GEORGE G. LIGARE

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 23-26

GEORGE GOATER LIGARE, an old-time merchant and voyageur, was born August 1, 1821, near Winchester, England.  All his ancestors, so far as known, were of English birth.    His grandfather lived in Derbyshire, where his father, Isaac Ligare, was born.  The latter served as an officer in the Third Ceylon Regiment in the British army, and was for many years in the East Indies.  He was a brave and efficient officer,  and died in the prime of life, about the time the subject of this sketch was born. George G. Ligare received his primary education in England, attending Blake's Academy, in Winchester.  He was also a pupil of the Rev. Edward McCaul, a noted divine of the English Church.  Mr. Ligare was expected by his friends to enter the ministry, but at the age of fifteen years he took up the study of law with George Twynans, an old and well-known lawyer of ability at Winchester.  The law had few attractions for him.  He had resolved to enter upon a mercantile career.  His mother died when he was about sixteen years of age, and shortly after he set out for Georgetown, Demerara, South America, where he had a relative already established in the mercantile business.

He made the journey in the little brig "Reliance," of about three hundred tons, commanded by Captain Beynon.    The voyage consumed thirty-five days, and during a storm of three days in the Bay of Biscay, neither sun, moon nor stars were visible.  The yellow fever was raging on the coast of South America at this time (1838), and Mr. Ligare relates, as an example of its severity, that out of a regiment of one thousand British soldiers landed there, only two hundred survived, and most of the vessels lay at anchor with- out sailors, on account of the ravages of the plague.  The reader can easily conceive that in that wild region it was not easy to secure medical attendance or good nursing.   Mr. Ligare fell ill of the prevailing epidemic immediately upon landing, but in spite of privations and hardships, his good, youthful English blood brought him through to recovery.  The large amount of calomel administered to him caused all the hair to come out of his head, and his limbs to swell, and for many months after his recovery his limbs caused him much pain and inconvenience.

For six months he was employed by a merchant named Anderson, after which he entered into a contract for three years with the mercantile house of Henry Bruce & Company.  He still has the original written contract, under date of March 18, 1839, endorsed with his release, dated January 30, 1841.  The stipulated remuneration of Mr. Ligare under this contract was fourteen hundred guilders for the first year, eighteen hundred for the second year, and twenty-one hundred for the third year.  February 1, 1841, he formed a partnership with a relative by marriage, named Robert McMurray.  Under the firm name of George G. Ligare & Company, they engaged in a general mercantile trade, and soon became well known, and through McMurray's connection in Great Britain, their credit was widely extended. Mr. Ligare's reminiscences of his apprenticeship and subsequent business career during the days of slavery in Demerara are intensely interesting. He was successful in business, but the emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies caused a great depression in trade and values, and he was glad to sell out his interest to his partner for a mere song, and get of that country. About this time, he had a second attack of yellow fever, which hastened his determination to remove. When he went to Demerara, slavery was in existence to its full extent, and the arrival of cargoes of slaves was of frequent occurrence, and later prize cargoes of slaves were landed there by foreign men-of-war.  Soon all the slaves in the British West Indies were emancipated by the British Government by Compensation Emancipation. They had to serve three years' apprenticeship before they were entirely free.  Mr. Ligare saw all the workings of this, but it proved the ruin of the planters, and when he left plantations could be purchased for less than the cost of machinery, because they could not be run profitably with free negro labor.  Then coolies were imported and tried, but the climate killed most of them soon after their arrival at Georgetown.

It was his intention to visit his brother, Charles W. Ligare, then serving as the First Surveyor-General of New Zealand, but he could find no vessel on the Western Atlantic Coast that would take him in that direction.  He embarked at Georgetown on the small brig "Dromo," Captain Pickering, for Old Salem, Massachusetts, where he hoped to find a whaler bound for the South Seas.  He three times narrowly escaped being shipwrecked.  Not finding a whaler at Salem, he successively visited in this quest Boston, New London, New Bedford and New York.  In the latter city he fell in with Eliazer Williams, the pretended Dauphin of France.  In company with Williams, he traveled West to visit the Indians. They went by canal to Oneida, New York, where they visited the remnants of tribes on the Reservation.  Proceeding onward, they took a steamer at Buffalo, by which they reached Mackinaw. Here they chartered a small sail-boat, and after narrowly escaping shipwreck at Ashwishwa and at North Manistique, they reached Green Bay, Wisconsin.   Here they endeavored to impart the Gospel to the Indians, and here Williams remained, it being his home.  Mr. Ligare spent the summer of 1844 in this vicinity, visiting all the people on the Fox and Wolf Rivers, mingling freely with the Indians.  He spent considerable time during the summer on the Wolf River, in company with John Williams, son of the Dauphin.  While among the Indians on the Fox and Wolf Rivers, he became intimately acquainted with the famous Indian chief, Oshkosh, who practically adopted him, giving him the Indian name, "Autauwacomac" (lizard fish). This name arose from the fact that he preserved a fish in whiskey.

