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Term: Kilbourn, Byron 1801 - 1870

Definition:

surveyor, land speculator, canal and railroad promoter, politician, b. Granby, Conn. He moved with his parents to Ohio in 1803, and left school at the age of 13 to clerk in his father's store. In 1823 he secured an appointment as an Ohio state surveyor, and for ten years was active in surveying canal routes in that state.

In 1834 he surveyed a portion of Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties, Wis., and in 1835 purchased land on the west bank of the Milwaukee River. To promote this town-site, Kilbourn helped finance the Milwaukee Advertiser, and, hoping to make Milwaukee a trade center, actively promoted the Milwaukee and Rock River Canal Co., which would have connected the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. He also sponsored Milwaukee harbor improvement, boat building, the Milwaukee Claim Association, and the Milwaukee County Agricultural Society. In 1838 he and Solomon Juneau (q.v.), his townsite competitor, secured the union of Kilbourntown and Milwaukee village (Juneau's promotion on the east bank of the river). Differences soon arose over the bridging of the Milwaukee River, however, and the final settlement did not come until 1846.

A Democrat, Kilbourn served in the territorial lower house (1845), but opposed the state constitution of 1846 because of its banking provisions. Elected to the second constitutional convention (1847- 1848), he was chosen chairman of the committee on general provisions, and helped draw up the preamble, the declaration of rights, and the articles on banking, boundaries, and amendments. In 1855 Kilbourn was defeated in the contest for U.S. Senator. He was twice elected mayor of Milwaukee (1848, 1854).

A pioneer in promoting Wisconsin railroads, Kilbourn was the principal organizer of the Milwaukee and Waukesha R.R. Co. (1847), the first railroad company in the state to begin actual construction. The line was soon renamed the Milwaukee and Mississippi R.R. Co., with Kilbourn serving as president until 1852, when he was forced to resign because of alleged fraud and mismanagement. He then became the principal organizer of a rival road, the La Crosse and Milwaukee, and obtained a land grant from the state to aid in its construction. It was later discovered that Kilbourn and his associates had used $900,000 in railroad bonds to bribe various state officials in obtaining the land grant. The subsequent scandal and investigation ruined Kilbourn's public career and the company eventually went into receivership. In 1858 he attempted to obtain a charter from the state for a liberal arts college for poor boys that he intended to call Kilbourn University. The legislature denied his request and he retired from public life. In 1868 he moved to Florida.

Sources: B. Still, Milwaukee (Madison, 1948); Wis. Mag..Hist., 19; A. M. Thomson, Political Hist. of Wis. (Milwaukee, 1900); A. W. Derleth, Milwaukee Road (New York, 1948); [F. A. Flower], Hist. of Milwaukee (Chicago, 1881); WPA field notes.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Byron Kilbourn Papers for details. View related newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]

