ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


C. M. & St. Paul Railway


Purchased Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad




The Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad (single track), later the C. M. & St. Paul, was begun in 1851, and finished by 1855.  The funds were raised by subscriptions, and each contributed in his particular line, such as carts from the wagon makers, harnesses from the harness makers, cattle, horses, pork, oats, etc. from the farmers. This was given to the contractors in payment for the work. Some people even mortgaged their farms to aid in the construction of the railroad which at times was in great financial trouble, but pulled out of bankruptcy.  The east-bound track was constructed in 1902.


Depot opened.




The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company are now laying the foundation of an extensive blacksmith shop on the west side of the river.  The new building will be brick, 100 feet long, 35 feet wide and a story and a half high.   WD



05 19       N. W. Pierce, ticket agent at the Junction   WR




Watertown is beautifully situated on both sides of Rock river, in the northern part of Jefferson county and the southern part of Dodge county.  It is on the line of the La Crosse division of the C. M. & St. Paul Railway, 43 miles from Milwaukee and 152 from La Crosse.  A branch of this line extends from Watertown to Madison, the Capitol of the state, distant 37 miles.  The Chicago & North Western Railway passes through here, terminating at Green Bay, 112 miles north. 


Watertown was laid out about the year 1836.  In 1840 a part of the town was laid out in blocks and town lots, Milo Jones of Fort Atkinson being the surveyor.  After that the town took a fresh start, and the surrounding country began to settle up with farmers.


The streets are laid out at right angles, and are broad and pleasant.  One of the crowning glories of the city is the profusion of shrubbery everywhere prevalent, lining the streets on either side, and in the door [house] yards, forest and ornamental trees vie with each other in giving a home-like appearance, and in the spring and summer there is such a wilderness of foliage as to almost obscure the houses. 


The streets are well provided with substantial side-walks, usually kept in good repair, and afford many attractive promenades and drives. 


The principal streets are Main on the east, and West Avenue on the west of Rock river, upon either side of which are fine business houses and blocks, and many of them of beautiful design and finish.    Madison City Directory, 1875-6.



07 01       The most extensive conflagration that ever visited Watertown occurred last Thursday night at 11:30 o'clock, by the burning of the rail mill, machine shop, carpenter shop and blacksmith shop of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway situated at the junction in the Third ward.



07 20       Jonas Sleeper 1939-1888.  In 1860 he came to Watertown; agent of C. M. & St. Paul Railway. Co.    WG




If reports are true, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. mean business in their movements here.  Surveyors were running lines yesterday on both sides of the river, and it is given out that the company has bought the right of way across the Rogan water reserve in the Third ward, and has purchased the Jesse Bennett lots near the Junction, transactions quite significant and suggestive in connection with some other matters of a like import, all going to show that something is going to be done here very soon to facilitate shipping freight and the better accommodations of our manufacturing of our establishments.   WR




It is expected that the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company will again the coming season make this city the headquarters for a number of work trains which will be employed at further improving the roadbed both east and west of here.  At present a force of men is engaged in distributing heavy new steel rails which will be laid from this city westward as soon as the ground is settled.  The Chicago & Northwestern Company, it is reported, will also improve its roadbed between Janesville and Fond du Lac this season by laying new rails.  The demands made by these two companies, as well as the contemplated street improvements here, will render the season a very busy one for the Watertown laboring man.




At about 3 o’clock last Sunday morning passenger train No. 56 going east on the C.M.&St.P.Ry. ran into a freight train on the C.&M.W.R. going south at the junction of the two roads in this city.  The engine and the baggage car of the St. Paul train, and two freight cars on the C.&M.W. train were very badly damaged.  Art. J. Moulding was the conductor on the passenger train, and James Carroll, was engineer.  Carroll and his fireman jumped before the train struck, the engine landing in a cinder pit, and the fireman on a C. &N. Ry. box car.  Neither one was injured and the passengers in the coaches escaped unhurt, not knowing for some time what had happened.  The accident occurred by the failure of the air brakes to work as the passenger train was nearing the crossing.  The morning was wet and the rails somewhat icy and slippery.  Wrecking trains arrived on the scene from Milwaukee and Janesville, and the track was open for traffic in a short time.   WG




    From Watertown Gazette, Friday March 13, 1908


E. R. Maxwell of Portage visited our city recently.  ‘Zeke’ is an old-time railroad machinist and worked in the shops here in early wood-burning days, when it was “up high” and “bark side down.”  His coming reminded us of a letter we received from Jas. Nellins, Jr., several years ago, the substance of which is as follows:


