THE FLEMING FAMILY OF FITCHBURG ROAD – HISTORY SUMMARY
Edward and Nellie Patterson Fleming lived on Fitchburg Road from 1939 to 1942. The descendants of two of their daughters, Mary Fleming Kinney and Ruth Fleming Richardson, have had notable roles in Fitchburg’s civic affairs over the decades, including through 2021 with Edward Kinney on the City Plan Commission, and Aaron Richardson as Mayor of Fitchburg.
Ed and Nellie Fleming had been Wisconsin dairy farmers since the early 1900s at Rock Springs in Sauk County, Dallas in Barron County, and Lyndon Station in Juneau County. Then, during their retirement, they lived at a number of different places in and around Dane County including on Fitchburg Road. Two of their daughters, Mary and Ruth, married into the Kinney family of Irish Lane and the Richardson family of Lacy Road in the 1930s. Nellie Fleming later passed away, and Ed spent the last decades of his 101-year life residing at some of his children’s homes, including substantial time at the Kinney farm. Thanks in part to Ed Fleming’s longevity, Ed and Nellie’s descendants have an unusually detailed oral tradition about their ancestry. Following are some of the family’s founders’ stories (as adapted from pages 78, 106-112 of the book The Kinney Family of Irish Lane).
Edward Fleming’s paternal grandfather, John Flemming (as the last name was spelled before the family came to Wisconsin), was born in about 1803 in County Cavan, Ireland, and immigrated to Franklin County in northern New York in 1832. (Immigration record; death certificate in Franklin County, New York; gravestone in Catholic Cemetery in Brushton, New York). John Flemming was from a lace curtain Irish family that emigrated well before the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1855. John married Mary McDermott in about 1841. Mary was born in Ireland in about 1816. They had ten children: Margaret, Patrick, Maria, John, Michael, George, Rose, Jane, Henry, and Peter. The family lived on a 140 acre farm two miles west of West Bangor, New York. (1850 and 1860 federal censuses; 1876 plat map of Bangor). John Flemming died on December 26, 1889, and his wife Mary McDermott Flemming died on November 1, 1890. Both died in Bangor, New York.
Patrick, the second child of John and Mary Flemming, was born on April 28, 1843, according to his baptismal record. Patrick left New York in 1866 in hopes of joining a brother who had already moved west. On his journey, he stopped in Madison, Wisconsin. While touring the Capitol building, he met a Civil War colonel named Argalus Waldo Starks, a member of the State Assembly. Starks liked Patrick, and asked him if he would consider working on his farm in Sauk County. The farm was located one mile west of the village Ableman (now Rock Springs), west of Baraboo. Patrick agreed, and when the Assembly adjourned the two became well-acquainted on the train ride to Sauk County.
As the two came up the driveway to the colonel’s large farmhouse, the colonel’s wife, Kate, and her sister, Mary Black were preparing dinner. Mary was a beautiful young red-haired woman and was working in the kitchen when Patrick walked in. Patrick turned and whispered to the colonel, “There is the girl I am going to marry.” Patrick and Mary were wed January 1, 1868, at a German Methodist Church to which Mary belonged. (Sauk County marriage records, vol. 5, p. 8).
Mary Frances Black was born February 27, 1847, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Wilhelm and Ann Marie Faller Black. Mary’s father, Wilhelm, was born on July 30, 1807, in Prussia at Mulsungen according to his gravestone, and at Hesse Darmstadt according to the 1870 census. Ann Marie Faller Black was born on April 30, 1819, in Prussia at Marschein or Munchen according to her faded gravestone. Wilhelm’s last name was Schwartz, but when he volunteered to join the Civil War in September 1861 (Civil War record), an official told him, “German, you are a Yankee now, your name is Black.” The name change was not a problem initially, but later he could not receive a large inheritance in Prussia because he did not have documents to prove that his name had been Schwartz.
Wilhelm and Ann Marie Black lived in Pittsburg and Indianapolis before settling on a farm west of North Freedom, Wisconsin, in the Town of Westfield, in the late 1850s. Wilhelm was a stone mason. No buildings are present on the farm today, but a tree shaped like a corkscrew has long marked the site, and a spring still flows at the farmstead. A log house that is thought to have been the Black’s was moved a few farms down the road and was still standing in 1980. Wilhelm and Ann Marie Black had nine children: Catherine, Henry, William, Ernest, Mary Frances, Cornelius, George, Edward, and Franklin. (1860 and 1870 federal censuses). Ann Marie Black died on August 1, 1870, and Wilhelm died April 16, 1879, when he fell into a creek behind the farmstead and had a heart attack. They were both buried at the Zion Lutheran Church cemetery, which is a couple hundred feet from their farmstead.
After the marriage of Patrick Fleming and Mary Frances Black in 1868, they lived in Madison and Beloit. In about 1871 they settled on a farm in sections 4 and 5 in the Town of Freedom, one mile south of Ableman. (See 1894 plat map). Patrick and Mary Fleming raised hops, a viney plant with flowers borne in small cones, which were used in making beer at a Baraboo brewery. The Flemings had the area’s largest hop house, which is a barn-like storage building. Patrick is said to have traveled to New York each year to get information about the prices of hops. The Flemings’ beautiful white farmhouse burned down in the 1980s, and the hop house, which had been converted to a dairy barn, outlived the farmhouse.
