Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
Chapter 23: More Historical Papers
The Green Bay & Western Railroad
-As transcribed from pages 905 - 908
The Green Bay & Western Railroad has been one of the principal factors in the development of central Trempealeau County. Incorporated by special Act of the Wisconsin Legislature, the company was, April 12, 1866, chartered as the Green Bay & Lake Pepin Railway Company, with Wabasha as its objective western terminal. Four miles were graded in 1869 and 30 miles in 1870. Track laying was commenced in the fall of 1871, and completed 39 miles from Green Bay to New London, Dec. 20, 1871. Four days later the first passengers were carried by special train. During the summer of 1872, 110 miles between New London and Merrillan Junction, in Jackson County, were graded and the tracks laid. The whole work was completed at 5 o'clock on the afternoon of Dec. 24, 1872. During the summer and fall of 1873 the tracks were graded and iron laid from Merrillan Junction to Marshland, where connections were made with the old La Crosse, Trempealeau & Prescott Railroad, now the Madison division of the Chicago & North Western. The first regular passenger service between Green Bay and Winona was inaugurated Dec. 18, 1873. Sept. 5, 1873, the name was changed to the Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad. At that time it was believe that the road would be consolidated with the Winona & St. Peter, John I. Blair being a large stockholder in both roads. But the Chicago & North Western absorbed the Winona & St. Peter, and the Green Bay was left to its own devices. The struggle was a severe one. Running through 209 miles of a new and sparsely settle country, the receipts were not sufficient to maintain it. January 24, 1878, it went into the hands of a receiver and remained in the receiver's hands until sold, Oct. 15. Jan. 20, 1881, it was sold to John I. Blair, representing the bondholders, and reorganized as the Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul Railway Company. Articles of incorporation dated May 6, 1881, filed in Wisconsin May 16, 1881. The company defaulted on bond interest and the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company was appointed Trustee in Possession, the trusteeship continuing from March 23, 1885, to Oct 25, 1886. A second default was made on the bond interest and the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company again appointed Trustee in Possession. Trusteeship from Aug. 1, 1890, to June 10, 1896. The property was sold under foreclosure May 12, 1896, to Mark T. Cox and tohers. The deed of sale from Mark T. Cox and others to the Green Bay & Western Railroad Company is dated June 5, 1896.
In 1891 a spur track was completed from Marshland to East Winona, and the Winona terminal was established at the Burlington station instead of at the North Wester station.
At the time of building the Green Bay & Western Railroad through the fertile Trempealeau Valley in 1873, the now prosperous cities of Dodge, Arcadia, Whitehall and Blair were but little hamlets. Little was known of them for the reason they were so small, one passing through the country would not consider a few houses grouped together as of sufficient importance to give them a name.
The railroad crossed the Jackson and Trempealeau County line three miles east of the now prosperous city of Blair, which was so named in honor of the famous and well-known pioneer railroad builder of the West, Hon. John I. Blair, of Blairstown, N. J. He was the first man of great wealth who, far in advance of the times, realized the vastness of the great Northwest and lavishly advanced his money in building railroads to develop the country now so fertile. He trused with unerring judgment to the future to bring returns on his investments, and, thanks to the all-wise Providence, his life was spared to see his judgment confirmed and his investments in several of his railroads, notably the Chicago & North Western Railway, bring ample returns, for he lived to the ripe old age of ninety-five years.
At the time the railroad passed the present location of Blair, there were but a few scattering farm houses, and the store of T. I. Gilbwert, which was at the west limits of the present village. The first store in the village was built by C. C. Hanson and T. I. Gilbert in 1874, and was burned in the fire of 1891. Blair is now a very thriving village of about 700 people, doing a large business in general farm products.
The next hamlet passed by the railroad on its westerly course was what is now known as Whitehall, a beautiful and thriving little city of about 1,000 souls, on a broad, flat plateau of land between picturesque hills on the north and south sides and is the county seat of Trempealeau County, the county seat having been moved there from Arcadia in 1878. The first store was built by H. E. Getts in 1874 and still stands just north of the John O. Melby Bank. At the time of the advent of the railroad there was but one farm house to mark the location. Like Blair, it derives its support from the rich farming land surrounding it in every direction and from the very fertile Pigeon Creek Valley leading to the northeast.
Independence, the next thriving little city six miles west of Whitehall, was a farm owned by Jake Pampuch at the time the railroad was built and until it was bought by D. M. Kelley in 1876, and thre present village of Independence was platted May 30. There are about 900 people living in this village, which is supported by a very rich farming community.
Arcadia, eight miles to the west, with a population of 1,200, is a very prosperous city. At the time of the building of the railroad there was a little hamlet about one mile to the southeast of the present business location of Arcadia. The first store was built by A. F. Hensel in 1874 and was operated as a general store by Bohri Bros. The first elevator was built in 1873 by Remby, Canterberry & Smith on the site now occupied by the W. P. Massuere & Co. elevator. The same year Elmore & Kelley, of Green Bay, Wis., built an elevator at Arcadia, they being the first two elevators built along the line of the railroad in Trempealeau County. Arcadia was for a time the county seat, having been moved there from the village of Galesville, wher it was located for many years. It is supported by a very large area of very productive farming land.
From Arcadia westward the railroad followed the low land bordering on the Trempealeau River, which in the early days got on an annual rampage at the opening of the spring and caused very great damage to the railroad, notably in the great floods of March, 1876, when the railroad between Arcadia and Marshland was nearly obliterated and was out of commission for two months.
Thirteen miles to the west of Arcadia we arrive at the village of Dodge, at the west side of Trempealeau County. It was named in honor of William E. Dodge, of New York City, a prominent financier for many years. He was associated with John I. Blair, Moses Taylor, Joseph H. Scranton, E. F. Hatfield and many other well-known financiers of New York in the pioneer railroad building of the West. He was also connected with many philanthropic institutions and at one time was treasurer of Protestant Syrian College at Constantinople, Turkey. Unfortunately for the village of Dodge, it was located too near the city of Winona, Minn., where the farm products were mostely marketed. However, within the last few years conditions have changed and the business has improved very much.
From Dodge the railroad passes into Buffalo County and soon passes over the Father of Waters into the beautiful city of Winona, Minn., the history of which is well known.
- by F. B. Seymour, Oct. 10, 1917.
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