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The Northern Railway
Meeting at Turner Hall - Speeches by the Hon. O. H. Waldo, Edward D. Holton, Councilor Hilbert, and Supervisor Walters
(The Milwaukee Sentinel, Monday 16 May 1870)
Transcribed and contributed by
Carol Boettcher

On Saturday morning the special Committee of the County Board, together with a number of prominent citizens and the representatives of the press, left City Hall in carriages to attend the railway meeting at Cedarburg, in response to an invitation from the Supervisors of that place.

The party consisted of Supervisors Hyde, Douglas, Walter, Egan, Fink and Billman; the Hons. O. H. Waldo, E. D. Holton, Senator Deuster, Mayor Phillips, Counselor Hilbert, and Messrs. James Ludington, Charles Holzhauer, and Frank Charnley.

The press was represented by Col. S. B. Brightman of the SENTINEL, Maj. Cadwallader of the NEWS, Col. Messervey of the WISCONSIN, Dr. Vette of the HEROLD, and P. V. Deuster of the SEE BOTE.

The party left City Hall at nine o'clock, and after a pleasant ride reached Cedarburg about noon, where they were received by the Hon. Fred Horn, Fred Hilgen and other leading citizens and invited into the Horneffer House, where, after a short rest, they were invited to a good and substantial meal. After the party ahd done justice to the dinner, they reentered their carriages and were driven to points of interest in and about the village and its surroundings to Milwaukee River, a short distance below Grafton. At this point the Hon. Fred Horn gave the party interesting information in relation to the waterpower of the Milwaukee. From this the party returned to the village and prepared to attend the railway meeting at Turner Hall.

This creek is a branch of the Milwaukee River, entering a little below the falls near Grafton, and having a similar fall near the junction, over the same limestone ledge. It is a rapid stream, supplied chiefly by many copious springs, and had a crooked and irregular course. It is the outlet of Musquewoc Lake, a beautiful sheet of water neat the western part of the county, four miles in length, five-eighths of a mile wide, and nine and one-quarter in circumference. A little above its embouchure it is confined between high, perpendicular walls. Messrs. Horn and Schleifer have opened two fine quarries along the south side of its banks. When the railway is completed they will be able to supply us with both stone and lime. The banks of the creek are lined with cedars, which accounts for its name.

The town of Cedarburg is situated on Cedar Creek, Ozaukee county, about eighteen miles north of this city, and has a population of about two thousand souls. The creek furnishes excellent waterpower, along which several mills are built - among them the woolen-mill of Hilgen & Wittenberg and the Cedarburg and Columbia flouring-mills, the latter well-known through their brands. The former employs thirty-five hands - twenty-three men and twelve women - and daily turns out about five hundred yards of goods in the line of doeskins, cassimeres, flannels, blankets, jeans, etc. The mill runs thirteen looms, some of them double-warp, and three spinning-jacks, and has two sets of cards for custom works. The entire establishment, from basement to attic, is a model of neatness, and its manufactures, for texture and finish, were found equal to any in market. Last year the establishment consumed one hundred and twenty thousand pounds of wool, which was purchased at Milwaukee and Chicago prices, and turned out two hundred and fifty thousand yards of cassimeres, tweeds and flannels, and sixty thousand pounds of stocking yarn. The products of the mills are shipped to various markets in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, and the mill, through the superior quality of its goods, finds a ready sale for all that it can deliver.

The mill is a handsome and substantial three-story stone building, its white dormer windows and tower adding greatly to its appearance. A short distance west of it is the store where the goods are sold, packed and shipped. This is also built of stone and in a style of architecture corresponding with that of the mills.

Some distance below the woolen mills are the Cedarburg flouring mills, and beyond the turn the Columbia mills, both establishments of importance. There is also a mill within a mile of the outlet.

The residents of Cedarburg are all apparently well-to-do - have fine business places, as well as residences and gardens. A gentleman, an old resident, informed us that there was not a poor man in the village, and showed us a handsome farm, with a fine stone residence, and a new one in course of construction on another lot, all the property of a carpenter, who arrived from Germany, without more than his clothing, ten years ago. With thrift and temperance, the Doctor said, the village afforded good mechanics the advantages of a comfortable home and liberal return for their labor.

