MAY 24, 1860 – This has been a month of gloom for those of us who invested in The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road. Fifteen days ago, the company having defaulted on all mortgages, Mr. Isaac Seymour was appointed receiver for the Rail Road, on foreclosure proceedings started by him.
Can it be that I have seen the rise and collapse of what might have been a great Rail Road system in the span of ten short years?
MAY 30, 1860 – There is much rejoicing in this area over the recent nomination of the Hon. Abraham Lincoln for the presidency of the United States. The Hon. Mr. Lincoln, nominated at the Wigwam in Chicago, has an aura of greatness about him, from all reports, which leads many of us to believe that he may succeed in bringing order out of the chaos now rampant among the states.
JANUARY 25, 1861 – There still is hope for a major Rail Road in Wisconsin. This week a group of financiers, including several Easterners, bought The Milwaukee & Mississippi for $7,500,000 and changed the name of the company to the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Railway Company. A Mr. L. H. Meyer emerged as President. The move was received none too enthusiastically in this part of the country inasmuch as the organization articles specified that a majority of the directors "shall be citizens or residents of New York."
MAY 14, 1861 – The Nation has been in a state of Civil War for a month now, ever since the capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by the Confederates. Wisconsin has responded nobly to Governor Randall's plea for men to join our Northern Army. Newspapers report that so widespread was the answer to his call that he actually found himself embarrassed by his inability to accept all those who offered themselves.
SEPTEMBER 5, 1862 – I indeed feel a foolish man today but there is solace in the knowledge that there is hardly a citizen of this area who feels otherwise.
Soon after daybreak yesterday our household was startled by a great commotion on the road. Scores of wagons, loaded with men, women and children, thundered by the house at the wildest speed. It seemed as all those in the wagons were shouting "The Eenjuns are coming!" One man drew his team to a halt in front of our house and told us breathlessly that yelling savages were setting fire to grain sacks in Lisbon and that Hartland already had been burned to the ground.
Making all haste, I loaded my wife and two sons into our wagon and joined the procession to Milwaukee. We arrived to find the city in the wildest confusion. Trains were jammed with others seeking refuge from the redskins. I understand many of the passengers boarded trains without funds but their pleas were so insistent that conductors permitted them to come to Milwaukee free. By nightfall more than 5,000 persons had fled to the city. The militia, ordered out by Governor Edward Solomon, was unable to find any Indians and most of us were quite ashamed of our panic. No one knows the origin of this human stampede which seems to have been quite without reason.
One of the most entertaining stories to result from the fiasco is that of a Lisbon man, noted for his bravery, who came on foot to Milwaukee, filched a rowboat, and spent the night far out in Lake Michigan, alone and shivering, to escape the redskins.
APRIL 20, 1865 – Wisconsin and the rest of the nation has had cause for both great rejoicing and great sorrow within less than a fortnight. On last April 9th, General Lee of the Confederate forces surrendered at Appomattox to end the bloody Civil War. Just six days later President Lincoln died from a bullet fired by Assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Already a few of the 80,000 Wisconsin men who enlisted in the Union cause have returned home. Those who retained their health are settling quietly in their home communities.