeeded by Munn & Scott, in 1864. CHARLES WHEELER & Co. were first established in 1861, at which time they became proprietors of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Elevator. The business of the firm was consolidated with that of four other firms, in 1863, under the name of Munger, Wheeler & Co. SAMUEL HOWE was proprietor of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Elevator in 1856. He was succeeded by Charles Wheeler & Co., in 1861. GIBBS, GRIFFIN & Co. became established, in 1854, under the firm name of Gibbs, Griffin & Co. (George A. Gibbs, E. W. Griffin), and ceased the elevator business in 1859. GEORGE STURGES & Co., became established in 1859. They were proprietors of the "Fulton Elevator" until 1863, at which time the business was consolidated under the firm name of Munger, Wheeler & Co., as heretofore stated. S. A. FORD & Co. was established as early as 1856. The name was changed to Ford & Norton in 1860, and the firm continued in the elevator business until 1863. JAMES PECK & Co. established an elevator prior to 1856, and continued in the business until 1860. Dale & demons succeeded to the business in 1861, and discontinued the following year. L. NEWBERRY & Co. built a new elevator in 1861, having a storage capacity of 300,000 bushels, and the firm did business during 1862, being merged into the firm of Munger, Wheeler & Co. in 1863. HOWE & ROBBINS (Samuel Howe, proprietor of Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Elevator from 1856 to 1861, and Enos V. Robbins) were established in 1863, and the firm changed to Howe, Robbins & Perry (Theodore Perry) in 1864, during which year their elevator was destroyed by fire. FINLEY & BALLARD (James W. Finley and Addison Ballard) built the Illinois River Elevator, and commenced business in 1865. In 1867, the firm name was changed to Finley & Rogers (W. H. Rogers), and, in 1868, they were succeeded by Edward Hempstead. W. H. LUNT began in the elevator business as proprietor of the New Iowa Elevator in 1866, and had charge of it for two or three years. He was succeeded by Spruance, Preston & Co. in 1869. SPRUANCE, PRESTON & Co. (Harmon Spruance and J. W. Preston), established an elevator in 1869, and continued in business until 1871. EZRA E. FAY operated a floating elevator in 1861, believed to be the first ever used in the city.

J. & E. BUCKINGHAM.--In 1855, Solomon Sturges and his brothers-in-law, C. P. and Alvah Buckingham, formed a partnership for the purpose of carrying on the elevator business. They leased from the Illinois Central Railroad the ground where the Central elevators now stand, for a period of ten years. The first year they put up an elevator with a capacity of 700,000 bushels, designating it by the letter "A." Two years later they built another, of equal size, which they called elevator "B." These were the first large elevators in the city, and they received grain from all the roads entering Chicago until 1860. With 1865, their lease expired, and the Illinois Central bought the property. Immediately the new firm of John & Ebenezer Buckingham leased the same property from the railroad for ten years. The great fire burned elevator "A," leaving "B" untouched--the only elevator spared in the burned district. The firm immediately began the work of reconstruction, and in the spring of 1873 had completely re-built "A," with a capacity of one million bushels. In 1869, they enlarged elevator "B" to a capacity of one million five hundred thousand bushels, and later added cribs with a storage capacity of three hundred and fifty thousand bushels. This gave the Central elevators a capacity of two million eight hundred and fifty thousand bushels of grain. Elevator "A" is 100 by 200 feet on the ground, and is furnished with all the modern appliances for rapid handling of grain. The power is supplied by a Corliss engine. A single belt is capable of elevating five thousand bushels of grain an hour, and, on one occasion, they loaded a vessel with sixty-five thousand bushels of wheat in an hour and twenty minutes. Elevator "B" is 100 by 300 feet on the ground. Both elevators are under contract, and can receive grain only from the Illinois Central Railroad, except the overflow from the other elevators in the city.