As an evidence that the town has a metropolitan air, we have but to mention the fact of having seen Grecian bends and late style coiffures displayed by the ladies, and a youth of thirty summers propelling a velocipede through the streets at 2:40 speed.

On the outskirts of the town, along the line of the Milwaukee road, the Roman Catholics are erecting a handsome stone edifice in the Romanesque or mixed Gothic and Italian style of architecture. The cornerstone was to be laid with appropriate ceremonies on the following day.

The Cedarburgians have created a fine Turner Hall of material from the quarries just mentioned which has room for eight hundred people, and is fitted up with gallery and stage. The proscenium of the latter is very creditable. A gentleman informed us that the society has twenty five active members, and that they varied their exercises with musical, dramatic and literary entertainments, affording the residents suitable amusement. We are pleased to learn that the endeavors of the society are liberally sustained - a fact telling, well for the taste of the burgers.

The meeting took place at the fine hall of the Cedarburg Turners, at three o'clock. The Hon. Fred Horn nominated Joseph Vogenitz for chairman, which was unanimously ratified, after which P. K. Gannon, Esq., was appointed secretary.

Mr. Vogenitz, on accepting the position, called the attention of the audience to the object of the meeting, and invited a discussion upon the importance and value of the proposed railway, in order that they might vote understandingly on the following Tuesday.

The Hon. O. H. Waldo, being called upon, addressed the people at some length upon the importance of a railway connection with Milwaukee. American citizens had learned that no one thing has so much to do with building up a country as the provision of means for the ready transportation of its products to market. Experience had taught the people that under the old system of carriage a large portion of the profit on products was lost to the producer because of the loss of time and expense in getting them into market. Having learned this it followed that millions of dollars have been expended in canals and railways, and people everywhere through the length and breadth of the land were interested in enterprises affording them ready channels for the transportation of their commodities.

He was pleased to say that the people of Cedarburg had already given evidence of their desire to keep step with the march of improvement, but was sorry -- extremely sorry -- that their confidence had been shamefully and disgracefully abused. They had already given money enough to have given them the railway facilities they so much desire, had it been honestly applied by those entrusted with its disbursement. The speaker said that this circumstance was a source of great embarrassment in his advocacy of the importance of the early construction of the Milwaukee and Northern Railway.

Since his arrival in town he had heard it remarked “that the railway men were all scamps.” Railway men were like other men, and experience had taught him that they were not all scamps. Cedarburg was not alone the loser by the failure of the former railway project. Milwaukee had issued bonds in aid of the enterprise, and has now to pay a tax of $200,000 as the result. But because our people have been overreached, can they afford to lie upon their backs without ambition to retrieve their losses? If cattle get into a farmer's field and destroy his crops, would it be wise to refuse to plant another? Great men never say die - brave men work truer and harder while under the cloud of adversity.

Very few of the citizens of Milwaukee, he was surprised to find, had a knowledge of the thrift, wealth and resources of Cedarburg and the surrounding country. With these advantages it would be unwise in the people to refuse to cooperate in a project that would advance their interests and enlarge their common wealth. The opening of the railway would have substantially the effect of moving the village within three miles of the city of Milwaukee. With prompt cooperation the company would have its road completed to the village by the Fourth of July, when its opening might be celebrated upon the banks of Cedar Creek in connection with the anniversary of American Independence. We intend that the road shall carry the residents of your section to the city and back on the same day at less expense than they could hitch their teams and drive it and back. The people of Janesville, Berlin, Ripon, Madison, Monroe and Beloit, and intermediate stations, can visit the city in the morning, and, after making their purchases, return in the evening, and it is highly desirable that the residents of Cedarburg should avail themselves of the same facility of travel and transportation.

A few years ago Ripon was asked to contribute $50,000 to aid in a railway connection with Milwaukee, and then Ripon was far from being the place it is today. The people voted the sum, and the result is, she has become one of the important places of the state.

With a railway, the magnificent waterpower would be of more use and value than if it lay within the boundaries of the city of Milwaukee, and this because rent is cheaper and insurance less than in the city.

The city desires to reach you as much as you the city. Milwaukee loses nearly all the trade between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan. She desires your trade as well as that of the cities, towns and country north of this place. To aid the project the company asks Cedarburg to subscribe $16,000, and Milwaukee $200,000. The latter it expects to get by an overwhelming vote, say of four to one. The company did not, as at Ripon, ask Cedarburg, to vote $50,000, although there is no doubt that you could subscribe that sum if you chose to do so.

