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. 71-73

WHEELER BARTRAM, Chief of Police of Evanston, was born at Madison, Lake County, Ohio, April 14, 1843.  The history of Redding, Connecticut, from which we draw liberally, states that David Bartram, who was of Scotch ancestry, removed from Fairfield, Connecticut, to Redding as early as 1733, in which year he appears as Surveyor of Highways.  He was a farmer and settled in Lonetown.  He had five sons and three daughters. Daniel, the fourth child, was born October 23, 1745.  He also settled in Redding, was a tanner and currier by trade, and built the first tannery in the town.   October 10, 1768, he married Ann Merchant, of Redding.  They were the parents of thirteen children.  Daniel Bartram joined the militia and marched to the defense of Danbury, and during his absence his wife, finding it impossible to hire a man to do the work, took the tanning business into her own hands and performed the labor necessary to prevent the hides spoiling in the vats.

May 3, 1810, Daniel Bartram left Redding, accompanied by his wife, four children and several neighbors, for what was then the wilderness of Ohio, making his way by wagon and on horseback.  They arrived, June 10, at Madison, Lake County, Ohio, where they settled and where many of their descendants now reside.  Daniel Bartram died in Madison, May 17, 1817.  His widow died August 3, 1835.  Uriah, the second son of Daniel, was born January 9, 1782, and settled in Madison, Ohio, where he died quite suddenly of heart disease, June 28, 1830, leaving a wife and six children.  Of these, Harmon, born at Redding in 1808, was the second.

Harmon Bartram married Abigail Wood, of Fairfield, Connecticut.  They were the parents of six children, of whom Wheeler is the fifth.  Harmon Bartram was a man of ability and exerted a strong influence over his associates.  Although a farmer, and living on the farm his father had cleared, his qualifications caused him to be appointed Colonel, and afterward Brigadier-General, of militia.  Colonel Bartram, as he was usually called, died when Wheeler was less than three years old, and left his wife with six children and a mortgaged farm to care for.  Under these circumstances it became necessary later to separate the family, and Wheeler, when ten years of age, went to live with his maternal uncle, Moses Wood, in Chautauqua County, New York, where he remained three years.  He returned to his mother’s home at the end of that time, and soon after she removed with her family to La Porte County, Indiana.

Wheeler Bartram’s forefathers for generations had been brave men, and manfully responded to the calls for defense in the wars that had threatened the colonies, and later the young Republic.  It was but natural that he should have imbibed the spirit of the men of his lineage.  When the first call for three-years men in the War of the Rebellion was made, he responded, and August 5, 1861, enrolled himself as a volunteer.  On the 27th of the same month he was mustered into service at Camp Jackson, La Porte County, as a member of Company G, Twenty-ninth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and in less than sixty days found himself with his regiment at Camp Nevin, fifty miles south of Louisville, Kentucky, assisting General Rousseau against the advance of General Buckner, who threatened Louisville.  Shortly afterward he suffered an attack of measles, that left him in a condition entirely unfit for military service, which necessitated, besides hard marching, the carrying of sixty pounds of baggage and accoutrements, and he was employed in the less arduous, but hardly less dangerous, duty of assisting in the construction of telegraph lines from Nashville to Savanna.

On May 1, 1862, while employed in the construction of a telegraph line from Columbia, Tennessee, to Decatur, Alabama, he was taken prisoner by the famous guerrilla, Morgan, and removed to the town of Pulaski, near by.   There he was paroled, and in July following went to Camp Chase, Ohio.  January 9, 1863, he was exchanged, and finally reached his regiment in March following, at Murphysboro, Tennessee.  There he remained until June, when he accompanied the command on its march toward Chattanooga, taking part in the fighting incident to the advance, the battle of Liberty Gap, and in the capture of Tullahoma.  This campaign, over two ranges of mountains and through the intervening valleys, was rendered exceedingly fatiguing by the rain, which fell on twenty consecutive days, rendering the roads almost impassable.  The command continued its advance until September 19, 1863, when the battle of Chickamauga, the turning point of the war, began.  The Twenty-ninth Indiana was placed on General Thomas’ extreme left, and went into battle with two hundred and ninety-five men, and on the night of the same day came out of the carnage with six men, one of whom was Wheeler Bartram.  On the following day he was among those stationed at the apex of the angle formed by the repulse of the two wings of the army, where, during the afternoon, the enemy charged and were repulsed seven times, but finally succeeded by fierce fighting in forcing back the Union troops toward Chattanooga.  There a semi-siege was sustained for some time, provisions being so scarce that the Union soldiers sometimes went unfed for forty-eight hours.