Ebenezer Buckingham, the only surviving partner of the elevator firm of J. & E. Buckingham, was born at Zanesville, Ohio, January 16, 1829. His brother, and former partner, John, was also a native of Zanesville. The brothers formed a co-partnership about the close of 1865, for the purpose of taking the place of Sturges, Buckingham & Co. in the control of elevators "A" and "B," which they subsequently named the Central elevators. They did a prosperous business for many years, and the partnership was only dissolved by the death of John Buckingham, August 21, 1881, Ebenezer Buckingham entered Yale College in the fall of 1844, from which he graduated in 1848, at the age of nineteen. Until 1857 he was connected with the banking business. In 1859, he came to Chicago, and was employed by the firm of Sturges & Buckingham, with which firm he remained until 1866, when he and his brother John succeeded the original house. On May 5, 1853, he was united in marriage to Lucy Sturges. daughter of Solomon Sturges, by whom he has had several children. Mr. Buckingham is one of the best known and esteemed of the old citizens of Chicago. If he would consent to burden himself with their care, there is no end to the interests which would be intrusted to him; but he is not ambitious in a political sense, and too much occupied with his own affairs to find leisure to attend very much to the affairs of others. He is, however, president of the Trader's Insurance Company and director of the Northwestern National Bank. He belongs also to the Citizens' Association and the Citizens' League, and is a member of the First Presbyterian Church.

MUNGER, WHEELER & Co. This house was established in 1854, by the firm of Munger & Armour (Wesley Munger, George Armour). In 1863, the firm name was changed to Munger, Wheeler & Co., and the business interests of Wesley Munger and Hiram Wheeler were consolidated. The latter had followed the elevator business here since 1849, and Munger and Armour since 1854. In the winter of 1855--56 Munger & Armour built an improved steam elevator in the city, and these two firms did the principal business in their line. In 1864, James R. McKay, who had been in the employ of Munger & Armour since 1858, was admitted into the firm; and in 1867, George Henry and Charles W. Wheeler also entered into partnership. Wesley Munger died January 24, 1868, and his only son and heir, Albert A. Munger, took his place in the company. In 1881, George Armour died, and his estate is now represented in the firm; the estate also of Jesse Hoyt, who died in 1882, still owns its interest in the concern. The active members of the firm at present are George H. and Charles W. Wheeler and James R. McKay.

Hiram Wheeler, the founder and senior member of the firm of Munger, Wheeler & Co., was born at New Haven, Addison Co., Vt., August 20, 1809. At the age of fourteen, he entered his brother's store at Vergennes, as a clerk, and in a few years went to New York. In the fall of 1832, he removed to Niles, Mich. In 1849, Mr. Wheeler moved to this city, and purchased a warehouse on South Water Street, near Clark-street bridge, and entered into the storage and forwarding business. He moved thence to the foot of Franklin Street, where he rented the Gibbs & Griffin elevator and the Marine Bank. On his return to New York City, in September, 1833, Mr. Wheeler married Miss Julia Smith, daughter of Francis Smith, by whom he has had five sons--Frederick A., Charles W., George H., Eugene and Arthur. Having brought up all his sons to his own business, when he started in Chicago he had ample assistance in his own family. Hiram Wheeler has been a member of the Chicago Club, since its first organization. He also belongs to the Calumet Club, to the Washington Park Driving Club, and to the Sons of Vermont. He has withdrawn from active life, and is enjoying, with his wife and family, his ample fortune. He made an extensive tour in Europe in 1879-80.

