retrospection and prospection it is with them a living string.
The diverging lines and strains of other blood are lost to sight
and forgotten when a few years have past, but the paternal
name stands as a beacon. Those who bear it, ask what those
10 The Life and Writings of
who liaA-e borne it before have been, and what those to bear
it hereafter, shall be.
This is not a mere string of names and dates. The cen-
turies eonie and go, and with them men live and die, but the
soul of the father lives in the son who bears his name. Dr.
S. S. Burleson, an eminent philologist, who devoted much
study to the origin of the Burleson family and the etymology
of the name says, "there is reason to conclude that the name is
of Scandinavian origin. It may be fairly formed from the
Danish word ^Burlare,^ and the common affix son or sen,
which taken together, and used in a patronymic sense, plainly
signify the children of the 'heavy timbered hills.' I have
been assured by graduates of the universities of Upsala and
Copenhagen that the name was clearly Scandinavian, and
was in use in their countries at this time.
The Burlesons may be joined by the ties of blood wdth
the fierce iSTorwegian vikings, whose ships ploughed all the
western seas, or with the stern and strong Danish invaders of
England, in the days of her early history. These men have
left their mark upon the ages. It was no curse to England
that Canute, Harold and Hardicanute ruled on her shores.
They brought elements of great strength, and a descent from
such ancestry is not inglorious."
While speaking thus positively, there was evidently some
doubt in this great scholar's mind as to the correctness of his
conclusions, for he goes on to remark, "we may be exiles from
Erin, and find our place somewhere between Malin head and
old Cape Clear, or, we may look in the land of Owen Glen-
dower, and find our home between the Severn and the Dee.
On the cliffs of Scotia we may plant our feet, and by loch
and frith from Pcntland to Solway, seek the glen where our
fathers were nurtured. The chalk cliffs of eastern Albion
may bo the bound of our search, or we may pass onward
Hound the shores where runic Odin.
Howls his war song to the gale.
Round the land where rough T.afoden.
^^■llil•ls to death the roaring whale.
Again, wc may stimd on Tlic Sknw of Tnttaneo. and
De. Rufus C. Burleson. 11
gazing across the waters of the Cattegal to Gattland say liere,
or there was our place, in the days of our fathers."
Another learned member of the family, who devoted
much time to a study of its history says, "The family is of
AVelch origin, and the name comes from Buries or Burley,
from which the English adjective is derived. Buries or
Burley, originally meant a mountaineer, or thick, heavy
strong man, and originated in the mountains of Wales. The
name 400 years ago was spelled Burleyson, which is still
retained by some members of the family."
However this may be, whether of Welch, Celtic or Scan-
dinavian origin the Burlesons may be said to be of English
descent for the reason we find them in England and Wales
during the 14:th, 15th and 16th centuries and by their cour-
age, enterprise and loyalty, successfully assisting in repelling
all invasions, placing an English ship on every sea, planting
the British standard upon every continent, encircling the
earth with its commerce, and aiding in making Great Britain
the mightiest empire in strength and extent the world ever
The American branch of the Burleson family are
descendants of two brothers. Sir Edward Burleson, who emi-
grated from England in 1716, and settled in Connecticut,
and Aaron who came from the same country eight years later
in 1T24, and settled in N"orth Carolina. Dr. R C. Burleson
states that Sir Edward and Aaron were brothers. Dr. S. S.
Burleson states that the exact relationship was not known.
They spelled their names in the same way, and possessed some
family characteristics in common, but it is by no means cer-
tain they were as closely related as Dr. R. C. Burleson be-
lieved. The continent at that time was very sparsely settled,
and a congenial neighbor a thing not to be despised. Besides,
tribes of savage Indians infested every part of the country,
and they objected to the settlement of their territory by the
Europeans, consequently settlements or colonies frequently
suffered from their incursions unless strong enough to suc-
cessfully resist their assaults. With these conditions in mind,
it would seem, when Aaron decided to remain here in 1724,
without personal predilection for any particular part of an
12 The Life axd AYritixgs of
almost unknown wilderness, he would have preferred for
many reasons Connecticut, where Sir Edward had settled
eight years previous.
