Henry M. (Henry Martyn) Burt.

Early days in New England : life and times of Henry Burt of Springfield and some of his descendants, genealogical and biographical mention of James and Richard Burt of Taunton, Mass., and Thomas Burt, online

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Online LibraryHenry M. (Henry Martyn) BurtEarly days in New England : life and times of Henry Burt of Springfield and some of his descendants, genealogical and biographical mention of James and Richard Burt of Taunton, Mass., and Thomas Burt, → online text (page 6 of 52)
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ment, of his being the first one to discover the Iron Ore region of
Lake Superior and the progenitor of the Sault St. Marie canal at
the foot of Lake Superior, only goes to show that he was one of
those twelve pioneers of Michigan Territory.

He was blessed with five sons, all of whom he taught the art of
surveying. It was while laying out a trio of townships in North-
ern Michigan, with his sons for company, that he discovered his
needle to be pointing south instead of north. By making use of
his early training in astronomy and mathematics he soon perfected
an instrument for surveying by means of the sun's rays.

He called it the Solar compass, and with it he surveyed all
through the iron lands of Michigan and Wisconsin. The United
States Government has reaped rich results from its use, — not so
the inventor nor his heirs.

While United States deputy surveyor for the territory northwest
of the Ohio river he rendered invaluable service to the Govern-
ment, and at one time when Dr. Houghton, the United States
geological surveyor was drowned, his work was completed by
William A. Burt.

The Solar compass was exhibited by the inventor at the World's
Fair in London, and there received a gold medal, and the per-
sonal compliments of the late Prince Consort.

I might tell you all about his being judge of the Circuit Court,
member of the legislature and its committee which framed the bill
for the Soo canal, but time will not allow.

He left a name of which not only Michigan but the civilized
world is proud.

His five sons have all been prominent in Michigan affairs, and
their sons are scattered here and there, an honor to the community
in which their lot is cast.


Springfield, Mass., October 7, 1890.

In compliance with the instructions of the meeting held at the
Massasoit House, in Springfield, on the third of October, on the
occasion of the Burt Family Reunion, I have appointed the follow-
ing as a committee of ten to act in concert with the chairman, to
consider the advisability of perfecting a permanent organization,
and to take action in relation to publishing the proceedings of the
Reunion and such further biographical and genealogical informa-
tion as will preserve the history of Henry Burt, our common
ancestor, and that of any of his descendants :

Col. Silas W. Burt of New York.
Grinnell Burt of Warwick, N. Y.
Miss Elizabeth Burt of Warwick, N. Y.
Wellington R. Burt of East Saginaw, Mich.
Miss Helen Burt of New York.
Capt. R. M. Voorhees of Coshocton, Ohio.
Mrs. Z. Burt Goffe of St. Louis, Mich.
Thomas E. Benedict of Albany, N. Y.
Mrs. Daniel Burt of Springfield, Mass.
Mrs. Marcus L. Burt of Springfield, Mass.

Henry M. Burt, Chairman.


[Mr. I. W. Litchfield contributed the following to his paper, The Warwick Valley-
Dispatch, in the issue of October 8, 1890.]

Over the burnished steel and into the cobwebbed and mossy
corners of antiquity on a Pullman palace car — a novel experience
even Jules Verne would say, but the Burt " Pilgrims/' who went to
Springfield, some two hundred miles, got back into the seventeenth
century at the rate of a year and a quarter a mile, without being
nerved even above culinary affairs, and when they arrived at their
destination swooped down on the great wigwam of that old chief,
Massasoit, as undaunted as were their pioneer ancestors a quarter
of a millennium ago.

There was a stir of expectancy among the Burt clans when the
project was announced, and there was a stir of the clans them-
selves as the leaving time of the Boston express approached last
Thursday. President Grinnell Burt of the Lehigh & Hudson had
chartered the hotel car " Puritan " — a happy coincidence — and the
Warwick party found everything provided for their comfort. Long
before the car pulled out of the station the porter cast a furtive eye
over the passengers and an undefined foreboding seized his soul —
there was trouble ahead.

By the time they were off everybody was in vivacious trim and
began to delve into family history until somebody suggested they
had better stop before they ran up against something. To many
of them the Orange County Railroad was new, and as they neared
the river and Mohonk loomed up in the distance, the capacity de-
veloped for enjoying the scenery was only exceeded by the supply.
Then the car slowly rolled on to the great bridge, and that beautiful
panorama, limited only by the power of vision spread out on either
side. The guardian mountains minaretted with towering crags
were touched with the colors of the autumnal sunset, duplicated
in shimmering reflections far below in the waters of the Hudson.


