After weeks and months and years of disappointments and heart burnings, the time had actually arrived for substantial and real operations. Dirt was about to be thrown from its resting place and grades made for railroad beds and tracks. Hence, the people of Sheboygan took on a spirit of hopefulness and gaiety, when the word came that work was to be started on the first railroad to be built in the county.
In the spring of 1856, a contract had been made with Edward Appleton & Company, for building the road to the present village of Glenbeulah, but many obstacles were encountered and the road was not completed to Glenbeulah until the spring of 1860. However, when the work did commence, no thought of its being interrupted was entertained and on the 4th day of June, 1856, the citizens of Sheboygan indulged in a little glorification by way of celebrating the breaking of ground on the Sheboygan and Mississippi railroad, an event which had long been talked of and labored for.
About ten o'clock A. M. the German Rifle Company, the Turners, Fire Engine Company and Hook and Ladder Company formed in procession. George Throup acted as marshal and, followed by a large number of citizens on foot and in carriages, marched to the spot where the contractor intended to commence grading, a short distance west of the Seeley hill in the town of Sheboygan. Here the gathering was addressed by Messrs. David Taylor, Bille Williams, A. P. Lyman and A. Marschner in German. Ground was then broken by three of the oldest residents, William Farnsworth assuming the pick, Stephen Wolverton the shovel, and Henry Otten engineering the barrow, amid the repeated cheers of the assembly.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, refreshments were served in a grove near by. A ball at the National Hotel in the evening concluded the celebration.
The following year the company was reorganized under the name of the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad Company, by the choice of S. P. Benson as president, and J. O. Thayer, secretary and treasurer.
By 1869 the road was opened through to Fond du Lac. Later the road was sold to the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company.
There seems to have been a large number of people anxious to build a railroad during the '50s. In 1852 the Cascade & Lake Michigan Railroad Company was incorporated, E. F. Cook being the promoter. The road was to be built from Sheboygan to the village of Cascade, a distance of about sixteen miles.
In 1853 the Sheboygan & Appleton Railroad Company was incorporated; A. P. Lyman, D. Taylor, A. L. McCrea, P. H. Smith and others as commissioners. The road was to be built from Sheboygan to Appleton and thence to some point on Lake Superior.
In 1857 the Sheboygan & Horicon Railroad Company was incorporated. D. Taylor, C. Mercer, P. Ernst, C. T. Moore, D. Giddings and others were appointed commissioners. The road was to be built from Sheboygan through the village of Sheboygan Falls, and then to Horicon, in Dodge county.
The Milwaukee & Superior Railroad Company was incorporated in 1856. The road was to be built from Milwaukee north, through the city of Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Green Bay to Superior. A preliminary survey was made over a part of the route and some grading done.
The Milwaukee & Northern Railroad Company, which was incorporated in 1870, immediately organized and let contracts for building the road. The road was built from Milwaukee north to Green Bay, entering Sheboygan county near the west shore of Random Lake, in the town of Sherman, it extended thence north through the towns of Sherman, Lyndon, Plymouth and Rhine. They utilized part of the grading, done by the Milwaukee & Superior Railroad Company. Trains were run to Plymouth in February, 1872.
In 1874 the road was leased to the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company and operated by them for a number of years. Later the road became a part of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company's system.
The Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad Company was incorporated in 1870. They were empowered to build and operate a railroad from Milwaukee, in the county of Milwaukee, running thence northerly through the counties of Ozaukee (to Port Washington, within three quarters of a mile of said village) and Sheboygan, to the cities of Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and northerly to Green Bay.
An organization was effected immediately and the work of building begun, but interruption occurred, and it was in November, 1872, when the first train was run to Sheboygan. The road was afterward united with the Appleton & New London Railroad Company and reorganized under the name of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad Company. In 1891 the road became a part of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company's system.
In 1889 the necessity of better railroad facilities for the city of Sheboygan began to attract the attention of the business men of that city and a company was formed and preliminary surveys made from Sheboygan to Waldo.
With the transfer of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, to the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, the necessity of better railway facilities became more evident and in 1893 J. Donohue, in company with others, offered to build a railroad from Sheboygan to connect with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, then the Milwaukee Nortliern, at some point near Waldo, providing the city of Sheboygan would donate $40,000 to aid in the construction of the same. About this time Mr. Cameron appeared and organized a company under the name of Sheboygan, St. Paul & Central Railway Company, and offered to build a railroad connecting Sheboygan with the Milwaukee & Northern Railway at some point near Waldo, providing the city of Sheboygan would donate to them $35,000. The city accepted the latter offer.
The Sheboygan, St. Paul & Central Railway Company surveyed a line from Sheboygan southwesterly through the villages of Ourtown and Hingham, to a point on the Milwaukee & Northern Railway, about one mile north of Random Lake. Considerable grading was done on this line, but as the company had no financial standing, and could probably not make any arrangements with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, the plan was abandoned.
On September 22, 1885, a franchise was granted for a street railway. The cars were drawn by horses and mules and covered but a small territory. In 1895 H. G. Northrup was granted a franchise for a trolley system of street railways, but before he had completed the innovation he transferred his interests to the Sheboygan Light, Power and Railway Company. The tracks were extended to other streets and for some time past the city has had excellent service.
In 1901 the city granted a franchise to John M. Saemann and P. P. Brickbauer for an electric interurban railway, to connect the city with Plymouth, Crystal Lake and Elkhart Lake and in the fall of that year cars were running to the towns mentioned, with the exception of Elkhart Lake. A branch was built from Plymouth and operated to Elkhart Lake in 1909, the first car reaching that popular summer resort on June 12th of the year mentioned. Previous to this, however, an electric line had been built from Sheboygan to Milwaukee. These interurbans are very generously patronized, thus showing the great appreciation of the people of the county.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL