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A Tragedy in the Capitol

from Leading Events of Wisconsin History
by Henry E. Legler   1898

Much acrimonious discussion was excited during the session of the territorial legislature in 1842 by the nominations for office submitted by Gov. Doty. On the 7th of February the bitterness thus engendered caused one member of the council to shoot a fellow member dead. James R. Vineyard represented Iowa county and Charles C. P. Arndt was the member from Brown. They were warm personal friends until the scramble for office led them to take opposite sides. The governor had sent in the name of Enos S. Baker for sheriff of Grant county. A bitter debate followed. Arndt made a sarcastic statement concerning his colleague Vineyard, and the latter retorted in anger that the statement was a falsehood. Order was restored, and a motion was made to adjourn. Before the vote could be announced, a confusion of voices in the neighborhood of Vineyard's desk interrupted proceedings. Words in a high key were passed, and most of the members arose to crowd around the disputants.

"Order! order!" called out Moses M. Strong, another member.

"Order! order!" repeated the president.

Amid much confusion the council adjourned. Arndt advanced again toward Vineyard's desk, demanding to know whether the latter had imputed to him falsehood in his remarks.

"They were false," Vineyard retorted.

Arndt struck Vineyard on the forehead. The report of a pistol followed, and Arndt reeled towards the fireplace. He fell into the arms of a fellow-member and in five minutes was dead.

Vineyard surrendered himself to the sheriff. His wife shared his incarceration in jail until his release on $10,000 bail. From his jail quarters, Vineyard sent his resignation to the council. It was not accepted; instead he was expelled by a vote of 10 to 1 and his seat was declared vacant. A grand jury returned a bill for man-slaughter. He was tried, and the jury acquitted him. The trial occurred in Green county, Vineyard having secured a change of venue from Dane on the ground of the prejudice of the people.

Legler, Henry E. Leading Events of Wisconsin History. Milwaukee: Sentinel, 1898. 196-197.
From the Stacks of Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin, Madison: Reference F 581 L4.