Directly ahead the Berkshire Hills have their origin and thither,
by many a turn, the train sped to the place where three states
meet, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is the
beginning of the hematite iron region, much of which passes over
the C. N. E. & W. and the L. & H. Boston Corners, the historic
spot where many a bloody prize fight has been fought, anticipates
State line by a few miles. Gradually the road climbs to Norfolk
where grade is reached and the descent begins.

The route is skirted by beautiful lakes and here the foliage is
most charming. Crimson vistas stretch away-at every turn, sharply
contrasted against the hemlocks that skirt the hills, and when this
chromatic poetry ceases, there is the gustatory prose of miles on
miles of golden pumpkins, patiently waiting in the modest hope of
some day belonging to the under crust.

Then darkness settled down and the little dove cote of Charlie,
t\iQ.Jidas Achates, became a treasure house to the hungry tourists.
Valiantly he contended with the omnipresent "inner man " until
he conquered him, but it was long after midnight when the last
dish was polished. At Northampton the Boston express left the
car and it was carried to Springfield over the Connecticut River
Railroad^ reaching its destination about 9 o'clock. About half the
cargo went to the Massasoit House and the rest spent the night in
the car. Such a night ! These lips must be sealed, but those of
the unterrified occupant of No. 16 were not. With relentless per-
sistence he kept the car in a giggle until the shrunken hours of
midnight, when a wandering boot punctuated his soliloquy with an
effective period.

The Massasoit House was made headquarters, and early Friday
morning the Burts began to swarm in. If the blood had been
azure before, it was now as blue as indigo. The numbers were far
in excess of anticipations and the large dining-room of the hotel
was not equal to the one hundred and sixty or more that had as-
sembled from all over the United States. Dinner was served at
1.30 p. m. — soup and grandfathers, fish and great-grandfathers —
until the old original came on with the cofifee, and Mr. Henry
M. Burt of Springfield, who had conceived and successfully
planned the reunion, rapped for order. His paper was genealog-
ical and was followed by another from Col. Silas W. Burt, which


was finished and exhaustive. We regret that we cannot print it in
this issue, but its length compels us to defer it until next week.
Roderick H. Burnham of Connecticut, the family historian, was
absent by reason of ill health, so that part of the programme was
omitted and a letter read from Thomas Burt, M. P., who wrote
briefly of his ancestors. Judge James M. Burt of Newcomerstown,
Ohio, now eighty years old, asked to be excused from speaking.
He was followed by Capt. R. M. Voorhees, a lawyer of Coshocton,
Ohio, who gave a history of the Ohio Burts who emigrated from War-
wick in 1837. Of the ten children of Daniel Burt, four hundred
can now be counted. Grinnell Burt was next introduced and made
a happy offhand speech.

Wellington R. Burt of East Saginaw, Mich., who was recently
candidate for Governor, made an amusing speech. James Burt,
the shoe manufacturer, put his speech into one sentence. Hon.
Thomas E. Benedict of Albany made an earnest, ringing speech.

Law3'ers Bradley B. Burt of Oswego, N. Y., and Henry A. Burt
of Swanton, Vt., were the last speakers. A committee of ten was
appointed to put the records of the meeting in permanent form,
and amid felicitous congratulations the meeting adjourned. In
the afternoon a telegram was received announcing the arrival of a
little new Burt somewhere out West, and a message of congratula-
tion from one hundred and fifty Burts was wired back.

Springfield has many attractions for the tourists who took ad-
vantage of them before the car left at 9.15 a. m., Saturday. The
trip along the Connecticut River is picturesque and interesting in
the extreme. The road runs between Mt. Tom and Mt. Holyoke,
giving a near view of these celebrated landmarks.

At Northampton the party visited the old homestead of David
Burt, son of the original Henry, from whom the Warwick Burts are
descended. But a few hundred feet away is the old elm, planted
by Jonathan Edwards.

The records of the journey home cannot be presented. Like
the soft, delicious haze that dims but enchants the distant Berk-
shire Hills, so pleasant recollection fails beyond a general retro-
spect of a grand time and jolly company.