Minneapolis, Nov. 3rd, 1904




Friend James: -- You recall a talk we had when I was in Watertown last August concerning the first seven engines owned by what is now the C.M. & St. P. Ry. Co.  I saw Mr. J. O. Pattee and he is quite positive that the locomotives on the Milwaukee & Western were arranged as follows:


     L. A. Cole, No. 1

     Oconomowoc, No. 2

     Watertown, No. 3

     Columbus, No. 4

     Hercules, No. 5

     Nebraska, No. 6

     Fowler, No. 7


Mr. Pattee claims that although thirty-five years have passed, yet those matters are quite clear to his mind at the present day, 1904.  He readily recalled the names of the men who handled those engines, and during our talk he became quite reminiscent of his early days in Watertown, and the following engineers:  Chas. Sanborn, Pat Lyons, Luther Sanborn, J. K. Tremaine, George Buck, O. J. C. Hammond and O. W. Washburn, appeared right before him at this day, just as they looked in their young manhood.  It was during the winter of 1859-60 that Mr. Pattee and Henry Sage were promoted to take the places of George Buck and O. J. C. Hammond.  Mr. Pattee says that the “Oconomowoc” No. 2, was changed and named “S. L. Rose” when the Rose and Jackson crowd got control of the road, also that the S. L. Rose and the Fowler were small “14x20” engines built by the Niles Loco. Works and the other five were “Menomonee’s” built in Milwaukee.


As you know the original road ran from Brookfield Junction to Watertown, and then extended to Columbus, and in the year 1858 the Rose Jackson crowd got control and changed the name to Milwaukee, Watertown and Baraboo Valley, and started to build to Sun Prairie and this big piece of work was finished late in 1859.  In 1860 cuts were changed and the line got in shape to run trains over it at 15 miles per hour.  Baraboo was the objective point, but was never reached.  Owing to the Civil War so disturbing the financial condition of the country, all this worked stopped.  Some of the old-timers think that three of the engines were from the old “Niles” shops also that the “Rose and Jackson gang” stole the road.  The locomotives were fired up on Sunday, each and every one were run out of the “shed” manned by the engineers and fireman who were protected by squads of a German Military Co. known as the “Schwartzer Jaegers” of Watertown.  Each engine was loaded with a dozen or more soldiers, with their big hats and muskets very prominent from all points of view.


I well remember when an engine No. 80 was built in the Watertown railroad shops, and named E. M. Hall, he who was master mechanic of the road and shops.  The family lived in the house now occupied by Wm. Quentmeyer.  A boilermaker, Thomas Tong tried to kick a lot of small boys off the flat cars that made up an excursion train to Waterloo when this celebrated locomotive made its first trip, but the boys got out there in spite of his watchfulness.  I remember that I squatted down and hid right under the seat where Judge H. S. Orton was speaking to the crowd.  They had “oceans of beer” on the shop grounds that day, a thing that if any one tried to do now, would result in his being kicked off the premises.  We all got to Waterloo safely and I recollect how Mr. Pattee and Andrew McElroy were marching right behind the Watertown Brass Band.  Mr. Wm. Quentmeyer was blowing the big bass horn and Mr. Pattee spied a small pumpkin alongside of a fence in the field.  He said to McElroy what a joke it would be to toss that pumpkin into the big end of Quentmeyer’s horn.  McElroy said “I will do it” and do you believe he did.  They jumped over the fence, picked the pumpkin and dumped it into the horn, much to the chagrin of Mr. Quentmeyer, but it created lots of fun for all of us who were looking on.


There are so many incidents of early days that come to my mind at times, that I often wish I had an old Watertown man to talk with about them, and on a day like this, while writing this letter, I must admit that I am just a little homesick to have a few hours in the good old town and talk over the days of “Jint ahid and Sinder Back!”


                Yours very respectfully,

                James Nellins


*No. 89 was not the only locomotive built in the railway shops here.  They also constructed Nos. 40, 42, 60 and 80, and rebuilt engines by the dozen.  Of the old engineers mentioned by Mr. Pattee before his death in conversation with friend Nellins — C. W. Washburn and James K. Tremaine are the only ones now living.  Mr. T. visited relatives in Watertown a few years ago, and Mr. Washburn is frequently welcomed here.




Thursday afternoon, a tramp who gave his name as Ole Larason and his home as Minneapolis, was quite severely injured while attempting to get onto a moving freight train on the C. M. St. P. railroad near the east side depot.


He was brought to the city hall and taken into the office of Chief of police Block and Dr. F. C. Moulding, the surgeon of the road summoned, who upon examination found two of the bones in his right foot badly crushed, which would in his judgment, necessitate an amputation of the foot. He dressed the wound and made the poor fellow as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and at 7 o'clock in the evening he was taken to the Northwestern depot enroute to the poor farm at Jefferson.


