John Riley Burrows

JOHN RILEY BURROWS, one of the pioneer farmers of Cherokee County, resides in section 31, township 33, range 25, in Shawnee township, where he has a tract of 160 acres of land. He was born in Washington County, Ohio, September 26, 1837, and is a son of John and Electa (DaVal) Burrows.

Our subject's grandfather came to this country from Ireland and was shipwrecked during the passage,—being in the water a day and a half before he was picked up by a vessel. Upon his arrival he was indentured to pay for his passage, and finally settled in Ohio.

John Burrows was born in Washington County, Ohio, and followed farming there all his life. He hewed timber and hauled it to Beverly on the Muskingum River, and also farmed some on a tract of 40 acres that he owned. He was a member of the Sons of Honor. He married Electa DaVal and they became parents of 15 children, 13 of whom grew to maturity, as follows: James W., deceased; Harriet, widow of Robert Mullin, who resides in Beverly, Ohio; Stephen D., deceased; Clarissa, wife of Jacob Stires, of Beverly, Ohio; Elizabeth, deceased, who first married Ebenezer Voshel, and subsequently Benjamin I. McAtee; Jane, deceased wife of Shadrach Hall, of Galena, Kansas; John Riley; Polly, who died, aged 15 years; G. Royal, of Faulkner, Kansas; William H., deceased; Samuel, of Beverly, Ohio; Mary, wife of E.C. Sheehan, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and Ellen, deceased.

John Riley Burrows lived on his father's farm until he was 18 years of age, and then paid his father $100 for the balance of his time. He worked for a time in the timber as a rail splitter, and then for four years, during the winter months, he was employed on flat-boats going down the river to New Orleans. These boats carried a line of general merchandise which they sold along the Mississippi. During his 21st year he worked on a river steamboat between Zanesville and Pittsburg, and in 1859 removed to Illinois, where he drove a stage during the winter. He was then employed on a farm until his marriage, on December 5, 1860, and shortly afterward contracted the ague, which resulted in his return to Ohio. In the spring of 1861, he again went to Illinois, and rented a farm, which he worked until 1864. In that year he enlisted in Company E, 61st Reg., Illinois Vol. Inf., and was sent to Murfreesboro, Tennessee; he served with his regiment until it was mustered out. In the spring of 1866, Mr. Burrows started with his wife and two children, in a prairie schooner, for the Cherokee Neutral Lands in Southeastern Kansas. After numerous mishaps, and difficulties which confronted them on every hand, alternating with some pleasant incidents, they reached their destination and at first camped on the land which Mr. Burrows now owns. He was one of the first settlers and the country was virtually a wilderness. There were so few people that for a time Mr. Burrows feared no schools would be provided, and he was anxious that his children should receive a better education than he had been able to get. He raised wheat, oats and corn, and for a few years bought calves, which he shipped in car-load lots to St. Louis. On his property he has a good quarry of flagging sandstone, which he sells extensively. He furnished the stone for the walks, steps and porches of the Court House at Columbus.

On December 5, 1860, Mr. Burrows married Nancy Wells Corey, a daughter of Thomas Corey of Hillsboro, Illinois, and they had eight children who grew to maturity, namely: Amanda M.; William F., of Morrison, Oklahoma; Emma J., wife of William R. Nichols, of Shawnee township; Electa H., wife of Grant Hicks, of Crawford township; Carrie, wife of Edward Walker, who lives near Hallowell; James H., of Columbus; Julia, wife of Charles Noredike, of Columbus; and Charles H., of Crawford township. Mrs. Burrows was born February 6, 1838, and died August 19, 1903. She was first a member of the Lutheran Church and later joined the Christian Church, of which Mr. Burrows has been a member 36 years, and an elder, 30 years.

When the subject of this sketch first came to Kansas there was no civil law, and the settlers had to protect their claims. They held a meeting and elected a president, secretary and sheriff, Mr. Burrows being elected to the last-named office. As long as there was a G. A. R. post at Crestline, he was a member of it. He has written a detailed narrative of his trip from Illinois to Kansas, covering many interesting incidents, and describing the early experiences of the settlers in fighting railroad claims, and protecting themselves against horse thieves. Should this appear in print, it would prove of great interest to the public.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Kendall Wolin, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 04-28-1997.


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