Patrick and Mary Fleming had 10 children: Laura, Mary, Catherine, Margaret, John, Edward, Cleon, Alpha, Genevieve and Samuel. Patrick and Mary’s children were raised Methodists, although Patrick walked to the Catholic church in Baraboo on Holy Days. Patrick died on April 25, 1925, and Mary Black Fleming died May 1, 1924. Both died in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and are buried at Walnut Hill Cemetery. Their son Edward, the father of Mary Fleming Kinney and Ruth Fleming Richardson, was born on the hops farm on November 14, 1878. He married Nellie Patterson on November 28, 1906, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Baraboo.
The story of Nellie Patterson’s ancestry is recorded in a family history written about 1930 by her mother, Mary Donaghey Patterson, entitled Those Whom We Know (on file at the Fitchburg Historical Society). The following is a synopsis of that story.
Nellie Patterson’s paternal grandfather, John A. Patterson (Cemetery), was born in Ireland and had a Christmas birthday. He married Sarah Greene (Cemetery), who was born in New York, and they had twelve children, of whom only four lived to maturity: John, James, Sibbie, and Mary. John Greene Patterson was born on September 2, 1842, in Cambridge, New York. The family came to Wisconsin in 1843 and lived at farms in Mukwogao (Mukwonago?), in Oconomowoc, and finally at a Sauk County farm in Westfield township. John Greene Patterson fought in the American Civil War. He married Mary Donaghey on September 9, 1877, at the Catholic church in Baraboo.
Mary Donaghey’s parents were John and Ann McCulloch Donaghey. John was born June 12, 1827, at Quigley’s Point Parish in County Donegal to Thomas and Mary McDade Donaghey. John’s siblings were Nancy, Ella, William, and Mary. Mary McDade Donaghey died in 1830, and Thomas died in 1836. Despite hardships, John managed to get a good education and specialized in surveying. He then worked as an assistant to government surveyors in Ireland until he immigrated to the United States and lived in Connecticut. In 1854, he went to California and gathered a small fortune in gold in Calaveras County. In 1857, he returned to the East Coast and lived in Boston Massachusetts, and Long Island, New York. John Donaghey became engaged to Ann McCulloch, whom he had met a few years earlier in Connecticut. They were married October 25, 1857, in Boston.
Ann McCulloch was born on June 8, 1827, in an ivy-covered cottage by the sea in County Donegal, Ireland. Her parents, John McCulloch and Mary Dunleavy, were marred in 1825. Her father taught school in one room of their cottage, while the family lived in the other room. He died in 1831, and Ann McCulloch immigrated to the United States during the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1855. Ann went to America so that she could earn money to send to her mother. She had learned to do fine needlework and embroidery in Ireland, so she got a job as a seamstress when she arrived in New York. Ann also worked at her employer’s summer home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she met John Donaghey.
After John and Ann Donaghey were married in 1857, they moved to a farm on Seely Creek in sections 11 and 12 in the Town of Freedom in Sauk County, Wisconsin. (See 1894 plat map). John selected land there because he knew some Donegal people in the area. John and Ann Donaghey had seven children: Mary, Anne, Nellie, Fannie, Roseanna, Elizabeth, and John. John, the father of the family, served as treasurer of the Town of Freedom. He signed a receipt for taxes paid in 1876 by Patrick Fleming. John died January 17, 1903, and Ann McCulloch Donaghey died January 17, 1913. Both Ann and John passed away in the village of North Freedom.
Mary Donaghey, the first child of John and Ann, taught school around Sauk County until she married John Greene Patterson in 1877. They bought a farm in the Town of Westfield in Sauk County and had eight children: Sarah, Anna, Mary, Ellen (Nellie), John, Matthew, William, and Hugh. In 1890, John and Mary Donaghey Patterson sold the farm and built a large house in North Freedom. Later, they moved to Madison, where John died on April 2, 1918 (Cemetery), and Mary on May 30, 1939 (Cemetery). They are buried in a Catholic cemetery a mile northwest of North Freedom. (See generally Those Whom We Know for a detailed account of the Patterson, Donaghey, and McCulloch families in Ireland and the United States).
John and Mary Donaghey Patterson’s fourth child, Ellen, known to all as Nellie, was born on November 3, 1883. She became a school teacher and taught school for six years. Nellie then married Edward Fleming in 1906. Edward, who was raised Methodist, converted to Catholicism when he and Nellie were married. Edward and Nellie Fleming lived for a few years at the Fleming farmhouse one mile south of Rock Springs in Sauk County. Edward and his brother Cleon were both raising young families in the house, so Edward and Nellie decided to buy their own farm. In 1911 they moved to a dairy farm near Dallas in Barron County, Wisconsin.