The unfortunate is a Norwegian and speaks but little of the English language and through an interpreter it was learned his name, residence and the name of his son Carl Olson 1102 Camdem Place, Minneapolis, also that in a small town near Chicago he was robbed of his watch and five dollars in money by two negro roughs and was trying to beat his way back to his home.


It was quite probable that he had ridden for a long distance and being cold and stiffened got off the train to exercise and get his blood into circulation and was injured in his endeavor to get upon the train again. As the poor fellow had no money with which to buy smoking tobacco, Dr. Moulding generously gave him the money with which to buy a supply.




One day last week when it was desperate hot - just sizzled - there was not a bus at the St. Paul depot at the time of the arrival of the 12:44 passenger train and those who came had to walk to their homes or the homes of their friends.


Emil Pehl, proprietor of the Commercial Bus Line says that this statement is not true, as his bus line meets all regular trains.  On Saturday there was a special train at 12:10 p.m., on which several passengers arrived, but that was not known in time for the bus driver to make it. Mr. Pehl says if those who make the statements will inform him in what time special trains are due here he will meet them as well as all regular trains.


- The Bus Driver




The C.M&St.P. Ry. Co. is building a carpenter shop on the site of the old rolling mill near the junction, which in time may develop to large proportions.


The company has also established temporary bridge repair works south of the depot, and the Dornfeld-Kunert Co. has contracted to repair bridges that the company brings into the city for repairs.  One bridge was recently brought here on eight flat cars.  The paint is taken from the iron work by means of a sand blast, and when removed the iron looks like polished steel.  It is quite interesting to watch the work being done.   WG


1907       Is the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul road discriminating against Watertown? 


1908       Chicago, Milwaukee& St. Paul road took over the entire chain of hotels and eating houses, together with the new distribution system, along its line.



C.&N.W. Ry. and C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight trains


At 1 o'clock last Saturday afternoon a double-header freight train on the C.&N.W. Ry. going north ran into a C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight going east at the railway crossing at the Junction (Union Depot).  No one was injured, but one of the C.&N.W. engines and a number of coaches were badly wrecked.  Conductor W. F. Clasen and Engineer Chas. Burmaster had charge of the C.M.&St.P. freight, and D. F. Harrison and C. F. Dunwiddie had charge of the Northwestern.  WG



03 26       Wells Fargo took charge of the express business on the C.M.&St. Paul lines   WG


06 04       James Mortenson, 33 year employee, died   WG



12 31       EXHIBIT CAR








Chas. McLaughlin, son of John McLaughlin of this city, has recently been promoted from freight to passenger conductor on the C. M. & St. P. Ry.  Charley is one of the best and most faithful men in the employ of that road, and has served the company well for over 22 years, hence has well earned his promotion.  His host of friends in Watertown and elsewhere extend to him most hearty congratulations.   WG



11 25       Death of Herman Block, detective for C.M.&St. Paul Ry. Co, former Watertown Chief of Police   WG




The following article about train service in Watertown, appeared in Sunday's issue of the Wisconsin State Journal.  The article was written by Charles Fulkerson of the State Journal staff and was accented with three pictures in the Journal.


WATERTOWN - Richard Seivert pushed the frigid switch handle with his padded mittens, spreading a snow crusted rail.


A hopper car rolled through the switch, its screeching wheels drowning out the bleating horn of a diesel. 


It was 1 p.m. and Seivert, 26, was nearing the end of his work day on a four-man switch engine crew operating out of Watertown.


He trudged to the station to meet engineer Brian Reynolds, 27.  The two joked about a beer commercial featuring a railroad crew, and then Seivert turned momentarily serious.  "My own feeling is the railroads aren't going downhill.  Some day the United States is going to realize the railroad is the only way to go," he said earnestly.


But for Watertown, a manufacturing city of 15,000 on the Jefferson-Dodge County line, the railroad stopped being the only way to go years ago, and for passengers it became no way to go in 1972 when the last passenger train stopped here. 


In 1855, when the predecessor of the Milwaukee Road arrived here, Watertown was the second largest city in Wisconsin and according to local historian, James Rothschadl, city fathers had "really grandiose plans" for turning Watertown into the capital and metropolis of the state.


In 1859, the North Western Railway reached Watertown from Chicago, and the city's bustling future as a rail hub seemed assured.


But in their rush to get the railroads to Watertown, city fathers had underwritten bonds for the Milwaukee Road's predecessors and when the early railroads went broke, the creditors turned to the town officials for their money.


"For many years,"Rothschadl explained, "Watertown didn't have a functioning city government."  The public officials the town did have meetings seldom and in secret to dodge the creditors and their warrants.  The lack of stewardship- probably hurt the growth of the town, Rothschadl speculated.


