Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois
Originally published 1896
S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago, IL
Reproduced on CD purchased from OLD GLORY ACCENTS
Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society
Gillett Burr is now living a retired life in Princeton, and is one of the prominent citizens of the county. It is the sacred duty of every generation to preserve a faithful memorial of the character and conduct of its distinguished men. The maxims and motives and the destinies of leading men, as exemplified from age to age in the moral drama of our race, constitute the elements of historic philosophy and impart to the annals of mankind their only practical utility. There are in the record of every self-made man many valuable lessons which may be learned and profitably employed, and the history of Gillett Burr is no exception to this rule.
He was born in Litchfield county, Connecticut, September 9, 1827. His father, Hiram Burr, was born and reared in the nutmeg state and was married there to Almira Cook, also a native of Connecticut. For a number of years he followed farming there and about 1850 came to Illinois, locating in Princeton, where he engaged in the manufacture of threshing machines throughout his remaining days. His wife also died in Princeton. They had four sons who reached manhood but only two are living: Gillett and Penfield, both residents of Princeton.
The subject of this review was reared in his native county, and his education, which was begun in the common schools, was completed by a course in Torrington academy. He afterward successfully engaged in teaching for about five years, and then embarked inthe manufacture of brick in his native city, conducting the first industry of the kind at that place. After two or three seasons he removed to Amenia, New York, where he also conducted a brickyard for two years. In 1853 he emigrated to Illinois and established a brickyard in Princeton, where for sixteen years he carried on an extensive and profitable business. He manufactured the brick used in the construction of the courthouse and many leading residences and business blocks in Princeton, Mendota and other points along the railroad. The systematic methods which marked the prosectuion of his business and his honorable dealing were the main points in his success and they brought him a handsome competence. In 1869 he purchased a farm three miles from Princeton and for about twenty years was engaged in the operation of his three hundred acre tract of land. His farming methods were advanced and progressive and his eaarnest labor and energy made his farming property one of the best in the county. In 1890 he returned to Princeton, and in his beautiful home is now enjoying the rest which is the fitting crown for his many years of faithful and honorable labor.
Mr. Burr was married in Springfield, Erie county, Pennsylvania, September 8, 1853, to Miss Mary Ann Crawford, a native of that county, and a daughter of James Crawford, who was born in Pennsylvania, but spent the greater part of his youth in Washington county. In Erie county he married Elizabeth Laughlin, who was born in Fayette county, and in the former he became a substantial farmer and highly respected citizen. He reared a family of three sons and five daughters, all of whom reached mature years and were married. Mr. and Mrs. Burr have one daughter, Jennie Bird, a highly educated and cultured young lady, who has many friends in Princeton. They also lost four children in infancy; Lucien S., dying at the age of fourteen months; Roy Adelbert, at five months; Mary Ada, at five years, and another unnamed. One son, Charles C., died at the age of thirty-seven.
Of the old whig party Mr. Burr was an earnest advocate until the organization of the republican party in 1856, when he supported John C. Freemont. He has since supported each nominee of the party, but has had no desire for political preferment himself. His wife is a member of the Congregational church. For forty-three years they have traveled life's journey together, sharing with each other the joys and sorrows, the adversity and prosperity which checker the career of all. They have well merited the high esteem in which they are held and the success which has crowned their efforts. Mr. Burr has justly won the honored American title of a self-made man, and his name deserves a prominent place in the history of his adopted county.