As a conspiracy buff, the subject of the "greenback" -- with its possible tie-in to two presidential assassinations -- always gets my attention. My interests in Col. Taylor began with a footnote of a Springhouse Magazine article about John Crenshaw, a notorious slave-napping owner of Southern Illinois's infamous Hickory Hill "Slave House." (Yes, slavery did exist in the salt mines of Southern Illinois!) The matter sparked considerable interest on the part of the editor of the Springhouse Magazine, as well (though for different reasons), as you shall see.
My thanks to Editor/Publisher Gary DeNeal (who is not a conspiracy buff, but nonetheless is a great friend), for allowing me to use this material.
A footnote from the pages of the Springhouse Magazine...
* A legislator and early day Indian trader, Colonel Edmund Dick Taylor was credited as being the father of the “greenback” by President Abraham Lincoln. The following letter is found in Lincoln By Emil Ludwig, and is reprinted in Glory to God and the Sucker Democracy A Manuscript Collection of the Letters of Charles H. Lanphier compiled by Charles C. Patton.
‘My dear Colonel Dick:
I have long determined to make public the origin of the greenback and tell the world that it was Dick Taylor’s creation. You had always been friendly to me. and when troublous times fell on us, and my shoulders, though broad and willing, were weak, and myself surrounded by such circumstances and such people that I knew not whom to trust, then I said in my extremity, ‘I will send for Colonel Taylor — he will know what to do.' I think it was in January 1862, on or about the 16th, that I did so. Said you: ‘Why, issue treasury notes bearing no interest, printed on the best banking paper. Issue enough to pay off the army expenses and declare it legal tender.' Chase thought it a hazardous thing, but we finally accomplished it, and gave the people of this Republic the greatest blessing they ever had — their own paper to pay their debts. It is due to you, the father of the present greenback, that the people should know it and I take great pleasure in making it known. How many times have I laughed at you telling me, plainly, that I was too lazy to be anything but a lawyer.
Taylor was the brother of Mrs. John Crenshaw. (Their father, Giles Y. Taylor. was a commissary under General Nathanael Greene during the Revolutionary War, and later, in 1823, was the first school teacher in what is now Saline County, Illinois. He is said to have been afflicted with club feet, a disability conducive to holding class while hardier fellows felled trees, erected churches, broke wild-eyed and willful stallions over stony ground.)
For more about the colorful E. D. Taylor see Herndon’s Life of Lincoln, by William Henry Herndon and Jesse Weik, and the printed text in volume one of Glory to God and the Sucker Democracy A Manuscript Collection of the Letters of Charles H. Lanphier compiled by Charles C. Patton.
The last survivor of the early entrepreneurs who leased the salines, Colonel Edmund Dick Taylor died December 4. 1891. in Chicago.
G.D. (Gary DeNeal, Editor/Publisher of Springhouse Magazine )
From page 27 of the December 1996 issue of Springhouse Magazine. A foot-note to "Early Salt Making," by D. W. Lusk (reprinted from Politics and Politicians of Illinois, Anecdotes and Incidents 1809-1889, Springfield, Illinois, 1889.
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Then more from the pages of the Springhouse Magazine...
Col. E. D. Taylor — Lincoln’s Secret
A Curious Episode in American History
When Springhouse published the letter from Abraham Lincoln to E. D. Taylor in our December 1996 issue, we thought our little magazine had stumbled upon a rare document known to few historians. As it turned out, many Lincoln scholars had long considered this letter a forgery. So much for initial elation. Now, we learn that our "find” cannot be so easily dismissed after all.
We believe either Col. E. D. Taylor was a con man second to none, or he was President Lincoln‘s secret agent. No other explanation seems possible.
Many thanks to Illinois State Historian Thomas F. Schwartz for making us aware of the following document, which is printed below word for word, comma for comma.
50th CONGRESS, 1st Session ~ HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
REPORT No. 380.
EDMUND D. TAYLOR.
February 10, 1888.—Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
March 9, 1888-Ordered to be reprinted.
Mr. LAWLER, from the Committee on War Claims, submitted the following:
[To accompany bill H. R. 725.]