If they were brothers, they seemed to have entertained
^vidcly different views on many questions, as they drifted in
opposite directions, and maintained separate family relations.*
Sir Edward and his descendants, being what is commonly
termed northern people, while Aaron and his progeny were
southern in sympathy and sentiment.
An incident is related of the war between the states,
which furnishes some e^ndence that Edward and Aaron were
brothers, though it is by no means conclusive.
After the battle of Petersburg, Virginia, April 2d, 1865,
between the armies of the IsTorth and South, a Federal cavalry
regiment captured a squad of hungry Confederates. A Con-
federate soldier called to a comrade and begged a crust of
bread, saying he had tasted no food for twenty-four hours.
The comrade replied that he had no bread and was in precisely
the same fix, A gallant Federal officer pulled off his well-
filled haversack and said, "here boys, divide this between you,
for humanity's sake." The Confederate said, "please tell
me your name that I may never forget your timely gen-
erosity." The Federal colonel replied, "My name is John
Burleson, of Vermont."
"John Burleson of Vermont, John Burleson of Ver-
mont," ejaculated the surprised Confederate, "Why my name
is John Burleson, have you Burlesons in Vermont?"
"Oh, yes scores and hundreds of them. Have you Bur-
lesons in the South ?"
"Thousands and thousands," the hungry Confederate
This incident led to a very extensive correspondence
between the Northern and Southern branches of the family,
after the close of the war, which brought out the fact already
stated, that Sir Edward came from England in 1716, and
settled in Jewett City, Connecticut, and Aaron came in 1724,
and failing to locate his brother settled in Buncombe, now
Mitchell county, North Carolina.
Some stress has been laid on the relationship of these two
Dr. Kufus C. Bukleson. 13
colonists, and the evidence partially given, for the reason, it
is important from a family point of view, and of interest to
the student of history. It is fairly well established from relia-
ble records, that Sir Edward and Aaron were the first Burle-
sons to come to America, and that from them, all the Burle-
sons are descended. If they were brothers, or more remotely
related, there is established a connection between all branches
of this numerous and distinguished family.
The Burlesons are not only great hosts in numbers, but
they are widely diffused, and have been potent factors in the
settlement and development of this mighty country.
They are found now in the states of j^ew York, Vermont,
Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, California,
Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Missis-
sippi, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and some of the
Here they have lived since before the birth of the nation^
during colonial days, and wherever found, they have filled
with signal success positions in every sphere of life.
In educational affairs, they have been presidents, and
college professors; in religion, pastors of strong churches; in
mercantile pursuits, proprietors of prosperous business con-
cerns. In industrial enterprises, they have been leaders and
originators, and the success of some of the greatest business
ventures in the country, such as the Armour Packing Com-
pany and the Willimantic Thread Company, is due to their
ISTot only so, but the spirit of adventure has characterized
certain members of the family, and we find them pushing out
to the border, erecting log cabins, felling forests, opening
farms, raising food stuffs, teaching old field schools, organiz-
ing and supplying weak churches, and discharging with match-
less courage and heroism, all the arduous duties of the pioneer
frontiersman and foundation builder. Patriotism, or a love
of country has been a marked characteristic of the family, and
a martial spirit always developed, when the country's exigen-
A Burleson was a member of George Washington's staff,
there were Colonels, Captains and privates bearing that name
14 The Life and AVritixgs of
ill the Revolutionary army, and the battlefields of Bunker
Hill, BrandyAvine, and Saratoga, were stained with Burleson
In the war of 1812 they come again in larger numbers,
and greater force, to the defense of their country, displaying
their usual gallantry and dash at Lundy's Lane, Sackett's Har-
bour, Osewego, and Queentown Heights. They were again in
the saddle in the war between the United States and Mexico
in 1846, shot, fought and mingled their shouts of vidtory with
Taylors army at Biiena Vista, Monterey, Palo Alto and
Reseca de la Palma.
When our own loved Texas was in the throes of a revo-
lution with Mexico in 1836, the Burlesons were here, and re-
sponded to the appeals of a young and poorly equipped colony,
struggling for freedom against a much more powerful country.