Edward and Nellie Fleming had eight children: Edwin, Clarence, Arthur, Mary, Ruth, Merwin, Loretta, and Ivan. In 1927, they sold the farm in Dallas and moved to a farm near Lyndon Station in Juneau County northwest of Madison. In 1937, Edward and Nellie Fleming sold the Lyndon Station farm and retired, moving to Dane County. They moved in 1939 to the Penfield farmhouse which is located to the southwest of the corner of Fitchburg and Grand View roads in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. (See 1940 plat map). They returned to the Lyndon Station farm in 1942 when the people who bought the farm five years earlier could no longer make the payments. Edward and Nellie sold the Lyndon Station farm a second time, and lived at a number of different places in the following years.
The first child of Edward and Nellie, Edwin Patrick Fleming, was born February 27, 1908, married first Edith Hahn in 1929 and second Esther Harrison in 1961 in Indiana, sold Watkins Products and drove a truck for Mayflower, and died November 25, 1982 in Fairhope, Alabama. The second child, Clarence John Fleming, was born March 7, 1910, married Gertrude Cleary in 1939, worked in a plant nursery at the UW—Madison and later operated a tour boat in Maitland, Florida, and died April 7, 1990. The third child, Arthur Francis Fleming, was born August 31, 1911, married Agnes Miller in 1938, initially lived on the north side of Grandview Road east of Fitchrona Road in Fitchburg and worked at a plant nursery at UW—Madison, then moved to Fairhope, Alabama, where he had a farm with dairy cows, chickens and pecan trees, and died December 15, 2003. The fourth child, Mary Katherine Fleming, was born April 9, 1913, married Willie Kinney in 1935, lived on Irish Lane east of Caine Road in Fitchburg on a dairy farm and taught a home economics course in crocheting at Madison Area Technical College while Willie became Fitchburg’s first water superintendent. Mary died December 30, 2003 (Obituary, Cemetery). The fifth child, Ruth Ann Fleming, was born July 19, 1914, married Eugene Richardson in 1939, and lived on a dairy farm on the north side of Lacy Road west of today’s Richardson Road in Fitchburg. Eugene started Richardson Oil and Richardson Bus Company. Ruth later died on March 7, 1975. The sixth child, Merwin Bernard Fleming, was born November 26, 1916, fought in the US Navy in World War II in the Pacific Theater, married Anna Knott in 1949, resided in Riverside, California, worked in construction, and died April 29, 1999. The seventh child, Loretta Jane Fleming, was born October 14, 1920, married Donald Geiger in 1940, dairy farmed in Verona, Wisconsin, and died December 7, 1996. The eighth child, Ivan Lester Fleming, was born February 17, 1923, married Esther Greenwood in 1944, bought and operated his parents’ dairy farm at Lyndon Station near Reedsburg, Wisconsin, later drove a truck hauling corn and beans and worked as a grain dealer. He died August 25, 2016.
The mother of these eight children, Nellie, died on May 31, 1954 at 70 years old. After Nellie passed away, Edward began living with various sons and daughters, including his daughter Mary and son-in-law Willie Kinney. Edward spent time working in the garden at the Kinney farm and had a chair which overlooked the garden and the fields beyond. More than once when the bull broke its chain and Willie was not around, Edward would go out and capture it. When he was 98 years old, he moved to the Dane County Nursing Home in Verona. There, he entertained his great-grandchildren when they came to visit by telling stories and playing his harmonica. In 1978, at his 100th birthday party, 250 descendants and other relatives and friends attended. On this occasion, he received a Papal Blessing certificate from Pope John Paul II. When Edward Fleming died on April 29, 1980, at the age of 101 years, he was survived by seven of his eight children, thirty-six grandchildren, and seventy-three great-grandchildren. (Obituary in Wisconsin State Journal). Edward and Nellie are buried in the Verona Catholic cemetery.
Edward and Nellie’s daughters Mary Fleming Kinney and Ruth Fleming Richardson spent their married lives in Fitchburg, and their descendants are notable for their participation in Fitchburg’s civic affairs. For instance, Willie and Mary Kinney’s son Bill is serving on the City of Fitchburg’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and has also been on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Bill and his wife Carole Kinney’s three sons have all done public service for Fitchburg. Their oldest son Edward Kinney is vice chair of the City Plan Commission, and has been the chair of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Their second son Thomas Kinney authored the award-winning book Irish Settlers of Fitchburg, Wisconsin 1840-1860, which was published by the Fitchburg Historical Society. Their youngest son Andrew Kinney was on Fitchburg’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Meanwhile, Eugene and Ruth Richardson’s son Jerry Richardson was a volunteer firefighter and also a constable for Fitchburg. Eugene and Ruth had a second son Michael, and his son Aaron Richardson is Mayor of the City of Fitchburg in 2021.
By Thomas P. Kinney — 2021, author of the two books:
Irish Settlers of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, 1840-1860, Fitchburg, Wisconsin, Fitchburg Historical Society, 1993.
The Kinney Family of Irish Lane – From the Barony of Moycarn to the Homestead in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, Fitchburg, Wisconsin, Irish Lane Publishing Company, 1994.
Lineage of Edward and Nellie (Patterson) Fleming: