The STORY OF MADISON - Chapter Four
Welcome to the Story of Madison

Early Days of the City--1856-1865.

Madison becomes a city.

Madison received a city charter March 4, 1856, the population being divided as equally as practicable into four wards--since increased to eight. Col. Jairus C. Fairchild was the first mayor, William N. Seymour the first clerk,1 and the first city school board was composed of Wm. B. Jarvis (president), D. H. Wright, L. J. Farwell, L. W. Hoyt, Simeon Mills, and Darwin Clark.2

Educational interests were at once pushed to the front by the new school board, which in August induced the city fathers to appropriate enough money ($6,887.50) to purchase sites for school houses in the First, Second, and Fourth wards; but there were no means for building, and the several ward schools still continued to be held in rented rooms. The total cost of conducting the school system in 1856 was $4,334.06--it was not until the following year that the superintendent received a salary of $1,000.

The city's school houses.

In its report at the close of 1856, the board spoke discouragingly of "the continued disgraceful, destitute condition of the city, with regard to school houses." Superintendent Kilgore, however, was more confident. While alluding, in his own report, to "the absence of anything in the material appurtenances of the schools * * * calculated to gratify a love for the beautiful and to refine and elevate the taste, "he nevertheless thought that the schools had been more prosperous during the year than at any former period, that there had been an increase of public interest in them, and that the pupils had creditably acquitted themselves. He referred to the fact that in his previous report he had said Madison was behind Waukesha, Beaver Dam, and Whitewater in the matter of public education; but now he thought that "things looked brighter." In 1857, the First and Third ward buildings were completed, the council evidently having seen that it was useless further to fight the school board.

The financial panic which swept over the country this year had its effect on the city finances, and the board was reluctantly obliged to abandon for a time its projects of buildings in the Second and Fourth wards. In 1858, the Madison Female Academy sold its building and grounds to the city as a home for the High School, which had hitherto been quartered in a church; in the same year, a school was opened in the Greenbush addition; the following year, the Northeast District school was established, in conjunction with the Town of Blooming Grove; the present Fourth Ward school house was opened in January, 1866; the Second Ward in 1867; the Fifth Ward in 1870; a new High School building on the site of the old Academy, in 1873;3 in 1887, the Little Brick was demolished to make room on the same site for a new Third Ward school building, which was enlarged in 1893; in 1891, Greenbush was given a new building; and in 1894 the new Sixth Ward building was constructed, being enlarged in 1896.

The Bashford-Barstow contest.

In 1856, Madison was the scene of political excitement of a serious character. William Barstow (Democrat) had been elected governor for the years 1854-55 by a plurality of 8,519 votes over Edward D. Holton (Republican) and Henry S. Baird (Whig). There was much political bitterness in the State, and this was intensified during Barstow's administration largely because of his aggressive tone. Charges were freely made by his enemies that he had allowed his official staff to mismanage the school funds, and favor personal friends in the loaning of State money. However this may be, Barstow lost ground during his term, and although renominated failed to draw out his full party strength in the November election of 1855. The new Republican party, too, was now attaining huge proportions, and the result was, the balloting for governor proved so close that from the middle of November to the middle of December the people were in a state of unquiet, not knowing whether Barstow had been returned or whether he had been supplanted by his Republican opponent, Coles Bashford, an Oshkosh lawyer. The State board of canvassers was composed of Barstow supporters, and reported that he had received 157 majority. Bashford's friends claimed that the returns had been tampered with, and the Republican leaders prepared for a contest.

Barstow took the oath of office, January 7, 1856, amid the usual pomp of civic and military display, and remained in possession of the executive chamber. Bashford, on his part, was quietly sworn in by Chief-Justice Whiton in the chamber of the State supreme court. The court was at once called upon by Bashford, in a quo warranto suit, to oust the incumbent, and give the office of governor to the relator. Thus commenced the most celebrated case ever tried by the Wisconsin supreme bench. This was the first time in the history of the United States that a State court had been called upon to decide as to the right of a governor to hold his seat; its jurisdiction was questioned by Barstow's attorneys. The contest waged fiercely for some weeks, with eminent counsel on both sides,4 the court at last holding that it had jurisdiction. Finally, being defeated on every motion, Barstow withdrew from the case, protesting that the judges were actuated by political considerations. The court proceeded with its inquiry, however, found gross irregularities in the canvass of votes, and declared (March 24) that Bashford had received a majority of 1,009. Meanwhile (March 21), Barstow, who had all along threatened that he would not "give up his office alive," sent in his resignation to the legislature, and Lieutenant Governor McArthur became governor by virtue of the constitution. McArthur was defiant, and announced his determination to hold the fort at all hazards. But the court promptly ruled that McArthur could gain no rights through Barstow--for the latter's title being worthless, McArthur could not succeed to it.

