Foster, George F.

Born: 1812-08-30 Bath, Maine

Died: 1877-08-12 Chicago, Illinois

Flourished: Chicago, Illinois

George F. Foster was a farmer, businessman, city government official, and state legislator. Born into a military family, Foster lost his father when he was a child, leaving him to care for his widowed mother. He began his working life at age eleven, settling on a farm in Leeds, Maine, where he worked for three years. Tiring of farm life, Foster began an apprenticeship with a sailmaker in Bath. At age twenty, he earned his release and moved with his mother to Bowdoinham, Maine, where he established his own shipbuilding business. With shipbuilding in decline in Maine, Foster pursued his trade in Wilmington, North Carolina before moving to Chicago, Illinois, in July 1837. He established a sail-making business, supplementing his income with farming. In August 1838, he returned to Maine for a visit, and in September, he married Susan M. Dow. Upon his return to Chicago, Foster purchased Hugunin & Pearce, a ship-chandler and grocery business. Susan D. Foster died in 1841, and in January 1843, Foster married Mary Seville Loring. From 1841 to 1842, he served as alderman for Chicago's Sixth Ward. A strong advocate for industry and the mechanical arts, Foster was among the founders of the Mechanics' Institute, serving as its president in 1845. In 1847, he led the organization of the Chicago Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1851, Foster was among the original incorporators and trustees of Northwestern University. Foster won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1854, serving in that body from January to February 1855. In 1856, he was a delegate to the Kansas Aid National Convention. In 1860, he was living in Evanston Township and owned real property valued at $95,000 and had a personal estate of $1,500. Politically, Foster was a Whig and later a Republican.

A. T. Andreas, History of Cook County Illinois: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1884), 443-44; Moses Kirkland, History of Chicago Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1895), 115; Weston A. Goodspeed and Daniel D. Healy, ed., History of Cook County Illinois (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1909), 2:254-55; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, DuPage County, 10 January 1843, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 221; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Cook County, IL, 32; The Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 20 August 1877, 8:6; William F. M. Arny to Abraham Lincoln.