General Ed. Burleson who was a born commander and
military genius, and who had seen some service under General
Andrew Jack-:on in the Creek war of 1812, was made a Colonel
in the hasty organization of the Texas army. He soon rose
to the rank of a general, and was with Houston at San Jacinto,
where he rendered most valuable aid in that triumph, which
forever settled the question of separation of Texas from
Mexico, and the establishment of Texas freedom.
AVe have thus offered some reflections on the subject of
genealogy in general, given briefly the origin of the Burleson
family, hurriedly traced the history of the family from Eng-
land to the Xew World, and told in a word, of their lives in
more than a score of states.
In the following chapters we propose to tell the story of
the life of Dr. R. C. Burleson, one of the most famous mem-
bers of this famous familv of Americans.
Dk. Rufus C. Burleson. 15
Settlement of 'N'orth Alabama — Desperate Resistance
BY Indian Tribes — Expeditions of Ponce DeLeon,
Vasquez, Pamphilo, DeSoto, LaSalle, Iberville —
Mississippi Scheme — Western Company — Tecumseh
AN Indian Warrior, Stirs the Tribes and Incites the
War of 1813 — Plan of His Warfare — General
Government Appealed to — Heroic Settlers — Vol-
unteers Under General Andrew Jackson — ■ Captain
Jonathan Burleson Commands a Company — Close of
the War — Immigrants Pour into the Country.
OWHERE in I^orth America have the aborigines re-
sisted European encroachment, and the permanent
occupation of the country with more determination,
than in that section originally defined as East and West Flor-
ida, and at present, embraced within, the geographical boun-
daries of the states of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee
Powerful Indian chiefs commanded hordes of dauntless
warriors, v\^ho being familiar with these primeval forests and
all natural fortifications, defeated every effort made to settle
the country, for over three hundred years.
Ponce DeLeon discovered the coast of West Florida
March 27th, 1512, landed, made some observations, and re-
turned to Porto Rico.
In the Autumn of that year he fitted up two ships, and
returned with a force which he supposed, would be sufficient
16 The Life and '\\^ritixgs of
to subdue the savage inhabitants, and hold the country in un-
disturbed possession. He affected a landing near St. Augus-
tine, was immediately attacked with implacable fury by the
Indians, many of his men killed, the remainder driven to their
ships, and the commander, who had received a mortal wound,
sailed away with the wreck of his expedition to Cuba, where he
died soon after arriving.
Vasquez de Ayllon organized a powerful expedition and
landed on the same coast in 1525, with the express purpose of
subjugating these savage tribes; was induced to visit the in-
terior, became a victim to Indian diplomacy, and every mem-
ber of his force butchered, and his object defeated.
In 1528 Pamphilo de jSTavarez conducted the next im-
portant expedition, with a view of subduing these warlike
people. His fleet consisted of four ships, a strong military
force of four hundred infantry, and eighty cavalry. He
landed on the coast of East Florida, and took possession of the
country in the name of his Imperial Master. He explored the
country as far as l^orth Alabama, conquered several weak
tribes, which induced him to believe his glorious purpose
would be easy of accomplishment. This effort failed most
signally, as a result of Indian tact. Members of these capt-
ured tribes represented to I\'avarez that they knew the country,
and volunteered their sersdces as guides. The expedition was
conducted through dismal swamps, tangled jungles, over rapid
flowing rivers, across rugged mountains, through waterless and
trackless forests, and untrodden wildernesses. These soldiers,
bent on conquest, suffered, and many of them died for want of
food and water; many succumbed to disease, and scores were
killed by Indian scouts, who constantly harrassed the com-
Becoming discouraged ISTavarez, with the remnant of his
force, made his way finally to the coast, but by mistake of
reckoning, failed to find his vessels, and the attempt to occupy
the country, ended in a most miserable failure.
In 153S Hernando de Soto, a man of wealth and fame,
was fired with ambition to possess this country of fabulous
reputed wealth, although fully apprised of the disaster of all
former attempts in the same direction. He was one of the
conquerors of Peru, and felt himself to be invincible.
Dk. Eufus C. Bukleson. IT
His militaiy force consisted of nine hundred and fifty
picked Spanish and Portuguese soldiers, a formidable fleet,
and every necessary equipment. The expedition, full of en-
thusiasm and confidence, landed on the Espiritor Sonto Bay.
