Search billions of records on


Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd. ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 544-548.

EDWARD HERRICK CASTLE.  To the student of human progress, or the youth who seeks an example worthy of his emulation, the history of this successful man offers especially interesting features. His career has been full of adventure and excitement, and yet the experiences of his life have made his mind philosophical and his heart sympathetic. When he was born, the nation was young and still almost an experiment, so that men were not encouraged to venture into strange fields of action. He has lived to see the American nation become one of the greatest of the earth; and now, in his old age, he rejoices that he has been permitted to witness the triumph of the institutions of liberty.

E.   H.   Castle was born in Amenia, Dutchess County, N. Y., on the 5th of August, 1811, and is now nearing the completion of his eighty-third year. His great-grandfather, Gideon Castle, was one of the early  Colonists who came from England.    A brother went to Virginia, while another accompanied him to New York. Gideon, son of Gideon Castle, who lived to the age of ninety-six  years, occupied an honorable place in history as a member of Gen. Washington's personal staff.   He was with the  immortal commander through the Revolutionary War as Commissary of Subsistence.  He owned a mill in Dutchess County, which manufactured flour for the Continental army. After the treaty of peace he removed to Amenia, where his son, William Castle, father of the subject of this biography, passed his life. His farm was situated about two miles from the village of Amenia, and here Edward H. Castle grew up to be a strong and hearty youth, full of ambition. He longed to go to sea and visit strange lands, and to make his fortune in the world. However, he remained upon his father's farm until about ten years of age, attending the small school in the vicinity. He afterward attended Dr. Taylor's academy in Cortland County, but his restless disposition soon drove him to sea, and he shipped on a bark bound for a distant port. After a voyage of many months, he returned to find his mother dead and the household in mourning.

This seems to have been a turning-point in Mr. Castle's life. The death of his dear mother affected him deeply. He had started out into the world full of youth's bright hopes, and this sudden bereavement was a severe blow. He had not been permitted to close the dying eyes of his best friend on earth, or receive her last blessing. He determined to honor her memory by making something of himself. In deference to his father's earnest wish, he consented to enter the office of his father's attorney, Samuel Perkins, and take up the study of law. He studied faithfully two years, until an attack of measles resulted in a partial loss of his eyesight. He had long been convinced that he was not calculated to make a lawyer, and on being relieved from his studies, he began to look about for an opportunity to enter a business life, much to his father's disappointment. His subsequent fortune shows the wisdom of his choice.

Soon after attaining his majority, on the 1st of September, 1832, Mr. Castle started out from his father's home in Freetown, Cortland County, whither he had moved from Dutchess County. He traveled on foot over a lonely road to Carbondale, Pa., one hundred miles distant. At Carbondale, Deacon Hodgden had a force of men and horses employed in hauling coal from the mines to the canal. Young Castle applied to him for employment, and was offered $14 per month and board. He stipulated, however, for what he proved to be worth at the end of three months, a unique plan, which was accepted by the Deacon with alacrity. Before the day of settlement came around, Castle was foreman and was paid $40 per month. By gradual increase his salary soon rose to $100 per month, and he shortly bought out his employer, giving in payment his personal note, which was promptly paid when due.

After three years of business, Mr. Castle entered into partnership with Stephen Clark, and the firm carried on a large lumber trade and opened a general store. They also secured through attorneys the lease of the Fall Brook coal mines for ninety-nine years, and added mining to their lumbering and mercantile business. Mr. Castle finally became sole owner by purchasing his partner's interest, and continued to prosper until his store and stock were destroyed by fire in 1838.

The year previous to that last above mentioned had brought reports to Mr. Castle's Pennsylvania home of the wonderful village on the shore of Lake Michigan, under the shadow of Ft. Dearborn. During that year this village began to be a thriving business center, and streets were opened far west along the main river as the north and south branches. A paper was established by John Calhoun, of New York, and was making the prospective advantages of the town known. Although he had been very successful in Carbondale, Mr. Castle felt that the growing West offered him greater advantages than he had hitherto enjoyed. He purchased a stock of goods in Philadelphia, which was transported by the only method then known—by wagon—over the mountains to Pittsburgh. Here he added iron, nails, and the heavy goods manufactured at Pittsburgh, and chartered a steamer to carry his stock, with which he proceeded down the Ohio and up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Peru. Here he decided to open business, and soon after started another store at Joliet, having added to his stock at St. Louis on the way up. In a short time, Mr. Castle went into partnership with Gov. Matterson and Hiram Blanchard, in a contract for excavating a part of the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

In the spring of 1839, Mr. Castle became a resident of Chicago, arriving on the 1st of May, having previously disposed of his mercantile business at Peru and Joliet. He opened a store in an unfinished building at the corner of Lake and Wells Streets, so far out of the then business centre that his venture was considered risky by many. The business soon grew to be profitable, however, and Mr. Castle shortly became a pioneer in what has since proved one of the greatest glories of the western metropolis—the grain trade. Although the modern grain elevator was then unknown, he handled in one year 100,000 bushels, shipping by lake and canal to New York.

