Byron Kilbourn

Byron Kilbourn

Birth
Granby, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Death 18 Dec 1870 (aged 69)
Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA
Burial Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA
Plot Section 24, Block 8, Lots 7 & 12
Memorial ID 8865299 · View Source
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Business Magnate, Milwaukee Founder and Mayor. The son of US Congressman James Kilbourne, he worked in Ohio as a surveyor and state engineer, and moved to Wisconsin in 1834. In 1837 he established Kilbourntown on 160 acres west of the Milwaukee River. There were already two new settlements in the region, Solomon Juneau's Juneautown (east of the river) and George Walker's Walker's Point (to the south), and a fierce competition for supremacy ensued, especially between Kilbourn and Juneau. The brash Kilbourn planned his waterfront streets so they would not align with those on the other side of the river, issued maps of the area that excluded Juneautown, as if it did not exist, and fought efforts to build bridges that would link it with his domain. This culminated in the so-called Milwaukee Bridge War (1845), in which citizens from both towns skirmished and destroyed several temporary bridges. By then the combined population of the area was 10,000, and the Territorial Legislature finally stepped in to unite the warring factions. On January 31, 1846, Kilbourntown, Juneautown, and Walker's Point were incorporated together as the city of Milwaukee, two years before Wisconsin entered statehood. Kilbourn served as a Milwaukee alderman and was elected to two non-consecutive terms as Mayor, in 1848 and 1854, while remaining a tireless promoter for land and transportation development. He served as President of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad from 1849 to 1852, and then started a new railroad from Milwaukee to La Crosse, on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. In 1858 this company was exposed as using $631,000 in bribes to secure government land grants, but Kilbourn remained a powerful force in Milwaukee. In 1868 he moved to Florida for health reasons and died in Jacksonville two years later; he was interred at its Old City Cemetery. His widow never arranged to have his remains brought home and for more than a century Kilbourn was the only Milwaukee founder who wasn't buried there. He was finally reinterred in the Kilbourn family plot at Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery in 1998. Signs of the Kilbourn-Juneau rivalry are still evident in Wisconsin's largest city. Thanks to Kilbourn's non-aligning street grids, many bridges had to be built diagonally across the Milwaukee River.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Charles Haig
  • Added: 2 Jun 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8865299
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Byron Kilbourn (8 Sep 1801–18 Dec 1870), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8865299, citing Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .