George E. Price Monument

200 State Road (Wisconsin Highway 59,) North Prairie, Wisconsin

Grave site of George E. Price, conductor for the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad

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Overview

That's the baseball diamond in the background. The gravesite is in foul territory, just a few feet beyond the fence.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning

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George E. Price Memorial 

Written by J.R. Manning

In the North Prairie Village Park, just beyond the fence and slightly in foul territory on the third base side, is a white, sandstone marker. It is the grave site of George E. Price, his remains interred there in 1859.

George E. Price was a very popular conductor for the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad and he also worked on a branch line that went to Janesville from Milton Junction. He often remarked at how much he liked the rolling countryside around North Prairie, going so far as remark that he might someday like to be buried there.

On March 7, 1859, Price was the conductor on a passenger train from Janesville to Milton Junction. After arrival at Janesville, the train simply ran in reverse to return to Milton Junction. The train was taking passengers from Janesville to meet a mainline train that ran from Madison to Milwaukee. Already late afternoon with daylight fading into twilight, Price was riding the platform of the last car, which was now the front of the train, on the way to Milton Junction.

Around a curve, Price spotted a fully loaded lumber car that had been left on the mainline. He tried to set the hand brake, but his effort was too little, too late. The train struck the lumber car. Price was thrown from the platform and he landed head first on the load of lumber, suffering numerous serious injuries. Many of the passenger seats were ripped from their moorings, but even though Price's futile efforts to stop the train ultimately cost him his life, there were no other injuries in the collision.

The locomotive was uncoupled from the train and raced back to Janesville for help. Price was carefully lifted to the Morgan House Hotel in Milton Junction. Reports say that he was even under the care of the noted physician, Dr. Erastus B Wolcott from Milwaukee, who did not hold out much hope for Mr. Price.

Price succumbed to his injuries on March 23. Three MMRR trains were draped with black crepe to honor his passing, including a funeral train that carried his body from Janesville. The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad, against a company policy, set aside a plot of land in North Prairie, adjacent to the right of way, in his beloved North Prairie.

The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad would eventually grow into the mighty Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, better known as The Milwaukee Road. The line to Milton from Milwaukee still exists, operated today by the Wisconsin & Southern Railway.

The marker is the only monument in North Prairie (outside of the cemetery) and being sandstone, has not worn very well. The name George E. Price can be made out, but precious little of the rest of the text can be made out. The monument, still close to the railroad, is in North Prairie's Village Park, opposite from Klatt's Miniature Village.

Standing alone, in foul territory of left field, the marker is a reminder of the infancy of Wisconsin's railroad heritage, and a remembrance of a young man's dedication to his employer and his passengers.

With thanks to Ron Ford and Lee Pagel

Update Log 

  • May 31, 2012: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • The Railroad Tombstone at North Prairie - An article about George Price's life and times, written by Don Adler for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad website.