IRISH-IN-CHICAGO-L ArchivesArchiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2004-02 > 1078122232
From: "Nan Brennan" <>
Subject: [Irish in Chicago] Dr.Wm Egan b.Killarney died Chicago 1860
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 00:23:52 -0600
Chicago Tribune (IL)
HON. WILLIAM B. EGAN.
Many hearts were saddened on Saturday by the intelligence that a citizen, old and well esteemed in this community, Hon. Wm. B. Egan, expired at his residence in the West Division, just at daybreak. For some time past his falling health had warned his friends and family that the period was not distant when the event feared must take place, but it was not until two weeks since that such symptoms supervened as to give immediate cause for apprehension. Under this later and most violent attack, of dropsy, complicated with other affections of long standing, it was early seen by his attendant physician, Dr. N. S. Davis, that his condition was critical, even if it allowed a gleam, of hope. The family were so informed, and the sufferer himself, who received the intelligence calmly and in the full possession of his mental powers, prepared himself for those last offices of parting life. His will was drawn some ten days since and deposited in the keeping of Hon. F. A. Hoffman.
The medical attendants, Drs. Davis, and Johnson, vied with the family and warm-hearted friends in ministrations upon the last hours of Dr. Egan, whose descent toward the grave from the nature of his disease was quiet and gradual, and with mental faculties unclouded. His religious adviser and counsellor, Rev. Dr. Kelly, of the Episcopal Church, was with him much of the time, in long and free conversation upon religious topics. On Thursday evening this clergyman introduced the service of the Episcopal Church, the entire family being present, its dying head joining in the responses, thus constituting the scene memorably affecting and impressive. Dr. Egan was at one time of his life in the connection of the Presbyterian Church, but of later years, though ever respectful and never scoffing, has been little identified with religious matters. His interesting family are regular worshippers at the Church of the Atonement, Episcopal, on West Washington street.
>From the time of the above scene on Thursday evening, Dr. Egan sank gradually and almost imperceptibly. He passed Friday night in a very quiet and apparently painless sleep, from which his death was not immediately anticipated by the anxious watchers that hung noiseless about the couch. As the night waned, however, the respiration of the sleeper grew fainter, and just as the sun was rising, it was seen that no breath came from the parted lips. His spirit had passed away so quietly that none marked the struggle, and stood before its Maker, the Judge of all.
The bereaved family consists of a wife and four children, two sons and two daughters, the youngest in her teens. The place of interment of the honored remains will be a lot in the Old City Cemetery on North Clark street, within the limits of the city of Dr. Egan's adoption and pride, within the sound of the murmur of the waves of our noble lake, and in that city of the dead where sleep so many, who, one by one departing hence have left in our community places never to be filled, of those identified with our earliest history and associated with our choicest means of progress.
Thus has passed away one who has long borne a leading part in the business and the social gatherings of the city. The position he has occupied, as well as the more prominent traits of his character, make it proper that we should give some of the more important events in his history.
Dr. Egan was born at Killarney, in the county Kerry, Ireland, on the 28th of September, 1808. His father belonged to one of the old and leading families of Ireland, and was by profession a classical teacher. So thoroughly was he devoted to his profession, that it is said he could repeat the twenty-four books of Homer's Illiad. Dr. Egan inherited his father's love for classical literature, which, had his life not been identified with a young, growing city, might have given him an honorable position in the higher walks of learning. Dr. Egan was a second cousin to Daniel O'Connell -- O'Connell's grandmother and the Doctor's grandfather being brother and sister. The Doctor was on terms of intimacy with the great Irish Reformer.
At quite an early age Dr. Egan was bound as a student to Dr. McGuire, surgeon in the colleries of Laneashire. He afterwards attended medical lectures at the Lying-in Hospital of Dublin, but being unable from want of funds to complete his education, he determined to seek his fortune in the New World, and at the age of eighteen landed at Quebec in the fall of 1826. He spent most of the following winter engaged as a private classical teacher in Montreal. In the spring of '27 he went to Charlottesville, Va., and was employed as assistant teacher in the grammar school of the University, continuing at the same time his medical studies. Here he remained for about eighteen months, and had the privilege of seeing and becoming acquainted with Madison, chief Justice Marshall and some of the other leading men in our nation history.
Resigning his post at Charlottesville, he attended lectures at the Rutger's Medical School of New York, and was licensed as a physician by the New Jersey Medical Board in the spring of 1830, and practiced in Newark for about a year. He then removed to New York and was married about the middle of January, 1832, to Miss Emeline M. Babbatt of that city. No event of his life had a more happy and controlling influence upon his future history.
He remained in New York during the cholera season of 1832, practising very successfully with Prof. McNiven and Dr. Busche, both distinguished Irish physicians. In the fall of that year he was induced by a brother who lived in Mississippi to remove to that State, where he originated the town of Grand Gulf, on the Mississippi River.
Driven away from Mississippi by sickness, both of himself and wife, he started for New York, but the boat on which he was going up the Ohio was snagged near Evansville, Indiana. To relieve the tedium of delay, he visited Vincennes, where he met an army officer, who was buying horses for Gen. Scott's army, then posted at Chicago. The officer gave so glowing an account of the town, that Dr. Egan concluded to take it in his route to New York. He arrived here in the fall of 1833. The county then extended to Peoria and there were in all about four hundred inhabitants in it. Pleased with the prospects of the place, Dr. Egan located on the North Side and commenced the practice of his profession. There were then scarcely any houses upon the South Side, and the Garrison was the main stay of the town.
