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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Murder in the Capitol !

On February 11, 1842, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature was interrupted by the shooting of one member by another.

While they were deliberating, Representative Charles C.P. Arndt implied that fellow member James R. Vineyard had lied. During a break in the proceedings, Arndt approached Vineyard's desk and the two continued their disagreement. Tensions escalated, Arndt punched Vineyard in the head, and in front of the assembled lawmakers Vineyard drew a pistol and shot Arndt in the chest.

Arndt reeled backward and fell to the floor, dying where he had fallen about five minutes later. The vest he was wearing at the time came to our Museum, and can be seen here. Elisha Keyes (1828-1910), who was a child in Madison at the time, later recalled how the incident affected the tiny frontier village. English author Charles Dickens was traveling in the U.S. at the time, and the incident was one of several that he used to show the brutality and barbarity of frontier Americans in chapter XVII of his book, American Notes.

Until April 10th, Odd Wisconsin will feature episodes from early Madison history (not all of them odd) to help celebrate our state capital's 150th anniversary.

:: Posted in Madison on April 5, 2006

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