They plunged ^vithout hesitation, into the savage wilds
of East Florida, and thence northward into the southwest sec-
tion of Georgia, and the territory now known as Southern
Alabama, then through the country of the Seminoles, a most
ferocious and warlike tribe. They marched and wandered
for the first year in East Florida and Georgia, east of Flint
river, and were constantly harrassed by the natives.
The Indians that were unfortunately captured and forced
to act as guides as in the case of the ill-fated J^avarez expedi-
tion, led them through gloomy forests, and impassable swamps,
until they reached the Appalachee country, where they spent
the first winter.
The next year they traversed the state of Georgia north-
ward, and north to the Altamaha river, thence they were led
northwest to the barren country of the Cherokees; thence
down the valley to the Coosa river; thence southwest down the
Alabama valley toward its junction with the Tombigbee,
where a most terrible disaster from a desperate attack by an
immense number of. Indian warriors, befell them. Many
were killed, and all baggage, stores and equipment burned.
From the scene of this reverse, in mid-winter, they
traveled northwestward, and spent the greater part of the
second winter in ISTorth Mississippi.
During the time the expedition remained here, they were
attacked by a large body of Chickasaws; lost several men and
much of what remained in the way of supplies. Many of
their horses were also killed, and nearly all their clothing
The hostile and determined savages harrassed them in-
cessantly on all their marches and encampments, and every
day's operations diminished the number of DeSoto's band.
Discouraged from so many reverses and serious losses,
they changed their course, and traveled north, toward the
Mississippi river, which they crossed in rudely constructed
18 The Life axd Writings of
craft, and with the wreck of his once hopeful army went north-
west, in the direction of the Ozark mountains, in Arkansas.
Here they spent the third winter, then returned to the
Mississippi river, where DeSoto died from disease superin-
duced by excessive exposure and hunger. Thus deprived of an
intrepid leader, the expedition abandoned all further thought
of conquest, and directed their course west, toward the Span-
ish settlement. Only fifty ever reached their point of desti-
nation. Thus ended the third well-planned, and well-equipped
expedition, to conquer and subdue the savage tribes of the
From this time on, for a period of one hundred and thirty-
nine years, various efforts to establish colonies and settle this
unbroken wilderness, were made with varying measures of
success, but all these attempts were peaceable in character.
In 1681 the celebrated French navigator and explorer,
LaSalle, descended the IVIississippi river from Canada, touched
at Natchez, and on account of the wurlike demonstrations of
the hostile natives, hastened on toward the Gulf of Mexico,
and sailed away. Keturning in 1685, he attempted to estab-
lish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi river, missed his
reckoning, sailed too far east, landed on the coast of Texas,
discovered his mistake, and attempted to reach his objective
point by traveling across the state. When he reached Wash-
ington on the Brazos, the first and last capitol of the Kepublio
of Texas, a dispute arose between himself and his men, and he
was assassinated and buried on the banks of that historic
stream a short distance east of that once flourishing commercial
metropolis, and political center.
The expedition conducted by Iberville in 1699, and after
his death prosecuted by Bienville, to forcibly colonize the
country, met the same unhappy fate that attended all previous
efforts. Bienville established his headquarters on the Mobile
river, constructed forts and stored supplies.
Internal dissensions and schisms arising in this colony,
coupled with the annoyance and depredations of the natives,
caused it to languish, and finally fail in its purpose, although
more laudable in its object and conservative in its methods
and cliaractor. than any former attempt of a similar nature
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 10
had been. In ITIY he surrendered all authority to his King,
who conferred all his franchise to the "Western Company,"
known as the "Mississippi Scheme."
This effort while not entirely successful made some prog-
ress. The plan of the company was to introduce European
colonists, devote themselves to agricultural pursuits, develop
the productive industries of the country, and so conduct their
affairs, as to create no friction between themselves and the
Indian tribes ; but leave them in undisturbed possession of the
country, in the northern portion of the states of Mississippi,
Alabama, and Georgia.