123 records found

Kabler, Beatrice Ann Parks. 1928-
Kaczmarek, Jane
Kading, Charles August 1874 - 1956
Kafka, Lawrence J. 1898
Kahl, William C. 1908
Kahlenberg, Louis Albrecht 1870 - 1941
Kanavas, Theodore J. 1961
Kander, Lizzie Black, 1858-1940
Kaokias
Karlen, Jacob 1840 - 1920
Kaskaskias
Kasten Jr., Robert W. 1942
Kasten, William A. 1956
Kastenmeier, Robert W. 1924
Katzer, Frederick Xavier 1844 - 1903
Kaufert, Dean R. 1957
Kaufman, Eugene S. 1922
Kaun, Hugo Wilhelm Ludwig 1863 - 1932
Kavanaugh, William C. 1914
Kedrowski, David R. 1942
Kedzie, Neal J. 1956
Keegan, Jr., Earl 1921
Keep, Albert 1826 - 1907
Kellman, Norris J. 1898
Kellogg, Amherst Willoughby 1829 - 1923
Kellogg, Ansel Nash 1832 - 1886
Kellogg, Ansel Wales 1821 - 1870
Kellogg, Col. John A. (1828 - 1883)
Kellogg, Louise Phelps 1862 - 1942
Kellogg, Rufus Bela 1837 - 1891
Kelly, Patrick 1792 - 1858
Kelly, Patrick H. 1890
Kelso, Carol 1945
Kemper, Jackson 1789 - 1870
Kempster, Walter 1841 - 1918
Kendziorski, Casimir 1898
Kennan, Kossuth Kent (1852-1933)
Kennan, Thomas Lathrop 1827 - 1920
Kenyon, (Charles) Kyle (1924-1996)
Keokuk, Sauk chief, 1780?-1848.
Keppler, Ernest C. 1918
Kerkman, Samantha 1974
Kerwin, James Charles 1850 - 1921
Kessler, Frederick P. 1940
Kestell, Steve 1955
Keyes, Elisha Williams 1828 - 1910
Kickapoo Indians
Kickbush, August 1828 - 1901
Kieckhefer, Ferdinand August William 1852 - 1919
Kiekhoefer, William Henry 1883 - 1951
Kikapous
Kilataks
Kilbourn, Byron 1801 - 1870
Kilgore, Damon Y[Oung?] 1827 - 1888
Kimball, Alanson Mellen 1827 - 1913
Kimberly, John Alfred 1838 - 1928
Kincaid, Lloyd H. 1925
Kind, Ron 1963
King, Charles 1844 - 1933
King, Franklin Hiram 1848 - 1911
King, Gen. Rufus (1814-1876)
Kinney, Kathy 1954 -
Kinsman, Delos Oscar 1868 - 1948
Kintz, Milford C. 1903
Kinzie, John Harris 1803 - 1865
Kinzie, Juliette Augusta, 1806-1870
Kirby, Michael G. 1952
Kiskaouets
Kissel, Louis 1839 - 1908
Kitchigamick Indians
Kittle, William 1861 - 1942
Kleczka, Gerald D. 1943
Kleczka, Jerry 1943
Klicka, George H. 1934
Klingler, Emil F. (1887 - ?)
Klug, Scott L. 1953
Klusman, Judith 1956
Knapp, Gilbert 1798 - 1887
Knapp, John Holly [Jr.] 1825 - 1888
Kneeland, James 1816 - 1899
Kneeland, Moses 1809 - 1864
Knight, John Henry 1836 - 1903
Knowles, Robert P. 1916
Knowles, Warren P. 1908
Knowlton, James H. 1813 - 1879
Knowlton, Wiram 1816 - 1863
Knox, Randall S. 1949
Knutson, Milo G. 1918
Koenig, Joseph 1858 - 1929
Koeppen, George 1833 - 1897
Kohl, Herbert H. 1935
Kohler, John Michael 1844 - 1900
Kohler, Marie Christine 1876 - 1943
Kohler, Ruth Miriam [De Young] 1906 - 1953
Kohler, Walter Jodok 1875 - 1940
Kordus, Robert P. 1939
Korpela, Ernest J. 1936
Koss, Rudolph Alexander 1823 - 1894
Kostuck, John T. 1892
Kraut, Hans Baptiste 1881 - 1947
Krautbauer, Francis Xavier 1824 - 1885
Krawczyk, Judy 1939
Kreibich, Robin G. 1959
Kremers, Edward 1865 - 1941
Kreul, Richard 1924
Kreuser, James E. 1961
Kreutzer, Andrew Laurence 1862 - 1944
Krez, Conrad 1828 - 1897
Kronshage, Theodore Jr. 1869 - 1934
Krosnicki, Kathleen A. 1950
Krueger, Clifford W. 1918
Krug, Shirley 1958
Krumrey, Henry 1852 - 1922
Krusick, Peggy 1956
Kruszka, Michael 1860 - 1918
Kryszak, Mary [Olszewski] 1876 - 1945
Kumlien, Thure Ludwig Theodore 1819 - 1888
Kunde, Kenneth 1916
Kundig, Martin 1805 - 1879
Kunicki, Walter J. 1958
Kurz, Henry 1826 - 1906
Kustermann, Gustav 1850 - 1919
Kuypers, John Anton 1869 - 1940

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