Monday, May 16, 2016

Burgess Family and Somers History

William, Burdette, and Robert Burgess
(Photo Courtesy of George Burgess, May 2016)

Edwin Burgess, brother of William, Burdette, and Robert
(Photo Courtesy of George Burgess, May 2016)

More About Burgess
Click here for more information on the Burgess family under the Oakwood Cemetery website.

Burgess Family and Somers History
The following pages are a scan of the original hand-written history written at a 1936 reunion of the Burgess and related families (Leet, Buswell, Ticknor, and other) at Petrifying Springs Park.  This written history identifies descendants of W. F. Burgess.
(Images courtesy of George Burgess, May 2016)

Burgess Family History As Told in 1936
These notes were transcribed from the original notes used to give a speech in Kenosha County, Wisconsin in 1936. The occasion was a BURGESS Family Reunion. The notes were written in pencil on school paper.
Best regards, Bob Heck

March 1999

Notes from a family reunion

A Speech
Given By William E. Burgess Jr.
At Petrified Springs Park, Somers, Kenosha County, Wisconsin In 1936.

"As this is a little gathering of the Burgess relations, I thought it fitting that you all know something about them. I am going to give you a little biographical sketch of the Burgess' as some of you may not know who you are and where your ancestors came from."

"As near as I can learn they go back about 200 years ago. They were of English decent, coming from Vermont in a very early date, then moving to Oswego County, New York in 1820. Our great grandfather (Benajah Burgess) was a solder in the Revolution of 1775, so you see that any of you ladies that have any Burgess blood in your veins are eligible to join that very honored order called The Daughters Of The Revolution."

"(Benjamin Burgess), our grandfather, with his family moved west to what was to be the state of Wisconsin, then a territory, and settled at the mouth of the Pike River, that famous stream that you see right over there. This was March 5th in 1835 when they arrived making the journey with wagons from New York. On their way they came through that now famous city of Chicago, with a population of nearly 4,000,000 people (1936), which was only a swamp at that time with just a few little shacks built there. They did not think it worth while to get any land anywhere near there then so they went on to what was called Southport, a little village of a dozen families or so, situated at the mouth of the Pike River. This is now the city of Kenosha."

"Grandfather (Benjamin Burgess), after getting settled at Southport, looked the wood over as this part just east of here was all heavy timber. The country being very new, and a great number of people just coming here from the east, and no homes or anything to live in, he decided to start a saw mill which he did on this same Pike River that runs by over there. It was located on that road about a mile east of here where the river crosses that road. This of course was a water power mill (requiring) having to build a dam across the river. This work around the mill was a wet job of course and soon after getting the mill built, he got very wet one day and took pneumonia and died shortly after, at the age of 39 years. The mill was then run by father,(William E. Burgess Sr.) then seven years old and uncle William Foster for a number of years. Father, (William E. Burgess Sr.) then only a young man, and he in those days as boys now do, fell in love to one very pretty young girl by the name of Jane Leet, and in course of time, were married in 1850. The girl being a native of New York and one of the oldest settlers in Kenosha County, came from ? in New York."

"The Leets at that time were living at the same place as now, building that house and kept a tavern or hotel as we would call it now."

"This beautiful natural park where we are today gathered to renew our acquaintances, was a wild forest where the Indians roamed. I have heard mother (Jane Leet Burgess) tell of the Indians coming to their house for something to eat many times. Most of them, of course, were primitive at that time. Also many wild deer were in these woods at that time."

"We are also here in celebration of a little event that took place in the life of one of the family 50 years ago (on the) 14th day of June, 1882 when Charlie (L. Burgess), then a young man, having previously fell in love with one of Somers pretty young girls, was joined in Holy Matrimony to Miss Lizzie Van Alstine at that time. And in honor of this event after 50 years of married life to one woman, I am sure they deserve a celebration of some kind. And with that thought in mind, lead me to invite you all here that we might renew old acquanteses once more all together in a sort of reunion of the family of Burgesses."

"Although there are quite a number of the family that for various reasons could not attend. But just to give you some idea of them all, and those invited, I am going to read you the list of names and I want all of those here to answer; Present."

