Goc, Michael J. / From past to present : the history of Adams County
Railroads in Adams County, pp. 82-109 PDF (20.7 MB)
Railroads in Adams County On The "Air Line" "Nothing is more conspicuous in the development of a country than the building of railroads...nothing in the way of products or resources begins to count until the railroads come along.... then new towns spring up almost in a night, rich farms are developed, factories are put in operation and the wilderness becomes a garden of wealth." (J.E. Jones, Kilbourn Events, 1910) A dams was the last county in Wis- consin to have a railroad within its borders, but the history of railroading here is almost as old as the history of railroading in the entire state. It begins in 1856, with settlement underway in Adams County, and one of Wisconsin's first railroads, the La Crosse and Milwaukee, laying track across the state After reaching Portage, work on the "La Crosse Road" halted while engineers looked for an opportune place to cross the Wisconsin River and management searched for a way the all but broke railroad could finance it. The President of the La Crosse and Milwaukee was Byron Kilbourn, one of the founders of Milwaukee and a genuine American "robber baron." He was an avid perpetrator of the farm mort- gage scheme, whereby farmers in the area where a railroad was proposed would finance construction by buying railroad stock. Since cash money was short, the farmers had to mortgage their land to buy stock. Acting as broker, the railroad would then sell the mortgage notes to eastern financiers and use the cash to acquire right-of-way, lay track, purchase equipment and pay a good salary to executives like Byron Kilbourn. Interest on the mortgages, plus earnings for the farmers, would be paid by divi- dends from the railroad when it started operating. If and when the railroad earned a profit, as it would no doubt, so would the farmers--at least according to the sales pitch. Stock salesmen fanned out from Portage into Sauk, Columbia, Juneau and Adams counties, where the settlers would have agreed with J.E. Jones had they heard him say that, "Nothing is more conspicuous in the development of a country than the building of railroads..." In Sauk County, the stock salesmen told 82 Above: Walking the tracks shortly after the Adams depot was completed in 1911 was a pastime county people awaited for over sixty years.
This material may be protected by copyright law (e.g., Title 17, US Code)