Charles H. Hackley
The city of Muskegon, Michigan, enjoys lasting fame in the history of the lumber industry of the United States as the point of premier production in the early '8o's. Linked indissolubly with the fame of Muskegon is the name of Charles H. Hackley. Her glory as a lumber city has departed, and in its place has come renown as a city of diversified industries, splendid institutions and public enterprise. Mr. Hackley contributed his share to the city's importance in the lumber world; and her later renown for more substantial things may be attributed almost entirely to his individual effort.
Charles H. Hackley, famed as a lumberman and as a philanthropist, was born at Michigan City, Indiana, January 3, 1837. His father, Joseph H. Hackley, was one of the early settlers at that end of Lake Michigan. The family moved to Southport, now Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the boy received such education as was obtainable in the public schools of that place at that time. When fifteen years of age he left school and began self support. In 1856 he worked his passage on a schooner across Lake Michigan, from Kenosha to Muskegon, and at noon on the day of his arrival, April 17, began work as a common laborer for Durkee, Truesdell & Co., lumber manufacturers. He rapidly rose in position, and in the fall was sent to the woods as log sealer. The following spring he was made outside foreman of the saw mill, having charge of sorting the lumber. At the suggestion of his employers, he returned to Kenosha in the fall of 1857 and spent the winter at a commercial college, training himself for business life. The following spring he returned to Muskegon as bookkeeper for Gideon Truesdell, successor to Durkee, Truesdell & Co.
By 1859 he had acquired sufficient experience to decide him to enter business for himself. His father had moved to Muskegon in 1855, and the firm of J. H. Hackley & Co. was organized in 1859, purchasing a saw mill and adding another mill a year later. The first partners were J. H. Hackley, Charles H. Hackley and Gideon Truesdell. Later two brothers of Charles H. Hackley Edwin and Porter were associated with the concern. The father died in 1874 and was followed a few years later by Edwin Hackley and Porter Hackley. The firm of J.H. Hackley & Co. was succeeded by Hackley & Sons, and Hackley & Sons in turn by C. H. Hackley & Co. In 1866 Mr. Hackley and James McGordon, under the firm name of Hackley & McGordon, purchased the "Wing" mill which some years thereafter was burned.
In 1881 Thomas Hume purchased the McGordon interests in C. H. Hackley & Co. and Hackley & McGordon, on the death of James McGordon, and the firm of Hackley & Hume was founded, one destined to become historic in American lumber manufacture. Hackley & Hume continued operations on the Muskegon river until 1894, when their timber in that section became exhausted. They had foreseen this event and as early as 1886 had begun to buy timber lands in other states. Their early purchases were in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Louisiana, and later large bodies of land were acquired in Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida and British Columbia. Mr. Hackley continued to be interested in the manufacture of lumber after the shut-down and demolition of the Muskegon mill.
In 1892 Mr. Hackley and Mr. Hume bought the interest of S. B. Barker in the Itasca Lumber Company, of Minneapolis, which in 1903 bought the property and business of the H. C. Akeley Lumber Company, a concern that had been organized in 1889 by Hackley & Hume and H.C. Akeley and Freeman S. Farr, of Minneapolis.
Mr. Hackley was among the heaviest stockholders in the Itasca Lumber Company. An enumeration of his other interests would fill a page, for he was the mainstay of a number of Muskegon manufacturing enterprises. He was a member of the Gardner & Lacey Lumber Company, of Georgetown, South Carolina; of the J.S. Bennett Lumber Company, of Sandusky, Ohio, and of the Hackley & Hume Company, Limited.
The name of Charles H. Hackley is engraved forever on the hearts of the people of Muskegon because of his magnificent gifts to the city which saw his rise to fortune. They include one of the most beautiful soldiers' and sailors' monuments to be found in the United States; a public square embellished with the best work of American sculptors and landscape gardeners; a public library with a capacity of 100,000 volumes; a manual training school the only one of its kind in the state; statues of Lincoln, Grant, W. T. Sherman, Farragut, Kearny and McKinley, the latter being the first statue of the martyred President to be erected in the United States, and a modern hospital. While the value of these things to Muskegon and to the future of her people far exceeds their cost, the following summary of Mr. Hackley's gifts during his lifetime will give an idea of the extent of his generosity.
Hackley Public Library (1888): $155,000
Endowment (1891): $75,000
Hackley Manual Training School and Gymnasium (1895, 1900): $200,000
Endowment (1902): $400,000
Additional funds for the maintenance of the School from the opening in 1896: 50,000
Hackley Park and Endowment (1890): $60,000
Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (1889): $27,000
Statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and David G. Farragut (1898): $26,000
Statue of Phil Kearny (1901): $5,000
Statue of Wm. McKinley (1902): $15,000
Home of the Friendless Endowment (1902): $25,000
Hackley Hospital and Endowment (1902): $340,000
Athletic Field for High School (1902): $5,000
First Congregational Church debt: $6,525
Mr. Hackley was married in 1864 to Miss Julia E. Moore, of Centreville, New York. They had no children of their own but had two by adoption. Mr. Hackley was an active Republican and had several times been honored with office, somewhat against his wishes. In 1874 he was treasurer of Muskegon county. He served the city as alderman and member of the board of public works. For many years he was a member of the board of education and had been its president since 1892. He was a delegate to the Republican national convention at Minneapolis in 1892 and to the one at St. Louis in 1896. In 1894 he was elected a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, but resigned on the day on which his term of office began, on account of ill health.
Mr. Hackley died February 10, 1905, mourned by the entire city of Muskegon and honored throughout the state. Thousands of people who enjoy his benefactions participated in the final obsequies. He left an estate estimated at $9,000,000 and his will contained additional specific public bequests, amounting to $775,000, as follows.
Additional endowment for Hackley Manual Training School: $210,000
Additional endowment for Hackley Hospital: $200,000
Additional endowment for Hackley Public Library: $200,000
Fund for the purchase of pictures for Hackley Library: $150,000
Bequest to Muskegon Humane Union: $$15,000
These bequests increased the total of Mr. Hackley's outright gifts to the people of Muskegon to $2,164,525. The residuary estate will amount to approximately $8,000,000, and of this amount one-quarter, or $2,000,000, shall, by the terms of the will, at the end of Mrs. Hackley's life become a trust fund, the income of which shall be applied perpetually to the maintenance and enlargement of the Hackley Public Library and the Hackley Manual Training School, and to such other charitable purposes as Mrs. Hackley may appoint. This means that eventually there will have been applied from the property of Charles H. Hackley to public and benevolent uses in Muskegon a total of at least $4,164,000.