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at Unadilla Forks, it was with a view the leading business firms of the town, to making a tour of observation in the and of course Mr. Hilliard embraced west.
an early opportunity to call on him, He had at that time a few hundred for the purpose of gathering any indollars, which he was anxious to in- formation that might be of value to vest to the best advantage; and with him in his search for a location. This this object in view, he set out for Illi- friend informed him that the firm with nois, traveling from Utica to Buffalo which he was connected had bought by canal-boat, from Buffalo to Dun- land, upon which they proposed to lay kirk by stage, and from Dunkirk to out a new town at the mouth of ManiDetroit by boat. Stages were at that towoc river. A boat was just at that time running regularly between De- time being loaded with a force of men troit and Chicago; but Mr. Hilliard and the necessary tools, etc., for clearand several other young men from ing up the new town-site, and, being the east who accompanied him made invited to accompany the party, Mr. the mistake of leaving Detroit on one Hilliard went aboard the schooner of the stages which only ran to Michi- “Wisconsin," and was present at Magan City, Ind. From the last-named nitowoc when the original town-site place they were compelled to travel was laid out. by private conveyance to Chicago. From Manitowoc he went to Green
At the end of an exceedingly un- Bay, Wis., which was then quite a pleasant trip, during which they nar- village, and from there came back to rowly escaped being drowned in Chicago, satisfied that it was the most Grand Calumet river, they arrived in promising location for a city that he Chicago in the spring of 1836. A log had seen in the west. After looking tavern on the west side of the river about further-adding as much as furnished him his first night's lodging possible to his information relative to in the town, but on the following day projected improvements, and noting he obtained quarters at the somewhat the activity and enterprise of those more aristocratic Green Tree Hotel. who had already located in Chicago
At that time the straggling settle- he determined to make that place his ment had a rather forbidding aspect, future home. and Mr. Hilliard very naturally con- After a time he started a little store, cluded to see more of the country be- in which he not only sold such comfore locating permanently in Chicago. modities as he had in stock to the He therefore visited some of the early settlers, but purchased from neighboring towns in Illinois, and them, in exchange, all such products also traveled quite extensively in Wis- as they had to offer for sale. In the consin. An old friend whom he found fall he closed up the store and rein Chicago was connected with one of turned to the east, going by way of
Evansville, Ind., Cincinnati and Cleve- entertainment for the contractors and land, O. Soon after he returned to laborers who had begun work on the New York, a brother-in-law of his for- capitol building, was the principal mer partner, Mr. Walker, came west improvement completed at that time. and took charge of the store which What was to be in the future the seat Mr. Hilliard haŭ managed for a time, of legislation for a great State was shipping to the east such country pro- then a picturesque wild, inhabited by duce as he found on hand. It is prob- wild game of every kind and descripable that the country produce gath- tion, while the four lakes in the immeered together by Mr. Hilliard and diate vicinity--on the placid waters of shipped to the east by his successor, which floated myriads of the different at that time, was
one of the earliest species of water-fowl-made the place shipments made of such produce from a veritable “hunter's paradise.” Chicago. After remaining at home After looking up the lands which he during the winter of 1836–37, Mr. Hil- had been sent to inspect, both at liard returned to Chicago, where he Madison and Rock river, near the obtained employment, first with Peter present town of Janesville, Wis., Mr. Cohn, an old French trader, who soon Hilliard returned to Chicago and sold out to the firm of Taylor Breese made his report to the eastern inves& Co., with whom he remained until tors by whom he hid been employed. he accepted a position with Clifford After entering the employ of ClifS. Phillips, who operated one of the ford S. Phillips, Mr. Hilliard practilarge mercantile establishments of cally took charge of the large business, the city at that time.
of which Phillips was the proprietor, The summer after his return to for two or three years.
In the meanChicago (in 1837) he was called upon time his old partner in New York to make a trip into the interior of State, Mr. Walker, had become interWisconsin, to examine certain lands ested in nerchandising in Chicago, which had been purchased by eastern and Mr. Hilliard was again offered a investors, and concerning which they partnership with him. He accepted were desirous of obtaining reliable the proposition made to him, and thus information. This trip he made on became connected with a business horse-back; and few and far between which soon assumed large proporwere the settlers' cabins which he tions. There was little money in cirthen found between Chicago and the culation in Chicago in those days, site of Madison, the present capital and the business of the firm consisted of Wisconsin. Madison had been largely in exchanging their goods and designated as the Territorial capital, wares for country products, which and a town-site had been laid out, but found their way to eastern markets. a log boarding-house, which furnished Their rule was to keep in stock every
thing which the country people were and the propeller started on a trip to likely to want, and to purchase every- Green Bay, in charge of Captain thing that they had to sell. After Clement (now of Milwaukee), for the being associated together several purpose of bringing back a boat-load years, this partnership was dissolved, of what was becoming an important Mr. Hilliard continuing in practically commodity: About the time he the same line of business on his own landed at Green Bay, a severe storm, account.