The committee on War Claims, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 725) for the relief of Edmund D. Taylor, report as follows:
That there is no evidence before the committee to warrant them in making a favorable report, and therefore report without recommendation. The committee are constrained to take this action for the want of proper evidence to warrant the claim. Still the committee have the utmost confidence in Col. E. D. Taylor’s statements of his valuable services rendered President Lincoln, as it seems he not only acted as confidential adviser, but as bearer of important documents from the President to General Grant when in command at Cairo, Ill., and also for his generosity in aiding with his means the supplying the volunteer troops raised in Illinois with clothing, etc.; and believe that while this evidence, necessary to establish his claim, has not
been presented, that with proper diligence Colonel Taylor will be able to furnish the committee hereafter with evidence on this subject.
The United States, Dr., to E. D. Taylor, of Chicago, as bearer of dispatches from Washington to Genl. Grant’s headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, during the war, which I did whenever called on, night or day, at the request of President Lincoln.
E. D. TAYLOR
I paid all of my expenses for the four years out my own money.
Lincoln’s letter to Cot. E. D. Taylor, of Chicago.
MY DEAR COL. DICK:
I have long determined to make public the origin of the greenback and tell the world that it is one of Dick Taylor’s creations. You had always been friendly to me, and when troublous times fell on us, and my shoulders, though broad and willing, were weak, and myself surrounded by such circumstances and such people that I knew not whom to trust, then I said in my extremity, “I will send for Col. Taylor; he will know what to do.” I think it was in January, 1862, on or about the 16th, that I did so. You came, and I said to you, “What can we do?” Said you, “Why, issue Treasury notes bearing no interest, printed on the best banking paper. Issue enough to pay off the Army expenses, and declare it legal tender.” Chase thought it a hazardous thing, but we finally accomplished it, and gave to the people of this Republic the greatest blessing they ever had — their own paper to pay their own debts. It is due to you, the father of the present greenback, that the people should know it, and I take great pleasure in making it known. How many times have I laughed at you telling me plainly that I was too lazy to be anything but a lawyer.
A. LINCOLN, President.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
Washington, D. C., Feb ‘y 2d, 1888.
In the spring of 1861 I was living in Cairo, Ill., employed with the Ill. Central Railroad Co. It was in this same year I met Col. E. D. Taylor at Gen’l Grant’s headquarters at Cairo several times. Asking Gen’l Grant if Col. E. D. Taylor belonged to the Army, Gen’l Grant said to me that Col. Taylor was a special agent for President Lincoln in this war, from Washington, D.C., to my headquarters in Cairo. I saw Col. E. D. Taylor during 1862 and 1863 frequently at Gen’l Grant’s headquarters at Cairo. I had known Col. Taylor for over five years in Chicago. He had made, frequently, speeches and raised two companies of volunteers in Illinois for President Lincoln — more than were accepted — and advanced money to raise those companies, but how much I do not know. I see by his bill Col. Taylor has charged fifteen thousand dollars, which, I think, is a very moderate charge for his services.
THEO. F. COOK.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 6th day of February, A. D. 1888.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
The undersigned respectfully state that they are citizens and tax-payers of the State of Illinois; that Col. E. D. Taylor has been a citizen of said State since 1814; that he was receiver of public moneys at Chicago, appointed by Gen. Jackson in 1835, and sold the ground upon which the city of Chicago now stands; that he is now 83 years of age; that he was always a bosom friend of Stephen A. Douglas, and also of Abraham Lincoln, and, while his political associations were always with the Democratic party, yet in 1861 he gave all his influence and support to the administration of President Lincoln in the war in defense of the Union.
That at the time he was quite wealthy, and had intimate acquaintance with General Grant and General McClernand, and other generals in command of the Union forces. That his relations were such with Mr. Lincoln and the leading Democrats of the North, as well as with the generals, as to have the unlimited confidence of them all.
That, under those circumstances, Mr. Lincoln on several occasions, by letter and telegraph, asked him to come to Washington to consult with him, and to become the bearer of messages, sometimes in writing and sometimes by parole, between the President and General Grant, and other officers, in a strictly private and confidential manner. That this was at a period when the Government was greatly straitened and embarrassed in its finances, and before the issuance of Treasury notes, commonly called “greenbacks,” which brought relief.
That he being then a man of considerable means, presented no bill to cover any part of his time or his expenses, Mr. Lincoln assuring him that he should be reasonably paid for the same.
That afterwards, in October, 1871, by the fire in Chicago, Col. Taylor lost his property, fourteen stores having been destroyed by fire, upon which, unfortunately, he was insured in Chicago companies alone, all of which were made insolvent by the same fire which took from Col. Taylor all the savings of his life-time.