Through this long contest, it, may well be imagined that popular excitement in and around Madison ran increasingly high. Parties of men representing both relator and respondent made no secret of the fact, that they were armed and drilling, in anticipation of a desperate encounter. It would have taken small provocation to ignite this tinder box, but the management on both sides was judicious; and although the partisan bands had frequent wordy quarrels, and there were numerous and vigorous threats of violence, there was no approach to blows.

It was Monday, March 24, when the court rendered its decision. Bashford announced that on Tuesday he would take possession of the executive chamber. Early in the appointed day, people began to gather in the vicinity of the Capitol, coming in from the neighboring country in a circuit of ten miles, as they would flock to a traveling circus. By nine o' clock,the Capitol was crowded with citizens, chiefly adherents of Bashford, and there was much ill-suppressed passion. At eleven o'clock, Bashford and a party of his followers, encouraged by friendly cheers, made their way through the corridors--accompanied by the Dane county sheriff, with the court's judgment in hand--and rapping at the governor's office was invited to enter. Bashford--a portly, pleasant-looking gentleman of the old school--leisurely took off his overcoat, hung it and his hat in the wardrobe, and blandly informed McArthur and the coterie of friends about him, that he had come to take the helm of State. The incumbent indignantly asked whether force was to be used; whereupon the new-comer replied that he "presumed no force would be essential, but in case any were needed there would be no hesitation whatever, with the sheriff's help, in applying it." This was construed by McArthur as a "threat of constructive force," and he and his adherents at once hurried out of the door, passing through Bashford's friends, who cheered in triumph and then poured into the office to congratulate the new governor.

In the legislature, there was at first some opposition. The senate received Bashford's opening message with enthusiasm, and at once passed a congratulatory vote. The assembly at first refused (38 to 34) to hold communication with the governor, but finally thirty of the Democrats withdrew, after filing a protest, and the house then agreed (37 to 9) to recognize the new official. The system of government by the people had safely passed through a trying ordeal; popular passions soon subsided, and the fear of civil war in Wisconsin was at an end.



The development of the Capitol.

It will be remembered that the corner stone of the old Territorial Capitol was laid July 4, 1837. During 1836-37, the national government had appropriated $40,000 for the building; the Territorial legislature voted some $16,000, and Dane county $4,000--which would make the cost of the building about $60,000. An old engraving of the first Capitol shows that it was of the then prevailing Americanized-Greek style, of which there are still left some examples, chiefly in the Southern States; contemporary accounts agree that it was rather superior in character to most of the Western Capitols of sixty years ago. On March 3, 1857, an act of legislature was approved, authorizing the enlargement of the Capitol--the plans developed into a new building; the "enlargement" was but nominal.5 The State appropriated $50,000 for this purpose, and the city of Madison $30,000; but the money necessary for the work ($541,447.93) was chiefly obtained from the sale by the school-land commissioners of the ten sections of land appropriated by congress "for the completion of public buildings." The work dragged slowly, largely from lack of funds because of the Civil War; it was 1863 before the task of demolishing the old Capitol was commenced, and 1870 before the dome was completed on the new. In 1882, the legislature voted $200,000 for the present north and south wings, which greatly extended the capacity of the building. The total expenditures for the present Capitol and the development of the surrounding park, have been about $900,000.

The core of the modern State house was scarcely complete, when, in 1859, Madison suffered a narrow escape from the removal of the Capital to Milwaukee. The breaking of a tie vote in the legislature, alone saved Madison. The closeness of the contest had rather a depressing effect on the city throughout the entire year; the official records of the time are filled with attempts to cut down expenses in many directions.


Militia companies.