or, rather, “a spell of cold winter Prior to the dissolution of partner- weather,” came on, and ice became ship between Mr. Walker and Mr. plenty, not only in Green Bay, but Hilliard, the firm had been engaged about Chicago. The propeller was to some extent in ship-building, an frozen in where she lay at anchor, accident having led up to this new and had to be cut out when she venture. The “Richard Winslow,” a started on the homeward trip, the ice good-sized schooner, which had seen cut out for this purpose being suffiseveral years of service, having gone cient to load the vessel. The "Maria ashore near Chicago, it occurred to Hilliard,” a schooner of considerable Mr. Walker that there was no good size, was also built by Mr. Walker and reason why the wrecked vessel should Mr. Hilliard while they were associnot be brought into port and fitted ated together in business. After the up for further service. He accord- dissolution of their partnership, Mr. ingly purchased the disabled schooner, Hilliard continued in general trade and, under the direction of Mr. Hil- and ship-building—the “L. P. Hilliard, she was thoroughly overhauled, liard” (sailed for several years by repaired and set afloat, under the
at, under the Captain Peter Flood) being built unname of the “C. Walker.” Having der his direction during that timethus gained some knowledge of ship- until 1849, when his store at the corbuilding, and having secured work- ner of Lake and Franklin streets men capable of carrying on the busi- burned down. The following year ness, the following year the firm un- he formed the firm of Hilliard & dertook the building of a propellor, Howard, and engaged in the lumber in which they also became interested business, the yards of the firm being as part owners. When launched, the at that time in close proximity to the vessel was named the "Independence," site of the present Union Depot, and and is said to have been the first pro- on ground now occupied by the large peller ever built on Lake Michigan. wholesale dry goods establishment of The “Independence” was launched James H. Walker & Co. The lumber in March, and had a queer experience trade was a business with which he on her first trip. An open winter had was by no means unfamiliar. Although cut short the supply of ice in Chicago, he had not engaged regularly in this
trade before, he had, from time to ring such railroad facilities as would time, bought cargoes of lumber, and make the neighborhood easily accesbeen more or less interested in the sible, and setting on foot other imbusiness in connection with his ship- provements which would attract the building and other enterprises. He attention of persons having a fancy continued in the lumber trade until for suburban homes. 1861, and after an interval of several His city residence having been deyears, during which he was filling an stroyed by the fire of 1871, he removed important official position, he again en- at once to what he then called his gaged in the trade on a large scale until farm, on which a small cottage had 1873, when financial disaster overtook been built, which furnished him a the firm with which he was identified, home, when homes were not to be had and he retired from the business a in the city. Turning his attention to heavy loser.
the improvement of the lands which When he had succeeded in straight- he had purchased and to promoting ening up his affairs, he had left but a the improvement of other lands in mere remnant of the comfortable for- the immediate vicinity, he succeeded, tune of which he had previously been after a prolonged and, at times, dispossessed; but, with characteristic couraging struggle, in attracting the energy and determination, he set attention and patronage of the subabout building up anew.
urban home-hunters. Through his With rare foresight, he had invested influence, capitalists of large means in a large body of land lying twelve became interested in lands adjoinmies south of the city, the greater ing his own, on which handsome portion of which had belonged to improvements were made; and the Thomas Morgan, one of the pioneer result of their concerted efforts farmers of Cook county. At the time was that the farm lands began to Mr. Hilliard purchased it, this land be dotted with pleasant and attracwas still used for farming purposes; tive homesteads. By and by, there and only those who had unbounded were groups of these homes; and confidence in the growth of the city within the past few years these subexpected the time would ever come urban villages have grown with rewhen it could be cut up into city lots markable rapidity. The towns of and sold to aristocratic home-seekers. Washington Heights, Longwood,
Mr. Hilliard was one of the few men Englewood Heights and Beverly who believed that the rapid growth Hills have become suburban places of Chicago would in time expand the of note; and a few months since Chicity limits to such an extent that they cago reached out and gathered them would stretch beyond his farm; and under the broad ægis of the city govhe bent all his energies toward secu- ernment. Mr. Hilliard's farm is
therefore a part of the city of Chicago tion of the war and the suppression now, and in the financial results of of the rebellion. His name appeared his enterprise he has not been disap- in the list of names of patriotic citipointed. A comfortable fortune al- zens of Chicago, appended to the first ready realized is rapidly growing call, issued in 1861, for a public meetlarger, and in a beautiful suburban ing, at which ways and means were home, undisturbed by the cares of to be devised for aiding the Governbusiness, Mr. Hilliard gives himself
ment, as far as possible, in the then up to the pleasures of a well-earned impending crisis. As a result of this retirement.
meeting, funds were raised for the An active business man from the equipment of soldiers, Governor Yates time he first became a resident of was materially assisted in carrying Chicago, he has been equally active forward the important in discharging all the duties of good which he had set on foot for sending citizenship. In 1861 he was elected troops into the field, and a military clerk of the county court of Cook force was hurried to Cairo to take county. For many years prior to that possession of that strategic point. time he had taken a somewhat active Mr. Hilliard served as a member of interest in politics, being especially the financial committee on this occapronounced in his opposition to the sion, and both in his official capacity extension of slavery.. When the Re- and as a private citizen, he did much publican party was organized, he at for the public welfare during the once became an earnest and aggres- troublous period which followed. sive member of the party, and in 1861 In 1848, when the question of orwas put ard as its candidate for ganizing a Chicago Board of Trade the county clerkship, then, as now, an began to be agitated, he was one of office of importance and responsibil- the men most earnest in his advocacy ity. Being successful in his candi- of that movement. The first meeting dacy, he entered upon the discharge called to consider the propriety of of his official duties at a time when effecting such organization was held they were to be multiplied by the exi- March 13th of that year.
On the gencies of the war period. At the first Monday of the following April end of a four years' term of service the organization was completed, and he retired from the office, with the Mr. Hilliard became a member of the record of a faithful and efficient pub- first board of directors. At the fifth lic servant, who had been as popular annual meeting of the board, held in as he was efficient.
1853, he was chosen secretary and During this same period he was treasurer of the institution. conspicuous among those who did all In those days the Board of Trade in their power to aid in the prosecu- was far from being an aristocratic