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

Stoner Prairie settlement,   pp. 56-61 PDF (2.8 MB)

Page 57

Stoner Prairie Settlement
S           ile the pioneers of the Fox and Irish Lane settle-
ment areas were building thriving communities
during the years from 1840 to 1860, a third Irish
immigrant area was developing in western Fitchburg. The
Stoner Prairie area was settled beginning in 1848 by a number
of Irish families, most of whom were fleeing the Famine. Some
of the original families were the Barrys, Byrnes, Gradys, Lacys,
McQuillens, Sweeneys, and Whalens.
The Stoner Prairie Settlement was significant to the
growth of the Irish community in Fitchburg not only in that
these Irish worked some of the most fertile land in the town-
ship but because the settlement continued to expand through
the late nineteenth century as the Irish purchased farms from
Yankee families. Stoner Prairie was also desirable because it
had few stones, especially compared to the moraines. The
settlement area grew along Seminole Highway, West Lacy Road,
and Mutchler Road until it covered about two and one-half
square miles of land, which continue to be farmed by Irish
Americans today. The treeline that bounds the prairie is shown
on the 1861 plat map of Fitchburg on page 31.
The Stoner Prairie Settlement area developed in two
parts-first the earlier eastern community, and later the west-
ern sector. In 1848, the Irish entered eastern Stoner Prairie,
where today's Mutchler Road is located, when James and Eliza-
beth Barry moved onto a tract of prairie land there. Similar to
the pioneers of the Fox and Irish Lane settlement areas, a
number of the Irish of the Stoner Prairie area came to Fitch-
burg seeking better farmland than they had found in the north-
eastern states, where they had lived for a time after their arrival
from Ireland. The Barry family, who emigrated in 1834 from
Aghada Parish, County Cork, lived first in Cornwall, Canada,
and later on a stony farm near Potsdam in St. Lawrence County,
New York, until they moved to Fitchburg. Their Fitchburg
prairie farm was not located on the Seminole Highway stage
route, so many earlier arrivals bypassed this land thinking that
it was not only isolated but less fertile than woodland. When
the prairie turned out to be very good for raising crops, the
Barrys capitalized on it. By the time of the 1860 census, they
owned real estate worth as much as many of the "old money"
Yankee landowners' properties.117
The mother, Bridget, and three brothers of James Barry
also came to Fitchburg in 1848. Michael, one of the brothers,
bought land on Adams Road south of Stoner Prairie. Their
holdings gradually expanded as the Barrys worked together to
buy a farm first for one brother and then for another. The Barrys
later bought properties near Oak Hall, including the Nott fami-
ly's 1856 Italianate stone house on County M one mile east of
Fish Hatchery Road."'
The first Stoner Prairie neighbors of the James Barry
family were Irish who bought school section property from
the state. The Thomas and Ann Byrne family and the John and
Hanorah Sweeney family purchased land and built log cabins
just inside the woods where the Milton Moraine meets Stoner
Prairie. John Sweeney had relatives living near the Byrne Road
marsh and the Cullen farm in the southern part of the Irish
Lane Settlement area. The Stoner Prairie Byrne family who
arrived in 1853 may also have come from County Wicklow,
Ireland, as did the Sweeney and Cullen families in 1849.119
The Sweeney's Wicklow homeland was located near the
border of County Carlow, Ireland. Hacketstown, County
Carlow, is situated on a piece of Carlow land that extends
into Wicklow leaving Hacketstown surrounded on three
sides by Wicklow townlands. The Sweeney families lived in
the Wicklow Townlands of Rathshanmore (meaning "large old
fort") and Rathduffmore ("large black fort"), and attended Mass
at the Roman Catholic parish in Hacketstown.120
Another early Irish family on Stoner Prairie near Mutchler
Road was the Moses Lacy family which started a farm on the

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