William E. Burgess family 11 children, 6 boys, 5 girls.
1. Mrs. Mary Burgess Cogswell & husband, both dead, 4 children, 2 boys, 2 girls all living. Mr. Dan Cogswell, ought to be here Mr. Rob Cogswell Mrs. Carrie Cogswell, married Mrs. Nellie Cogswell, married

2. Mrs. Emma Burgess Buswell, Winona, Minnesota, 4 children, 2 living Herd Buswell, deceased Roy Buswell, deceased Frank Buswell, living, married, at Winona Mrs. Cora Buswell, living, married 

3. Mrs. Virginia Burgess, Racine, not married 

4. Charlie Burgess & wife, Kenosha, 1 child married Willie Burgess & wife 

5. Edward C. Burgess & wife, Plymouth, 3 children, 2 living Harold Burgess Alfielal Burgess, in Cael 

6. George F. Burgess & wife, Milwaukee, 2 children Sinclair Burgess & wife Dela Burgess & husband 

7. William E. Burgess & wife, Chicago, children too numerous to mention 

8. Dela Burgess, died when a baby 

9. Hattie Burgess Rease, no children, in Cael 

10. Burdett Burgess & wife, Chicago, Burdett is dead, 6 children, all living Everett Burgess Dorothy Burgess Edith Burgess Henry Burgess George Burgess Nellie Burgess 

11. Robert L. Burgess & wife, Chicago, 2 children dead, Virginia living
"These are all of the grand and great grand children on our fathers side of the house. There are a number of cousins on mothers side. Those here please also answer when their names are called if here."

Mr. Fred Leet Mr. Geo. Leet & wife & family Mr. Edward Leet & wife & family Mrs. Nellie Leet Henning & family

"There were as most of you know only 5 married children of our grandfathers family, 4 boys and 2 girls, one boy dying when young. Of these 5 families were born 28 children in all, of which there are only 14 living. Of these 14, more than one half of them all are in the William Burgess family; 8 of us still living out of a family of 11 children."

"The youngest now - well I guess maybe I hadn't better give his age - but well upwards to 60. Just think, Charlie, at the age of 77 years and never had a ? is a record. This shows what a tuff bunch they all are."

"I have tried to count up how many great grandchildren there are, but maybe I have overlooked or missed some of them, but to the best of my knowledge there are in the neighborhood of 52 , not quite as many as Brigham Young had however."

"Now it may be a little interesting to some of you present to know that we are gathered here today in this beautiful natural Petrified Springs Park on the ground which was once first bought from the U. S. Government by our grandfather Charles Leet. He homesteaded it before it was put on the market for sale by the government in 1836. And that my own father at one time owned a part of this park and that your humble servant was born in a little loghouse that stood over there just west of the entrance to the park."

"Now I do not remember very distinctly the exact day but have been told by persons that lived in those days that it was in war times and that the times were very hard and that everyone was hard up and poor just like now. So you see I have been usta hard times all my life. I think I was the only member of our family to be born in this loghouse as father did not live there many years before he sold and moved out on the prairie as they call it at that time. I can just remember the day we moved with oxen and one team of horses on to the 247 acres of ground just the otherside of the railroad. But there was no railroad there those days. The C, M, & St. P. Ry was built some years after."

"In those days most of you can remember when we usta go to the old cheese factory and to the blacksmith shop over by the bridge across the river; and to the spring by the road that we usta water our horses. The Post Office was then in the blacksmith shop and the mail was brought out there from Kenosha twice a week on horse back; then later on it was moved to the grocery store of Abram Bishof a little farther west on this road, and there remained some time until the railroad came through. A depot was built and called Buroak station which is now Somers. Then the family of Cooks started a grocery store there and the Post Office again moved in their store." "Just after the depot was built there came a young man from the west, sort of a cowboy by the name of Thompson, to look after the affairs of the railroad at this town. And I understand that this same faithful servant is still on the job although this must be nearly 60 years ago. He fell in love also with Edith, one of Somers pretty young ladies and became married and still lives in Somers."

"I do not know much about Somers these days but when I was home on the farm there were many good looking young ladies I usta think and many times I usta bring one of my old sweethearts here and sit in the shade of the old fruit trees that usta stand along this bank where the spring is and drink of the cold refreshing water. There was plenty of the white foaming drink those days at Kenosha and Racine, but it did not touch us as young people seem to drink these days they can't get along without it. There are a few of our old friends and neighbors here to which I am very pleased to meet once more, and I hope you may enjoy this day here, and that it may be a day to look back on with pleasant memories."

These notes were transcribed from a copy of the original hand written notes by:

Robert J. Heck 4910 Steeple Dr. Greendale, WI 53129 (414) 421-7143

Date: January 29, 1994

Items shown in ( ) were added for clarity.