The citizens of Milwaukee are deeply interested in the project of this northern railway. When it was first agitated, the business men of the city formed a Committee on Commerce and Manufacturers. Under its auspices during the past session of the Legislature, a very liberal charter was secured, under which a company was organized with such men as Tweedy, Ricker, Ober, Pfister and Mann at its head. These, together with other substantial citizens, men not given to railway scheming, have been asked to take part in this railway enterprise, and will see that every cent subscribed for the purpose will be properly expended. It was not the part of wisdom to trust men who had overreached us, and for this reason Milwaukee asks the residents of Cedarburg to trust the men in whom she has the utmost confidence.

The charter authorizes the company to build as many branches as they may deem advisable between the Lake and Fox river valley. They will therefore so build a road that it will draw a large portion of their trade now carried around Milwaukee to Chicago by the Northwestern Railway, and that this road can successfully compete with that railway, lies in the fact that it will be sixty miles nearer Chicago. Calumet cannot go to the lake shore, nor can Sheboygan and Manitowoc go to a road on Lake Winnebago. Therefore each must have its own road, and the Milwaukee and Northern Railway is so planned that it shall accommodate both sections. Could a better plan be devised to divide the business of this country? From the point we purpose to go to the S_______ road, and tap it probably at the Falls and north of that to have the road fork, one branch to terminate at Manitowoc and the other at some point on the Fox river.

One year from next Christmas we intend to have the road or system of roads completed. To get out of Milwaukee the company will make use of a portion of the old grade to this point. We expect to get to Cedarburg within forty days from the time the first shovel is put into the ground.

Voice - “When the road gets to Cedarburg, we will pay, and not before.”
Mr. Waldo continued - “Next week the people of the town would be called upon to vote aid to the enterprise, and he knew of no better way to regain a portion of the money lost by the former railway scheme, than to give the proposed road a hearty endorsement by voting the aid it solicited. The proposition of the company was a long stride in advance of the plan by which corporations commenced to build railways twenty years ago. Then they called for individual subscription, by which liberal men gave too much, and mean, little or nothing. He had himself lost from six to seven thousand dollars in the road on which the residents of that section had staked so much. The plan adopted now-a-days was that of Indiana, Illinois and other states. Roads are now built by bonds in small amounts given by the cities, towns and counties to be benefited by their construction. All new roads were built by bonds or land grants issued by the localities through which they were to pass.

The speaker gave his hearers the assurance that he would not hesitate to vote for this issue of bonds if he were a resident of Cedarburg. The sum called for would not exceed thirty-five dollars on each farm in the town. For so wealthy a town as Cedarburg the tax would prove a very light one. Any one who would take the trouble to find the number of eighty-acre lots in the town and figure how much the tax would be would be surprised at its insignificance, and he was sure upon learning it no farmer would spend a day to oppose the project. The village of Cedarburg was wealthy enough to vote aid to the railway.

The speaker in conclusion urged an earnest consideration of the proposition, and called particular attention to the proviso stating that no money shall be called for until the trains of the road reached the Cedarburg depot.

H. J.Hilbert, Esq., President of the Board of Councilors, was next called on for a speech. Mr. Hilbert said that when he started out with the party of distinguished citizens of Milwaukee he did not expect to see so large and intelligent an audience as that before him. He was much interested in the proposed railway to the north through Cedarburg. He had been engaged in the work of surveying the route between Grafton and Milwaukee; and was so favorably impressed with the country and its advantages that he took every opportunity at home to advocate the interests of the road. The section of the citizens of Milwaukee as well as the press showed the interest manifested in a railway through the country north of the city. Congress for the past few years had shown its interest in railway projects by granting lands in aid of the construction of important roads. Millions of acres of land had been given in aid of roads through new or sparsely settled sections of country. In older sections of the country aid must come from the sections to be benefited. Railways cannot be built without the friendly cooperation of the people, and this cannot be obtained until the matter is fairly and squarely placed before them, in order that they may see the benefits to their community. Gentlemen are here to show you the benefits of a railway connection with Milwaukee, and it remains for you to decide whether the road shall be built or not. The people of Cedarburg are asked for aid enough to build but three-quarters of a mile of the road. This is asked more as an evidence of their sympathy and support than to secure means for the work. By your endorsement of the project, Eastern capitalists will see that the residents of this section really desire a railway. We of the Council of the city and the County Board all feel that we are to have one of the finest railways in the country in that proposed through this section, and want your endorsement of the project. Railways are forerunner of civilization. On the completion of this railroad the cars will reach the city in half an hour, enabling the residents of this place to send their children to the schools of Milwaukee daily. If the residents of Cedarburg do not place themselves in track of civilization they will miss its advantages.

