Past Articles

Fitchburg and The Fitchburg Historical Society Will Miss a Dear Friend

Kathleen “Kay” (Fahey) Harty was a wonderful Irish Lane neighbor and friend. Kay was raised on a small farm in Fitchburg with her two sisters, Elizabeth and Ellen.   She loved her sheep, horses and dogs when she was growing up (and her dogs as an adult!) and spoke often of them and the joy they gave her.  Kathleen was born to Thomas and Katherine (Keeley) Fahey April 5, 1932.  Her grandparents were John and Julia Monks Fahey, and her great grandparents were James and Bridget White Monks who came from Ireland and settled on Irish Lane in 1855.   Kathleen was married to Charles Harty in 1959 and has a son, Robert (Mona) Harty, and two granddaughters, Kamryn and Carolyn, who were very dear to her.

Kay received her start in education in Fitchburg Center School, one of Fitchburg’s one-room schools before the consolidation of rural schools. The school was located on the corner of Fish Hatchery and Whalen Roads with grades one through eight, and is now a home.  It is there that she attended grades one through six, and then transferred to Edgewood Campus School in Madison and was placed in eighth grade.  A story she often told about her Fitchburg school days, was when she came to school riding in her pony cart one day and one of the boys untied the pony from the fencepost when no one was around, and the pony and the cart went home, much to the “chagrin” of her mother when she saw it coming!  Her mother did not have a car at that time, and the school did not have a phone.  One can only imagine her concern…………..

Kathleen loved the rural setting of her home, and would frequently ask a nearby neighbor, Bill Kinney, to please keep the rather large honeysuckle bush that grew along the line fence cut down, as it was blocking her “east view” of the countryside!

As an educator, Kay excelled in the field of education as an elementary school teacher, a specialist in reading and early childhood education, a principal of Midvale Elementary and Gompers Elementary Schools in Madison, to name a few of her achievements.  She obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UW-Whitewater, and a Ph.D. from UW-Madison.  Arthritis eventually caused her great discomfort and she retired early.  She continued to remain active in various organizations.

The Fitchburg Historical Society appreciated Kathleen’s presence on their Board with her suggestions for programs for the annual membership and other meetings, and her sharing of her historical knowledge of the Fitchburg community.  Kay was always open to new things, and willing to do her part in contributing to the successful growth of the Fitchburg Historical Society.  Her name will be added to the plaque of former Board members that is hanging in the Fitchburg Room on the second floor of the Fitchburg Public Library.

Carole S. Kinney
Archivist of F.H.S.
January, 2019

Click to view Kay Harty’s obituary

Ann O’Brien Interview on the Doll Hospital

Doll hospital.jpgAnn O’Brien, longtime Fitchburg resident, experienced a unique childhood.  Her mother ran a doll hospital in Madison in which Ann was intimately involved working alongside her mother and uncle.  Dolls were brought into the hospital with broken limbs to be repaired, hair to be replaced, or perhaps needing a new outfit uniquely designed for each doll.  Teddy bears were made and sold along with various accessories available to enhance the appearance of beloved dolls.  Experience Ann’s first hand account of running a doll hospital with the hard work and creativity required to operate a successful family business catering to the special needs of doll lovers.

Click here to view the video

Fall FHS Meeting a Success

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Jason Himebauch answering questions after the presentation

On Sunday, October 28, Jason Himebauch, foreman at the Nevin Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg described the inner workings of the fish hatchery and its role in harvesting eggs, rearing fish and stocking and monitoring fish in Wisconsin.  His duties not only involve the rearing of the fish but managing the machinery, reacting to natural events and controlling predatory animals that enjoy free meals from the fish raceways and ponds.  A link to the video of the presentation made be FACTv will be placed on our Video Presentations webpage as soon as it is made available to us.

For those that would like to take a self guided tour of the hatchery at 3911 Fish Hatchery Road in Fitchburg, they are open Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 8 am to 3 pm.  Stop in office to ask questions.  For guided tours of 15 or more people contact the office at 608-275-3246.

Complete Images of the 1903 Signature Quilt Now AvailableQuilt FR

The 1903 signature quilt is still on display in the Fitchburg Room of the Fitchburg library and it is periodically refolded to show other names. For those that cannot come to the library or want to view all the signatures in detail, we now have added a complete set of high resolution images of the quilt to our website.