During this year, he made his home part of the time with Dr. Darling, of Fond du Lac. At Fox Lake (now Waushara), Wisconsin, he met Hamilton Stevens, a land speculator and capitalist from Old Mexico, and a friend of Almonte. From him Mr. Ligare secured a sub-contract to carry the mail from Fond du Lac to Portage, which he carried out during the succeeding sum- mer, making the trips on the back of a pony. This pony he rode into Chicago in the autumn of 1845, his possessions also including at that time $16 in cash. He put up at the old Sherman House, and by the time his resources were exhausted, he secured employment, through the influence of Augustus Garrett, then Mayor of Chicago, with Sylvester Lynd, a dealer in lumber on Market Street.  Shortly after, he went with George Armour to Ottawa, Illinois, where Mr. Armour had a contract on the canal. He employed Mr. Ligare as a clerk in his store at that point, but after several months the latter returned to the service of Mr. Lynd, in Chicago, by whom he was employed as before.

At length Mr. Ligare embarked in business, opening a lumber-yard at the corner of North Water Street and Dearborn Avenue for Timothy Wright.  This he conducted successfully, and afterward opened another yard, on the present site of the Chicago & Northwestern Passenger Station, for the same party.  Subsequently he went into partnership with Darius Clark, a lumber manufacturer, conducting a lumber-yard on the southwest corner of Market and Madison Streets.    Mr. Clark shortly afterward sold his mills to Milne & Ferguson, and Mr. Ligare became the sole owner of the lumber-yard, which he conducted for some years.  At the solicitation of W. T. Richmond, Mr. Ligare entered into a partnership, under the firm name of Richmond & Ligare, which continued the business on the same site, ultimately selling out to Robert Meadowcroft.   Mr.  Ligare  then became associated with Thomas Richmond, the father of his former partner, and they established a lumber-yard at the corner of Washington and West Water Streets, under the title of George G. Ligare & Company.  In this, as in all other undertakings, Mr. Ligare was successful, but the partnership was ultimately  dissolved through the failure of Mr. Richmond's lumber supply. Mr Ligare then leased his yard and fixtures to F. B. Gardner, and remained a short time as agent for the latter in conducting the business.

Having purchased the Ford River Mills, in Michigan, Mr. Ligare admitted Joseph Peacock into partnership, and in the fall of 1851 they began operations in the woods.  The next year they opened a yard in Chicago, on the river near Twelfth Street, which they continued to operate until the dissolution of the firm, in the fall of 1866, at which time the mill was sold.  Out of this partnership arrangement grew a law-suit, which continued in the courts for twenty-five years.  At the end of a bitter contest, the case was ultimately decided in favor of Mr. Ligare, who received a judgment to the amount of nearly $20,000.  A condemnation suit, involving from $100,000 to $200,000, with the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis, the Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe and the Illinois Central Railroads, is now pending before the Supreme Court of Illinois for the second time.  Upon its first hearing, the Court's decision was favorable to Mr. Ligare, one point of which was that the city of Chicago cannot give a public street to a railroad company or a corporation, thus securing private citizens some rights over corporations.   This decision is being quoted by the legal profession throughout the United States.

During the last twenty-eight years, Mr. Ligare has been practically retired from active business. In 1876 he purchased property in Glencoe, where he has completed a handsome residence, which was first built by Waiter S. Gurney, laid out with beautiful grounds, containing many imported trees, among them being specimens of Scotch fir and elm, English linden, maple and many varieties of pine, which have no equal in the state.  The home is called "Maple Lodge," and impresses every beholder with its beauty and elegance.