Albert A. Munger is the only child of Wesley Munger, who died in 1868, to whose place in the company and the large estate he became sole heir. He was born at Chicago, January 24, 1845, the place of his birth being the site of the wholesale dry goods house of Marshall Field & Co. In 1862, he went abroad with his parents to complete his education, and received the best instruction obtainable in Geneva and Dresden. He did not return until after the close of the war, in 1865. Mr. Munger is a gentleman of leisure, with ample means to gratify every taste. He leaves the affairs of the wealthy company of which he is a member to his partners Messrs. Wheeler Bros, and McKay, and, beyond the time necessary to the management of his private estate, he pursues his own inclinations and pleasure. He is a bachelor, and spends much of his time abroad, traveling in various parts of the world. He owns an elegant home in this city, and there keeps bachelor's hall, where he entertains his friends. He has a cultivated taste, and has collected a large assortment of art treasures, with which he has adorned his home and the large rooms he keeps for his offices in the Metropolitan Block, of which he is the owner. He is very popular with his friends, and has all sorts of social honors thrust upon him. He is an honorary member of Co. "F," 1st Regiment, Illinois N. G., a distinction very rarely conferred by this popular and aristocratic military organization. He is also a member of the Chicago, Calumet and Union clubs and of the Citizens' Association,

Charles W. Wheeler was born at LaPorte, Ind., November 11, 1838. He received a common school education and found employment in his father's business as soon as he was old enough to be of any use to him. First at LaPorte, then at St. Joseph, Mich., and finally at Chicago and continuously ever since, his business interests have been inseparable from those of his father. In 1867, he was admitted into the firm of Munger, Wheeler & Co., and has always taken an active part in the conduct of its affairs. He was married, on December 27, 1860, to Adaline Parmelee, daughter of Franklin Parmelee, the well known omnibus man of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago, Union and Calumet social clubs and of the Washington Park Driving Club.

George Henry Wheeler was born at LaPorte, Ind., August I, 1841. He was but eight years old when he came with his father's family to Chicago in 1849, and is essentially a Chicago man in everything except birth. With the exception of a business course in Racine College in 1856, he received his education in the schools of this city, and his whole business and social life has been passed here. He began work with his father, and in 1867 was admitted into the firm, taking at once an active and important part in the management of its affairs. On December 15, 1864, Mr. Wheeler was married to Miss Alice I. Lord, daughter of G. Lord of Watertown, N. Y., and has had two children, Henry and Mabel. He is a member of several society clubs and organizations, a life-member and patron of the Art Institute of Chicago and several other similar associations, but is very domestic in his habits and tastes, devoting his time to his family outside of business hours.

James R. McKay was born in Lemont, Will Co., Ill., June 8, 1840. His father, James McKay, came to Chicago in 1835, and, while engaged on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, lived for a short time at Lemont. After its completion, he moved to Waukegan, in the spring of 1841, and finally settled in Chicago in 1855. When fifteen years old, James entered Hathaway's Mathematical School, on the very spot where the Metropolitan Block now stands, and spent about two and a half years in study under the best instructors the city then afforded. He then engaged in the bank of I. H. Burch, on the corner of Clark and Lake streets, as assistant teller, where he spent two years. In 1858, he entered the employment of Munger & Armour, as bookkeeper, and in 1864, at the consolidation with Hiram Wheeler, he became a member of the new firm of Munger, Wheeler & Co., and has had charge of their office ever since. January 19, 1867, he was married to Elizabeth Mears, daughter of the well known lumberman, Nathan Mears. They have had five children--Marion, Elizabeth, James, Robert and Nathan Mr. McKay is a member of the Citizens' Association, and the Chicago and Union clubs.

ARMOUR, DOLE & Co. was established in 1860, by Wesley Munger, George Armour and Charles Dole. In 1861, they took the firm name under which they have done business continuously ever since. They have had charge of the grain receipts of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad since the building of the first elevator ("A"), capacity 850,000 bushels, in 1860. The increase of their business has been as follows: In 1863, elevator "B" was built, storage capacity, 850,000 bushels; in 1873, elevator "C" was added, capacity, 1,500,000 bushels; in 1879, elevator "D," capacity 1,800,000 bushels; in 1882, elevator "E," with a capacity of 1,000,000 bushels. Elevator "A" was enlarged to 1,250,000 bushels in 1867. The present (1885) capacity of the four elevators still controlled by the firm, is as follows: Storage room, 6,350,000 bushels; receiving and shipping capacity, 700,000 bushels a day; shipping capacity, when not receiving, 1,500,000 bushels a day.