Madison's first militia company--the Governor's Guards--was organized at a meeting held January 30, 1858. A week later, another body of citizens, chiefly Irish-Americans, established the Madison Guards. The martial spirit once stirred, it was not long before (July 12) a cavalry company was formed--at first bearing the name Dane County Dragoons, which was subsequently toned down to Dane Cavalry. In April, 1861, during the early war excitement, we read of a company styled Hickory Guards, of which Chief-Justice Dixon was the captain.The Randall Guards of Madison constituted Co. H. of the Second Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the State (June, 1861), and served in the famous Iron Brigade. The Governor's Guard of our day, one of the crack companies of the Wisconsin National Guard, is a post-bellum organization. The Lake City Guards, organized in May, 1878 had a brilliant career for several years.


The war period.

The outbreak of the War of Secession (1861) brought Madison prominently into public notice. Throughout the long contest, a large proportion (70,000) of the 91,327 men whom Wisconsin sent to the front, were at various times quartered in and drilled at Camp Randall.6 A Madison company was, too, the first of all to volunteer. January 9, 1861, when apprehensions of war were in every mind, the Madison Guards (George E. Bryant, captain) had tendered its services to Governor Randall, "in case those services might be required for the preservation of the American Union." Sunday, April 14, Fort Sumter fell. Monday, President Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 three-months volunteers, but it did not reach Madison until Tuesday, when the governor issued a proclamation urging Wisconsin at once to send its quota of one regiment; at the same time he sent word to Captain Bryant accepting the tender made over three months before. The enrollment of men for this company began on Wednesday (the 17th), and on the same day the Governor's Guards (Capt. J. P. Atwood) also tendered their services, which were accepted on the 18th.7 It is an interesting fact that a large number of the Wisconsin regiments in the field were officered by men from Dane county, which also sent to the War its full quota of privates.

It would be a long story, adequately to tell of the deeds of Madison men and women during the War, which were of course unusually arduous because of the almost constant presence at the Capital of large bodies of troops in camp and hospital. The streets were frequently enlivened by processions; great meetings were held in the Capitol, either to bid farewell to regiments sent to the front, or to welcome home, with feast and song, the war-worn veterans; the women were organized into relief corps and sanitary committees, and fairs and mass-meetings were held by them for the raising of money for the prosecution of their work. Those were busy and soul-stirring times for the citizens of Wisconsin's Capital.


Confederate Rest--a romance of the War.

The visitor to Forest Hill Cemetery will find, in close proximity to Soldiers' Rest, where many of our volunteers lie buried, a neat plot devoted to "boys in gray," and popularly known as Confederate Rest. Here lie buried 139 Southern soldiers, nearly all of the First Alabama Infantry, the name-slabs indicating that most of them died in the month of May, 1862. It is a romantic story. The month before, 2,385 Confederates held Island Number Ten, in the Mississippi River, near New Madrid, Missouri; it was then the key to the situation in the Western campaign. Long beleaguered by the Union forces, it became necessary to order the evacuation of the island, and during the night of April 6, in the midst of a wild storm of rain, all but a few hundred, after spiking the guns, succeeded in escaping to the Confederate lines on the mainland; those left behind, chiefly of the First Alabama, were captured by the Union army, and sent north to Camp Randall.They were in a wretched condition, from having stood for hours at a time, knee-deep, at the island batteries, and most of them were on arrival in Madison at once placed in the hospital. Deaths were numerous--sometimes ten a day--the poor fellows being placed to rest in the local cemetery. Their bodies have not, however, been uncared for; Mrs. Alice W. Waterman, a Southern woman who later came to live in Madison, had the plot ornamented, and the graves neatly marked, and as the years went on added improvements to the ground, so far as her means would allow. She died September 12, 1897, to the last speaking affectionately of her "boys," whose final home she had so persistently cared for through nearly thirty years. The Confederate Veterans' Association is now (1899) endeavoring to raise money for the placing of an appropriate monument at Confederate Rest, in accordance with the wishes of Mrs. Waterman.

