|Birth: ||Oct. 10, 1906|
Kings County (Brooklyn)
New York, USA
|Death: ||Jun., 1992|
Doris (Batdorf) Burris was an orphan who rode an Orphan Train from Brooklyn, NY to Wellsville, KS at the age of ten in 1916 or 1917, where she was adopted by David and Della Batdorf of Miami County, KS. Prior to her adoption by the Batdorf family, her name was Doris Matthews.
The true identity of her parents remains a mystery. She grew up believing that her biological parents were Harry and Bessie Matthews of Philadelphia, PA, but she would learn later in her life that they had adopted her as an infant.
Doris celebrated her birthday on October 10, and was born in 1906. Her actual date of birth cannot be verified, but the Catholic Sisters who first received her in Brooklyn, NY on October 20, 1906 guessed that she was about ten days old. The nuns told Doris that they had rescued her when they learned that her mother was planning to throw her into the East River. They took her to a Catholic hospital until they were able to place her in the care of Harry and Bessie Matthews of Philadelphia, PA.
The US Census of 1910 recorded that Harry H. Matthews and his wife Bessie were living in Philadelphia that year with their three year-old daughter Doris H. Matthews. Mr. Matthews would have been born in about 1866 in Maryland. His wife Bessie was twenty years his junior, and had immigrated from England in 1887, a year after her birth. In a letter that Doris wrote many years later, she recalled that her father, Mr. Harry Matthews, worked for a telegraph company. The 1910 Census record confirms that Mr. Matthews did indeed work as an ‘operator' for a telegraph company.
In the letter that Doris penned later in her life, she recalled that when she was about three years of age, Mr. Matthews beat his wife Bessie in a drunken rage, which she believed had led to the death of Mrs. Matthews. So far, no death or obituary record has been found to confirm that Bessie Matthews passed away due to her husband's violent actions. As a result of this episode, Doris was taken from the Matthews' home and returned to the Catholic Hospital in Brooklyn, NY from which they had received her.
Doris wrote that a gentleman named Frank A. Perrett, a famous volcanologist, took her from the hospital to Brooklyn Orphan's Home. She wrote that he would visit her occasionally and bring her gifts, and once brought a younger man with him that she believed to be his son. Doris corresponded with Frank Alvord Perrett until his death in 1943, and was convinced that Frank Perrett was her grandfather, and that the younger man was her biological father.
A historical biography of Frank Alvord Perrett records:
"Perret never married, never engaged, and spent most of his adult years in near-solitary labor, communing with mountains, watching smoke and lava, listening to explosions, living alone until the day he died. In his writings and letters there is never a hint of women in his life. Instead he sought out the companionship of children. As an adult in New York until he was well into his fifties, he would unwind after work at a Brooklyn orphanage, playing games with some of the home's two hundred children until they were called to bed. Years later, when he heard that one of his ex-playmates had died, he was crippled with grief."
It would seem that Frank Perrett visited many children at New York City orphan's homes, and that he was never known to have a wife nor children, and therefore it is highly unlikely that he is the father or grandfather of Doris (Matthews-Batdorf) Burris as she believed. A 1915 New York State Census record for Frank Perrett shows that he was living alone in New York City that year.
A couple by the name of Cobb took Doris from the orphan's asylum with the intention of adopting her. After changing her name to Christina McMillan Cobb, they were disappointed to discover that she suffered some hearing loss. Mrs. Cobb would not have anything less than perfection from Doris. Having a daughter with only partial hearing ability was simply unacceptable to Mrs. Cobb. She told Doris that Mr. Cobb was taking her to visit her friends at the Orphanage, but he took her to a different one and left her there. Doris was heart-broken. Eventually Doris was taken to Erlanger Home in Brooklyn for a short stay, before boarding the Orphan Train bound for Kansas, where she hoped to be adopted by a loving family.
Doris writes that she was accompanied on the Orphan Train by a Miss Hill. Records at the Orphan Train Museum indicate that there was indeed a woman by the name of Miss Anna Laura Hill who brought the children on the orphan trains from New York to be placed in rural families of Kansas. She made trips to Kansas each year from 1909-1912, 1915-1917, and 1924-1925. The Children's Aid Society placed ads in local newspapers of rural farm communities announcing when they would arrive and brief descriptions of the children that were available for adoption.
David and Della Batdorf responded to such an ad, desiring a curly blonde haired girl at the age of four. Miss Hill decided that Doris, a ten year-old girl with dark hair, would be a better fit for them. Mr. Batdorf instantly fell in love with his new daughter. Mrs. Batdorf was not pleased with her and wanted to send her back to the Orphan Society, but her husband refused to send her back. David and Della Batdorf also had a 19 year-old son named Charles who was away at college for the first few years that she was with them. Charles never acknowledged Doris as his sister until the birth of her first child, Neal, when Charles sent her a gift of $40 and a letter addressed to her as "Dear Sister".
The 160 acre Batdorf Farm was located in the northwest corner of Miami County, about three miles from Wellsville, KS, which is in Franklin County. The 1920 US Census records that Doris was born in Pennsylvania. As stated earlier, Doris believed that Harry and Bessie Matthews were her biological parents until adulthood, when she learned otherwise through correspondence with the Orphanage in Brooklyn.
After graduating from high school at Wellsville, KS, Doris (Batdorf) attended the Kansas State Normal School for Teachers at Emporia, KS, which is where she met her husband. In 1927, she was married to Schuyler Burris. She used the maiden name of ‘Matthews' rather than 'Batdorf' on her marriage license, still believing that the Matthews' were her biological parents and that she was born in Philadelphia, PA.
In 1929 Doris gave birth to her first child, a son named Neal, at Council Grove, KS in Morris County. The 1930 US Census also indicates that Doris was born in Pennsylvania.
In 1932, they had their second child, a daughter. By the time of the 1940 US Census, The Burris family was living in Welda, Kansas in the County of Anderson. Also recorded in this census was the fact that the family had lived in Leavenworth County, KS in 1935. Doris must have learned the truth about her parents by this time, because she recorded her place of birth as being in New York.
The family spent some time in Boston before moving to Kansas City. Doris and Schuyler lived at Pleasant Hill, MO at the time of Schuyler's death in 1977. Doris lived with her son Neal in Louisville, KY for a time. In the 1980's she lived with her daughter in the Kansas City area.
Doris Burris passed away in 1992 at her daughter's home in Gallatin, MO.
Schuyler Marion Burris (1905 - 1977)
Neal Burris (1929 - 1994)*
Longview Memorial Gardens
Created by: Johnson Newton Burris Li...
Record added: Dec 10, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 121530674