In December, 1863, the Twenty-ninth Indiana re-enlisted, and its members went north on furlough.  This regiment was complimented by General Thomas for its gallant action in the battle of Chickamauga, and for the further fact that it was the first Indiana regiment in the Army of the Cumberland to re-enlist and reorganize under the Veteran Act.  At the expiration of his furlough, Mr. Bartram rejoined his regiment and did garrison duty till the end of the war, being mustered out of service at Marietta, Georgia, in December, 1865.  He was then First Sergeant, and had been in absolute command of his company for nearly a year, the higher officers being absent on detached duty.

From the return of peace until 1868, Mr. Bartram was engaged in different enterprises at Elgin, Illinois, and Muskegon, Michigan, coming to Chicago in the latter year.  On the 11th of January, 1869, he married Miss Janet N. Lawson, a native of Cumberland County, England, a descendant of Scots who fought at Culloden and Bannockburn.

On coming to Chicago Mr. Bartram had an opportunity to follow the line of business for which inherited qualities had best fitted him, and he became a member of the police force of this city.  He was first detailed to the Huron Street Station, and soon after the opening of the Webster Avenue Station he was made Desk Sergeant there.  November 1, 1878, he was made a Patrol Sergeant at Larabee Street Station.  He was transferred to the central detail in June, 1882, and five years later made a Detective under Captain Henshaw.  January 1, 1888, he was promoted to Lieutenant and acting Captain, being assigned to duty in the First District, and immediately afterward he was advanced to a full Captaincy at the Harrison Street Station.  In 1889, when D. C. Cregier became Mayor, an element that dictated changes in the police department caused Captain Bartram to be reduced to the rank of Lieutenant and assigned to the Halsted Street Station, where he remained but two weeks and resigned from the force.  Later he became Desk Sergeant at Stanton Avenue, and at the Central Station, serving till January 10, 1894, when he retired a second time, under pension of a Captain.  During the year following he spent some time in Colorado, where he had mining interests.

Captain Bartram was appointed Chief of Police of Evanston June 25, 1895, and immediately entered upon the discharge of his duties.   The comments of almost the entire press of Chicago were eulogistic of Captain Bartram at the time of his reduction.  The Tribune said: “Captain Bartram has been on the police force for twenty years. * * * His unobtrusiveness, quiet and splendid work, had been appreciated by Mayor Roche, and he was made a Lieutenant for one day that he might be commissioned a Captain and sent to the Armory.  Here he made a record that speaks for itself.  The lawless element feared him and obeyed his every command.  All this he did in a quiet manner and without seeking to cover himself in glory.”  The Mail said: “Captain Bartram is an American, an officer who has made the brightest of records for himself by his fearless and powerful administration of the law in one of the toughest districts in the city.”  The following is from the Inter Ocean: “His modesty, courteousness and affability, his gentleness and worth in other ways, are all too well known to need iteration here.  He was a favorite.”

Captain Bartram was not only a terror to evil-doers and parties guilty of violent crimes, but he was attentive also to those things which affect the morals of the community, and more than one offender has reason to remember the fearless and unflinching fidelity with which he enforced the law relative to the suppression of obscene literature.

He is a member of many fraternal and secret organizations, to wit: the Odd Fellows and Knights of Honor, in each of which he has filled all the chairs of the subordinate lodge, and is a member of the Grand Lodge of the latter order.  He is a Mason; member of Lyon Post Number 9, Grand Army of the Republic; of the Sons of the Revolution, and of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, of which latter he has been President. He is also a member of the Republican Marching Club of Chicago, where his height (over six feet) and fine face and figure make him conspicuous.

Captain Bartram has, by reading, made himself a well-informed man, in spite of the little education he received in his youth.  His affable and polite manners, his fidelity to duty, his long service as an officer, have made him respected wherever he is known, and created a large and constantly increasing circle of friends.

                                -- Submitted on 10/24/99 by Sherri Hessick ( )