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Pioneer Woman of Albion Nears 92, Recalls Indians

Updated: Apr 14

The Janesville Daily, Dec 4, 1942

by Mrs. L. O. Palmiter


This is an article that was published almost 80 years ago. Her recollection of pioneer life is similar to “Lawrence C. Whittet's Address Delivered at Old Settler's Picnic, September 2, 1935”. Recently, descendants of Mary Elizabeth (Bussey) Barber donated her husband's woodworking toolbox to the museum and is currently on display. I have footnotes concerning this article that are available upon request. Kent Marsden


Her fear of the Indians which still inhabited this part of the country when she was a young girl is one of the first memories of Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Barber, Albion, who will celebrate her 92nd birthday Dec 27. Despite her advanced age she is able to boast of having reasonably good health and of still being active. She has always received much pleasure from doing her own housework, taking care of a large garden and raising a large flock of chickens. Last summer she grew a number of varieties of vegetables in her garden and set out a small strawberry bed in addition to raising 100 chickens which she is keeping during the winter.

Since her son, William Barber, died several years ago, she has lived alone. Her daughter, Mrs. Penuel Brown, and family, live just across the road from her and are able to look after the needs of their mother and grandmother.

The former Mary Elizabeth Bussey was born in a log cabin on Dec. 27, 1850, the daughter of John and Jane North Bussey. Both the mother and father had crossed the Atlantic from England in 1844. Eight families, including 39 persons, left Derbyshire, England, during the year 1844 and spent six weeks on the ocean. They had an extremely rough voyage and it has been said that if it had not been for the courageous and strong men of the party, the vessel and all on board would have been lost.

Joseph Noble and his family remained in Wauwatosa and the rest of the group came to Albion Prairie. James Hinchcliffe and Samuel Clark, who had come from England some time before, welcomed the group and gave them shelter until they could establish homes.

Many of the names of the group are well known among the old families of Albion Prairie. They included Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Marsden and ten children; Mr. and Mrs. John Slater, six children and three nephews, George Bunting, Job Bunting, James Wileman and Thomas Slinn; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Slinn and four children, Mr. and Mrs. William Wright; and Mrs. Martha Marsden and one child.

Of this group John Slater and Samuel Marsden Sr. were ministers of the Primitive Methodist denomination, to which the entire group belonged. Services were held on board ship and the first service after the group arrived here was conducted beside a straw stack in the open air. The outcome was the Primitive Methodist church of Albion Prairie of which the Rev. Mr. Atkinson was the first pastor. It is still a flourishing church organization.

Five days after his daughter’s birth Mr. Bussey died, also leaving his wife and two small sons The latter, who are still living, are Ezra Bussey, Edgerton, and Dr. George Bussey, Chicago.

Mary Bussey attended district school at Gravel Store and Albion Prairie and high school in Fort Atkinson. In 1870 she was united in marriage to Charles Barber, a sea captain, who was born in Westerly, R. I. The ceremony took place in the Emerald Grove Church. The couple settled in Albion township and four children were born to them. Elery Barber, who taught in the Janesville schools at one time, and William died several years ago; Dr. George Barber is a Milwaukee minister; and Mrs. Penuel Brown lives in Albion Prairie.

The house, which they built in the place of an old log cabin and which still stand on the old Bussey farm, was one of the first frame houses built for miles around and it was considered a luxurious home. Mr. Barber died many years ago.

Mrs. Barber has a keen sense of humor and a good memory. She does not wear glasses except when reading. She delights in entertaining her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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