Wirt Dexter (1832-1890)

Wirt Dexter, President of the Chicago Bar Association

Associated Houses

Gordon Hall


Dexter House


He was born at Dexter, Michigan, which was founded by his father, and he grew up at Gordon Hall. He was named for U.S. Attorney General William Wirt (later a Presidential candidate with the Anti Mason party) who was visiting the Dexter family at the time his birth. He studied law in Michigan and New York but initially worked in the lumber business for his father before coming to Chicago in 1855 to practice law. As a senior partner in Dexter, Herrick & Allen, he became one of the city's most prominent corporate lawyers with clients that included Marshall Field and George Pullman. He was President of the Chicago Bar Association and a director of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. After the great fire of Chicago in 1871 he stopped work to chair the Executive Committee of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society. In rebuilding Chicago, he became a major real estate developer and commissioned the Dexter Building at 630 Wabash Avenue. He was a member of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club and Chairman of its building committee. His first wife (and childhood friend), Kate Augusta Dusenberry, died in childbirth. Two years later (1866), he married Josephine Moore, of Boston, Massachusetts, and they were the parents of two children including Katharine, who almost single-handedly funded the necessary research to develop "the pill".
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 04/09/2020 and last updated on 05/09/2020.