With his usual business foresight, Mr. Castle early secured large tracts of land, entering one tract of swamp lands in the Illinois Valley, embracing six hundred acres, at ten cents per acre. Many derided him for buying this worthless land, but he, with others, secured the passage of a drainage act by the State Legislature, and within ten years after its purchase he sold portions of it for $50 per acre. Mr. Castle also opened a dairy farm at Wheeling, and found a ready market for the product of his fifty cows in the city.

Navigation seemed natural to Mr. Castle, and we find him engaged in the Mississippi River trade for seven winters, exchanging the products of the St. Louis markets for those of New Orleans. At one time he sailed the fine steamer "Alonzo Child.'' He secured a tract of two hundred acres of land in Washington County, Tex., and several years of his life were spent in making a beautiful plantation of this land.

In November, 1849, Capt. Castle bade farewell to his Chicago friends and set out for the newly-discovered gold fields of California. Proceeding down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, he accepted the position of mate on the ''Florida," and set sail for Chagres. Crossing the Isthmus, he found at Panama the good ship "Unicorn," of the Aspinwall Line, and was tendered its command by the owner. On account of the crowded condition of the port, it was found impossible to carry all who wished to go, and a plot was made by some of the disappointed ones to murder Capt. Stout, but the plot was overheard by Capt. Castle and a friend, and was frustrated. With a crew of one hundred and thirty men and seven hundred passengers, Capt. Castle set sail for San Francisco, stopping on the way at Acapulco to secure as much provisions, cattle and coal as could be procured. January 5, 1850, found them in San Francisco without accident. Among all the hordes found there, one desire seemed paramount—gold. Fabulous prices were paid for all the necessaries of life, and the most fortunate were those who discreetly remained in town and sold merchandise. Capt. Castle was one of these. He plied a small steamer, the "Eldorado," between San Francisco and Sacramento, and opened a store in the latter city. On the 5th of February, 1850, he opened a hotel, called the Illinois House, in San Francisco, which at once did a thriving business. He also purchased, or secured the consignment of, over four hundred cargoes, and operated a very extensive warehouse trade.

Being admonished by failing health to return home, Capt. Castle sailed on the steamer "Columbus" for Panama in the fall of 1851. The sea voyage and careful nursing which he received from the ship's matron soon made him comparatively well. During the voyage, he was sent for by a Mr. Saltpaugh, who had noticed that Capt. Castle was a Mason. Mr. Saltpaugh was dying with cholera, and confided to Capt. Castle's care his money ($1,200) to be delivered to Mrs. Saltpaugh at Port Gibson, N. Y. The captain of the vessel claimed the custody of this money under a United States law, but Capt. Castle said: "I promised that man, who was a brother Mason, to deliver the money to his widow, and you can only secure it from my dead body.'' The matter was not pressed any further, and Capt. Castle subsequently had the pleasure of delivering the money to its rightful owner. By steamer "Falcon" to Cuba, and "Ohio" to New York, Capt. Castle was once more united with his wife and daughter, who met him in New York, and the meeting was a joyful one.

Soon after his return to Chicago, Capt. Castle was appointed Western Agent of the Erie Railroad, and administered its affairs for four years, largely increasing its traffic, and at the same time he dealt more or less in city property, with profit to himself. During most of this period he acted as General Agent for the entire Mississippi Valley. After retiring from the railroad agency, Mr. Castle engaged in the real-estate business on a large scale, in partnership with Lewis W. Clark, which continued until the death of Mr. Clark, after which Mr. Castle continued alone.

