|Birth: ||Apr. 6, 1853|
La Porte County
|Death: ||Feb. 14, 1928|
Amos and Anna by Bernice Burgess Kendig1981
To the memory of my pioneer grandparents whose twenty grandchildren and forty-six great grandchildren are now scattered all across the United States and Canada. Grandpa Burgess was a tall handsome man from Westville, Indiana and Grandma a tiny sweet faced girl also from the Hoosier State, they married in 1876. The young couple then set out upon the highway of life, a pathway their descendants would marvel at in the years to come and perhaps even envy a bit, but wait, that's my story.
Amos Reynolds Burgess, son of Orrin and Sarah Reynolds, was born in 1853 and married Myrta Ann Eacret who was born in 1857. They came to Iowa with sons Arthur, twins Gerry and Perry and Jim, in 1882 and settled first in Shelby county. They resided there one year then moved to a farm close to the area called Cory Grove. Their next move was to the Boozle place (known as the brick house) this was West and South of Cory Grove, here Floyd was born. In 1889 when Jim was eight years old, Grandpa took him with him on a train trip to Indiana to visit his parents. A baby named Glenn was born in the brick house but died at the age of nine months of diphtheria.
Disaster struck the Burgess family one night in 1890. They awoke to find their big barn and adjoining sheds ablaze. The fire destroyed not only the barn but all of their livestock except one old milk cow which Jim was supposed to put in the barn the evening before but couldn't get her to go in. The horns of that old cow are still around ninety years later. The fire left the family practically destitute as it burned six cows, one calf, eight head of horses, two colts, thirty head of hogs, four hundred bushels of corn, two hundred bushels of oats, seven tons of hay, harness for seven head of horses, a corn sheller, scoops, forks and other tools, none of which was insured. Only the day before an insurance salesman tried to sell grandpa some insurance and told him he might be sorry if he didn't take out some. Sixty friends and neighbors gave money (some as little as fifty cents), a fresh cow and use of a horse for a month to help them out.
The family continued to live on the Boozle place for six years, the boys attending Hawks School down the road North one-fourth mile. Jim remembered he often had to help with the washing before going to school in the morning. Some of their teachers were Mrs. Brazelton, Mrs. Jasper and Effie McClung who taught them to read from McGuffy Readers. One time they had a teacher they didn't like so they locked her in the school house after school, then threw the key in a nearby creek.
Nora, the only girl in the family, was born while they lived in the brick house. Grandpa decided to move again this time to the Charlie Whitcomb place (formerly the George Volz farm) where they lived one year before buying eighty acres North of Enterprise, Iowa paying fifteen dollars an acre. There were no buildings on the farm so grandpa built a small two room house and dug a big cave. The house was hardly more than a shed and he planned to use it as a grainery later on. Almond was born here in 1891. To make additional room in the house, wide boards were laid loosely on the top of the upper joists to make an upstairs attic-like room for the boys to sleep in. They had to climb a ladder to get up there. A partition dividing the upstairs was put in later and some steps were built. At first the beds were made of corn husks stuffed into ticking and laid on top of the loose boards. One Christmas Eve, dad (Jim) said the boys heard a noise down stairs and they moved a board aside to see if Santa Claus had come, but instead of Santa, they saw their parents stuffing popcorn and an orange in each long handmade stocking. The only toys the boys received when they were small were homemade such as a whistle or a top made of an empty spool. Nora and Almond fared somewhat better perhaps as there was a little more money. Nora owned three china head dolls and Almond some iron toys such as horses and carts, which he still has today. The dolls, Vernal and I played with seventy years ago when ever we went to visit. When Nora died in 1947 and the boys divided up her things, Floyd got one doll, dad got one and I found one with the head broken off in the smoke house when Almond bought the farm years later, but to get back to the story of the old house. The parlor of the house, boasted a big hard coal burner with fancy lion heads on the corners. Also there was a wood folding bed, a big red plush over stuffed chair, small rocking chairs with slat like seats and footstools made of tin cans covered with woolen material trimmed with embroidery. Really the only beautiful thing in the parlor was the huge Christmas cactus in the front of the South window. A cuckoo clock hanging near the ceiling told the time. Woven rag carpet padded with straw for warmth, covered the floor. An iron bed with shiny brass knobs and a black walnut dresser were the furnishings in grandma and grandpa's tiny bedroom adjoining the parlor on the East.
