A Short History of Charles Henry Hackley, 1837-1905

Charles Henry Hackley was born January 3, 1837 in Michigan City, Indiana, the oldest of five children of Salina (Fuller) and Joseph Henry Hackley. In 1847 he moved with his family to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where his father was in the building trades. By age 14, Hackley had left school and was driving a horse for 15 cents a day. In 1856, at 19, he worked his way from Kenosha to Muskegon on the schooner Challenge to join his father, who had been commissioned to build a sawmill along Muskegon Lake. The day after his arrival in May of 1856, he went to work shoveling sawdust into a boiler in the lumber yard of Durkee, Truesdale and Co. at a monthly wage of $22, a figure soon raised to $26. When the mill closed that fall Truesdale sent him to the lumber camps to scale logs. 

The previous summer, young Hackley had learned office procedure and the basics of the lumbering business in the company store in the evening after his day's work outside. When a slow time at the lumber mill occurred, Truesdale suggested that he return to Kenosha for a six-week bookkeeping course. Hackley finished it in four weeks and returned to Muskegon. Meanwhile, the Durkee Truesdale firm had been liquidated and Gideon Truesdale headed its successor. Charles Hackley assumed charge of the books, the supply store, and lumber shipments for $30 a month.

The city's sawmills formed, changed, closed, and reformed. Hackley's family followed him to Muskegon and founded the lumbering firm of Hackley and Sons. This later evolved into the lucrative partnership of Hackley and Hume. This firm was one of the largest operators in the country, cutting 30,000,000 feet of lumber a year at its peak in 1894. In 1864, Charles Hackley married Julia Ester Moore. They adopted one son, Charles Moore Hackley, in 1898, and raised a foster daughter, Erie Caughell (Hackley).

Hackley amassed a fortune of $18,000,000, one third of which he gave back to Muskegon. His first gift, given on May 25, 1888, was for the construction of Hackley Public Library. He served on the Board of Education of the Muskegon Public Schools for twenty years, was an alderman and a state delegate to two national Republican conventions.

Hackley died on February 10, 1905, of a ruptured aneurysm. He lay in state in what is now the Children's Room of the Library and more than 7,000 mourners passed the casket.

     excerpted from Hackley Public Library, A Centennial History
                   by Marilyn Anderson and 
             The Centennial Walking Tour of the Hackley Public Library
                    by Janie Lynn Panagopoulos.

 Charles Henry Hackley, 1837-1905

Hackley Day Creed

by Elmore Leppert

I believe that a true community spirit can never die but lives forever in the works which that spirit has produced.

I believe that all about us are the results of the working of such a spirit, a spirit thinking not of self, but of others, not of personal gain, but of community gain, not of benefit to few, but benefit to many.

I believe that such a spirit should live not only in the cold stone of institutions, but also in the minds of the people whom those institutions have benefited.

I believe that such is the spirit of Charles H. Hackley.


Written on the death of Chas. H. Hackley
by Douglas Mallach

These mortal signs make not the finished
The breath may cease, the beating heart be still.
But never one is dead on earth until
He passes from the memory of man.

And so would I not think on Hackley dead---
There is no Hackley who is dead to me;
His footprints in the city streets I see
And in her public places hear his tread

'Twas not his gifts alone made Hackley great---
The willing heart, the hand that never tired---
'Twas that within that Hackley's gifts inspired;
These were of greatest service to the state.

He taught the youth the need of industry;
He taught the public mind the need of art:
He taught the narrow soul the need of heart:
He taught the land the need of Loyalty.

