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Vernon County Museum Notes
Vernon County Museum Notes

Vernon County Museum Notes

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This year we are celebrating the 150th birthday of the historic house at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua, now called the “Sherry-Butt House” for the names of the two families that lived there. But the family members weren’t the only people who lived there – hired hands did as well, as census records show us. Last week we looked at two of the servants who lived and worked at the house in the year 1880. Today we’ll look at a farm hand, Proctor, and a maid, Alpharetta, who worked there in the year 1900.

Proctor Harris was born on Aug. 19, 1875 in Viroqua to Benjamin Franklin Harris and Nancy (Palmer) Harris. His mother died in 1876. Proctor is next found on the 1900 census, age 25, as a farm laborer in the home of Cyrus and Margaret Butt. His father was living in Knox County, Nebraska at that time. Proctor soon joined him there and married Ella Mae Wettstadt in Bloomfield, Knox County, Nebraska, on April 28, 1904.

Ella had been born in Plymouth County, Iowa, and the 1910, 1930 and 1940 censuses show Proctor and Ella living in Plymouth, Iowa. Proctor was working as a farmer there. He died in Iowa on July 17, 1954, and is buried with his wife in Hillside Cemetery, Merrill, Plymouth County, Iowa.

Alpharetta R. Jennings was born in 1882 to Isaac N. and Margaret (Wallace) (Moore) Jennings. Isaac, Margaret and their four daughters lived in the town of Liberty. Margaret passed away in 1898 at the age of 38 and is buried in the Manning Cemetery located in the town of Kickapoo.

Alpharetta’s name is on two censuses for 1900. She was counted on the census on June 20, 1900, at age18, living with the Butt family, and she was also counted two days later, on the June 22, 1900 census, living with her father and three sisters in the town of Liberty. Her father’s brother John William and his three children lived near the Butt family in Viroqua in 1900. We can speculate that Alpharetta came to know about a servant position at the Butt home through her uncle.

On Nov. 27, 1900 she married a Canadian, Frank Fitchett, in Vernon County. Frank, who came to the U.S. in 1898, was living as a boarder in the home of John H. Bennett and his wife Olga. John was a district attorney at the time and no doubt had dealings with Cyrus Butt, also an attorney. This is most likely how Frank and Alpharetta met. She must have left the Butt household when she married. The young couple had a daughter, Celia, who was born in Monroe County, Wisconsin in 1901.

Alpharetta’s father Isaac Jennings might have come to live with them, and he passed away in Sparta, Monroe County, in 1906. At some point, the Fitchetts moved to Canada. Four more children were born in Canada but sadly two of them passed away as infants. Frank Fitchett died Sept. 17, 1917 in Calgary, Canada at age 47. Alpharetta Jennings Fitchett passed away in Calgary on Feb.16, 1923 at the age of 41. She is buried in Calgary, Canada along with her children Franklin and Margaret.


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