A lean-to was built on the North side of the house which served as a kitchen and eating area. The West end had a big black cook stove with it's warming oven and water reservoir. Just West of the stove was a big box like homemade work bench, on top stood a tall tin flour bin that held a large sack of flour. Opposite of the stove was another homemade bench which served as a place to put a wash pan and a long roller towel hung on the wall nearby. A shelf underneath held black baking pans and heavy iron skillets. A stone churn, a lard press and shoe last stood nearby. Outside the West door were morning glory vines covering a trellis made of tree branches. The stove which usually had a black kettle full of something cooking, was also a place to put the heavy irons used for pressing the clothing the family wore. These irons were heated on top of the stove and the handles would get so hot that a cloth pad would be placed over them so they wouldn't burn the hand.
The East end of the lean-to held a wood table and a wood cupboard with glass doors. The cupboard held no fancy dishes, just heavy stonewear plates with a brown leaf on top and print on the back saying "Wedgewood and Company, England". I can remember only one really pretty dish, a vinegar cruet, which I think Uncle Gerry got after Grandma died. The silverware had black wood handles and was kept in a drawer below the glass doors. Often there were not enough chairs to seat everyone at the table so a wood plank held up by kegs was placed along the North wall.
Sometime later grandpa built a shed onto the North side of the kitchen which provided a place for a sink where the boys could wash up and not have to use the kitchen. The sink was held up by a two by four wood frame. A big bucket underneath caught the wash water. The shed also sheltered the new cream separator. A pie cupboard with pierced tin doors stood near by, and held numerous stone crocks and stone jars. The cave door was also covered by the shed and made it handy as the milk, cream and butter were kept down there. The canned vegetables and fruits covered long shelves in the cave. In winter, the summer crop of potatoes and other vegetables were stored down there so they wouldn't freeze. The handy shed had no floor but it's hard, crust-like dirt surface was swept every day. There were two doors opening to the outside, the one on the West opened toward the garden and the East door toward the barns. Outside the East door there was a post with an iron dinner bell on top, near by were iron kettles used for making soap and heating water when they butchered.
Grandpa, as did all pioneers of his day, had to work very hard. Horses were used to pull the plow but he walked behind the plow all day. Chores such as milking was done after dark with the aid of a kerosene lantern. Morning meant getting up before daylight in order to get the chores done before going to the field again. No wonder they had to continue living in the house he had planned to use as a grainery, he didn't have the time or money to build a new one.
A big orchard one-fourth mile long was set out North of the house. Nora who was but three years old planted some of the seeds for the apple trees. Several bee hives located near the garden area. Grandpa had a net cover for his face and a bee smoker he used to quiet the bees when he wanted to take honey from the hives. He planted fields of cane and each Fall made sorghum, boiling down the cane and pressing out the juice which was cooked in a three by eight pan North of the pond where a small shed stood. A wood fire kept the juice boiling and when it was thick it was poured into half gallon tin buckets and sold or stored for Winter use. Grandma made sorghum cake and cookies for years and years. The cookies were kept in a jar in the kitchen cupboard and everyone helped themselves. Another source of sweeter was maple syrup made by tapping their maple trees and boiling down the sap in a big kettle on the kitchen range. The fancy little maple cakes were a delight to all especially at Christmas time. The boys were all growing up and an ice house was built out near the orchard and filled with sawdust. Huge squares of ice were cut out of the pond in Winter and stored in the ice house. The ice kept well and everyone enjoyed homemade ice cream during the hot summer days. They raised quite a few turkeys and a big bird was roasted in the oven of the old black cook stove every Christmas.
Money was scarce and for many years all the money the family could get hold of was kept in the top drawer of grandma's dresser. The boys were allowed to take what they needed from time to time but were required to replace it as soon as they could. Grandpa earned a few dollars digging tile ditches for the neighbors by hand. Later he took in a little more by taking farm produce including butter, eggs and sorghum to the mining town of Enterprise a couple of miles South. Many Negroes lived in Enterprise in those days and would watch for grandpa's surrey with the fringe on top as he drove along the dirt streets delivering his produce every Saturday morning. Grandma had churned the butter during the week patting it into balls with her butter paddle and then decorating each with a fancy imprint on top. Vegetables from their big garden were sold also to the Negroes. The Burgess Dunlap strawberries were well known in the community and these were displayed and sold in wooden boxes they had made. A fruit magazine was subscribed to and read from cover to cover. As the years went by, apples from the big orchard were sold and added to the family income. They purchased a cider press and made and sold cider.