A sampling of books in the Hackley Public Library collection


Materials available for checkout:

The Life of Charles Henry Hackley: Drawn from Old Public and Family Records , by Louis P. Haight. 1948. B H116h (Also available in the Local History Department)

Our Old House: the Hackley House (video recording) 1994. VHS 997.457 Our (v.1-3)

Portrait and Biographical Record of Muskegon and Ottawa Counties, p. 324. 977.457 P853 (Also available in the Local History Department)



Reference materials in the Local History Department (call numbers beginning with “LH”) or in storage as noted:


Agreement between Charles H. Hackley and Thomas Hume of Muskegon, Michigan

American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men , Michigan Volume, p. 43. 1878. R 920 Am351 (Torrent House storage)

American Lumbermen: The Personal History and Public Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen in the U.S., 1905. LH R 920 Am355, v.1 p. 223

Appreciation of gifts of C. H. Hackley. Hackley Memorial Association. LH R 977.457 H116

Benefactions of C. H. Hackley. Hackley Memorial Association. 1928. LH R 977.457 H116gm

Biographical Sketches of Mr. Hackley. Library Scrapbook (Local History Department)

Charles Henry Hackley: Biographical Sketches. 1972. LH R B H116

The Charles H. Hackley Scrapbook. (Newspaper clippings on Mr. Hackley and his gifts to the city of Muskegon). (Local History Department)

Cyclopedia of Michigan : Historical and Biographical, Comprising a Synopsis of General History of the State and Biographical Sketches of Men, p. 78, by John Bersey. 1890. LH R 920 C992

The Great Lakes, p. 268, C.H. Hackley best representative of the lumber barons, by Harlan Henthorne Hatcher. LH R 977 H282g

The Hackley House, by Bertha M. Freye and Mildred L. Johnson. 1961. LH R 977.457 H629hf

The Hackley Legacy to Muskegon, Michigan, by Linda Beghtol Wiersema. 1989. LH R 977.457 H116w

The Hackley Manual Training School and Gymnasium, Muskegon, Michigan, 1905-1906. Biographical sketch of Charles Henry Hackley. LH R 977.457 Sch65m

Hackley, Charles Henry, and Hume, Thomas: Papers. 1976. LH R 977.457 H116pe

Headlight Flashes. (short sketch) LH R 977.457 M974 H344

Historic Michigan, vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 54. LH R 977.4 F958h

Historical Sketch of the Muskegon Schools, p. 14 and 31 by Addie Littlefield. 1921. LH R 977.457 Sch65L

History of Michigan, v. 1, p. 605; v. 4, p. 1935, by Charles Moore. 1915. LH R 977.4 M781h

History of Muskegon and Ottawa counties, Michigan, p. 72-73. 1882. LH R 977.457 M974 D488

Interpretive Study Manual for the Hackley and Hume Historic Site, Muskegon, Michigan. 1961LH R 977.457 H116i

Life after Lumbering: Charles Henry Hackley and the Emergence of Muskegon, Michigan, by Richard Henry Harms. LH R 977.457 H228L

Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Farragut: An Account of the Gift, the Erection and the Dedication of the Bronze Statues Given by Charles H. Hackley to the City of Muskegon, Michigan. 1900.LH R 977.457 H116gL

Lumber and Forest Industry of the Northwest, p.224 (sketch with photographs), by George W. Hotchkiss. 1898. LH R 977.4 H797h

Making of : An Interpretive Study of Charles Henry Hackley, by Janie Lynn Panagopoulos. 1989. LH R 977.457 H116p

Men of Michigan, p. 335. LH R 977.4 M5198C

Men of Progress, Embracing Biographical Sketches of Representative Michigan Men with an Outline History of the State, p. 437. 1990. LH R 977.4 M523

Michigan Historical Collections, v. 35, p.54. Memorial sketch by Mary E. Chamberlain. LH R 977.4 M582h

Annual of the Muskegon County Pioneer and Historical Society for the Year 1887, p. 27. LH R 977.457 M974 M974a

Photographs of the Hackley Family Muskegon Picture Collection. (Local History Office)


Souvenir of Muskegon. “The Gifts to the City of Muskegon by Charles H. Hackley.”  LH R 977.457 H116g

In addition to the materials on this list, numerous articles on Charles Henry Hackley have been published over the years in the Muskegon Chronicle. Many of these are indexed in the Local History Subject Index and are available for viewing on microfilm. The Local History Department is located in the Torrent House, directly accross the street from the main library.


Compiled by Marilyn Ryan, edited by Damien Rostar (2/9/09 & 8/23/13).