We therefore respectfully ask Congress to pass a bill for the relief of Col. Taylor, by paying to him such sum as shall reasonably compensate him for the money and time thus actually spent by him in the service of the Government at the most trying crisis in its history.
Dated July 4th, 1887.
John V. Farwell, Robert T. Lincoln, H. F. Barnes, Potter Palmer, W. R. Condict, Marcus C. Stearns, William H. King, L. C. P. Freer, J. Irving Pearce, John A. Rice, A. B. Walker, John Wentworth, A. J. O’Conor, J. W. Rogers, James Goggin, John Roe, Lester A. Rose, Amos I. Snell, 1. C. Dore, Geo. L. Dunlop, John Dean Caton, S. Coming Judd, Joseph W. Barker, A. Gibbs, Jno. B.’ Drake, C. H. Castle, F. Haskell, S. B. Cobb, B. F. Pulsifer, H. H. Walker, Hamilton B. Doe, H. P. Hammond, 3. M. Welch, Marshall Field, B. P. Hutchinson, 0. A. Bishop, A. B. Pullman, 3. D. Gillett, B. Lynch, H. A. Hurlbut, Ass Dow, A. L. Patterson, J. F. Joy, Win. Brass, Jos. Murphy, Philip D. Armour, R. Williams, U.S.A., George W. Higgins, J. Medill, Lyman Trumbull, J. R. Doolittle (citizen of Wisconsin), Murry Nelson, H. L. Weaver (Indiana), D. W. Mitchell, A. M. Wright, F. 0. W. Yall.
SALT LAKE CITY, U. T., February 18th, 1888.
Colonel E. D. TAYLOR:
MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 13th instant is a most welcome one. It is a grateful reminder of our past relations as friends in times of peace and war, and not least of your intimate association with leading personages who, together with yourself, essentially contributed to the advancement of Illinois from the stage of her infancy and obscurity to the standard of her present greatness and renown. I allude particularly to Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Douglas, and Colonel Baker, whose names have become household words and gloriously historical. They deserved well of their country, and so do you, not only as a co-worker with them, but as their patron and friend when your older age and pecuniary prosperity made your patronage valuable. I distinctly and grateful remember your patriotic activity in the early stage of the civil war; how you came and went hither and thither, by land and water, at your own personal expense, to assist the plans of Union officers and the Union cause. Your efforts were the more admirable, because they were spontaneous and unselfish; they were the more useful, because they were coincident with the initial and preparatory stage of the war. Your helpfulness and energy were inspiring.
I shall never forget our frequent conferences at Cairo, in 1861, when I was in immediate command of that post. That was a gloomy period; the financial credit of the Government was strained to extreme tension; the soldiers had not been paid for some time. In this exigency you suggested and advocated the expedient of issuing Treasury notes as a circulating medium, to be made a legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private. You not only advocated that recourse as an expedient, but as a principle and system. In the same interview you informed me that you had unfolded this scheme to General Grant, and that you would immediately proceed to Washington City and lay it before President Lincoln, which, I am convinced by what followed, you did. What further followed from the adoption of the scheme is historical.
Yours, very truly,
JOHN A. McCLERNAND.
(The foregoing is from the June 1997 issue of Springhouse Magazine, pages 48-49)
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And more from the pages of the Springhouse Magazine...
Including Another Abraham
Lincoln Trousers Story
Poor Col. Edmund “Dick” Taylor! Back when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were bit players in the frontier drama that was Sangamon County, Illinois, Col. Taylor was on center stage, a politician literally glittering with gold chains, or so the story goes (See Springhouse, June 1997, to see how the story goes.).
Sad to say, history has been so unkind to this colorful man, we are lucky today to find his name even in a footnote in any of the thousands of books written about Lincoln. Most historians who cite other historians who cite still other historians, dismiss Taylor’s claim that during the first few months of the Civil War he was Abraham Lincoln’s secret agent; that he carried messages from the President to cigar-chomping General Ulysses S. Grant while the latter was stationed at Cairo, Illinois (That Taylor and Grant probably knew each other when both lived in Galena, Illinois, is not even mentioned in passing, except of course in Springhouse.).
