Centennial History of Mason County
By Joseph Cochrane
Springfield, Ill., 1876


Page 126

The Burnham family is descended from an ancient English ancestry. The historical publications of Norfolk county, England, enables the family to establish an unbroken line in that country, down through the lapse of centuries to the year 1818, and living men of the name still in England carry the line of succession to still later dates. The coat-of-arms seems to have existed since the eleventh century, without modification.

By increase and inter-marrying they became scattered over England, and prominently identified with Church and State, and, finally, it became engrafted on American soil. The origin of American Burnhams is traceable to three brothers, John, Thomas and Robert, sons of Rupert and Mary (Andrews) Burnham, of Norwich, Norfolk county, England, who came to America in 1635. Robert established himself at Dover, New Hampshire.

John Burnham acquired large tracts of land, and became a very wealthy and influential man. His grandson, Ebenezer, moved to Windham, Conn., and became the ancestor of a numerous progeny. He purchased a farm in 1734, located in Hampton, where, until recently, was the old Burnham homestead. In the third generation from him, or the sixth from John Burnham, Festus Burnham was born, on the 25th of April, 1796, and was married, in 1823, to Lora, daughter of Daniel Clark. Their children were Lora Ann, Henry Clark and Marina, only two of whom are now living, Lora Ann, widow of James Ashley, and Henry C., the subject of this sketch, who was born in Hampton, Conn., Jan. 30, 1826, and who, being the only son, stands at the head of the seventh generation of his own family. He was educated at home, and furnished with the advantages of high schools and academies abroad. At the age of nineteen, he settled in Champaign county, Ohio. Here he engaged in teaching, but afterwards went into a store, in Woodstock, Ohio as a partner. This business proved too confining for him, and he returned to Connecticut to regain his health. Here he met, in the meantime, Miss Angeline Currier, who was at one time a pupil of his school, and they were married, Dec. 16, 1847. She was born in Betheny, Genesee county, New York, Dec. 16, 1825, whither her family had removed from New Hampshire. After recovering his health, Mr. Burnham came to Illinois, in the fall of 1852, and first stopped at Clinton, Illinois, and then went to Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, and finally to his present locality. Mr. Burnham’s abilities and education fit him for any official position in the gift of the people. His integrity and habits have made him a conspicuous member of the community. Being averse to office, he has not been an office seeker. Our first acquaintance with him was in 1856, at which time he was a member of the county court of Mason county, a position of responsibility t hat his sound judgment abundantly qualified him to fill with acceptance. Like all other good citizens he has served a full share in the service of the township and school offices. In times gone by, he has been guilty of feeding and bidding Godspeed to the fugitive from slavery, with which this government was then accursed. In 1856 he was a Republican, and one, of twenty-five, who voted for Fremont, out of a poll of three hundred. Though ardently attached to the cause of the union, and ever opposed to slavery, he is now devoid of hostility to those who were our late opponents, and believes in spreading the broad mantle of charity over the short-comings and misdoings of the past.

Henry C. Burnham is fortunate beyond the common lot of humanity, in being surrounded by all that makes life pleasant. He can traverse his own broad acres, and say:

“Earth has no gentler voice to man to give
     Than, come to Nature’s arms, and learn of her to live.”

Contributed by: Jeanie Lowe


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