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"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"

Railroads

(-as transcribed from pages 311 - 312)


If any one should undertake to give a history of all the railroad projects involving Eau Claire that have alternately elevated and depressed the hopes of its citizens, it would fill a large volume. There is not room here to mention even the names of the various companies, or the character of their several schemes. What has actually been done can only be mentioned. Not until 1870, on August 11, was Eau Claire connected by iron bands with the rest of the country.

On that day the West Wisconsin Railroad, from the southeast, began regular service. This road is now in the hands of the Chicago, St. Paul Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad Company, and runs two passenger trains each day between Minneapolis and Chicago. There is also a railroad to Chippewa Falls, which was originally built and commenced running, December 16, 1874, as a local road. This road is a part of the Wisconsin Central system, branching from the main line at Abbotsford, on the east of Clark County.

A line of the West Wisconsin Railroad, now operated by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha, passes through the county diagonally, from southeast to northwest, passing through Fairchild, Bridge Creek, Lincoln, Washington, Eau Claire and Union, with stations at Fairchild, Augusta, Fall Creek and Eau Claire, and being on the direct line between Chicago and St. Paul, the railroad service is prompt and efficient.

The Spur Track. - This is a local line. It starts from the West Eau Claire depot of the Northwestern road, and runs through and across various streets and avenues until it reaches Shawtown. It is of great advantage to the business of the Sixth Ward particularly. The cost of the construction of this track was $47,000. It was completed in 1880. In the Summer of 1881, it extended quite a distance into the milling district.

In June of this year, the Chippewa Valley and Lake Superior Railroad Company was organized, and surveyors placed on the line to locate it between the city and the Mississippi River. The first directors were: J. C. Easton, Minnesota; L. C. Easton, Minnesota; John Johnson, Milwaukee; John W. Carey, Milwaukee; William Wilson, Menomonie; Daniel Shaw, Eau Claire; W. A. Rust, Eau Claire. The alleged design being to build a road at once to the Mississippi, with a branch to Menomonie, and ultimately on to Lake Superior, near the Chippewa River, as the first part of the route.

On the 11th of August, 1870, the completion of the West Wisconsin Railroad to Eau Claire was celebrated with great enthusiasm, in a style of magnificence which bewildered the large number of guests from Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and many other places. Arrangements were begun on the 25th of July, a committee of thirteen was appointed, special committees were announced, and the whole village went to work. The day was beautiful; the people turned out en masse. J. G. Thorp was president of the day. The procession was more than two miles long. The whole valley and neighborhood turned out. Alexander Meggett was the orator of the day, and his oration was in his best vein. Ten tables were arranged, with seventy plates each, the whole spread in faultless taste by the fair women of the village, and it was estimated that there was $20,000 worth of silver on the tables, and that from the bountiful repast nearly 10,000 people were fed. Gov. Fairchild and wife, and a long list of invited guests, who could not conceal their utter astonishment at finding such an array of beauty and luxuriance in the backwoods of northern Wisconsin. The toasts were appropriate, and happily responded to. This was only twenty years from the time the land was put in the market by the Government. The opening of railroad communication with the outside world was indeed a memorable event, and most fittingly was it celebrated.


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