WALTER A. BURFORD. Thirty-four years of continuous residence on one farm and in one locality in Western Kansas is all the evidence required of a man's permanence and staying qualities. But more than the fact that he has been in Meade County all these years Walter A. Burford has proved a factor in the development and improvement of his community, and while prospering himself and rearing a worthy family has helped to give tone and character to his environment.
Mr. Burford came to Kansas from Missouri, a state in which he grew up, but was born in Putnam County, West Virginia, November 13, 1851. When he was six years old, in 1857, his parents moved to Morgan County, Missouri, where he received his schooling and where he grew up to the farming vocation under his father. He was of old Virginia stock. His grandfather, William Burford, was born in Virginia and served as a soldier in the War of 1812. He became a farmer and spent his last years on the Kanawha River in West Virginia, where he died after the Civil war. He married a Miss Simpson, and all of their eleven children came to mature years, among whom was Adderson, one of his five sons.
Adderson Burford, father of Walter A., was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1822, and lived the quiet and substantial life of a farmer. He died in Morgan County, Missouri, in 1906, at the age of eighty-four. He had no public career, though he was a lieutenant in the Home Guards during the Civil war and a stanch republican. As a Baptist he took a prominent part in the church affairs of his community. Adderson Burford married Martha McCoy, who is still living at the age of ninety-two. Her father, Samuel McCoy, was born on Paint Creek, West Virginia, and died there about 1832. Adderson Burford and wife had the following children: Albert, who died in Missouri; Walter A.; Edwin H., of Moniteau County, Missouri; Emma, who married James McCoy, of Syracuse, Missouri; Charles, of Wilmer, Arkansas; Nellie, wife of William Steele, of Syracuse, Missouri; Fannie and Lewis, both residents of Syracuse, Missouri.
At the age of twenty-three, on October 24, 1874, at Florence, Missouri, Walter A. Burford married Miss Virginia Mathis, daughter of David L. and Margaret A. (Ware) Mathis. Her father was a native of Kentucky, but spent his active life as a farmer in Morgan County, Missouri, where his wife died, and he passed away at Shell City, Missouri. Mrs. Burford was the fourth in a family of ten children. Mrs. Burford died December 22, 1914, after thirty years of residence in Western Kansas. She and Mr. Burford had seven children: Simpson, now a Baptist minister at Welston, Oklahoma, and by his marriage to May Thomas has two children, Leslie and Roy. Henry, who lives at Sparta, Michigan, married Laura Smith, and his children are Opal, Zona and Helen. Mattie is the wife of Samuel Turner, of Fowler, Kansas. Stella married Robert Turner, a farmer near Mr. Burford, and their children are Roy, Charles, Alice, John, Willard and Rebecca. Mollie is the wife of Fred Nett, of San Bernardino, California, and their family consists of Thelma, Jewel and Walter. Eva is the wife of Walter Chrissman, of Meade County, and has a daughter, Edith. Clarence O., the youngest of the family, and who is still at the old home, was born July 29, 1889, and by his marriage to Lillian Runyan, daughter of John L. Runyan, has two children, Walter and Wesley. Thus Mr. Burford has a large group of descendants, his children and grandchildren numbering fully two dozen.
It was about ten years after his marriage and after some of his children had been born that Mr. Burford sought a home in Western Kansas. He homesteaded the place he is now living on in Meade County in February, 1884, and occupied the claim on the 13th of April of that year. On leaving Morgan County, Missouri, he shipped an emigrant car loaded with goods to Wellington, Kansas, and from that point drove overland with his family to Meade County. He brought to this county his wife and five children, a team, wagon and other equipment. After getting "squared away" he had little more capital than $300. On taking possession of his claim he found as its habitation a little box building 12 by 14 feet with a board roof. That accommodated him and family until the fall of 1884, when he dug a basement. This basement is under his present home. Over it he moved his shanty, and in that house the family lived for a number of years and two of his children were born there.
In the spring of 1884 Mr. Burford planted a small crop of sod corn. The harvest was about 300 bushels. He also raised all the garden stuff used by the family. The year 1885 was also a fairly good one from the standpoint of crops, but the next two were exceedingly poor and left him close to the rocks of bankruptcy. Unable to support himself from the land he resorted to labor. He did freighting from Dodge City to all points south and southwest, going as far even as Mobeetie, Texas. His chief objective point was Camp Supply. When it was possible to do so he also broke prairie, and later took up work as carpenter, plasterer and flue builder. He did that work all over the country at wages. When he performed all the labor of flue building his wages were 75 cents a day. At carpentry and plastering he was paid 65 cents a day. He continued this work until in the '90s, and then took up well drilling. He made most of his own rig, and wore it out after operating it for about nine years. He drilled wells all over the artesian belt, and many of them were what is classed as "flowing wells." In the early years of the new century Mr. Burford bought a threshing outfit and during the season operated it from field to field through about eight years. Since that time he has depended primarily upon his farm and stock as a business and continues as a modest stock raiser.
His first acquisition of land in this locality was his homestead and tree claim. Subsequently he bought another half section, and he now owns three quarter sections in section 3, township 21, range 27. His home is on the southwest quarter of that section. His present residence, built in 1893, is a two-story home of eight rooms. Later he built his barn and other permanent improvements.
Mr. Burford furnishes some interesting testimony from his experience as a fruit raiser. Fruit growing on his land has never turned any profit because of the late frosts. Many of his apple trees grew to be ten inches in diameter but not one of them ever ripened an apple. He had much better results with peaches, averaging a fair crop once in five years. There were poor results also from his trial of small fruits.
Mr. Burford and his children developed a herd of cattle and continued that business until the price became so low as to force him out of the work. He shipped his own stock to Kansas City markets and frequently sold three and four year old dry cows at from $12 to $13 a head, while $18 was a high price. The same quality of animals on the same market today would bring from $75 to $80 a head.
The fact that he was one of the pioneers of this region naturally made Mr. Burford a participant in every form of community development. He assisted in organizing his school district No. 42. His brother, Edwin H. Burford, now sheriff of Moniteau County, Missouri, taught the first school of the community and it was maintained on the subscription plan. Mr. Burford was a member of the board almost continuously for many years. He was here when Meade County was organized and supported Meade Center for the county seat. For two terms he was township trustee of Fowler Township. That satisfied his ambition for public office. In party affiliations he was a republican until he became convinced that the Grand Old Party was not giving the country a fair deal. He therefore went into the ranks of the people's party and was elected township treasurer on that ticket. With the passing of the populists he resumed his voting with his old party. He cast his first presidential vote for General Grant in 1872 and followed the party nominees until 1884, when he failed to vote for James G. Blaine. He voted once for William J. Bryan and supported Colonel Roosevelt.
While not a member of any church Mr. Burford has steadily supported churches and the building of places of worship. He is a member of no secret order.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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