Those who went on the " Puritan " were : Mr. and Mrs. Grin-
nell Burt, Miss Mary H. Burt, Miss Jane Burt, Pierson and Grin-


nell Burt, Jr., with their nurses, Mrs. Sarah Sanford, Miss Mary B.
Sanford, Miss Emma Sanford, James Everett Sanford, Thomas Burt,
Miss Lydia Burt, Mrs. V. B. Carroll and son Morris, Mr. A .J.
Burt, Mr. and Mrs. David Roe, Jr., Miss Maud Burt, Mrs. Gertrude
Miller, Mr. and Mrs. P. E. Sanford, Mrs. Pauline S. Bradner, Mrs.
W. L. Stewart, Mrs. Charles Caldwell, John M. Burt, Mrs. Mary
Herrick, Miss Annie Davis, Mrs. Margaret Morris, Mr. John Van-
dervort, Mr. I. N. Baldwin, and a representative of the Dispatch.
The Misses Jane and Mary Burt went on to Lenox for a few
days, and on the return trip, Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Voorhees of Co-
shocton, Ohio, Judge James M. Burt and Mrs. Burt of Newcom-
erstown, Ohio, and Daniel Burt of Van Wert, Ohio, accompanied
the party to Warwick.


HENRY BURT— A. D. 15**— 1662.

The largest and by far the most valuable immigration into the
New England colonies took place between the years 1620 and
1640. After the latter date there were frequent important acces-
sions, but these were isolated- and in the aggregate were incompa-
rable with the arrivals in the first twenty years. These formed the
most eventful and significant colonization known in history. The
character of these colonists and the incentives that led to their ex-
patriation have been elaborately discussed from every point of view.

The condition of England at the time of their emigration is an
important factor in estimating their motives and condition. The
reign of Elizabeth is in many respects the most interesting epoch
in English history. Great political principles, long interweaving
into the national fabric and subjected to many strains by tyranni-
cal rulers and reactionary forces, were so ingrained and strength-
ened in this reign that they sturdily withstood the obstinate efforts
towards their repression by Elizabeth's successors in the Stuart
line, and by successful revolution established the Commonwealth.
Great advances had then been made in all the industries and arts,
and Holinshed has given a contemporaneous and graphic descrip-
tion of the improved material condition of all classes. The new
styles of domestic architecture combined a high artistic sense with
provisions for convenience and comfort never before attained.
Agriculture was improved by the recognition of definite and stable
i-ules in tillage and stock-raising. Manufactures and mining thrived,
and to these as also to commercial affairs, the power and stimulus
of cooperation were for the first time largely applied in the forma-
tion of stock-companies. The English marine and naval supremacy
was founded by Raleigh, Drake and a host of illustrious associates,
who carried the flag to all known waters and did not fear to oppose
the Great Armada. In town and in country were comfort and
prosperity. Charles Kingsley, in his thrilling romance, " Westward
Ho ! " has given a true historical picture of the prosperous material



and social aspects of the day. In 1536, only twenty-three years
before Elizabeth's accession, Tyndale published the first complete
translation of the Bible ever printed, which, no longer a sealed
book except to the learned, was opened to all who could read their
native tongue. Though this translation was superseded by the
more scholarly version in the reign of James I. (A. D. 161 1), its
homely, quaint and spirited phrase was the word of God as known
to our early Puritan ancestry. In original English literature this
was the golden age. The language had just reached a thorough
development that made it fit for the expression of the expanding
thought and lofty sentiment of great minds. Bacon's essays
and philosophical works, Shakespeare's dramas, Spenser's poems,
Raleigh's history, and Hooker's theological writings, all mark the
high tide.

It is true that the notable migration to America took place after
the death of Elizabeth in 1603, but the heads of the migrating
families were mostly born during her reign, and the England they
left was in its political, religious, intellectual and material con-
ditions the England of " Queen Bess," though soon to be dis-
tracted by the Great Rebellion.

It was during this epoch, rich m all the progressive elements of
civilization, when in the great mass of the nation there were fer-
menting religious and political aspirations of the highest character,
that the earliest migration to New England took place. It is an
interesting study to trace the different development of the English
principles and character of that day as exhibited in the subsequent
histories of the English nation and the English colonies in America.
In the former this development was arrested by the restoration of
the monarchy under Charles II., but in the virgin soil of New Eng-
land the liberal principles flourished and bore rich fruit. As a
minor instance of this transplantation of old England it is well
known that there are preserved here many traits of language and
custom, that, grown obsolete and forgotten in England, were for a
long period deemed " Americanisms " until deeper research has
proven them to be survivals of the Elizabethan age.

