The books, for the subscription of stock, were first opened in the early part of February, of the following year, but from the lack of funds, incident to a new country, it was not until April 5, 1849, that the necessary amount of stock was subscribed for, or requisite fund raised.
During this time, in 1848, the charter had been amended, authorizing the embryo company to build a road to the Mississippi river, the terminus to be located in Grant county, and, in 1850, the name was changed to that of the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad Company.
After the company was fully organized, active measures were, at once, taken to push the new enterprise forward to a steady completion. The city of Milwaukee loaned the corporation its credit, and, in 1851, this pioneer railroad of the State of Wisconsin, had reached Waukesha, twenty miles from Milwaukee. In the spring of 1852, Edward H Broadhead, a prominent civil engineer from the State of New York, was put in charge of the work, as chief engineer and superintendent.
Under his supervision the work of building was urged onward --- reaching Milton in 1852 --- Stoughton in 1853, Madison the year following, and in 1856, the iron rails were laid to Lone Rock in this county. The railroad was pushed on to the Mississippi river, reaching that stream at Prairie du Chien in the fall of 1857. The company after many trials and tribulations, incident to a new railroad in an unsettled country, in 1859 and 1860, defaulted the payment of interest on its bonds; a foreclosure was made, and a new company, called the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad Company, took its place, in all its rights and property.
In 1867, the road, through a change of name, became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad line and that company still operates it.
Having drawn the above sketch of the great through line that traverses a small portion of the territory of this county, in a cursory manner, as in a manner explanatory of the following we approach the building of what might be called an entirely Richland county enterprise.
This road owes its inception and completion to the public-spiritedness and business tact of the residents of the county seat of the county, and has been the means of a large increase in the value of real estate and business facilities of the entire county.
As early as April 28, 1857, there was a movement made looking to the bringing of a railroad from Lone Rock to Richland Center, but the plan seems to have been abandoned on account of the then financial embarrassments of the whole country, during the panic of that year.
The whole scheme was held in abeyance until in the fall of that year when it was again agitated but nothing was done in a practical way toward the matter, and like the former project it too was allowed to drop. At various times afterwards some talk was made but nothing more was done in the premises until in 1870, when a charter was granted by the legislature to incorporate a company for the building of a railroad --- narrow gauge, wooden or iron rails --- with the above name. In pursuance with this charter, which bears date of Aug. 5, 1872, the first meeting was held August 20th, of that year, and the following directors were elected: George Krouskop, Joseph L De Hart, John Walworth, Norman L James, D E Pease, D L Downs, D O Chandler, A C Eastland, J M Adams, Charles G Thomas and David Hardenburg. The officers elected were: George Krouskop, president; D L Downs, treasurer, and A C Eastland, secretary.
At the time of the organization of the company it was not contemplated to build the road by their own unaided efforts, but simply to make such surveys as were necessary to ascertain the feasibility of the route and demonstrate to some other railroad company this fact, as an inducement that that company would build the road for them.
But during the summer 1875, the plan had so far undergone alteration as to develop into an arrangement to build a narrow gauge railroad by individual subscription, and to be supplemented by the subscriptions of the towns traversed by the line of the road and which would be most benefited thereby.
Stock subscription books were accordingly opened and stock subscribed by most of the residents of the village of Richland Center and town of Richland. The town, by vote, took stock to the amount of $19,000; and about $5000 in stock was subscribed by parties outside of the town.
The contract for grading the roadbed and surfacing the same, and laying maple rails, was let at some $400 per mile, the work to be finished and the road to be in running order by June 25, 1876.
The road was to be narrow gauge, thirty-six inches between the track, laid with maple rails, 3 1/2 X 5 inches in diameter. All the road was laid with maple rails except three miles of switches and side tracks which were laid with iron rails.
In December, 1875, the engine was purchased, and also some flat cars for construction purposes. The locomotive was bought of Porter, Bell & Co., Pittsburg, Penn., at a cost of $5000. It weighed ten tons, and was a perfect model for one of the class to which it belonged. It was hauled across the country from Lone Rock to Richland Center upon logging trucks, and was used for construction purposes from Richland Center south.
The road soon was carried to completion and was ready for business on the 1st of July, 1876, when the first passenger train ran through from Richland Center to Lone Rock. It had then cost about $66,508.10.
In the summer of 1875, the second set of directors and officers were chosen. The directors were: George Krouskop, A H Krouskop, D O Chandler, D E Pease, J M Adams, N L James, J L DeHart, W J Bowen and A C Parfley. The officers elected were: George Krouskop, president; A H Krouskop vice-president; N L James, general manager; D O Chandler, treasurer; and A C Eastland, secretary.
On the 27th of August, 1878, a meeting of the stockholders was held, and the following were elected directors to succeed those above mentioned: J W Lybrand, John Walworth, J L McKee, F P Bowen, J L DeHart, James H Miner, Jacob Brimer, A C Parfrey and A W Bickford. At the election of officers of the company, the following were chosen: Jacob W Lybrand, president and general manager; A W Bickford, vice-president; J L McKee, treasurer, and W H Pier, secretary. This was the last set of officers and directors that were elected.
The road continued in operation under the home company increasing its business, and finally arriving at what might be called a paying basis until May 26, 1880, when it was sold to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR company. The directors obtained some $56,000 as the price, which paid the indebtedness of the company and paid fifty cents on the dollar, on all original stock, except the $19,000 stock subscribed by the town of Richland, which had been sold at a nominal price and canceled. At the time of the sale the narrow gauge road was in excellent working condition. The entire length of the road having been laid with iron track, except about three miles. The Milwaukee company at once proceeded to make the road entirely iron rail, and the following year altered the track to the standard width of al their roads, and it is now a fully recognized branch of that monster corporation.
This was another wholly Richland county enterprise. In 1874, Charles W Towsley, telegraph operator at Lone Rock, conceived the idea of constructing a telegraph line from Richland Center to Lone Rock. He accordingly made a proposition to the people of Richland Center, that if they would patronize him and pay for a certain amount of telegraphing in advance, he would construct and manage the operation of the line. Tickets, which were called "franks," were issued, and were handled the same as stock of a joint stock company; only differing in this, "that the holder of a frank was entitled to telegraph out the amount shown upon the face of the frank, and was not entitled to dividends." The people of Richland Center took hold of the matter with a vim, and many of the enterprising citizens took $5, $10, and some as high as $150 worth of the franks. At least $700 was raised in this way at Richland Center. The line was ready for operation in September, 1874, and Mr. Towsley place operators at Richland Center and Sextonville. The enterprise met with marked success and gave the best of satisfaction to its patrons.
When the narrow gauge railroad was built, this line of telegraph was used for railroad business, notwithstanding the fact that the wires followed the wagon track, and shot across fields and creeks, the nearest way possible to Lone Rock; regardless of the course taken by the railroad.
When the narrow gauge railroad was sold to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company, in 1880, it ended the existence of the Pony Telegraph as a Richland county enterprise.
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