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

Irish arrive in Fitchburg,   pp. 28-41 PDF (6.2 MB)

Page 35

re-allocated land based on people's needs. (A clan was an
extended family with a common ancestor.) The 1860 census
reveals that most of the Irish families in section 32, like the
Barrys, Cusicks, and Walshes, came to Dunn from Vermont
around 1850. The families of section 33, including the Fitzgib-
bons, Flahertys, and Gareys, moved from New York in the early
to middle 1850's. Little is known about the intentions of these
families in developing their narrow farms, but the convenience
and help that was gained by having close neighbors would have
been as useful to the Irish Americans as it was for the ancient
South of Dunn in Rutland lived a scattering of Irish fami-
lies such as the Hanans, Martins, O'Connors, and Welches,
who made up 5 percent of the township's population in 1860.
The majority of Rutland residents were Yankees with a sprin-
kling of immigrants-Danes, English, Irish, Norwegians, Scot-
tish, and Welsh.
Oregon township, south of Fitchburg, was originally pop-
ulated primarily with Yankees, although some Irish and other
immigrant families were located on farms that were not part of
large ethnic settlements. In 1860, Oregon's population was 12
percent Irish. A few Irish lived in and around the small village
of Oregon. The Runey family, who arrived in 1841, resided in
the eastern part of the township. John and Cornelius O'Brien
moved into southeast Oregon in 1853; a large number of their
descendants live in the area today A group of Irish homesteads
was located in the school section and later spread south into
Fisher Valley on County A in central Oregon. A major artery on
the west side of the settlement is now called Tipperary Road.
An additional satellite community of the original Irish
settlements was a group of three Irish homes on Adams Road
in the southwest part of Fitchburg. The old lead trail passed
through land that a Barry family bought from the government
in 1848 at what is now referred to as Bavery's hill. Descendants
of the Barry, Eason, and McCune families have since moved to
other parts of Fitchburg or out of the township.
The Irish satellite communities in Fitchburg, Dunn, and
Oregon were important to the Irish of the core settlement areas
because many families either were or became related by blood
or by marriage. These early marriages facilitated friendship and
cooperation as well as eventual inheritances that brought about
family movements back and forth between the core and fringe
The first season in the Fitchburg wilderness required
the greatest show of ingenuity that the settlers could muster.
Unless a family bought property on which a previous owner's
"claim shanty" was built, new arrivals had to construct a log
cabin from wood and mud gathered locally While they built
their houses and dug wells, they would live in their covered
wagons, or turn their wagon boxes upside down and live
underneath them. Additional shelter was provided by leaning
boards against a tree and sleeping inside this lean-to while
a fire out front kept howling wolves from venturing too close.
The weather was generally cooperative in the late spring and
early summer when most pioneers reached Fitchburg.
Nonetheless, the more comfortable settlers were those who
could sleep in the houses of friends until their own cabins
could be built.
The log cabins that the pioneers constructed were small-
about sixteen by twenty feet-with a large fireplace at one end
of the room. The children slept in an upstairs loft and the par-
ents slept downstairs. In contrast, a whitewashed stone cottage
in Ireland often had three rooms arranged end on end with no
loft. The old country chairs, beds, and tables probably were
more civilized-looking than the pioneers' furniture. Very little
cash was available in frontier townships for such items, so the
settlers hewed some of their furniture from trees in the forest.
Besides the few pots and dishes the Irish bought from the East,
cookware and crockery were acquired gradually as stores were
established and money was earned from harvests.
Much of the cash that the Irish had in their pockets when
they first came to Fitchburg was turned over to the United

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