Mr. Ligare was married, at what is now River Forest, Illinois, to Miss Elizabeth Gray Steele, daughter of Ashbel and Harriet (Dawley) Steele, the former a native of Connecticut, and the latter an Englishwoman. Mrs. Ligare received her first schooling from Miss Eliza Chappell, who was the first public-school teacher in Chicago, and afterward became the wife of Rev. Jeremiah Porter, the first Protestant clergyman in Chicago. Mrs. Ligare was born in 1829, in Rochester, New York, and came to Chicago in 1833.  Four of her children grew to maturity, namely: Ashbel George, Charles Albert, Edward Francis and Lizzie Louise.  The latter is now the wife of Lewis B. Mayo.  Mrs. Ligare was reared an Episcopalian, and was a devoted mother and well esteemed for her many noble qualities.  She died in 1886, aged fifty-seven years.

Upon the death of Mrs. Ligare, the Glencoe Woman's Library Club issued the following: "As a friend and neighbor, as a member of our village church, of the Ladies' Prayer-meeting and Woman's Library Club, we have known and loved Mrs. Ligare.  We count hers a full life, which has despised selfish ease, a life whose powers have been largely used in the quiet of the home, beside the cradle and sick-bed, in loving ministrations. On her tongue was the law of kindness; her friendliness and her Christian hospitality   em- braced all.  Her life has enriched ours.   Her death brings heaven nearer.''

Mr. Ligare's present wife, Lily Ruth, is the seventh daughter of Conrad and Louise (Slifer) Collipp, of Silver Lake, Portage, Columbia County, Wisconsin.   She is a musician and also an artist of ability.  Her musical talent is inherited from her father, who was a native of Hesse-Cassel, Germany, and a man of very refined tastes and rare intellectual attainments. Two children have blessed the second marriage of Mr. Ligare, named, respectively, George Collipp and Ruth.

While a resident of Michigan, Mr. Ligare was appointed Postmaster at Ford River, Michigan, in 1855, and held that position until 1867, proving a most efficient officer, as is testified by his long incumbency in that capacity. During those years he was the intimate friend of honorable Peter White, a banker and capitalist of Marquette, Michigan, through whose influence he was made Postmaster, and was also authorized by statute to organize Delta County, Michigan, which he did in 1859.  He was instrumental in locating the county seat at Sand Point (now Escanaba), and exerted great influence in the management of public affairs.

It was not until about the time of the Civil War, that Mr. Ligare became a full citizen of the United States.  He had, however, taken an intelligent interest in the course of events and the conduct of public affairs, preserving an independent position in all partisan quarrels.  He was ready to fulfill all obligations, and stood the draft three times in one year.  When his name was found among the drafted, at the third drawing, he procured a substitute, which was not required of him. The large number of families dependent upon his business made it imperative that he remain at home and aid in furnishing men for the field.  Being Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, it devolved upon him to make out the list of those subject to draft in the county.  As numerous citizens had fled to the lumber region to avoid the draft at other points, his impartiality led many to look with desperate disfavor upon him, and the lawless element only lacked a courageous leader to put him out of the way.  But he did his duty fearlessly, which he has always done in every position held by him.

Mr. Ligare is a man of independent thought and action, and while he does not bind himself to religious or political organizations, he is ever ready to further anything calculated to contribute to general welfare.  He has always taken a keen interest in the Masonic order and its work.  He joined La Fayette Lodge, the first organization of the order in Chicago, soon after becoming a resident of the city.  He is at present affiliated with Garden City Lodge, and with his lodge occupied a position of honor at the dedication of the Masonic Temple of Chicago.  He is now a member of the Masonic Veterans' Association of Illinois, and occupies an influential position in the fraternity, and also of another early institution known as the Mechanics' Institute.  The following extract indicates the esteem in which Mr. Ligare is held by his associates, he having been President of the Village Council of Glencoe for five years:

"Be it remembered, that at a regular meeting of the Council of the village of Glencoe, held April 1, 1894, the following was by unanimous vote adopted:

"Resolved, That a vote of thanks be, and that the same is, hereby extended to George G. Ligare, retiring President of the village of Glencoe, for his uniform kindness and impartial ruling as such President for and during the year now closing, and that the Clerk deliver a copy of this resolution to George G. Ligare.  In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the corporate seal of the village of Glencoe, this second day of April, A. D. 1884.

(Signed)           "JOHN DAY,

''Village Clerk.''

 

                      -- Submitted by Sherri Hessick   (thessick@flash.net)