In 1858, Mr. Castle turned his attention to railroad construction, and secured, after much effort, a charter from the State of Missouri for a road from Canton to the Missouri River, a distance of two hundred miles. The people along the line promptly subscribed for double the stock, and he had completed about fifty miles of track when the outbreak of the Civil War stopped all operations and caused him a heavy loss. The rebel, Gen. Greene, drove Capt. Castle and his men from the State and seized all the stores, iron and cars, valued at about $2,000,000. Nearly all of Capt. Castle's force was composed of single men, who were loyal to the Union, and when he asked them to join the Union army they responded almost to a man. Chartering a steamer, he took them to St. Louis, where they were accepted by Maj.-Gen. Fremont, and Mr. Castle was made a colonel on Fremont's staff. Col. Castle was made Superintendent of Railroads for the Western Department, comprising twenty-seven lines, with headquarters at St. Louis. By his arrangement, various lines centering there were connected, and a vast amount of delay and expense thus saved to the Government. He prepared a uniform scale of freight rates, which was accepted by Congress and known as the Castle Rates. He and his faithful men were kept busy in repairing the damage to bridges and grades by the rebels, who well knew that the success of the Union troops was much enhanced by rapid transportation.

A warm friendship sprang up between Col. Castle and his brave commander, which continued as long as both of them were permitted to live. When Gen. Fremont was ordered to Virginia, Col. Castle accompanied him and was employed in bridge-building. He had bridges and wagons for their transportation built in Pittsburgh, and because of his presence everywhere in preparing a way to cross rivers on pontoon bridges, the soldiers dubbed him "Col. Pontoon."

After Sheridan's famous raid up the Shenandoah River, Col. Castle was summoned to Washington by President Lincoln, for whom he performed some special services, and received the thanks of the President and Congress. After the surrender of Vicksburg, Col. Castle contracted to furnish Gen. Grant's army with twenty-eight thousand tons of ice, which was done with considerable difficulty on account of the fall of water in the Mississippi, necessitating the employment of railroad transportation a part of the way, and re-shipment by boat at Cairo. When the ice was delivered at Vicksburg, Gen. Grant thanked Col. Castle with tears in his eyes, and the town was illuminated. Col. Castle was sent by the President to confer with Gen. Banks at New Orleans concerning the contemplated Red River expedition, but Banks spurned the advice of Col. Castle, who showed him the disaster that was sure to result from his plans, and the result proved the wisdom of Col. Castle's conclusions, based upon his long experience in travel and navigation. In the spring of 1865, he again entered the real-estate business, with office on La Salle Street, in which he continued to be successful. About two years later he experienced religion, and devoted much of his time to the cause of the Master, with telling effect among his neighbors and friends.

Col. Castle's first wife, Miss Caroline E. Johnson, of Norwich, Conn., was a woman of deep piety and many beautiful graces. He first met her in Carbondale, Pa., and after a married life of thirteen years she was called to her reward in heaven. His present wife, Mrs. Emeline Castle, was born in Pittston, Luzerne County, Pa., in 1818. She is descended from Quaker ancestors, and married Wells Bennett, of Wilkes Barre, Pa., for her first husband, with whom she came to Illinois more than fifty years ago. She was one of the pioneers of Methodism in northern Illinois.

Col. Castle has been for over fifty years a Free Mason, and more than forty years a Master Mason. He believes the society has led him to high and noble resolves and has contributed more than $25,000 to the benefit of the order. He is the only surviving charter member of Cambrian Lodge No. 58, I. O. O. F., of Carbondale, to which he has been a liberal contributor.

As a member of the Chicago Union Veteran Club, he has taken a deep interest in the welfare of old soldiers. His great pleasure now, however, is the Mission on West Lake Street, near Garfield Park, which is now known as the Garfield Park Methodist Church. It was his interest in this mission which led him to sever his connection with the Park Avenue Methodist Church two years ago, in order to devote more time to mission work. He is one of the supporting members of the Lake Street Mission.

At the present time, Col. Castle is actively engaged in business, and attends to his large interests with a regularity remarkable for one of his great age. His large hall at the corner of Lake and Paulina Streets is occupied by the Salvation Army, and a good work is being accomplished by this, the greatest corps in the world.

And now, as the long and eventful career draws to a close, Col. Castle looks back over the many years of struggle and strife with a tranquil mind. Having done the best that he could, he leaves the rest with his God. His life is well worth the study of any young man. His is a character of true nobility, formed by years of honest labor and honorable dealings with his fellow-men. No difficulty was so great that it could not be overcome, and no path so rough that could not be made smooth. He can well say to the young, with Bryant:

"So live, that when thy summons conies to join

The innumerable caravan that moves

To that mysterious realm where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon; but sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."


– Submitted by Sherri Hessick on May 27, 2007.


DISCLAIMER:  The submitter is not related to the subject of this biography nor is she related to anyone mentioned in the biography.