A recent writer* has depreciated the motives of these earliest

Mr. Wm. B. Weeden in his "Economic and Social History of New England, 1620-
)." Boston, 1890.


settlers by ascribing their movement rather to their desire to better
their physical condition than to any aspirations for religious or
political freedom. Considering what has been said above of the
general advance in all directions made in England in the early
part of the 17th centur)^ and that it was far from being over-popu-
lated, there was little inducement to abandon comfortable homes,
kindred and all other dear associations, and venture in ill-fitted
vessels across a stormy ocean to toil in a wilderness. The cold
welcome and bitter privations encountered by the settlers at Ply-
mouth offered little encouragement to successors not sustained by
some more lofty hope than that of greater physical comfort. The
truth has been well expressed by Lecky in his History of England
in the Eighteenth Century : " The difficulties of the enterprise
were such that those who encountered them were almost always
those of more than common strength of character, and they were
to a very large extent men whose motive in abandoning their
country was the intensity of their religious or political convictions.
It is the peculiarity of the English colonies in America that they
were mainly founded and governed by such men."

Among these men who forsook their English homes to find a
more emancipated one on Massachusetts Bay was Henry Burt.
The name of Burt is very ancient in England, being of record
there so early as A. D, 1 199, and it has honorable mention in the
history of many of the English counties from that date to the pres-
ent. It has been impossible to trace Henry back to any distinct
family or locality in the mother country. It need not distress any
of his descendants to be told here that he was not the scion of
some titled family. What we know of him indicates clearly that
he was a member of that noblest class, the English yeomanry, and
it is not out of place to denote briefly the claims it has to such
supremacy. The yeomanry of that period of English history that
began with the Norman conquest and ended with the restoration
of the Stuarts — i. e. A. D. 1066 to 1660 — was distinctively and his-
torically the English nation and from it originated or were re-
cruited all the other classes. During the feudal period the yeo-
manry remained quite stable, except so far as by the accumulation
of wealth its members replenished the gentry, or through incapacity
or improvidence dropped into the lower stratum of laborers.


Whatever may be said of Norman descent or ancient nobility, the
blood of the yeomanry was as pure and its ancestral deeds as illus-
trious as those of any other class. It formed the great mass of the
English Crusaders, of the victors at Crecy, Poictiers, Agincourt, in
fact, of the doers of every glorious English deed by land or sea, at
home or abroad. From the yeomanry came the poets, authors,
artists, orators, prelates, inventors, merchants, discoverers, bene-
factors ; there is scarcely a name distinguished in English annals
that was not derived from the yeomanry in its larger sense.

It was from this sterling part of the people that most of the
earlier settlers came, and among them Henr}- Burt. The exact
date of his immigration is not known, the records of departures
from England and those of arrivals in America being very imper-
fect. He was at Roxbury near Boston so early as 1638, for in the
town records of that year is a partially defaced entry as follows:
" We whose names are underwritten have appointed John Burn-
well * * * 1 2d apeace for goats and kids out of which we did
appoint him to pay * * * Burt for his boy for the full tyme that
he did keep the goats.'' Presumptively one of the younger sons
of Henry, the only man named Burt in the town, was this goat-herd.

In the records of a session of the " Generall Corte " held at
Boston on " The 5th day of the 9th Mo. 1639 " is this entry : " The
Treasure"" was order"^ to alow ^8 to Roxberry for Henry Burt's losse
by fyer." There is no information as to what property was con-
sumed, nor whether this grant was intended' as a benevolence or as
a communistic insurance award. These are the only traces found
of Mr. Burt's brief residence at Eoxbury.

Among the simultaneous movements from the coast towns to the
interior was one made by William Pynchon and five others of Rox-
bury, who, on May 14, 1636, established themselves at " Agaam on
Conecticot." This settlement at Agawam did not grow rapidly
until 1640, in which year, on April i6th, it adopted the name of
Springfield. The record reads : " It is ordered 3 * y«= Plantation
be called Springfield." William Pynchon, previous to coming to
America, had resided in the parish of Springfield, in the County of
Essex, twenty-nine miles from London, adjoining Chelmsford, and
that, without doubt, suggested the name of the infant settlement upon
the Connecticut. The river Chelmer flows through a wide valley



