Miscellaneous Biographical Sketches in Whiteside County, Illinois
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BIOGRAPHIES > BIO - Thomas Burden & Family

Transcribed from the Tampico Centennial Year Book 1875-1975

Thomas Burden, Fairfield was born in Queens County, Ireland in the year of 1830. In 1885 he lived as a retired farmer and still resided on his farm in Fairfield Township. He was one of the most extensive landowners of the county. His parents, Thomas and Mary (White) Burden, were natives of the same place where the father died. The mother immigrated to Oswego, N.Y. in 1847 and was accompanied by the following children: Richard, John, Thomas, Dennis, William, and Mrs. Julia Henriken. The last one named also came to Fairfield Township Bureau County where she died. He first came to Bureau County in 1850 and being pleased with the county and its prospects he decided to make his home here and located on his present farm in section lO in 1852. Here for more than a half a century he has continuously lived and throughout the entire time here maintained a most unusual reputation as an honorable business man. He was 17 years of age when he crossed the Atlantic to the new world, settling first in New York. While there he worked on the railroad between Syracuse and Rochester and laid the first rail in the state such rails were used to replace the old rails of the first roads. In the fall of 1848 he proceeded westward to Chicago and hence to Elgin, Illinois, where he was employed on the construction of the old Chicago and Galena Railroad. At a later date he also worked on the Chicago, Burlington, Quincy, and Rock Island railroads and others. He had come alone to this country. His father died in Ireland. At a later date his mother and other members of the family crossed the Atlantic and lived in Oswego, New York. His mother died in Oswego, N.Y. Our subject, Thomas Burden, worked one year in Oswego then he came to Bureau County and railroaded for nearly two years. There he bought 160 acres in Fairfield Township, section 10, where erected a log house about 10' by 12'in dimensions. His railroad work brought him capital that enabled him to become the owner of the land. He started farming and raising stock on a small scale. He carefully saved his earnings and preempted his homestead which covers the northwest quarter of the section. He has added to this at different times and he is now the most extensive land owner in Fairfield Township. His realty holdings are among the largest in the county. He has followed farming since securing his pre-emption claim about 1854 and he has been largely interested in stock raising, making a specialty of full blooded Durham cattle. At present he has about 2,000 acres of land in Fairfield Township. He is one of the largest land owners not only in the township but in the county, which is saying a great deal when we remember that he came here a poor man, with stock raising his main occupation. For a great many years he hauled his grain to Sterling a distance of 18 miles. He has brought his land under a high state of cultivation and has four residences and sets of farm buildings upon his high acreage. At the present he is practically living retired save for the supervision which he gives to the management of his property. But for many years he did much manual toil and he has borne a very helpful and important part on reclaiming the prairies from their wild condition and connecting them into fine farms.

Mr. Burden was married in LaSalle, Ill., to Miss Eleanor Fitzgerald, daughter of Martin and Margaret (Cavanaugh) Fitzgerald who came here in an early day. His wife was native of Queens County, Ireland, and as a young girl she went to Canada, where she accompanied her parents on their removal to this state. Subsequently her parents came to Fairfield Township, Bureau County, where they spent their remaining days. Her father died more than 35 years ago, while her mother passed away in 1888. Mr. and Mrs. Burden traveled many journeys happily together, but were separated by the death of his wife on the 15th of April, 1901 when she had reached the age of 71 years. Mr. and Mrs. Burden are members of the Catholic Church, St. Mary's in Tampico, Ill, and they are the parents of eight children: George, Mary, Charles, John, Emma, William, Elizabeth, and Nellie. George, a resident farmer of Fairfield Township-who married Rosanna Wisley of Sheffield, who died four years ago leaving ten children. Charles and Jim partners of the firm of "Burden Brothers of Tampico," who married Kate Conroy, and has 7 children; John who manages the home place, and Mary who is the widow of Joseph Clyne and lived upon the home farm. Emma the wife of William McCabe, and the supervisor of Gold Township, by whom she had 3 children; William, who is also a member of the firm of Burden Brothers of Tampico and he was married to Margaret Harty; Elizabeth the wife of William Graham of Sterling, Ill. Nellie the wife of Richard Kelly, a farmer of Fairfield Township by whom she has 2 sons. There were also 2 children who died in infancy. Katie and one who died un-named.

Politically Mr. Burden is a democrat and he served as commissioner and in some other local offices. Although he has never sought or decreed political preferment. His business interest have made close claim upon his time and attention. In addition to acquiring extensive property interests in this county he also is the owner of 430 acres of land in Whiteside County. He has a fine residence in the village of Tampico. He holds membership in the Catholic St. Mary's Church there. The life record of Mr. Burden may well serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to others. For when he came to the U.S. he was empty0handed. He possessed only a strong heart and an unfaltering determination. He was ambitious to succeed; however, he scorned no honest work that would yield him a living. On the railroad construction he made his start and, as the years passed, he invested largely and judiciously in land until the present holding make him one fof the wealthy residents of Fairfield Township.