The speaker said he had been engaged in many railway enterprises in the Northern states, but had met few places enjoying the advantages of Cedarburg and its vicinity. It was not fair that so much wealth and so many natural advantages should nat have the benefit of a railway. While coming out with the Mayor he pointed out the weather-worn grading of the track of the old road, when gentlemen remarked that it was a shame that it had been idle so long. Cedarburg held the key to this northern line, and it was hoped that it would not hinder the work by refusing to vote the paltry sum of sixteen thousand dollars.

The Hon. E. D. Holton said he had no expectation of the beautiful ride he had enjoyed to Cedarburg when he left home in the morning - having accepted an invitation to fill the place of a citizen unable to come because of illness. He was very happy to be at Cedarburg, and was agreeably surprised at its growth since his left visit twenty-five years ago. he then became acquainted with Messrs. Horn, Hilgen, McElroy, Thomas and others, and since that time, while engaged in business at Milwaukee, had often conversed with them, but never dreamt that they had built up a beautiful town, with substantial residences, stores, banks and mills. Here is Mr. Hilgen, with his family of nine children, hale and hearty, comfortably settled, and the proprietor of one of the finest woolen mills in the state. The speaker reiterated that he was pleased to be with this old friends, and stated that his first visit to Cedarburg was on invitation of Col. Ben. Moore, with whom he had business relations. He made his way on horseback and spent a very agreeable evening. The mill of Mr. Moore, he understood, passed into the hands of Mr. Wells.

The speaker informed the audience, though not directly interested in the enterprise, he was a hearty supporter of the project. To reference to the old road he said that he was a friend of law and thought it was a great mistake that the assignees or creditors of that road were allowed to take up their iron and ties. We have slept for fifteen years, and think it about time to forget disappointment, and carry the work to a successful issue. the party was not here to take money out of the pockets of the people. Yonder sits the Mayor of the city -- there the Supervisors, and here the representatives of the press. They are here for business - none of these men are thieves.

The business of this section should go to Milwaukee, where it belonged. Milwaukee deserved it as the metropolis of the state. When Governor Randall returned from Europe he visited the residence of Mr. Holton, and during his conversation on matters connected with his tour on the continent, remarked that after all Milwaukee was one of the finest cities on the face of the globe. During his late visit to New Orleans the speaker met Jonathan Taylor, formerly a contractor in the city, and asked him where he lived. He replied, “Mr. Holton, I live in Milwaukee.”

As he had said before, the citizens of Cedarburg ought to have had the road fifteen years ago. He was amazingly astonished to find a road graded almost fifteen miles without taking advantage of it. The people must take this matter into their own hands - must, in fact, have such control over the road that they can govern the timetable and send in a number of rapid trains every day. The of sixteen thousand dollars was a mere trifle to vote in aid of so important as enterprise. There were residents of Cedarburg who could give fifteen thousand dollars without injuring themselves. Mr. Holton said he was well acquainted with Mr. Hilbert, engineer of the road, having known him since the early days of railroading in Wisconsin. he was a prominent citizen of Milwaukee, and one whose statements of the advantages of the road could be fully relied upon, because of his great experience in these matters. Cedarburg is called upon to endorse the project so that capitalism may become interested in the enterprise. Because we were once the dupes of designing men was no reason why we should allow a golden opportunity to pass us, especially when the enterprise is in a measure subject to the control of the people, as in the present case. He would not detain the audience to argue the advantages of the Northern Railway, more than to say that in case of its completion, Cedarburg will have a population of five thousand inhabitants, every man, woman and child adding wealth to the community. the company had a fine depot in the Second Ward, and the use of four miles of track, which was a glorious beginning in a new railway enterprise. Mr. Holton gave the people an inkling of the difficulties experienced in the first railroad enterprise, the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Railway, in which he was one of the prime movers and subscribed five thousand dollars, half of his fortune at the time. How he went from house to house to solicit aid, how they fought the sheriffs who were after the company on their short time mortgages, and held them at bay until the indebtedness of the road was met. He also drew a picture of the enterprise of the people of mountainous Switzerland.

