I was born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, and am married to Bill Kinney, born and raised in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. I was employed in both bedside nursing and nursing education for 40 years. I graduated from St. Joseph Mercy School of Nursing in Aurora, Illinois and obtained my Registered Nurse license, and then received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing Education and Public Health from Marquette University. I met Bill while attending Marquette University when he had just finished a two year stint in the Army in Verdun, France, and was enrolled in Madison Business College and still in the National Guard. We both graduated from college in 1962, married in November of that year and made our home on Irish Lane in Fitchburg. We have three sons, two daughters-in-law and 5 grandchildren.
Genealogy and history have always been interests of mine. My grandparents all came from Ireland, except for one grandfather who was from Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Kinneys (Kennys) were one of the first settlers of Fitchburg having arrived in 1844, so the family has been exposed to a lot of history of this area, much of it passed down by word of mouth through grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents. Some of this valuable history was also in written form, with a nice family chart recording their coming through Trois-Rivieres, Canada from County Mayo, Ireland in 1831, and eventually to Fitchburg to build two log homes on Irish Lane for the brothers Andrew and Michael and their families. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit Trois-Rivieres in 1988 and see the remnants of their home-site. There was a sixteen foot luminous cross nearby that is believed to mark the area where pioneer Michael’s two young children were buried. The children possibly died at the time of a Cholera epidemic in 1832 that killed one-tenth of the population of Quebec Province.
As young marrieds, we were invited across the yard to many Sunday dinners in the large farm house on Irish Lane, and those gatherings were always filled with discussions and stories passed down by older family members of what took place in Fitchburg in the early years. As we sat and listened on those Sunday afternoons, I began to think of how the information on early Fitchburg and its development could some day be made accessible to future generations.
In 1986, the opportunity seemed right when Mayor Jeannie Sieling suggested that a small group of us with similar aspirations meet and consider starting a Fitchburg historical society by gathering together information on early Fitchburg, and putting it in some semblance of order. Fitchburg residents were happy to back us up, as they also saw the need. The timing was perfect! Work began immediately, and by February of 1987 the Fitchburg Historical Society became official, and 80 people signed up as Charter Members.
In 2017, the Fitchburg Historical Society celebrated its 30thAnniversary. In those 30 years eager volunteers have given many hours in helping the collections grow. My husband, Bill, continues to be a great resource for the F.H.S. with his knowledge of the background of Fitchburg farms, and the many changes that have taken place over the years to make the City of Fitchburg what it is today. He is currently a member of the Fitchburg Landmarks Preservation Commission. I volunteer in the archives with Barb Tereba, an expert on the computer, a good organizer of historical materials, and a fun person to work with. I have been president of F.H.S in the past, and have been a Board member for a number of terms. I hope to always have an active part in this very worthwhile organization.
We now have an exciting website that is making our collections easily accessible to everyone – our goal to begin with!
For those interested in reading about the early days of Fitchburg, our son Thomas P. Kinney has authored the book: Irish Settlers of Fitchburg,Wisconsin 1840 – 1860. It can be obtained through Fitchburg City Hall, or through the F.H.S.