Thomas Burden was hurt badly when thrown from his rig, and leg and ribs broken. This caused his death. His right leg was broken just below the hip, the upper point of the right hip bone was broken off, several ribs were pulled loose, his nose, forehead and top of head were skinned and bruised, and he also had bruises all over his body. The injuries would be bad enough for a man in his prime, but at Mr. Burden's advanced age of 79 they proved fatal. Mr. Dir, an old settler of the community who was riding with Mr. Burden, was also thrown out and sustained some bad bruises and an injured back. The bolt in the single tree came out. This permitted the tongue to drop down and also frightened the horses, causing the buggy to be overturned. Mr. Dir was thrown out of the rig, but Mr. Burden was in the rig with one leg sticking through the top when rescued by Robert Hellier and Linsey R. Renner. Mr. Burden was carried by cot to the Hellier home. Later he was taken to his home in Engel’s automobile by Charles. Asa Burden and Tony Engel. Dr. Harry Terry was later taken by auto and later Dr. Horner was called. The doctors set his leg by him gritting his teeth together, no anesthetic. He died Nov. 6, 1909.

Mr. Burden was the father of Charles and William, merchants in business in Tampico, and George Burden as highway commissioner, John was at home. There are four daughters, Mrs. Joe Clyne, Mrs. Wm. Graham of Chicago, Mrs. Wm. McCabe south of town on a farm. Mrs. Richard Kelly also on a farm south of Tampico.

George, a son, remained around Tampico and raise his ten children: Mamie (Mrs. Frank O'Neil); Edward of Joliet; Leroy of Chicago; Vincent and Richard of Erie and Albany; George Jr. of Stevens Point; Thomas never married; Joseph farmed in Fairfield and Greenville Townships all his life near Tampico. He married Mamie McNally of Tampico, formerly of Troy Grove; Ellen married Mike Langford of Walnut; Elizabeth married Charles Miller of Harmon. Mrs. George Burden died at her home 5 miles south of Tampico on a Thursday afternoon of pneumonia, after an illness of about 10 days. The funeral service was held Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mary's Church. Father Weber officiated. Rose Anna Wisely was born and raised near Sheffield and was forty-three years old at the time of her death. Twenty-four years ago she was married to George Burden who with ten children survive as follows: Mamie, Bessie, Ellen, Edward, Thomas, Joseph, Vincent, Richard, George, and Leroy. Three sisters and three brothers also surviving. Mr. Burden and grief stricken family a large number of friends will mourn her death.

The community lost one of its old pioneers, a member of the Burden Clan on January 19, 1939. Mr. Burden was a native of Northern Bureau County for the greater part of his life and lived in a day when Northern Bureau County was in a very raw state of cultivation and was just such as he and his family that brought the country to its present state of cultivation. Until recently he took an active part in the civic affairs of the township and whether he held public office or not, his interest in the affairs of his community did not wane.

Jan. 1917, the Main Altar, of St. Mary's Church was erected to the memory of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Burden by their grateful children, in thanksgiving to God for the many blessings conferred on the family.

Mr. Burden was a man of good judgment and one who always held the views of others in high regard and respect, and as it has been fittingly said of him, "He was no had to quarrel." This regard for the rights and feelings of others won him many friends. The community in which he lived so long and reared his family has been fortunate that he lived to so good an age that they might have his continued good wifi and counsel and the family may rest assured that his spirit of cheerfulness during that past years when he was so badly af- flicted with rheumatism will leave pleasant memories in the hearts of many.

Joseph made his living on the farm by using horses and purchased a tractor in the 1940's but was never able to run the tractor himself. Joseph and Memie McNally Burden had seven children: Margaret (Mrs. Vivian Spears); Lucille at home in Tampico; Martin married Else Jensen, live in Ohio; Mary Eleanor (Mrs. Howard Foley) of Deer Grove; Charles of Chicago, married Rita Petrone; Bernadine (Mrs. Merino Selmi) and Theresa (Mrs. Richard Rank), both from Rock Falls. Mr. Joseph Burden had been in ill health a few weeks and had a heart attack and died in July 1959, at the age of 72. Mamie Burden is still living on the farm south of Tampico, at the age of 86 in Feb. 1975. She is in very poor health at the present time, her daughter, Lucille, is taking care of her.

Thomas had eight children of which Elizabeth Graham, Mary Clyne, Nellie Kelly were all teachers in the local schools as they grew up. Thomas's son George married and had ten children. Several of his studied to be teachers and one of the younger ones, Ellen Burden Langford taught in the home district "The. Burden Rural School" for several years. Some of Joseph's older daughters attended school when their Aunt Ellen taught there. Another daughter's, daughter of Thomas, Emma McCabe's daughter Eleanor, never married and she taught the "Burden" school. Three of the Burden girls taught the "Burden" school - Mrs. Margaret Spears, Bernadine Selmi, and Mrs. Theresa Rank. Now, Mrs. Foley's son Patrick is teaching Math & Chemistry.

Burden Photo Gallery
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