Click to view signature quilt images

Annual Meeting Sunday, April 22Annual meeting

The Fitchburg Historical Society had its annual meeting April 22. At the meeting, 4 board members, Rich Eggleston, Kay Phistry, Catherine Schneider and Allan Tereba were each reelected to another 3-year term. Adrianne Imilkowski presented a short background presentation on the 1918 influenza pandemic and Professor Mary Hayney (picture at right) from the UW Pharmacy School presented the keynote address on how influenza virus works, how it caused the 1918 pandemic and how we are dealing with influenza virus today. The meeting had over 50 people and generated a large number of thoughtful questions.

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Obituary ProjectStudents LR 4

At our board meeting Saturday, April 7, our collections advisor Elizabeth Leith and her six students, Megan Bernards, Kelsey Breen, Virginia Fetzer, Jackson Rohde, Onah Rongstad and Caroline Schlingsong presented a progress report on our project to digitize our substantial obituary collection and obtain other genealogical Students mural 4 LRinformation on people associated with Fitchburg. The students should finish scanning over a thousand obituaries by April 13 and will continue to gather information from these obituaries for inclusion in our FHS FileMaker Pro Database and on our website. This project was funded in part by a grant-in-aid from Wisconsin Historical Foundation, Inc., administered by Wisconsin Council for Local History, Inc. The students are volunteering as a service learning course project. Before the meeting the students discussed the preservation and restoration of wall murals such as our Village of Fitchburg mural in the Fitchburg Room.

A Spring Check-up On Our Collections

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This spring, several students from the University of Wisconsin did a “Preservation Review” of our Collections. It was a learning experience for them, and an opportunity to review our archival procedures. After receiving their report in May we have been working in our basement storage area of the Fitchburg Public Library to make sure that items stored there are in archival quality containers, and that items close to the floor are in waterproof containers in the event of water damage.

Other suggestions are in the process of being implemented including the backup of our Collection Records and organizational documentation in multiple secure places. Our mini grant will provide the funds for an external hard drive to assist in this process.

Our Photographic Collection has undergone a real transformation this past year, and will continue to be emphasized as we implement our digitization process, another facet of the Preservation Review. The Obituary area receives constant updates and a list of available obituaries is on our Website. In addition, various articles are added regularly to our paper files, and a careful digital and paper inventory is kept of all our Collections.

Many hours have been put into updating the archives, and the report from the U.W. students was both useful and encouraging.

FHS Hosts Networking Meeting


Some of the networking meeting participants

On September 23 the Fitchburg Historical Society hosted the renewal of the Dane County Historical Society networking meetings. Presentations discussed the development of Websites and Facebook and highlighted the roles they play in interacting with the public. The Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Council for Local History also presented updates. Many of the more than 30 participants took advantage of the time devoted to personal interactions between the local historical societies.

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Grand Army of the Republic Flag Holder

Flag Holder LR.jpgIn 1987  the Oak Cemetery Association, which had been formed in 1853, was left with only two aging members. With no prospects of acquiring new members the cemetery was turned over to the City of Fitchburg. The cemetery was closed to new burials and the Parks Department took over the chore of mowing and keeping the cemetery neat and orderly. They also took responsibility of placing flags at the veterans’ graves each Memorial Day. During the original clean-up process they found a broken and rusted remains of a Grand Army of the Republic flag holder. With no knowledge of whose grave this was from they turned it over to the Fitchburg Historical Society. The relic has been sandblasted and is now kept in the archives. The words over the center pictorial read: Grand Army of the Republic, and below: 1861 Veteran 1866.

F. H. S. Board of Directors Honor Plaque

Honor plaque LR.jpgA special plaque to honor members who served so faithfully on the F.H.S. Board of Directors in the past, and have now passed on, can be viewed in a prominent place on the large desk in the Fitchburg Room of the Library.  A number of the members listed were Charter Members, and are noted as such.

Map of Cultural Resources in Fitchburg

Culturl map SLR.jpgCome and see a beautiful 2 ft x 3 ft map of the “Cultural Resources of Fitchburg” prepared by the Fitchburg Planning and Zoning Commission in September of 2008, and recently framed and hung in the Fitchburg Room of the Library by the Fitchburg Historical Society.  The map includes places on the National Register of Historic Places, other historic buildings, and historic schoolhouses.  It also shows locations of a lead mine, stone quarries, Indian camps and trails, and a Mound group.

This well done Fitchburg Cultural Resource Map is a “must see” for anyone interested in the history of this growing community.