lying to the west of the parish church and tlie few scattered dwell-
ings near it. The church itself stands upon a beautiful eminence
sloping gently westward down to the Chelmer, and the location
is not entirely unlike our own Springfield, there being sufficient
in its characteristics to remind Pynchon of the home he had left in
England. Some time in this year Henry Burt moved thither from
Roxbury and his name first appears in the town records as follows :
" December 24, 1640. There is leave granted to Mr. Holyoke,
William Warriner and Henry Burt to seek out for y^ use of each
of them a cannoe tree. Samuel Hubbard shall have the same
leave granted him for a cannoe tree. Samuel Hubbard is also ap-
poynted by a general vote to keep an ordinary for y^ entertainment
of strangers." Probably already provided with a house to shelter
himself and family on land, this canoe enabled Henry Burt to
traverse the "great river " and thoroughly acquaint himself with
the surroundings of his new home, where he was to spend his re-
maining days. As one of the founders of Springfield, his life there
possesses an interest that extends beyond the circle of his descend-
ants, and such particulars of his career there as have been gath-
ered illustrate the sentiments, habits and character of the earlier
settlers in New England.

The founder of Springfield, William Pynchon, administered the
law to the settlers, besides selling them goods and buying beaver
skins of the Indians. He was the magistrate in the trial of both
criminal and civil suits, and he appears to have held court whenever
there was contention among the settlers. Six good and true men
were notified to serve as jurymen to determine the weight of evi-
dence and adminster justice to the litigants. Pynchon held this
position and discharged the duties of a magistrate nearly up to his
return to England in 1652, when he passed over to his son John
the public office and his store of goods, who, through his father's
wealth and prestige, soon became the leading man of the settle-
ment. Henry Burt was frequently called by William Pynchon to
serve as juryman, and his first appearance in the records of the
court was on February 15, 1641, when Robert Ashley entered a com-
plaint against John Woodcock for not delivering to him a gun, for
which he had paid twenty-two shillings. The jury consisted of
Henry Smith, Pynchon's son-in-law, Henry Burt, John Leonard,



John Dibble, Samuel Wright and Thomas Mirick, who found for
the plaintiff in the sum of twenty-two shillings and costs, amount-
ing in all to twenty-six shillings.

During the entire time that Henry Burt resided in Springfield, a
period of twenty-two years, he does not appear to have been given
to litigation. He was a complainant only once against his neigh-
bors, and that for a non-fulfillment of agreement ; and was never a
defendant in any suit at law. May 14, 1661, when John Pynchon
was the magistrate, he made a complaint " against John Henr}son
for not paying three bushels of wheate according to promise ; and
for spinning and knitting stockens." The answer and the findings
of the jury are thus stated by the magistrate; "John Henryson
made answer that y« debt which he owes Henry Burt is but 10
shillings & this he engaged 2 bushels of wheate towards it & noe
more, & he hath p'd Henry Burt in worke, so that Henry Burt
ownes his owing him 8 shillings for worke, which pay he John Henry-
son was to have a shurt-cloth for, & John ownmg it is adjudged to
take y« shurt-cloth ; and for the other 10 shillings John Henryson is
adjudged to pay Henry Burt two bushels of wheate (7 shillings) &
three shillings in a day & a halfe worke."

One of the most interesting characteristics of these early settle-
ments was the communistic principle that governed them. The
leave to seek out " a cannoe tree " above quoted is an instance
of this principle which had its clearest expression in the division
and allotment of the lands. The first participation of Henry Burt,
of record, was in the second division, on January 5, 1641, when
" It is ordered, that these persons underwritten shall have the
lotts for y^ 2^ division of planting ground granted them according
to y^ number of acres and order of place as underneath written
wch is to be measured by y^ first of Aprill next : P'vided that
those y* have broken up ground there shall have alowance for it
as 2 indifferent men shall judge equall. Single persons are to have
8 rods inbredth; married persons 10 rod in bredth ; bigger fami-
lies 12 rod; to begin upward at y^ edge of y* hill,

John Woodcock — Lett No i — 8 rods in bredth
Wid. Searle " " 2— 10 " "

Robert Ashley " " 3— 8 " "

John Deeble " " 4— 8 " "


Rovvl: Stebbins-


No. 5— 10 rods

in bredth

Tho: Stebbins


'• 6— 8 ••

" "

Sam: Hubbard


Online LibraryHenry M. (Henry Martyn) BurtEarly days in New England : life and times of Henry Burt of Springfield and some of his descendants, genealogical and biographical mention of James and Richard Burt of Taunton, Mass., and Thomas Burt, → online text (page 6 of 52)