One of the most highly esteemed families of the Miltonvale community is that of J.H. Burbank, an old resident of Cloud county and an old veteran of the Civil war, whose narrow escapes indicate he has participated in many battles. Mr. Burbank is a native of the Netherlands of Holland, province of Uerichland, born in 1838. He is a son of Hilbrand and Gertrude (Molland) Burbank.
Mr. Burbank in his earlier life, was a sea-faring man; went on the water at the age of thirteen years as a sailor on a merchant ship. He came to America and found employment in the factories of Rhode Island and when the threatening war clouds began to gather he was one of the first to offer his services for the protection of the flag of his adopted country. He enlisted the day following the date of the first call, April 16, 1861, in Company G, First Rhode island Volunteers, which was the first regiment equipped that came to Washington, and the first regiment reviewed at Washington by Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Burbank enlisted as a private but was promoted to second sergeant in 1862, for gallant conduct. He served as first sergeant, as substitute for a prisoner of war, but was non-commissioned. He was one of twelve men who were struck by fragments of an exploded shell. Two of the number were killed outright and Mr. Burbank was left on the field for dead, but revived and was gathered in with the wounded. Having been a sailor, Mr. Burbank responded to the call for volunteers for the navy and served on detached service in that department for eleven months, and was an able assistant when heavy artillery had to be brought into action. He was allowed to select his men for service from his regiment. He was on board a gun-boat with Commodore Perry in the skirmish of Black Water, near Franklin, Virginia, and had his coat pierced in this engagement with thirteen bullet holes; his hat was shot off his head three times, the last time knocking it overboard. The fleet consisted of three gun-boats, under Captain Flusher. For service and gallantry at Black Water Mr. Burbank received a bronze medal from the navy department, in which he takes a pardonable pride. It is a star surmounted by an American eagle, the bird holding two minature guns, a sword, and shot in his talons. On the star is engraved a woman with a shield representing victory, the vanquished foe departing from her.
Governor Sprague was with Company G as war governor. At the first battle of Bull Run his horse was shot out from under him. Their regiment commander was the gallant General Burnsides. Mr. Burbank has participated in many a hard fought battle and in many a long and weary march. One of the heaviest losses his regiment sustained was the blowing up of the mine at Petersburg. Of the eighteen of his immediate company but two comrades besides himself escaped. Four thousand men were lost all because their leaders were not sustained by the officers of other commands.
Mr. Burbank returned home on a furlough in 1864 and was married to Mary A. Burns. One year after his return home from the war, Mr. Burbank came west and settled in Macon county, Missouri, and through correspondence with a friend, Charles Proctor, he came to Kansas. He came to better better condition and succeeded admirably, for he has made a home where, surrounded by his estimable family, he enjoys all the comforts of life and under no condition would he return to his New England home. He is a true and staunch friend of the great state of Kansas. A trip made to the East did much toward making Mr. and Mrs. Burbank contented with their western home.
Mr. Burbank visited the B.B. and R. Knight cotton mills at Natick, the largest corporation in the world, where forty years prior he met the girl that later shared alike his joy, and sorrows. While visiting his old New England home in 1901 he attended the reunion at Providence, Rhode Island, which was held that year, and while there met some of his old regimental comrades. He also met Captain Chase of his company, whom he had lost all trace of since he was wounded in the head and could not speak for seven months. Mr. Burbank mourned him as dead until they met in Providence that summer, and as they rehearsed those experiences that were amusing, they both laughed, but the next moment as they perhaps recalled some pathetic scene of suffering and privation. These scarred veterans anf old comrades wept like children.
In 1877 Mr. Burbank with his excellent family became residents of Cloud county, and homesteaded land three and one-half miles southwest of Miltonvale, in Oakland township, where he raises and feeds graded cattle. He has at present a fine herd of one hundred and twenty-five head. The first residence of the Burbanks in Kansas consisted of a basement, with roof of boards, where they lived in true pioneer style, and in this humble dwelling the first school of the district was taught. The Burbanks are the only residents of the district that were there at that time. In 1883 they built a substantial stone barn, and in 1886 erected a commodious two-story residence of seven rooms, and Mr. Burbank has provided sheds for his cattle to protect them from the wintry storms and shelter for all his stock.
Mrs. Burbank is a native of Glasgow, Scotland. Her parents died when she was a child and she came to America with an aunt who had raised her. She lived with this aunt until her marriage. To Mr. and Mrs. Burbank seven children have been born, five of whom are living: John, the eldest child and only son, operates the farm and shares equally with his father in the profits and losses of the farm and stock. He with his little eight-year-old daughter, Grace, live with his parents, his wife having died. Nellie, the eldest daughter, teaches the square inch tailoring system and is very successful. Anna, the second daughter, is learning the tailoring system with the intention of teaching it. Gertrude assists her mother with the household duties. Agnes, the youngest daughter, has been a teacher in the Cloud county schools for two years. She was principally educated in the home district. These daughters have been reared in the school of industry and are intelligent, industrious young women.
Mr. Burbank affiliates with the Republican party, but is an expansionist and considers his country before any other issue. He voted for Bryan in his first campaign. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Miltonvale post, and is an active worker. The family are members of the Roman Catholic church. Mr. Burbank retains his New England thrift and the economy of his fatherland, which has built him a home where he can spend his declining years in comfort and ease. His wife and children have been true helpers and to them is due a share of the credit for their comfortable home. He had led an honorable career of real service and well doing and is reaping the comforts of a well spent life, surrounded by an interesting family; his wife, who is a true helpmate and companion, a son, who is honorable and industrious, four daughters, who are excellent young women, and a grandchild, little Grace, who has won her way into the hearts of the household.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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