Kinney, Thomas P. / Irish settlers of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, 1840-1860
Transportation routes, pp. 14-27 PDF (6.2 MB)
The Lake View stagecoach hotel and tavern was built in 1845 by a Pennsylvanian, Conrad Getts, on a road between Madison and Janesville-at the junction of present County Highways B and MM. A small bar to serve travelers and a well to keep drinks cool were in the cellar. Photo taken in 1990. named for its owner John Kurtz and was located a quarter-mile east of Lake View, was for many seasons after the arrival of the pioneers an Indian campsite with up to two dozen wigwams. Lake View lost some of its usefulness for travelers when stagecoaches were supplanted by a railroad line which bypassed the village in 1864. The new railroad became the leading mode of travel between Madison and Chicago via Janesville. Lake View landowners originally were convinced that the railroad would come through their village and they asked more money for their land than the railroad would pay As a result, the rail- road built on more reasonably priced land on Syene Prairie in eastern Fitchburg, and a village developed around the Syene depot. The depot, which was located a quarter-mile north of the intersection of Syene and Lacy roads, was north of the Irish settlement areas. The railroad tracks are now owned by the Chicago and North Western Railroad. Syene Prairie, which covered parts of sections 10-15 in Fitchburg, received its name early in the pioneer days in honor of Syene (now Aswan), Egypt, which was referred to in Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6 as the far southern town of Egypt. The Syene Prairie community was a southern frontier outpost of Madison.70 In 1887, a second railroad, the Illinois Central, was con- structed through the township, and the Village of Fitchburg was built on what is today Wendt Road in southwestern Fitch- burg. Both of the railroad villages began to decline when auto- mobiles became the leading mode of transportation, and the Syene and Fitchburg village depots closed around 1926. Nei- ther of the railroad towns was populated by people from a single state or ethnic group, unlike most earlier settlements in Fitchburg. The patterns by which the Yankees and Irish settled in Fitchburg were largely dictated by the development of trans- portation routes through the township. The Yankee settlements were established in the late 1830's and the 1840's from west to east, not only along the lead teamsters' road, but also on strate- gic sites on three gradually improving roads into Madison: Seminole Highway, Fish Hatchery Road, and County MM. When the first Irish came looking for land, they stayed overnight along the convergence of the lead trail and the Old Janesville Road at Oak Hall, which was one of the most promi- nent settlements in southern Dane County in the early 1840's. With its good road access to markets in Madison and Milwau- kee, Fitchburg stood out as a choice location for the Irish to adopt as their new home.
Copyright 1993, 1998 Thomas P. Kinney