The Milwaukee Road established a variety of railroad shops and rail mills employing more than 100, but by the turn of the century the railroad had moved the shops elsewhere, and Watertown's importance as a rail center was on the decline.


Today, trains are still numerous in Watertown. But, explained Jim Scribbins of the Milwaukee Road's corporate communications department, few of them stop.  "Practically all of the trains that pass through Watertown do exactly that.  They pass through.


However, Scribbins called Watertown, "a relatively important place on our railroad."


The L-shaped, stucco station at the junction of the Milwaukee Road and North Western Railway tracks is manned around the clock by a train operator who forwards written instructions to passing train crews and handles initial billing for freight customers in Watertown.


An ancient brick freight house south of the station once served as headquarters for a freight agent and three clerks.  But the freight house has been abandoned; its windows are shattered and trees are growing in the tracks behind the building.




Lewis R. Manthey has worked in Watertown since 1955 and for many years he sold tickets to the Hiawathas bound for Minneapolis and Seattle.


But the last Hiawatha passed through Watertown more than five years ago. Now Manthey's only contact with passengers and passenger trains is a cursory inspection of the wheels on the four daily Amtrak trains that roar through Watertown, leaving only swirling snow behind.


The Milwaukee Road station built in 1926 is headquarters for Manthey, signal maintainer, Ken Bornitzke and two switch engine crews that work out of Watertown.  In activity, it is a Grand Central

compared to the sleepy North Western station a quarter mile away.


Last spring the North Western removed the station agent from Watertown and 23 other stations in Wisconsin.  The North Western division manager concluded that the small town agent was excess baggage for the railroad.  "We just don't need people to do work in those stations anymore," he said.


William Konitzer, the agent forced to leave Watertown, sympathized with the railroad which claimed to be losing money.  "But the personal touch is lost this way, and who could put a price on the personal touch?" Konitzer asked.


The Northwestern still sends a train down to Watertown five days a week from Fond du Lac, but the tracks south of the city to Johnson Creek are snow covered and no longer used.


The North Western's Chicago connection from Watertown via Fort Atkinson and Janesville, once thought to be a boom for the town, was torn up last year.  The railroad has no plans, however, to tear up the tracks between Watertown and Johnson Creek, said James McDonald of the NorthWestern's public affairs office.


Manthey estimated that an average of 25 freight cars daily are dropped off and picked up in Watertown by the Milwaukee Road.  The city also is a junction point between the mainline and a branch that runs west to Waterloo, Sun Prairie and Madison.


Many cars dropped off in Watertown contain feed and corn syrup.  A malt company in Waterloo is a big rail customer.  A Watertown scrap dealer ships his product by rail and a furnace manufacturing company occasionally sends oversized furnaces out on rail flatcars.


Scribbins said the-railroad has no plans to centralize further the duties done by station operators and agents and apparently the jobs in the Watertown station are secure.  He ranked Watertown in importance as a mainline station behind La Crosse and Portage.


"The railroad is damn important to the community," said Paul Kehrer, president of First State Savings and Loan Association and active in a drive to get passenger service restored.  In terms of the city's economy, he said, "the future of Watertown being on the mainline of the Milwaukee Road has to be real important."      WDT 12/13/1976



06 23       Junction of Chicago and North Western with Milwaukee Road tracks removed   WDT




    Image Portfolio        




Cross References:

C M & St P Railroad Bridge  

C M & St P Depot  


No 2:  “When the St Paul Railroad came here it was so poor that Daniel Jones couldn’t pay for the wood it needed to run its engines.  “Alexander Mitchell was a great friend of mine and he told me that if I would pay for the wood he would see that I didn't lose by it.  For two years I bought the wood for it. When the Chicago & Northwestern got this far it couldn’t get its iron, which was in bond. With several others I signed the bond that released the rails and permitted the road to go on.  These acts cost me dear.”

No 3:  1861, Amos Bennett was chief carpenter of the C. M. & St. Paul; came to Watertown in May, 1848

No 4:  1865, John Booney employed by C. M. & St. Paul

No 5:  John Ford, seven years was in the office of the Chief Engineer of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company.

No 6:  1879, N C Daniels, Superintendent of the C. M. & St. Paul’s Railmill, Machine and Blacksmith Shops

No 7:  Station Agent George W. Webb, 48 years continuous railway service with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad is a record.

No 8:  George Wilder, Assistant Purchasing Agent, 1850 – 1923

Depot and train image, WHS_006_335

George Reason, 1856–1912, Employed by the C.M.&St.P. Ry. as a carpenter. 





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History of Watertown, Wisconsin