Needing to preserve meat for the growing boys to eat, a smoke house was built onto the North end of the shed, and pork was smoked and hung out there. Many years later when Vernal and I used to play house in the building, a pleasant smoky odor still permeated it.
The boys as grandma always spoke of them, were now young men and all loved music. Grandpa managed to buy a dulcimer and later a reed pump organ for Nora. The boys wanted to form a band so in 1897 sent to Chicago for some drums. They got two snare drums paying sixteen dollars each for them and a wooden fife which was cracked when it came. Not satisfied they began saving for a bass drum which would cost thirty two dollars. Meanwhile, grandma and grandpa decided to sew a big flag, a flag that would cover one entire side of the lumber wagon the boys would ride in when they went to play at ice cream suppers and Fourth of July celebrations. Arthur played the fife and Gerry, Perry and Jim the drums. Soon the boys bought some nifty blue serge band uniforms using the money they received from their band concerts, sometimes three dollars, sometimes five dollars. The girls in Ankeny and Saylorville thought the Burgess boys not only sounded good but looked pretty nice also, in fact the boys began dating some of them. More about these dates later.
Although grandpa had to work very hard and put in days, he rarely missed attending the State Fair in Des Moines each August. This meant an eighteen mile drive in the surrey, starting before daylight and returning after dark. Vernal and I recall going down to grandpa's the day before, sleeping on the folding bed in the parlor, getting up early so we would be ready to go with grandpa and Nora. Grandma always had a basket of food prepared for us to take along.
Although this was seventy years ago, I can still see grandpa carrying that basket as he made his way up the hill to the old soldiers tent. Here he would sit and listen as the Civil War soldiers played their fifes and drums. We would meet him at noon to eat dinner from the basket, we got ice water to drink from the poultry building close by. Grandpa also seemed to enjoy Christmas very much. He would come to Elkhart in the bob sled after dad, mother and us kids and how we loved the music of the sleigh bells as we rode along. There were always treats for us children such as rock candy, sometimes the little delicious maple cakes and always lots of peanuts. Grandma was always busy in the kitchen cooking the turkey. Nora would have little gifts sometimes fastened to strings which were wound around furniture in the parlor and we would follow the string until we found our gift at the end of it.
As grandpa grew older, he became very hard of hearing. We had to almost shout to make him hear. He sent away for a hearing trumpet but it didn't help him much. He was always a very quiet person talking very little. I remember him sitting in one of the small rockers swatting at flies with a folded newspaper. He was quite bald and if there were any flies in the room, they seemed to light on his bald head. Often he would cover his head with a newspaper and take a nap. Finally he wore out and passed away with dropsy in 1928 after being bedfast for several weeks. He was seventy five years of age at the time of his death and is buried in White Oak cemetery North of Elkhart.
After grandpa's death, grandma and Nora continued to live in the old house. Dad and Almond built them a new two bedroom home. They purchased a Model T Ford which Nora would drive to Elkhart once in a while. Grandma always sat in the back seat and I never knew why. Grandma spent her later years piecing quilt blocks and making quilts. She always looked forward to the visits of her children and grand children. She treasured every card and letter she received from her dear ones. I recall going down to visit her and she would be sitting in her bedroom putting cards into a big black album and hearing her say "I wonder what will become of this after I am gone". I think Floyd got that album after she passed away. She died in 1947 after a fall at the age of ninety-one. She is buried at White Oak Cemetery beside grandpa and baby Glenn.
Orrin Burgess (1816 - 1900)
Sarah Reynolds Burgess (1817 - 1905)
Myrta Ann [Anna] Eacret Burgess (1857 - 1947)
Arthur Edmund Burgess (1876 - 1949)*
Perry Alfred Burgess (1880 - 1971)*
Gerry Leroy Burgess (1880 - 1962)*
James Harvey Burgess (1881 - 1971)*
Glen Chester Burgess (1884 - 1885)*
Floyd Burgess (1886 - 1979)*
Nora Velma Burgess (1889 - 1949)*
Almond Oliver Burgess (1895 - 1988)*
Nelson Burgess (1837 - 1917)*
Hannah Gertrude Burgess Herrold Sargent (1839 - 1911)*
Matilda L. Burgess Allen (1842 - 1906)*
Ruth Ann Burgess Reed (1851 - 1939)*
Amos Reynolds Burgess (1853 - 1928)
Elizabeth Burgess Dodd (1855 - 1936)*
Rosetta E. Burgess Greening (1859 - 1935)*
White Oak Cemetery
Created by: Karolyn [Kendig] McLain
Record added: Feb 01, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 47412294