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

Transportation routes,   pp. 14-27 PDF (6.2 MB)

Page 26

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.

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