JAMES BARRELL, the manager of the great commission house of Armour & Dole, and who owns an interest in the business, was born in London, England, on September 28, 1834--the son of John and Elizabeth (Evans) Barrell. His early boyhood was passed in the academic schools of London. At the age of twelve years, he came with his father to Chicago, and with him was engaged in the grocery business for about four years. At the age of sixteen he was employed as a clerk in the post-office at Chicago, where he remained for ten years, the last half of the time occupying the position of chief clerk of the western distribution. Leaving the post-office, he engaged with Armour & Dole, and during the life of Mr. Armour, had charge of the office. After the death of Mr. Armour, he succeeded him as general manager, and has held that position until the present time. Mr. Barrell was married, January 5, 1864, to Miss Sue S. Finley, daughter of James W. Finley, of Chicago. They have three sons--James F., Stewart E. and Albert M. He is a member of Garden City Lodge, No. 141, A. F. & A. M.; of Lafayette Chapter, No. 2. R. A. M.; of Apollo Commandery, No. 1, K. T.; and of Oriental Consistory, 32, S. P. R. S. He is also a member of the Chicago, the Calumet and the Washington Park clubs.

FLINT, ODELL & Co.--This firm was established, in 1854, under the firm name of Flint, Wheeler & Co. (T. J. S. Flint, Calvin T. Wheeler and Daniel Thompson). The firm name was changed to Flint & Thompson, in 1861; to Flint, Thompson & Co , in 1864; and to Flint, Odell & Co. (James W. Odell) in 1878, under which name the firm is now (1885) engaged in the business which it has followed consecutively for twenty-eight years. Their first elevator had a storage capacity for 160,000 bushels. Rock Island Elevator "A," with a capacity for 750,000 bushels, was completed in 1856. In 1863, Rock Island Elevator "B" was built, with storage capacity for 1,250,000. Elevator "A" was entirely re-built, with a capacity of 1,500,000 bushels, in 1881-82. The aggregate storage capacity of these two elevators, in 1885, was reported at 2,600,000 bushels; receiving and shipping capacity, 300,000 bushels a day; and for shipping alone, 650,000 bushels a day.

VINCENT, NELSON & Co. -- This firm comprises B. B. Vincent, Murry Nelson and Enoch B. Stevens. They built the National Elevator in 1867, and continued in business until October 9, 1871, at which time their elevator was burned. They re-built in 1871-72. Their first elevator, built in 1867, had a storage capacity for 250,000 bushels; their new elevator, built in 1871, still (1885) known as the National Elevator, and operated by the National Elevator and Dock Co., has a storage capacity for 1,000,000 bushels, and is stated to be the only fire-proof grain elevator in Chicago, having been adopted by the National Board of Underwriters as the standard. No wood is exposed outside; there are brick and hollow-tile walls, while the roof, receivers, scale-hoppers, spouting, etc., are all of iron. Mr. Stevens retired from the firm in August, 1877. The B. B. Vincent estate, with Murry Nelson, continued the business until the present corporation was formed, and are now the largest stockholders.

MUNN & SCOTT commenced business in 1856, under the firm name of Munn, Gill & Co. The style of the firm was changed, in 1858, to Munn & Scott (Ira Y. Munn, George L. Scott). Under this name the firm continued until the great fire of October 9, 1871. Soon after they were succeeded by the firm of George Armour & Co. During the fifteen years of the firm's existence, it ranked among the most enterprising and trustworthy, and their business grew to excel in magnitude that of any other house in the city. Their warehouses received grain from the Chicago & Alton Railroad, the Chicago & North-Western Railway, besides much from other railroads and the canal. The growth and extent of their business was: 1858 to 1862, one elevator, with storage capacity for 200,000 bushels, capable of receiving and shipping 30,000 bushels a day, and of shipping 75,000 bushels a day; 1863, three elevators, with aggregate storage capacity for 1,500,000 bushels, capable of receiving and shipping 165,000 bushels a day, and of shipping, when not receiving, 370,000 bushels a day; 1864-71, four elevators, with aggregate storage capacity for 2,700,000 bushels, capable of receiving and shipping 300,000 bushels a day, and of shipping 675,000 bushels a day.

