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Kinney, Thomas P. / Irish settlers of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, 1840-1860

Preface,   p. 6 PDF (185.8 KB)

Page 6

om Kinney's Irish Settlers of Fitchburg defies most stereo-
types about local history, which is usually so narrowly
defined as to discourage interest beyond closely defined
borders, and also about its authors, who generally hover on the
downhill side of retirement. In Tom's case, age thirty lies some-
where on the horizon; he wrote this work during a summer
vacation from law school and in off-moments while working
at a job between undergraduate and graduate schools.
As for content, Irish Settlers of Fitchburg reaches well
beyond the confines of its title to illuminate county-wide and
statewide issues of interest-just as good local history should.
Tom Kinney even has provided some details that should inter-
est the Irish-American community nationally
To give a county and state example, his discussion of terri-
torial and early statehood roads and transportation routes helps
clarify the story for much of southern Wisconsin. As revealed
by Tom Kinney, these territorial routes were transient and
highly flexible, responding to geography and changing again
and again over a period of only twenty years, quite unlike
modern hard-surfaced highways and streets. Yet, despite these
characteristics, roadways controlled development, giving rise
to Dane County hamlets which have virtually faded from both
the landscape and memory.
Other issues he touches upon beyond the immediate tale
of the immigrant include: the contrasts between governmental
and natural boundaries; the rapidity of change during Wiscon-
sin's earliest years; the discontinuous nature of neighborhoods
and ethnic enclaves; the impact on agriculture of a large nearby
city like Madison; and the interaction of private and public
But Tom Kinney does not ignore his primary goal: to give
the Irish of Fitchburg their due. Compared to Dane County's
German and Norwegian immigrant communities, historians
have neglected the Irish, not to mention other English-speaking
immigrant groups. Kinney has begun to remedy this situation.
His affection and respect for his Irish ancestors and their neigh-
bors shine through every page.
Madison's development inexorably is erasing "old" Fitch-
burg, but this young author has made sure that it will not be
forgotten. He has searched out vestiges of roadbeds and mine
shafts, has tramped the fields, woods, and marshes. He has
talked to old-timers and farmers and housewives and teachers.
He has combed archives, libraries, and courthouses. In the
process he has learned more about old Fitchburg than anyone
else now knows. And he has taken the trouble to put his find-
ings into print. Let us hope that he will continue to refine
his research and continue to share his findings and thoughts
about Fitchburg well past retirement age nearly two-score years
from now
John 0. Holzhueter
State Historical Society of Wisconsin
July 19, 1993

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