BURLINGTON, WISCONSIN ~ CHOCOLATE CITY USA
HOME OF THE FIRST HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN RACINE COUNTY, THE SOCIETY IS CELEBRATING ITS 85th ANNIVERSARY IN 2013
IN HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS, RUNAWAYS BROUGHT EXCITEMENT AND DANGER
Frightened horses and drivers, broken wagons and buggies, occasional injuries, and sometimes death. In the days before automobiles and trucks appeared on the scene, and even after they became more commonplace, horse-drawn vehicles were indispensable to the workings of a town like Burlington. But occasionally a horse or team would become unruly or frightened, the horse would break its restraint or the driver would lose control, and a runaway would be on.

The Burlington newspapers of the time reported such runaways in sometimes colorful and usually interesting fashion, as the following examples attest.

May 1881 -- Johnny Gill, a lad of ten or twelve years of age, was driving a team down Chestnut street yesterday, when the horses became frightened and started on a brisk run toward the river. The little fellow braced himself and hung to the lines like a young hero, and succeeded without assistance, in bringing the team to a stop on the east side of White river, near the old woolen mill [the mill was located about where Veterans Terrace is now]. No damage was done.

June 1881 -- Nick May's horse had a lively run last Sunday afternoon, while the baptismal services were in progress at the river near the lower water power. The horse broke loose from a tree to which he was tied and started instantly on a dead run. He ran about 10 rods and jumped over a fence leaving the buggy behind, which was badly demoralized, as was also the harness.

June 1881 -- The regular weekly runaway came off without previous announcement on last Saturday afternoon, the scene of action being between the Catholic Church [St. Mary's] and the depot [the old St. Paul depot located west of McHenry street], and from thence westward to within a short distance of Lyons.

The team belonged to Mr. Ed. Adams, of Rochester, and the whole thing proved lively and interesting, but somewhat disastrous.

When near the Catholic Church, the team became frightened and started out on a good, square run. The pole having dropped, the team became unmanageable and finally ran into some trees at the side of the road, breaking the wagon badly. The horses having become detached from the wagon, started off at a speed something less than a mile a minute and, becoming separated, one horse took one direction while the other took a different course. Coming to the depot, where the freight train was standing, one of the horses became so badly frightened that he started pell-mell over the depot platform between the train and depot, up the track, over the cattle guards, and out of sight in the direction of Lyons. Mr. Adams boarded the train and started in pursuit of the flying animal (for he was just flying when last seen), and found him complacently feeding in a cornfield just this side of Lyons. One horse was badly bruised about the limbs, but the other was only slightly injured.

July 1881 -- A frightful runaway occurred at this place last Friday morning resulting in no serious damage to the team but severely bruising Mr. P. H. Cunningham, who stopped the horses at the risk of his life. The team started from the stable of Mr. Brehm [which was located on the corner of Madison street and what is now N. Perkins boulevard] and ran furiously toward the river, then taking a turn ran up Calumet street to Chestnut, and up Chestnut to Pine, when Mr. Cunningham, at the risk of his life or at least of broken limbs, seized hold of the bits of one of the horses as the team was flying past, which threw one horse down, Mr. Cunningham falling under the horse. Both were dragged through the mud for a rod or two, but the badly frightened horses were thus brought to a stop directly in front of Martin & Sheldon's store [the corner where Chase Bank is now located]. Mr. Cunningham was badly bruised about the face and hands, had a bad cut on the right knee, and his clothes were torn and covered with mud.

Pat ran a great risk of being killed, but he stopped the team, and although sorely bruised and lamed, he changed his clothes and went to Geneva Lake to enjoy a day at that pleasant resort accompanied by his wife and two lady friends.

September 1881 -- A lively runaway occurred at this place last Friday morning at an early hour. The team was hitched to a post in front of George Verhalen's store [on Chestnut street where The Happy Cayuse is now located], when becoming frightened or greatly annoyed by flies, they broke their halter straps and started at a terrific gait towards the depot [west of McHenry street]. The buses were just returning from the morning train, and when George Darling saw them coming, he naturally concluded they had the "right of way," and accordingly he "side-tracked" on a street coming West, while John Schumacher with the Exchange House bus took an Easterly direction, and both got out of that vicinity quicker than it takes to tell it. But the team sped on, and were finally brought to a halt a short distance beyond the Catholic Church [St. Mary's], and driven back to Chestnut street from whence they started.

April 1882 -- A lively runaway occurred on Chestnut street early yesterday morning. The team of fine gray horses owned by Mr. Wm. Finke, and attached to his brewery delivery wagon, came tearing down the street, going directly toward the White River bridge. At the corner of Chestnut and Dodge streets, one horse made up his mind to turn to the right, while the other was as equally determined to keep on straight ahead. They compromised suddenly, however, and split the difference--striking the sign post in front of Wm. Falk's wagon shop, knocking it and the sign it supported flat to the ground. This sudden collision detached the horses from the wagon, broke the harness badly, threw the wagon upside-down, damaging it but slightly. The horses were brought to a halt after proceeding a few blocks, when it was found that they had sustained no serious injury. It was indeed a very fortunate result of what might have been a serious runaway.