With the pacific policy of the "Western Company," and
other companies to whom grants had been made and franchises
extended, the European settlers enjoyed greater security of
life and property. But an occasional outburst of Indian tem-
per, sometimes for a supposed, and sometimes for a real griev-
ance, would result in a wholesale and indiscriminate massacre
of the whites; which would provoke settlers and natives alike,
to fly to arms, and bloody neighborhood and sectional wars
Under the most favorable circumstances, and adhering
to the most agreeable plans and methods of the Indians, it
was never entirely safe, for a white man to establish himself
in this portion of the United States, until after the Creek war
Many of the tribes had profited by the thrift and industry
of the white settlers, had been impressed with their manners
and customs, and might be said to be civilized in a measure,
and to an extent; though they entertained feelings of the most
inveterate and undying hatred toward them.
Emigrants, attracted by the stories of the marvelous
wealth and beauties of North Alabama and Georgia, came
streaming into the eountry, until at one time, the "Federal
road" from Mim's Eerry on the Alabama river, to the Chatta-
hoochee, was completely filled with white settlers, in vehicles
of every description, seeking favorable locations.
This spectacle excited the suspicion in the minds of these
semi-civilized natives, that they Avould soon be dispossessed of
20 The Life and Writings of
their country, and mutterings and murmiirings of discontent
were heard on all sides.
Tecumseh, a powerful and successful Indian warrior,
assumed the leadership in this hour of disaffection, canvassed
all the tribes as far south as Florida, and moved them with his
matchless and impassioned eloquence, to combine forces, and
make common cause in staving, and expelling the tide of em-
migration that was pouring into the country. His speeches
were telling, they regarded Tecumseh as the greatest warrior
alive, and that the combined warriors of all the tribes under
his leadership were capable of successfully coping w4th any
people on earth.
The excitement among all the tribes was soon ^^a-ought
to the frenzied point, and Tecumseh had but to say, and they
would dare to do. The plan of the war against the whites,
was first to kill Captain Isaacs and Willaim Mcintosh ; also Lit-
tle Prince, Spoke Kange, and Tallase Tixeco, all prominent
chiefs, who were suspected of being traitors to their people;
-and then commence the slaughter of the white settlers and emi-
The Creeks, situated on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black
AVarrior rivers were to dispatch the white people on the Ten-
saw, and Tombigbee rivers. The Cherokees, those on the
Tennessee. The Georgians were to fall at the hands of the
lower Creeks and Seminoles, while the people of Alabama and
Mississippi, were to be murdered by the Choctaws.
The plan of disposing of the supposed disloyal chiefs, was
yartially executed, and the work of exterminating the scattered
Family after family, became the victims of the bloody
tomahawk. Peaceable communities were assaulted, and
forced to abandon their homes, and seek protection and shelter
in friendly forests, and everywhere, the people were dis-
mayed and excited.
They entertained no thought, however, of tamely sub-
mitting to the murderous intentions of these frenzied, savage
greetings were held in every place where it was safe to
;hold them; plans were discussed and formulated; measures of
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 21
protection adopted; hasty, defensive military organizations'
formed; and active resistance to the furious savages com-
The general government was appealed to, to send a mil-
itary force to protect and prevent the wholesale massacre con-
templated, and in many places in active progress. But Gen-
eral Flournoy who had succeeded General A¥ilkinson in com-
mand, refused to send either volunteers, or regular United
States troops to protect the people. His refusal was without
justification or reason, since every movement of the Indians
indicated the immediate destruction of the people of Ala-
bama, who occupied the most isolated, and defenseless position
on the entire fronier.
At this critical juncture after the heroic settlers, with
improvised means, had engaged in many successful battles,
General Claiborne came to the rescue, with a command of
regulars and volunteers; distributed his own and the forces
organized in the various settlements, to the best advantage,
and chastised these bloody savages on a dozen fields of battle.
When the bloody purpose of the Creeks and their allies,
to massacre all the whites in this section of country, no longer
admitted of doubt, it became a national question, and General
Andrew Jackson raised a force of several thousand men, hast-
ened to the scene of hostilities, engaged these savages and
blood-thirsty warriors, in battle at Talladega, and many other
places and finally, completely broke their power, and thwarted
their sanguinary plans, by defeating them at the battle of
Horse Shoe, March STth, 1814.