The Doctor's first real-estate purchase was the Tremont House corner, 80 feet on Lake by 180 on Dearborn, from Gen. John B. Beaubien for five hundred dollars cash and two hundred dollars in medical attendance. He sold it in 1836 for $25,000 but was obliged to take it back after the first payment, and he sold it afterwards for $9,000.
On the 4th of July, 1836, ground was broken at Bridgeport for the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Judge Smith read the Declaration of Independence, and Dr. Egan delivered the oration; thus connecting his name for all time with this great work.
In the fall of 1837 Dr. Egan was obliged, on account of ill health, to go to Virginia, where he spent the winter. Not recovering, he went to Europe and place himself under the care of Sir Benjamin Brodle, under whose treatment he was entirely cured. In the fall of 1839 he returned to Chicago, with only three dollars in his pocket, and at once applied himself with his marked energy to the practice of his profession. He made stated visits along the line of the canal, then in process of construction between Chicago and Athens, and often, when the day closed, he found himself with forty dollars in his pocket, the fruit of the day's labor. Between that time and 1842 real estate was cheap, and the Doctor put all the money and credit he could command in his favorite investment.
About this time perhaps the majority of the leading men of the city were oppressed with a load of debt from which there seemed to be no hope of escape. A large amount of real estate had been bought at the canal sales previous to the crash of 1836-7 at high prices; some of the payments had been made, but it seemed utterly impossible to make the others. A consultation was had and it was agreed that Dr. Egan should attend the Legislature during the winter of 1840-1, and procure the passage of a law directing the lots to be apprised what they were then worth, and enacting that the payments that had been made should be applied as far as they went towards payment for the lots at their appraised value. By the most persevering industry, and the free use of all those means which no lobby member could apply better than Dr. Egan, the law was passed, and by it very nearly four hundred thousand dollars was virtually deducted from the indebtedness of Chicago. To the Doctor's successful ef!
forts, some of our wealthiest citizens [MISSING-TEXT] their fortunes. The immediate effect upon his own pocket was by no means flattering. When he went to Springfield a purse of a hundred dollars was made up for him, and more was promised as occasion might require. The promise was forgotten; but bent on accomplishing his important mission he borrowed eight hundred dollars from Geo. Smith, and about half as much more from Co. Taylor, besides spending his time for the winter. A few months after he came home, he was obliged to sell the Matteson houses corner to pay the cannic Scotchman, and the corner of State and Madison streets went to pay Colonel Taylor These lots would now go far towards making a handsome fortune. That is the kind of reward which many others besides [MISSING-TEXT] have received for rendering important services to their fellow citizens.
Dr. Egan's real estate operations have been immense. Some of them were very fortunate. For instance, one half of the thirty acres extending from State street to the lake, now owned by Geo. Smith, was bought by Dr. Egan for a small sum, and he sold it to Smith for $47,000 cash. True, the last purchaser made the best bargain, for it is now worth three or four times that sum. But the Doctor's element was to operate, considering that one of the imperative duties of his profession.
The three and a half acres which constitute his elegant home, stand in the West West division of the city, and was purchased in 1846 for thirty dollars per acre. He built on it and commenced improving it in 1847. Our citizens have been accustomed to point to it with pride as showing what good taste and cultivation can in a few years accomplish in the suburbs of the city. His farm, Egandale, four miles south of the city, consists of about one hundred and eighty-two acres. It was purchased at the canal sales at from ten to a hundred dollars per acre. He commenced improving it in the spring of 1855, and the progress he has made in draining unsightly sloughs and rendering them, with the sand ridges which divide them, objects of surpassing beauty, is truly amazing.
Dr. Egan was for a time Recorder of the county, and he served a term in the Legislalature, in the lower House if we mistake not, during the winter of 1853-4.
That Dr. Egan had faults, need not be denied; but "speak only good of the dead" is a motto that it were well for all to adopt. He was a man of noble form and commanding presence, and his open, cheerful countenance was a true index of the generous nature that ruled within. His classical tastes and attainments were of a high order. His exuberant social qualities, his ready, sparkling wit, keen perception and graphic delineation of the ludicrous, made him a most agreeable companion and a welcome guest at all the public social gatherings of the city. His dinner speeches will long be remembered as among the most happy and appropriate specimens of that kind of popular eloquence. He never failed to "bring down the house."
Dr. Egan was one of the most industrious and energetic of men. He was never idle. True, he spent considerable time in social converse with his friends, but a close observer would seldom fail to discover that he had some definite and perhaps very important object to accomplish. Of his tireless industry and his correct and highly cultivate horticultural taste, his homestead on Van Buren street and his form at Egandale bear the most pleasing evidence. Those splendid pines and graceful balsams and firs will long be living monuments to his memory; and the breezes of many a May morning and the songs of the robins that make their home amid the evergreens which his own hands have planted, will mingle in a sweet, joyous requiem. We point our wealthy citizens to Dr. Egan's homestead and to Egandale as beautiful creations of his genius well worthy of their imitation. How much better to incur generous expenditure to adorn the city and its suburbs than to heard up wealth for reckless hei!
rs to squander. While Dr. Egan's family have an ample provision of earthly comforts, his children have a much richer inheritance in the memory of his virtues and the admiration of those beautiful objects which his own hands have created. His former associates will long remember him as a warmhearted, generous friend -- as one of the noblest specimens of the "fine old Irish gentleman." Requiescat in pace.
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