April 1884 -- Dr. M. T. Darling met with quite an adventure last Thursday, while out in the country, which came near resulting fatally. He was riding in his buggy and leading another horse (the same one that bruised up Mr. O. W. Chandler, and ran through a fence with Frank J. Ayers some time since) when the animal jumped, and striking the doctor knocked him over the dash-board of the buggy upon the thills. This frightened the horse he was driving and he started on a run throwing Dr. Darling to the ground, dislocating his shoulder and otherwise bruising him. He was brought to his home in this village and Doctors Dyer, Cooper and Hicks visited him, replacing the dislocated joint and placing him in a fair way to speedy recovery. It is a great wonder the Doctor was not more seriously injured. That horse will be the death of somebody yet.

August 1884 -- Mr. E. G. Henderson's fine team attached to his double carriage took a home run for dear life on Monday evening of last week, and were only captured after a ten mile chase, a short distance below New Munster. The team started from the street in front of Denniston's drug store [on Pine street near Chestnut street] about 9 o'clock in the evening, and it was very late that night or very early Tuesday morning when they were found. Strange to say, little or no damage resulted from the runaway, either to the horses or carriage. The harness was broken in several places, but two or three dollars would repair all damages.

September 1884 -- Billy Turner's stage team attached to his covered stage wagon, took a lively turn down Pine street last Thursday evening, making things fairly purr for a few minutes. They went down the street which was lined with teams, and managed to miss them all until they reached Laske's corner [where May's Insurance is now located] when they dodged between the saloon and the posts that support the wooden awning in front of Laske's and took the sidewalk as far as Keuper's saloon [now John's Main Event], when they took the street again, but with nothing behind them save the flying whiffletrees and a cloud of dust. This dust business may be a little overdrawn--in fact that was about the condition of the stage which had been left at the corner of Laske's building overturned by coming in sudden contact with a post. The pole was broken off short and the curtains of the stage were badly torn, but aside from a few scratches received by the frightened chargers there was no further damage done. The team was left standing for a moment in front of the Western Union Hotel [corner of Washington and Pine streets where Thrivent Financial is now located], and became frightened at something with the result as above stated.

October 1884 -- Three runaways made our streets lively at brief periods last week. A sort of harmless runaway occurred on Wednesday forenoon in which a team from the country took a tour of the town and were caught in front of Steinhoff's Hotel [corner of Washington and Pine streets]. It must be a lively team that gets by that corner when the boys are all there.

On Thursday morning, however, a serious runaway occurred which resulted in a broken arm and a badly bruised head. The team belonged to and was driven by Mr. Christian Smith, who was accompanied by his son. While on Geneva street [now Milwaukee avenue] the whiffletrees became detached from the wagon frightening the horses which started up suddenly letting the tongue drop, upon which the team started at a terrific speed, and when nearly opposite George Stohr's wagon shop [where Rizzo and Diersen law firm  is now located], the tongue ran into the ground throwing the wagon upside-down and the occupants violently to the ground. When they were picked up, both were insensible, and it was found upon examination that Mr. Smith's right arm was broken while the boy was terribly cut about the head, a fearful gash being cut in his head and sand and gravel being forced under the scalp upon the skull. Drs. Hicks and Darling attended the injured parties and they are both in a fair way for a speedy recovery. The only wonder is that the boy was not killed and the man more seriously injured.

Another runaway team belonging to Mr. Winkler went flying through the streets last evening with only the whiffletrees attached to them. They left the wagon at the West end of White river bridge.

February 1886 -- A runaway must have occurred on Johnson street on Thursday a.m., as the debris of a farmer's bob sled with wood rack, &c, was lying against a big tree at the corner of Mr. Theodore Riel's fine estate. We trust no horses were injured. [Mr. Riel's "estate" was on the southwest corner of what is now State and Kane Streets.]

April 1889 -- A drunken individual was driving a horse about the streets yesterday afternoon at a reckless rate of speed, whooping as he tore madly around the block half a dozen times and endangered the lives of our citizens who chanced to be crossing the streets. He ran into Mr. J. H. Martin's buggy, but fortunately did no damage. He was arrested later in the day by constable Reed for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, taken before Justice Reynolds and discharged. He was drunk and he was disorderly, he was driving recklessly and endangering the lives of the people, but he wasn't fined.

The supposition is that our streets are so crooked that the poor fellow couldn't get out of town but kept driving 'round and 'round that Wehmhoff and Verhalen block [bounded by what is now Chestnut and Pine streets and Milwaukee avenue] until he became dizzy and the people thought he was intoxicated.

November 1890 -- While a boy named Gussman was driving Jos. Wackerman's team down Pine street yesterday afternoon, the horses became frightened at the rattling of the box on the wagon and ran away. In front of Dr. Hicks' residence [corner of Pine and Jefferson streets where the Library is now located] the team collided with the buggy in which P. H. Cunningham and his boy were driving home, demolishing both wagons, harness, and piling the horses, rigs, Mr. Cunningham and his boy up in a heap. The Gussman boy fell out of the wagon before the collision and had his head cut open. Mr. Cunningham was hit in the back with the tongue of the Wackerman wagon and is quite badly hurt, while his son escaped with a few bruises and scratches.

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