Despite the absence of so many of our citizens at the front, higher taxes and prices, and the general prevalence of financial stringency, Madison prospered during the War time. The presence of the troops enlivened the streets; a great deal of money was necessarily being spent by State and nation, for supplies and salaries, as well as by the soldiers for entertainments of various kinds; so that the hard times elsewhere so observable, were not here felt to the same degree. In its review for 1861, the State Journal was able to say: "The year 1861 has been an eventful one, but with all the trials of hard times, of which people have justly complained in other parts of the country, Madison has been exempt. The business has been prosperous, and the improvements of the town have been considerable and substantial,8 showing a healthy financial condition of our citizens." In 1862, the improvements were fewer in number; but in 1863, the newspapers record the erection of "a large number of dwellings and business blocks," and several "fine residences." In 1864, business "was promising, and a number of desirable improvements made." This, too, was the year of the arrival of the Chicago & Northwestern railway from Beloit, and the placing on Lake Monona of the "pioneer of the steam pleasure boats" here, Capt. Francis Barnes' long-famous "Scutanawbequon." In 1865, "the improvements of the city for the year were numerous and valuable"--the most notable being the erection of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, which for many years, until all the orphans had grown to maturity, did a most excellent work in maintaining them and in educating them for practical life.

The population of the city had by this time grown to 9,191, and the industries of the year, as ascertained by the internal revenue collectors, were valued as follows:

Iron manufactured and agricultural
implements - - - - - - - - - $108,685 Lager beer - - - - - $61,110
Clothing - - - - - - -- - - - - 100,806 Coal Gas - - - - - - - 27,000
Flour, 12,000 barrels - - - - 72,000 Cabinet ware - - - - -14,000
Tin ware - - - - - - - - - -- - 20,747 Boots and shoes - - - 29,508



1The following is a list of mayors from 1856 to the present time:

1856-57- Jairus C. Fairchild 1879-80 - John R. Baltzell
1857-58 - Augustus A. Bird 1880-81 - Philip L. Spooner, Jr.
1858-61 - George B. Smith 1881-84 - James Conklin
1861-62 - Levi B. Vilas 1884-85 - Breese J. Stevens
1862-65 - William T. Leitch 1885-86 - Hiram N. Moulton
1865-67 - Elisha W. Keyes 1886-87 - Elisha W. Keyes
1867-68 - Alden S. Sanborn 1887-88 - James Conklin
1868-69 - David Atwood 1888-90 - M. Ransom Doyon
1869-71 - Andrew Proudfit 1890-91 - Robert M. Bashford
1871-72 - J. B. Bowen 1891-93 - William H. Rogers
1872-73 - James L. Hill 1893-95 - John Corscot
1873-74 - Jared C. Gregory 1895-96 - Jabe Alford
1874-76 - Silas U. Pinney 1896-97 - Albert A. Dye
1876-77 - John N. Jones 1897-98 - M. J. Hoven
1877-78 - Harlow S. Orton 1898-99 - Chas. E. Whelan
1878-79 - George B. Smith 1899 - M. J. Hoven.
The following city clerks have served from the organization of the city to the present time:April, 1856 to October, 1857, William N. Seymour; October, 1857 to April, 1858, Stephen H. Carpenter; April, 1858 to April, 1859, Henry Wright; April, 1859 to November,1861, Charles G. Mayers; November, 1861 to July, 1865, William A. Hayes; July, 1865 to September, 1868, Stephen H. Carpenter; September, 1868 to April l , 1890, John Corscot; April 1, 1890 to date, O. S. Norsman.

2See p. 21, for list of presidents and clerks of the board of education from 1855 to date.

3The High School graduated its first class (fourteen members), July 2, 1875; eight of them entered the StateUniversity.

4Bashford's counsel were Timothy O. Howe, Edward G. Ryan, James H. Knowlton, and Alexander W. Randall. Counsel employed for Barstow were Jonathan E. Arnold, Harlow S. Orton and Matthew H. Carpenter.

5The building of the City Hall was also commenced in 1857; it was opened to the public on the evening of February 22, 1858, and was then thought to be a grand building.

6The fair grounds of the State Agricultural Society, tendered to the service of the State by the Society. After the War, the Society resumed its fairs on these grounds, until the annual exhibitions were removed to Milwaukee. In 1893, the State purchased the property for an athletic field for the State University, with a view to securing its proper maintenance as an historical site.

7See the remarkable record of this company, in Durrie, pp. 302-306. It furnished to the Union army, 1 brigadier general (Lucius Fairchild), 9 colonels, 6 lieutenant-colonels, 5 majors, 10 captains, 12 lieutenants, and 9 non-commissioned officers and privates; besides 1 captain to the Confederate army (H. C. Bradford, of the Washington Battery, C. S. Artillery).

8Among them, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway hotel at West Madison, and the miniature castle on Gorham street (now demolished), in the Second Ward.

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