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Early resident's life was filled with tragedy

March 28, 2014

This tale of a lady has a pig start and a pig ending.

The Town of Lisbon had their very first town meeting on April 5, 1842, at the Lisbon Plank Road School (Halquist area). One of the very first ordinances was about pigs running loose. A rule was adopted that stated that pigs running loose had to wear a three-board yoke or there was a fine of $1 payable to the town treasurer.

Now to get back to the sad lady tale. Her maiden name was Sophia Freed, born March 19, 1815, in Kent County, England.

She grew up in England after the Napoleonic Wars. She met her future husband, William Russell, born in May 1811, in West Wall, Kent County, England, and they were married on Dec. 23, 1840, in East Sutton, Kent County.

Russell was listed as a wood sawyer in one census, and as an agriculturist in another. They lived in a house in East Sutton, abut 8 miles southeast of Maidstone, Kent County.

Russell was part of a major family group that was leaving England for the United States, mostly Wisconsin, or Canada. Sophia had a boy, James in about 1843. They there were two more boys, born in about 1845 and 1848 —William Jr. and George — who both died in Canada. Father William also died in 1849, while Sophia was pregnant with a last boy, Charles, just as they were settling into Canada. Now she was a widow, no husband, and two boys to bring up.

There was a bunch of Russell family members living in Sussex and Lisbon at this time, and she came to Wisconsin so the extended Russell family could take care of her. She had left the dead husband and two children buried in Canada. Family history states that she came to Sussex in the 1850s.

Now tragedy struck again as son, James, age 20, died in 1863, and the other remaining son, Charles, died in 1866 at age 17. A monument went up in Sussex's God's Acre Cemetery for the dead father, and the four sons, with the three of them forever buried in Canada.

Sometime in the late 1850s she found a new husband, Lisbon farmer Joseph Pittard. This happiness with a second husband was a double loss as he became insane, and had to be put away. Born in 1811, he died a he insane asylum Dec. 10, 1888, and is buried at St. Alban's Cemetery.

She had now lost two husbands and all four of her boys.

As the Sussex historian, I knew of the unlucky sad lady, Mrs. Sophia Freed/Russell/Pittard, but could never put it all together, until just recently.

I acquired the 352-page opus produced in 2000 by the recently deceased Ronald Galuski and Nathan Weber, " Descendants of William Russell and Lydia Coulter, Married September 30, 1737." On page 9 there is an entry on William Russell, 1811-1849, who sired four sons with Sophia Freed, and their untimely deaths ... with most of it attributed to Janice Russell Peterson of Lakeland, Fla.

Incidentally, Peterson is the author of "The Weavers of Lisbon-Sussex." She is related to the founding family of Sussex-Lisbon. Both the 352-page Russell book and now the "Weavers of Lisbon-Sussex" are available at the Pauline Haass Library. Both of the books also have extensive entries of the still locally prominent Howard family.

This story of the sad, unlucky lady will be continued in coming weeks.

There will be a connection about how Mrs. Freed/Russell had her life story start with an 1842 anti-pig-running-loose ordinance by the Town of Lisbon, and pigs again at her demise.

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Weekend Happenings

Featured this week:  

Homestead Animal Farm: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends, W320 N9127 Highway 83, Hartland. Corn maze, hayrides, barnyard animals, pumpkins and other fall items. $6 maze, $2 hayrides, $2 animals, $9 all three. (262) 966-3840.

Mike Chaloupka Memorial Craft Fair: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 27, Cornerstone Church, N6 W31449 Alberta Drive, Delafield. Handcrafted home and holiday decor items, unique gifts, silent auction, bake sale.

Comedy Show: 9-10:30 p.m. Sept. 27, Club Indigo, Olympia Resort, 1350 Royale MIle Road, Oconomowoc. Features national acts. $7 advance, $10 at the door. (262) 369-3999, www.olympiaresort.com.

"The Wonderbread Years" starring John McGivern: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27, Oconomowoc Arts Center, 641 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc. A comical salute to the baby boomer generation. (262) 560-2130, www.theoac.net.

Updates to this calendar are made weekly Monday afternoon. 

All weekend happenings.