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
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
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
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
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
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.