One of the first problems was how to raise money in a region that Indians had given up title to only about 10 years before. The directors took in whatever they could for stock, and only sometimes was this in money. Much of the stock was sold by bartering it for something that could be used to build the line. For example, stock might be given in exchange for food, for some grading work, for putting up buildings, for harness or a wagon, and so on.
Construction was held up for a while when cash—not something to trade—was needed for getting iron rails. This problem seemed solved when the mayor of Milton stood up at a meeting, offered to mortgage his farm to help raise cash, and then reportedly asked “are there not one hundred men between Milwaukee and Rock River that can do the same? If so, here is your money.”
There were a hundred men, and more, but the problem wasn’t solved. Eastern money centers weren’t much interested in loan security that was in the form of mortgages on farms in a nearly undeveloped region. Eventually the city of Milwaukee had to issue bonds that were used in helping finance the railroad’s cash needs.
About ten years later, the mortgage idea was to kick back on the M&M and other railroads, because when the roads failed and mortgages on farms were foreclosed a great anti-railroad bitterness developed that was to last for decades, and that led to formation of farm organizations such as the Grange.
Once the M&M had money in hand, construction went ahead and the first rails were laid on September 12, 1850. By November of that year, enough of the road was finished so that railroad officials and guests could take a trial ride over five miles of track reaching out from Milwaukee.
Pulling the two open freight cars was a locomotive that had been shipped in by lake boat. Built in 1848 by the Norris Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, the first engine was known successively as Number One, Bob Ellis, Iowa and by the number 71 in the years before it was finally scrapped.
An entry from Four Generations on the Line:
Old No. 1