We have read as many lengthy obituaries for Col. Taylor as can be counted on the fingers of one hand and have yet to find two that agree. The obituary Springhouse has chosen to reprint in part no doubt contains errors; however, it does paint a vivid picture of the man as he appeared toward the end of his long and eventful life.
We thank Charles C. Patton for making available to us a typed copy of the obituary from the Chicago Tribune December 5, 1891. Some words, being indecipherable on the microfilm copy, were omitted.
Col. Taylor Has Passed
He Was a Noted Originator
of the Greenback Idea
Col. Edmund Dick Taylor, father of greenback currency, an intimate personal friend and advisor of President Lincoln, died of old age at the home of his son-in-law, L. W. Rogers, No. 178 Warren Avenue at 6 o’clock yesterday morning. He was one of the historical characters of Illinois and one of the few men who saw Chicago grow from a frontier trading post to the second city in the western world. To him, Lincoln gave the credit of originating the greenback currency idea, and he it was who induced Lincoln to leave the country store at New Salem to go to Springfield and study law. Up to within a fortnight of his death he retained all his mental faculties and his foot steps were firm and elastic. He began to grow feeble one day after Thanksgiving and from that time on he continued to sink until life was over. He suffered no pain; there was no sign of disease, and Mr. N. S. Davis, who attended him, said the vital machinery had simply worn out.
Col. Taylor was born at Fairfax Court House, Virginia, October 18, 1802. He was a cousin of President Zachary Taylor and his father was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. At an early age he left his home and went to Springfield, Illinois, where he opened a general store and Indian trading post. He was married to Margaret Taylor, daughter of John Taylor, the first Sheriff of Sangamon County, September 28, 1829. At that time Sangamon County took up nearly the whole of the northern part of Illinois. While engaged in his business of Indian trader he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, who was then a clerk at Salem, Illinois, and with Stephen A. Douglas, who was teaching a country school. He was much impressed with their _____ and told them they should study law. Lincoln replied that he had no money with which to buy books.
“Come to Springfield and I will see that you are supplied,” was the Colonel’s reply.
Lincoln came and for a long time made his home with Col. and Mrs. Taylor. Through Col. Taylor’s influence Lincoln was taken into Judge Logan’s office where he made himself useful keeping up fires, sweeping out the office and doing clerical work for the privilege of using the Judge’s law library.1
About that time Lincoln bought several yards of jeans for a pair of trousers. He lacked enough money to get them made, and Mrs. Taylor volunteered to make them for him. In after years when he was the President, he told Mrs. Taylor that he had never had a pair of trousers that gave him as much satisfaction and as good wear as the pair she had made him when he was a law student unknown to the world.
Gov. Duncan appointed Mr. Taylor colonel on his own personal staff and in that position he went to the Black Hawk Indian war.2
In 1835 he came to Chicago. He was appointed receiver of public moneys by President Jackson. He sold nearly all the land on which Chicago now stands at $____ an acre while in this position.3
Col. Taylor had an active interest in politics from the time he first settled in Illinois until his death. He campaigned the state for Gov. Bissell and it was largely through his efforts that Bissell was elected. He afterwards took the field against Lincoln in the famous Lincoln-Douglas campaign. After the battle was over, Lincoln met the Colonel on the street at Springfield and jokingly remarked:
“Well, Colonel, you elected me President.”
“Well,” replied the Colonel without a smile, “if voting for Douglas made you President, I presume I did.”
“No, no, it was not that,” continued Lincoln. “If I had never read law I never would have been President and if it had not been for you, I never would have read law; therefore, I say you are responsible for my election.”
Col. Taylor was a financier and was connected with many banking institutions in his day. And when the war broke out and the government’s credit with Europe was exhausted and the soldiers went ______ for money and the Treasury was empty, Lincoln sent for Col. Taylor.
“I have many suggestions from the bankers of New York and the East,” said the President, “But they do not suit me. There is a crisis at hand. We must have money. I want to hear what you have to say.”
“Issue treasury notes printed on good banking paper,” promptly replied Col. Taylor, “pledging the soldiers___ it without interest.”
“The best suggestion I have heard,” spoke up Lincoln.
Secretary of State Chase was called in, but being a hard money man, he opposed the plan with all his force___ Cabinet meeting was called and the first greenbacks were soon in circulation. The crisis was over.
