JUNE 14, 1866 – A significant change recently has occurred in Wisconsin Rail Roading. Mr. Alexander Mitchell, Wisconsin's foremost business man, has been elected President of the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien, the road which succeeded the Milwaukee and Mississippi. This move brings the Rail Road under the same management as the Milwaukee and St. Paul. The news of the merger was not particularly surprising since the two roads a year ago agreed to divide earnings.
Since Mr. Mitchell long has been a person of extreme prominence in the affairs of the State, I would like to record here some personal notes about him. He came to Milwaukee in 1839, a stocky, ruddy-faced young man, fresh from Scotland, to enter the insurance and banking business. Since then, any venture in which he has participated has been almost an immediate success. Mr. Mitchell is a most reticent man in many respects but nevertheless apparently has many warm, personal associations with people on every social level. All of those to whom I have talked are confident that the Milwaukee and St. Paul will make satisfactory progress under Mr. Mitchell's leadership.
OCTOBER 15, 1867 – My predictions concerning the ascendancy of The Milwaukee and St. Paul under the leadership of Mr. Mitchell have been proved by events of this year. By acquiring a number of short lines and connecting the intervening gaps, the Rail Road has established the first through route from Milwaukee to St. Paul and Minneapolis, via Prairie du Chien, and it also has extended service to Chicago by way of connecting routes.
OCTOBER 19, 1871 – Two great disasters, striking simultaneously, have brought a tragic loss of life and destruction of property to the people of Wisconsin and Illinois.
For three months our lands have been parched with drought which brought on a great forest conflagration October 8th. The fire soon enveloped the town of Pestigo, Wisconsin. More than six counties were burned over before the flames were quelled. It is said that more than 1,152 lives were lost, thousands crippled and 3,000 beggared.
On the same day the City of Chicago too was attacked by flames, started in the barn of a Mrs. O'Leary, according to newspaper accounts. Although the loss of life was not comparable with that at Pestigo, most of the city was destroyed and damage totaled millions of dollars.
MAY 20, 1873 – The Milwaukee and St. Paul has scored another success with the opening of service over its own line between Milwaukee and Chicago. Although the route was opened only this spring, work toward that end has been in progress since the beginning of the decade.
JULY 30, 1874 – The newspapers of late have devoted much space to chronicling a strange story from Philadelphia. It seems that a 4 year old boy, Charley Ross, disappeared from his home there on July 1st, in the company of two men who offered to give the child a ride in their carriage. Since then the Ross boy's father has received letters, purportedly from the two men, demanding money for the child's return. The newspapers refer to the case as "kidnapping" and state that it is the first act of its kind ever reported in this country.
But getting back to things at home. I have discovered that my enthusiasm for railroading through the years – even though my first love is farming – has been absorbed by my elder son, now in his 22nd year. For several years he has devoted much of his spare time to assisting the Rail Road telegrapher at nearby Elm Grove. Now he has informed his mother and me he would like to forsake the land as a source of livelihood and try his hand at railroading. After due consideration we granted him our permission. I believe he first intends to seek employment with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, the recently acquired name of the old Milwaukee and St. Paul.