Date in History: October 1859

In September of 1859 everyone in the county was celebrating the new Chicago-Northwestern railroad line that had just opened for service. This excitement quickly waned, however, after the first train wreck occurred just a month later. It happened on special train that was carrying 600 passengers on a promotional trip from Fond du Lac to Chicago.

As the train approached Johnson Creek going about 15 miles an hour, cattle were discovered near the tracks. A whistle blast cleared most of them except for an ornery white steer that actually moved onto the track and was struck by the train. The animal was a sufficient obstruction to force the engine off the rails. According to one press report, the derailment of the cars that followed was “too horrible to contemplate.” Of the 600 on board, 14 were killed and many more injured.

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 10/27/2003.