In 18___ Col. Taylor was one of a Board of Commissioners appointed to receive subscriptions for the Galena and Chicago Until railway. He also took an active interest in building the Illinois and Michigan Canal and a number of other enterprises of importance to the welfare of Chicago. He was the President of the Northern Illinois Coal Mining Company at LaSalle. It was the company which opened the coalfields of the northern part of the State. He also opened a bank in Michigan City, Indiana.
In 1876 the Colonel retired from active business and devoted his time to a farm near Mendota, Illinois. However he has called Chicago his home since his first arrival here.
During the war he became a warm friend of Gen. Grant, and carried many dispatches from Grant to Lincoln.
The Colonel had thirteen children, of whom there are living: Charles T. of Chicago; William W., Sheriff of LaSalle County; Mrs. Ella F. Rogers, and Mrs. Margaret Beebe of Chicago. His widow also survives him. Of his descendants there are living twenty-two grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.
The funeral will be held at the residence of Col. Taylor’s son-in-law Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock. The remains will be buried at Rosehill.4
Did Col. Taylor really know Abraham Lincoln as well as he claimed? No, according to most Lincoln scholars. The famous (or infamous) “Greenback Letter” (reprinted in Springhouse in December 1996 and again in June 1997 and thus omitted here) is not accepted as legitimate by most historians, which is interesting because if the letter is a fraud there is no way Col. Taylor could have been unaware of the deception. He was clearly an old scoundrel up to his eyebrows in all sorts of trickery! Yet, in a speech to the Illinois Legislature on January 11, 1837, detailing his opposition to a resolution to investigate the management of the State Bank, Abraham Lincoln had only praise for his one-time political opponent:
...By a reference to the ninth section of the Bank charter, it will be seen that those commissioners were John Tilson, Robert K. McLaughlin, Daniel Warm, A.G.S. Wight, John C. Riley, W.H. Davidson, Edward M. Wilson, Edward L. Pierson, Robert B. Green, Ezra Baker, Aquilla Wren, John Taylor, Samuel C. Christy, Edmund Roberts, Benjamin Godfrey, Thomas Mather, A. M. Jenkins, W. Linn, W. S. Gilman, Charles Prentice, Richard I. Hamilton, A. H. Buckner, W. P. Thornton, and Edmund D. Taylor.
These are twenty-four of the most respectable men in the State. Probably no twenty-four men could be selected in the State, with whom the people are better acquainted, or in whose honor and integrity, they would more readily place confidence. And I now repeat, that there is less probability that those men have been bribed and corrupted, than that any seven men, or rather any six men, that could be selected from the members of this House, might be so bribed and corrupted, even though they were headed and led by “decided superiority” himself.5
Springhouse is convinced that if Lincoln did visit the Old Slave House in Gallatin County—and we believe he did since we have no good reason to believe otherwise— the future Great Emancipator was first made aware of John Crenshaw’s plantation home on Hickory Hill by a man he had known for years, none other than John Crenshaw’s wife’s brother, Col. Edmund “Dick” Taylor, also known as “Ruffled Shirt” Taylor.
1 Lincoln’s broom-work and study of law in the office of Judge Stephen T. Logan has no basis in fact according to noted Lincoln scholar Dr. Wayne C. Temple.
2 This statement is a bit confusing. As of December 3, 1830, John Reynolds, the newly elected Governor of Illinois, was Commander-in-chief of the Illinois Militia, also known as the Brigade of Mounted Volunteers. The future Governor of Illinois, Major General Joseph Duncan, was ordered by Governor Reynolds “to take immediate command of the brigade” as Brigadier General, while young Richard (E. D.) Taylor was appointed Duncan’s aide-de-camp.
3 The missing figure is probably $1.25. According to one of the several obituaries, this is the amount per acre for which Taylor sold the land where the Palmer House now stands.
4 Two of the pallbearers at Col. Taylor’s funeral were Carter H. Harrison, the former Mayor of Chicago, and Marshall Field, the founder of one of the most famous department stores in the world.
5 Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, edited by Roy P. Basler (Cleveland and New York, 1946) 69-70.
(The foregoing is from the August, 1997 Issue of Springhouse Magazine, pages 16-18)
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And yet more from the pages of the Springhouse Magazine...
