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Ogden's decision

Chicago Harbor
Chicago Harbor
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Ogden had four main choices to solve the problem of his brother-in-law Butler’s swampy land, but only one solution was acceptable to him. Abandoning the land wasn’t an option because Ogden believed from the time he was 14 that he could do anything he set his mind to. A lawsuit may or may not help the situation. Harming the disreputable developer was unacceptable to Ogden on moral, legal and personal ethical grounds.

The only choice left was improving the land, and this was his choice. Ogden couldn’t know the outcome, but he decided to accept this challenge, and he created a plan. He had the land evaluated and surveyed. He divided it into three lots and hired men to drain the best third. He had that portion plaited, and he put it up for sale at auction. That portion was sold for $100,000, and he recovered all of Butler’s original investment.

The solution of Ogden’s problem had lasting effects. One effect was that Ogden became a Chicagoan. He was also in the real estate business, and he was nicknamed ‘Swamp Salesman’, which probably didn’t concern him at all because he had a strong self-concept. Another effect was that he became one of Chicago’s leading citizens and was commissioned by the village to write its first city charter. Another effect was that he became the first mayor of Chicago, who built bridges, roads and buildings.

History allows us to evaluate the decisions our ancestors made. Challenges can be examined, and alternative solutions studied. An implemented decision can be analyzed by studying an individual’s biography, words, character, beliefs and values. Most importantly, outcomes the historical person was unaware of at the time can be evaluated as positive or negative. It’s these evaluations that guide future generations in their decision making.