Updated: Aug 11, 2022
The following speech was given by Nancy Durgin at the Sterling North Tea at Albion Academy Museum on June 12, 2022.
Our story of the North Family begins with Thomas North leaving England in 1847 with his two sons, William and Thomas (age 18) and their sister, Jane, age 20. Thomas and his sons bought 80 acres of land in WI and farmed it diligently purchasing 126 acres, then adding another 176 acres. Their property included land in Dane and Jefferson counties, with the farmstead on Bingham Road overlooking the marsh where Thure Kumlien lived.
After several years they divided the property with William eventually moving to Cottage Grove. Mr. North, like many immigrants, took part in the government of the area and was an Assessor for Albion Township for some years. He also served as a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church on the Prairie. He died in 1868 close to the age of 71.
Daughter Jane married John Bussey, a neighbor, just a few months after the family arrived. The Bussey Family lived on WI-73 maybe 3 miles from the Norths. Perhaps they had corresponded before the North Family arrived in WI. John died just before their 3rd child was born in 1850. In 1854 Jane married his brother, Benjamin Bussey, and had 7 more children.
Son Thomas married Sarah Brailsford in 1852. Her family had come from England in 1845. In the first 20 years of their marriage they also had 10 children 5 girls and 5 boys. A boy and a girl died very young. The remaining 4 sons and 1 of the daughters attended Albion Academy, just 4 miles from their home, with two sons completing enough course work to graduate: Thomas William in 1877 who became a minister and Charles Edwin in 1878 who went to Chicago to attend medical school. Sadly, Charles died at the age of 24 in Chicago. Free public high schools had been legislated in 1875, but there was a lot of controversy over how they would be paid for and if they were even necessary.
Back to Thomas, the father. He was a "conscientious Christian, a patriotic citizen, a sympathetic friend and neighbor" who served as a Supervisor on the Sumner Township Board in Jefferson County. He was a prominent member of the Albion Prairie M. E. Church and served as a Trustee and Sunday school teacher. His obituary states: "He lived through the week enjoying every chance to do business uprightly, but when Sunday came he simply reveled in praising God from whom all blessings flow."
Thomas had 160 acres which he grew to 255 acres in both Albion and Sumner Townships. Sterling North writes in Rascal just what the farm work included: "52 cows to milk by hand, 200 hogs to feed, 40 acres of tobacco...120 additional acres of hay, corn and oats."
Fred was the 10th child born to Thomas and Sarah in 1873, 6 years after his closest sibling. He attended the Albion Academy in 1888 and 1890. South Hall was renamed Kumlien Hall for Thure Kumlien who taught there from 1867 to the 1870s. Here Fred met Lillian McCarthy!
Lillian lived in Albion, attended the Village School and Albion Academy and went on to graduate from Whitewater Normal School. She was a member of the Ladies Imperial Band - the Gay 90s!
Lillian taught at Albion Village School for the Fall term of 1892 where she had 20 students aged 4 to 15. Her obituary says she also taught at Lake Drive School. She married Fred North on August 23, 1894. So Lilly's professional teaching career ended, but her life on the farm was just beginning. In that same year the elder Thomas and wife, Sarah, moved into their newly-built home in Edgerton, the current Sterling North House Museum! Sarah died in 1900 and Thomas in 1913. They are buried in the Albion Prairie Cemetery.
Fred and Lillian had 3 sons Charles born in 1895, Wilfred in 1898 and Ernest in 1904. Fred purchased the farm from his father in 1910 with his uncle, D.W. North, notarizing the signatures. An 1899 Jefferson County plat book records "F.A. North engaged in farming and dairying, a breeder of Shropshire sheep." Don't say that fast!
Sterling writes of his visit to the "old North homestead" when he was sick with the Spanish flu in October 1918. Though he tells of his cousins' lives on the farm, he does not mention that Charles got married in November of that same year to his neighbor, Bonniebel Slagg!
In January of 1921 Fred sold the farm to Louie and Clara Wileman (possibly a nephew) and bought the Wileman property which was 9 lots in the Toynton Addition of Edgerton along the east side of today's Blaine Street. This addition had been recorded in 1855, but never developed, so Fred farmed this land until his death. Fred's uncle, D.W. North, notarized the signatures.
In September, 1946, Fred and Lillian attended a birthday party for a great- granddaughter, Sharon Schieldt, one of Charles' grandchildren. Fred passed away the following year. Lillian continued living in the house, selling off some of the lots as she needed money with her brother-in-law, D.W. North, notarizing the transactions for her.
My Helgestad cousins remember walking to her house from Middle School for noon lunch milk toast! When she died in 1958, her home was inherited by two of Charles' six children, Janet Johnson (my mother) and Jim North. They built an 8-unit apartment house on the property. Sometime before 2009 it was sold to someone else, not family.