E. D. Taylor,
An Overlooked Illinoisan
Virginia is called “the mother of Presidents” because George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Tyler were born, lived and died in that State. It Was also the native commonwealth of William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor. The latter was of near kin to Edmund Dick Taylor, the subject of our sketch. The President was born in Orange County; the member of the family with whom we have to do was born in Lunenburg County, October 18, 1804. His parents removed in his infancy to Kentucky. Mr. Taylor was a merchant, and after several changes of residence, he removed in 1814, to the Ohio Saline, nine miles from Shawneetown, Illinois, where he engaged in the manufacture of salt.
This was a pioneer settlement, and young Taylor’s education was only such as the Territorial schools of half a century ago afforded. His time was mainly occupied in assisting his father in his business.
When he was only nineteen years of age, a merchant who was well acquainted with him-Mr.Timothy Gard-proposed to him a partnership involving great responsibility and fraught with no little hazard. Edmund had at the time three hundred dollars of his own. Mr. Gard offered to put with that amount, eight thousand dollars, and trust the junior member of the firm to sell the goods bought with the money, in the Indian country; the two to share equally in the profits, and in case of loss Mr. Taylor was to lose only the money he had invested.
The venture was eminently successful. Mr. Taylor’s share of the profits was $14,000. Such goods as the Indians really needed and of a suitable quality were selected, and without resort to any of the tricks familiar to the modem Indian Ring, this large profit was realized. He spent two years in that part of the Indian country known as the White River Country. During that period he rode horseback to Texas five times. It was a rough life, but to a youth of daring and endurance a pleasant one.
The next event of note in Mr. Taylor’s career was his settlement in Galena. He entered into partnership with Gen. Dodge in the lead mining business. The Galena district was then almost as attractive as California in a later day. Messrs. Dodge & Taylor owned the rich Jackson lead, and were very successful.
Mr. Taylor’s first really permanent settlement was in Springfield, where he continued to reside some twelve years. Always attentive to his business, which was very large for the place, he at the same time took an active part in politics. He was then, as he ever has been, a Democrat. In 1831 he was elected to the Legislature. Illinois had then been a member of the sisterhood of States thirteen years. Vandalia was the capital at the time Mr. Taylor was a member of the Legislature. The question of the removal of the capital came up for settlement during his term of office. Mr. Taylor favored its removal to Springfield, and labored indefatigably for this purpose. Its final accomplishment was mainly due to his exertions.
In 1835 Mr. Taylor resigned his seat in the Senate to accept the position of Receiver of Public Moneys at Chicago. The appointment was tendered him by President Jackson as a recognition of his party services and personal worth. He came here in the discharge of his duties, April, 1835. The first land sale commenced the 15th of the following June. Lake shore land, now worth thousands of dollars a foot, then sold for $1.25 per acre. One hundred and sixty acres just South of the School Section, sold for $3.10 per acre. The rapids of the Illinois river ran up to $10.00 per acre, on account of the water-power. The sale continued two weeks. It was supposed that the amount realized would be only a thousand dollars or so. The price of land certainly did not indicate that any very large sum would accrue from the sale. But the amount received showed that there were not wanting those who foresaw, albeit vaguely, the destiny of Chicago, and was a cause of great surprise to the Government authorities at Washington. Their expectations may be indicated from the fact that the bond required of Mr. Taylor before he began the sale was only $30,000. After the sale was closed he deposited one half of the proceeds in one bank and one half in another at Detroit, to the credit of the United States Government (there being no suitable depository here,) and notified his superiors at Washington of the fact. They replied, saying, “your checks for $493,000 are received. Is this true, or is it a fiction? Where did the people come from?” To which Mr. Taylor replied that it did look like fiction, but was nevertheless true; and that the people who purchased had come from all the civilized world.
In these days of corruption and malfeasance in office, it would be a cause of surprise indeed to find a Government official with a bond of only $30,000 turning over every cent of a sum more than sixteen times as large as his bond. That was the largest public land sale ever made, before or since, in the United States.
Mr. Taylor held the position of Receiver for four years. In the meanwhile he became attached to Chicago transferred his permanent residence from Springfield to this City, where he has remained most of the time ever since. After giving up his position, under the Government, he opened the first wholesale jobbing house ever established in Chicago. It was under the firm name of Taylor, Breese & Co. The late Seth Payne, Esq., was bookkeeper for the house. After continuing in the business five years, Mr. Taylor sold out his interest here, and returned to Springfield, where he resumed commercial business. After another five years he came once more to Chicago, but presently went to Michigan City, where, in company with Thomas Dyer a former Mayor of Chicago, he bought the branch of the State Bank of Indiana located there. It was owned by Gen. Oher, an old wealth, and somewhat eccentric withal.
