MAY 25, 1854 – We have just returned from Madison, the State capital, my first rail journey since the trip from Milwaukee to Waukesha more than three years ago. Although many of our neighbors considered this venture a great extravagance, we felt quite justified inasmuch as we have received unusually good returns from the sale of our grain and produce this past year.
I am fearful that my wife found the journey somewhat trying because of our son, now 10 months of age, but we both took pride in the knowledge that he undoubtedly was the most youthful of the passengers aboard the Milwaukee & Mississippi train which was making its initial trip from the nearby metropolis to the capital. It was most refreshing to escape momentarily the sometimes arduous tasks of farming.
Before recording events of the trip I will note here that the Rail Road Company has undergone changes since last I wrote of it. In the preceding two years there has been much divergence of opinion among the officials of the company pertaining to certain financial matters. As a result, Mr. Byron Kilbourn no longer is President but has been supplanted by Mr. John Catlin, a Vermonter approximately 50 years of age. Mr. Catlin, I understand is a persevering man of exceptionally varied talents and capabilities.
Our entry into Madison two days ago was a most gala occasion. The train, arriving at 2 P.M., was welcomed at the depot by Col. A. A. Bird, one of the oldest and most venerable citizens of the capital. Also there were many brass bands (our son was somewhat distressed at the noise of so many horns), fire companies, members of the clergy, the editors and employees of the press and representatives of many civic organizations. As we disembarked, a procession began to Capitol Park with both the visitors and residents of Madison participating. My wife and son wisely proceeded directly to the Capital Hotel, she feeling that a rest would avail both of them strength for the balance of the journey, but I, of course, went with the marchers. At the park a free collation was served up under the direction of Mr. Stevens, the proprietor of the Capital Hotel. I should record at this point that our train consisted of 32 cars, drawn by two locomotives, so whereupon the good citizens of Madison had prepared to receive 650 people, there actually were more than 2,000 of us including visitors from the nearby countryside.
The Madison Argus and Democrat in its edition of yesterday chronicled the results of this unforeseen circumstance and from that publication I herewith quote:
"Those who were so fortunate as to arrive at the table first [the banquet prepared for us at the Capital Hotel] succeeded in satisfying their appetites [but] there was a great deal of grumbling about the scantiness of the supplies of provisions ... It was a profitable day for the Rail Road, if for nobody else. Their receipts from passengers alone could not have been less than $2,500 …The expectation of the morning made way for the excitement of the afternoon and that for the weariness and discontent of the evening. But few went to bed drunk, and none satisfied."
Our son tonight gave an indication that the journey has left its impression upon him. He emitted a noise which sounded like "choo," an effect that to us greatly resembles the sound of the great railroad locomotives as they expel steam to begin progress upon the rails.
I met several exceedingly interesting persons in Madison, including a young man of about my own age from Chicago. He was championing the political views of a gentleman whose name I never before had heard, the Hon. Abraham Lincoln of Springfield which, I am informed, is the capital of Illinois. The Hon. Mr. Lincoln ardently expounds the theory incorporated in our Constitution, that all of us are born "free and equal."