In conclusion the speaker urged the people to lay aside their prejudices. The businessmen of Milwaukee were to be met - and they meant business. The men who are at the head and front of the project are strong and worthy citizens, who will see that every dollar put into their hands will be spent in the interest of the railway. It remains for the people of the town to say whether it shall pass through the village or upon the other side. Sixteen thousand dollars could not be invested in a better or more profitable way than in subscriptions to the stock of a good railway. The Prairie du Chien Railway, which cost $8,000,000, now stands on the books of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company at $16,000,000, and pays good dividends on that amount. The speaker thanked the audience for their patience, and urged them to remember and ponder upon what had been said by the gentlemen who had preceded him.

Mayor Phillips was introduced to the people by the Hon. Fred Horn. He said that he had received rather an unexpected call to visit Cedarburg while engaged at his office in the morning, and was glad to be present to enter his hearty endorsement of the gentlemen who had preceded him. He had not as thoroughly posted himself upon the merits of the route as he should have done, and introduced Supervisor Walters as one more conversant with the project. Mayor Phillips spoke in German.

Supervisor Walter gave the audience an outlines of the proposition to the County Board of Milwaukee. Here the subject had been referred to a special committee of which he happened to be a member. They held a meeting on Friday afternoon, without arriving at a definite conclusion. The committee would report at the meeting of the Board. He did not feel authorized to state what the decision would be. Mr. Walter spoke in German, and closed his remarks with an anecdote, in which he was an actor in 1839. He had been out hunting, and while sitting on a log to rest, heard a man crying as if his heart would break. On investigation he found a countryman sitting by the roadside blubbering because his team was bemired. Laughing at so ridiculous a scene, he stirred the countryman to action, and, with the aid of a sapling as a lever, soon had the fellow on his way whistling at his good fortune. He asked the audience to apply the moral. If they desired to prosper they must put their shoulders to the wheel. the happy manner in which Mr. Walter gave the anecdote, and his quaint way of stating its moral, elicited great applause.

Upon the close of Mr. Walter's remarks the meeting broke up, the party adjourning to the hotel, where a short time was spent in social intercourse, after which they repaired to their carriages, which were seen speeding on their way to the city. All expressed themselves heartily pleased with the trip and their kind reception by the people of Cedarburg.


(The Milwaukee Sentinel, 6 February 1865)

According to previous notice, a large number of the business men interested in the water powers on Cedar Creek and the Milwaukee River, met with other citizens, from the the southern part of Ozaukee county, in the village of Cedarburg, on the evening of Wednesday, the 1st day of February inst.: and on motion
Frederic Hilgen was appointed Chairman, and P. F. Kaehler, Secretary.
The chairman and others having stated the object of the meeting, a committee of three, consisting of Messrs. J. W. Horn, Wm. Vogenitz and James Boyd, was appointed to report resolution, who brought in the following:

Resolved, That the citizens of the southern part of Ozaukee county do hereby recommend, that if a railroad should be built from Milwaukee to some point northwest of our portion of this county, that the water powers at and near Cedar Creek and Milwaukee river be made a point through which said railroad should go; that the water powers about here are second only to those on the Fox river, in this state, and a very large business would be done on said road from this neighborhood; that the rail line to Fond du Lac from Milwaukee strikes only one mile west of the village of Cedarburg, and that a better or profitable route could be found to make it a paying road.

Resolved, That we most respectfully and ______ request the Legislature go to dispose of the Land Grant given the State of Wisconsin _____ ____ as to benefit the State and especially the lake shore and northwestern counties, who are as yet without railroad facilities, and when we take into consideration, that the northeastern counties through which the Chicago and Northwestern road now runs, will be under the control of a monopoly, unless that road is intersected at some point leading by another route from Milwaukee, it becomes their duty, and is the interest of the inhabitants of that portion, to assist ___ in building the road from Milwaukee.

Resolved, That our Representatives in the Legislature are requested to act in conformity of the views expressed in the foregoing resolutions.

After a short discussion, said resolutions were unanimously adopted, and the meeting adjourned for further action until Monday evening next at seven o'clock at the same place.


P. F. KAEHLER, Sec'y.

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