An incident in regard to the purchase deserves to be told. The General had been provoked beyond measure at some transaction at the central office of the State Bank, and was eager to sell out. Learning this, Mr. Taylor went there and investigated the affairs of the institution. He ascertained that it was thoroughly solvent and every way prosperous. But he had not the money at command to purchase it. Finally Gen. Oher proposed to Messrs. Taylor & Dyer to pay five hundred dollars down, to bind the bargain, and give their note for $35,000, payable in sixty and ninety days; he in turn to deliver over to them the entire bank, not only its franchises and notes payable, but the gold in the vaults, and everything else. The proposition was accepted, and when the notes became due, they had only to draw on the money they had bought to promptly and fully meet them. Consequently they soon found themselves in possession of a large and prosperous bank, for the real sum of five hundred dollars. Mr. Taylor’s superior financial ability soon placed the bank upon even a better standing than formerly.
The time came in Indiana finances when the more prudent bankers, Mr. Taylor among the number, thought best to wind up their old concerns and begin anew on a better basis. Mr. Taylor at that time paid every dollar of the old obligations. The new plan proved a great improvement, and in its passage through the Indiana Legislature, Mr. Taylor took a leading part. The Governor vetoed the bill. It was passed over his veto, notwithstanding it took a two thirds majority to do it. The bill created a State Bank with a capital of twelve million dollars, and six million dollars actual cash.
In the Winter of 1853-4, Mr. Taylor returned to Chicago, where he has since resided uninterruptedly. He opened a bank here, the firm being D. Kreigh & Co. He has since been engaged in various enterprises, besides being a heavy real estate owner, He became the President of the Illinois Coal Mining Company, one of the largest in the State, owning three thousand acres of coal land.
Having entered the Legislature while yet a young man, Mr. Taylor took a deep interest in politics, and in time became the leader of the Democratic party in this State, and so continued until the appearance of Judge Douglas upon the political arena. Mr. Taylor became a warm friend of the Judge, the pleasant relations between them continuing until the death of the latter.
The Democratic party in Illinois was only once divided. This was on the occasion of Judge Douglas’ seeing fit to secure the nomination of William A. Richardson, as Governor of Illinois, thereby displeasing many members of the Democratic party, among whom was Mr. Taylor, who determined to defeat the plan. He therefore secured the nomination of Dr. Bissell, of Belleville, as Governor, and “stumped” the State in his interest. The battle was a hard one, but Dr. Bissell was triumphant, and to no one did he owe his victory so much as to Mr. Taylor. Immediately after the contest was over, the party reunited, and all worked together harmoniously as before.
Mr. Taylor was married on the 28th of September, 1828, to Margrett, daughter of the venerable Col. John Taylor, of Springfield. She is still the sharer of his life’s joys and sorrows. Mrs. Taylor is a member of the First Baptist Church, and is beloved for her many Christian graces and charities. They have had thirteen children, seven of whom are now living. One of the daughters is the wife of Hon. S. S. Hayes. Another married Mr. Strother, a rising lawyer, now deceased. The oldest son, a young man of brilliant promise, died when he was nineteen years old. At the very age the father began to test the realities of life upon his own responsibility, his first-born was called away from life.
It is by noting the record of such a man as Mr. Taylor that the benefits of true manliness and of our Democratic institutions can be made most appreciable. We see what may be wrought through personal exertions, if only one is blessed with good natural gifts, and the unwavering purpose to use his opportunities aright.
Mr. Taylor is a standing argument in favor of honorable dealing in all things and at all times. He has been and is successful because he always improved the aids to success which a new and thrifty country affords. From such a life go out benedictions upon all who are familiar with its springs of action and its beneficent fruitage.
Reprinted from Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago, Chicago, 1876. E. D. Taylor died in 1891.
Springhouse thanks Charles C. Patton, a relative of E. D. Taylor, for making this information available to us. For more about the remarkable Cot Taylor see Springhouse Dec. 1996, June 1997, and August 1997.
(The foregoing is from The December, 1997 issue of the Springhouse Magazine, pages 12-14)
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Many thanks to Gary DeNeal and Springhouse Magazine.
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