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

Irish Lane settlement,   pp. 48-55 PDF (2.6 MB)

Page 49

Irish Lane Settlement
cross the wooded Milton Moraine, the second of the
three core Irish communities was situated in central
Fitchburg, west of the Lake View stagecoach stop, and
northwest of the Fox Settlement. Through the middle of this
settlement ran a road, later to be called Irish Lane. The com-
munity was significant to the development of Fitchburg
because the Irish Lane Settlement had a large population of
immigrants who worked an extensive group of adjacent farms
in the heart of the township.
The Irish Lane Settlement began in 1844 with the arrival
of the Kinneys, and by 1850 nearly half of the Irish in Fitch-
burg lived in this community. After 1850, many Irish families
settled on Stoner Prairie, and the Irish population became more
evenly distributed among the three settlement areas. Some
Irish Lane Settlement families who lived in Fitchburg in 1860
include the Byrnes, Gormans, Kinneys, Lynches, McGaws,
Monks, and Sweeneys.
The Irish Lane Settlement enjoyed continual expansion
due to the steady stream of Famine-era immigrants. The Irish
soon populated surrounding roads-Fish Hatchery Road to the
west, Whalen and Byrne roads to the south, and Syene Road to
the east. The terrain was a belt of relatively level land between
Syene Prairie to the northeast and the Milton Moraine to the
southwest, with some farmland extending onto the moraine.
Similar to the Fox Settlement, the Irish Lane Settlement
did not have a commercial center, so the people carried on
their business at the nearby stagecoach stops, such as Lake
View and Dogtown. Unlike the Fox Settlement, the Irish Lane
Settlement did not have a centrally located school. The children
were integrated with those who were not of Irish descent at
two area schools-Syene School to the northeast and Fitchburg
Center School to the southwest.
The first homesteaders on Irish Lane were Andrew Kinney,
his brother Michael, and their families. The Kinney brothers,
who emigrated well before the Famine, came from Newcastle
Townland near Swinford, County Mayo. In Ireland, the family
had a fertile, sixteen-acre tract of land. They also taught school
at an abandoned church nearby The brothers emigrated from
Ireland in 1831, during a time of poor harvests and resistance
to paying tithes to the Anglican church. Michael purchased a
farm near Trois Riviere, Canada, where Andrew met Mary Jane
Clark, a daughter of a Methodist minister. The English Clark
family forbade Mary Jane's marriage to the Catholic Irishman,
so the young couple eloped to the United States where they
were wed by a justice of the peace at Salisbury, Connecticut,
in 1834. Mary Jane later converted to Catholicism. Andrew
worked on Erie Canal expansion projects, and in 1844 they
moved to the wilderness in Fitchburg that became the Irish
Lane Settlement. Michael and his wife Mary joined them the
following year, and the families gradually purchased additional
land expanding the farm to 200 acres by 1849. Andrew's log
cabin was located on Irish Lane, east of the intersection with
Caine Road, and Michael's farmsite was on Irish Lane nearly a
quarter-mile southwest of the intersection. Square nails, pottery
pieces, and foundation stones from Michael and Mary Kinney's
log cabin are still unearthed today as the field is cultivated. 105
When Andrew and Michael Kinney arrived in Fitchburg
they were in their forties and were older than most of the
Famine-era immigrants, the majority of whom were in their
twenties and thirties. The brothers lent their expertise in work
with which they were familiar. Andrew had knowledge of stone
masonry and helped neighbors lay foundations for their log
cabins and barns, while Michael had a talent for bookkeeping
and assisted immigrants with their farm accounts. When the
township government was organized in 1847, Andrew served
as a fence viewer and mediated disputes about property lines.
Michael was elected town treasurer in 1851.106
Some of the pioneers who joined the Kinneys at the Irish

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