Term: Catlin, John 1803 - 1874
pioneer lawyer, politician, railroad man, b. Orwell, Vt. He attended Newton Academy, Shoreham, Vt., taught school for nine years, and after studying law was admitted to the bar in 1833. In 1836 he moved to Wisconsin, settling in Mineral Point where he conducted a short-lived law partnership with Moses M. Strong (q.v.). In 1838 he moved to Madison where he helped survey a capitol site, platted lots, and established a land agency. Later he started a private banking business and in 1846, with E. M. Williamson, established an abstract office. A Democrat, Catlin served as first clerk of the territorial supreme court (1836- 1839), chief clerk of the territorial house of representatives (1837-1844), and was a member of the territorial council (1845-1846). He was secretary of the Territory of Wisconsin (1846-1848), and was first district attorney for Dane County (1839-1843). From 1837 to 1844, with the exception of the brief period of William Henry Harrison's presidency, he served as post-master of Madison. In 1852 after Byron Kilbourn (q.v.) was forced out of the presidency of the Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road Company, Catlin became president of the strife-and debt-ridden line. While holding this office (1852-1857, 1858-1861), he spent much of his time in New York in fund-raising campaigns, but in the late 1850's he moved to Milwaukee. Despite his attempts to keep the railroad on its feet, the line's financial difficulties increased and in 1861 it was deeded to the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railway Company and eventually became part of the Milwaukee Road. In 1863 Catlin retired from active business life and moved to Elizabeth, N.J. Madison Wis. State journal, Aug. 4, 1874; Colls. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 7 (1876); D. S. Durrie, Hist. of Madison . . . (Madison, 1874); A. W. Derleth, Milwaukee Road (New York, 1948); WPA MS; J. Catlin Papers.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the John Catlin Papers for details.
View a biographical sketch of Catlin at Wisconsin Historical Collections.
View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.
[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]