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.
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.
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.