The Birney Women

Image Courtesy of the La Crosse Public Library Archives

Image Courtesy of the La Crosse Public Library Archives

Penelope Lloyd Birney (b. circa 1835, in Louisiana) came to La Crosse with her barber husband John in 1857 from Louisville, Kentucky. Not only a successful barber, eventually opening his own shop at 301 Main Street, John Birney was a successful real estate developer who became quite well-to-do. 

He built their home at what later became 1001 State Street.

Penelope had three children. Mary Ella, (1856-1878),  was the oldest, born before their arrival in La Crosse. She died of Tuberculosis at the age of 22 and is buried in La Crosse, in Oak Grove Cemetery. 

Florence (b. 1861) was born in La Crosse and was one of the first African Americans to graduate from La Crosse High School in 1879. After graduation she moved to Louisville to attend the Eastern Colored School, a state university for African Americans. After graduating she remained in Louisville as a teacher at the same institution. 

Florence’s family in La Crosse moved back to Louisville and joined her there. She married William Louis in 1894, in Kentucky and they had a daughter named Nellie.

Location: 1001 State Street

1878: Family Home

2019: Apartments