NATHAN HENRY WARREN was born in Concord, Mass., on December 9, 1827, and attended the public schools of that vicinity until thirteen years of age, when he went to the Concord Academy, then kept by John and Henry Thoreau, the latter of whom afterward became well known as a naturalist, lecturer and writer. He remained at school until he was eighteen years of age, and then took charge of a farm which his father had purchased near the center of the town, and selected as a special branch of business the breeding of Ayrshire stock, then coming into notice as superior for dairy purposes. After the passage of the fugitive slave law by Congress, in 1850, the section of the law which imposed a fine of $1,000 upon any person who should harbor, assist, or, when called upon, refuse to recapture, any fugitive slave, caused a deep feeling of opposition in Massachusetts, and Mr. Warren, with others, organized societies to assist fugitives. Until the War of the Rebellion, it was his duty, as conductor upon the Underground Railroad, to take to a secure place upon his premises, and keep until a party could be made up, such persons "fleeing from service" as arrived in Boston. These persons were forwarded from station to station until they reached Canada. In 1860, while serving in a "Wide Awake Club," Mr. Warren contracted so severe a cold that a bronchial affection was the result, and for several years the question whether he could live on the coast of New England remained unsettled. In the winter of 1863, he went to Hilton Head, S. C., bought one of the abandoned plantations, which were being sold by the Government for non-payment of taxes, and tried the experiment of raising a crop of cotton. With regular weekly wages as the incentive, instead of the lash, the experiment was a success, and he sold the plantation in the summer of 1864, with a fine crop of cotton nearly ready to gather, and came to Arlington, Ill., where his brothers and present partners were then doing a grain and lumber business. It was decided to open a grain commission house in Chicago, which was done in April, 1865, under the firm name of N. H. Warren & Co., composed of N. H. Warren, Cyrus T. Warren and Charles C. Warren. There has been no change in the firm since that time. They commenced building grain elevators on the line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1867, and, in 1872, built in Nebraska, and have continued doing so to this time. They have sold many of them, but their receipts of grain, principally from their own elevators, are about six millions of bushels a year. Mr. Warren has been twice married; first to Mary Prescott Barrett, in Concord, Mass., on April 26, 1849, and had the following children: Mary Elizabeth. Ella, George Henry, Alice and Charles. He was again married in July, 1879, to Mrs. Minerva T. O'Hara, and they have one child--Paul Livingston.

The working capacity of the elevators of the city were given in detail in the published reports for 1858 to 1863, inclusive, to which have been added estimates, based on that data, for succeeding years, in the following table:

YEAR. Storage capacity, bush. Capacity to receive and ship per day, bush. Capacity to ship per day. Bushels. Aggregate* Amount of grain handled each year -- bush.
1858 4,095,000 495,000 1,340,000 22,910,000
1859 4,055,000 545,000 1,385,000 18,195,000
1860 5,475,000 675,000 1,835,000 35,840,000
1861 5 915,000 675,000 1,795,000 51,545,000
1862 6,815,000 770,000 2,095,000 56,695,000
1863 10,010,000 1,110,000 2,520,000 56,819,000
1864 9,935,000 1,110,000 2,520,000 48,725,000
1865 10,055,000 1,110,000 2,520,000 53,555,000
1866 9,980,000 1,110,000 2,520,000 65,775,000
1867 10,680,000 1,180,000 2,670,000 57,130,000
1868 10,680,000 1,180,000 2,670,000 64,335,000
1869 11,580,000 1,290,000 2,800,000 60,285,000
1870 11,580,000 1,290,000 2,800,000 57,780,000
1871 11,375,000 1,260,000 2,840,000 81,360,000


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A selection of marine information and illustrations from this magnificent three volume history of Chicago.