The Swift Walker

In 1818 a 15-year-old Vermont-born boy, a Mayflower Descendant (of Elder William Brewster), was indentured in Montreal to the American Fur Company. He was embarking on a six-month journey by boat to the future site of Chicago, Fort Dearborn.

This was the beginning of a highly successful career that included years of trading with the Indians. They came to call him Pa-pa-ma-ta-be, which is said to translate to “The Swift Walker”.

I recall a self-help book from years ago that advised people who wanted to be successful to walk 10% faster. The life of Hon. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard seems to provide an excellent example of the value of that sage advice.

His early fur trading adventures lead to an impressive list of accomplishments in the Chicago area, many of them firsts. They are said to include:

Writing the first insurance policy in Chicago
Establishing the first packing house in Chicago
Helping organize the first Episcopal church in Chicago
Inaugurating the first packet line between Chicago and Buffalo
Building the Lake House, the first large hotel in Chicago
Being one of the first trustees of the Town of Chicago
Being a director in the Chicago Water Works
Helping organize the Chicago Board of Trade
Being a director of Chicago Banks
Being a member of the Legislature

The one that really caught my attention was writing the first insurance policy in Chicago. I’ve been in and out of Chicago numerous times via planes, trains, and automobiles, and it’s a huge place. How many millions of insurance policies are written in Chicago annually now? How many have been written there during the 170 or so years since the first policy? How many will be written there in the future?

Could the Hon. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard have possibly imagined how many insurance policies would follow his?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *