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William Burke Family

Photo page 353 & 354

William (Bill) Burke was born March 15, 1888 near Belle Point, one of the six children born to Martin and Anna Burke. Bill was the son who seemed to follow his father's footsteps and took an avid interest in the stage coach. After Martin's death in 1908, Bill, who was 18 at the time, took up the problems of the family and the farm, making a respected name for himself in the community.

James B. Weaver, writing for the Wallace's Farmer in 1917 had this to say about young Bill, after his father's death:

And now it was Bill that sat beside me on the long drives. One was in early February, 1910. The snow was heavy on the level, and in the timber lay in great drifts. Bill met me at the morning train, with the wagon-box upon runners, the floor carpeted with a jag of hay, while over the spring seat was thrown a cotton quilt for use as a lap-robe. We were bound for a day among the lands.
As I lighted upon the platform, it was plain that Dan (a great Clyde of superb proportions) and his mate, a mare of equal bulk, had come over the three miles from home as befits sound horseflesh on a frosty morning. The whole outfit was encased in frost — Bill's eyebrows and hair, and the steaming sides of Dan and his companion. The rattle of the train made no impress upon equine nerves so accustomed to place implicit reliance on Bill, who sat holding the reins. Off we sped thruout the village by rattling trace-chains and the dull thud of the sled as now and again we struck some hump in the road. Mile after mile of well beaten brack we reeled off and then we came to the hills. I looked for the breeching, but none was to be seen, and none needed. Down would come the great sled upon the heels of Dan and his mate, trace-chains clanging, singletrees pounding, the whole load squarely against the huge bodies of the beasts. There were laying back of ears and heads tossed teasingly from one horse to the other, but no protest against what was plainly simply Bill's way of getting downhill. Near the foot of the hill, off we would go on the. swinging trout that meant relief and all was forgotten.
It was rather fine, this perfect understanding between the boy and his team. Across the creek, at 'The Ledges', thence over the river by a 16-to-l bridge, we struck down the valley on the west side. Our plan was to cross again on the ice lower down. We both knew the crossing, and pinned our faith on Dan in any possible drifts. After an hour, we took an old bottom road marked by but one sled track, and leading thru the willows toward the river. The drifts grew deeper, but the great beasts, still on the trot, bore us on and on until the trail became but a narrow path in a tangle of willows as thick as a bamboo jungle. The sled track we were following suddenly went up over the bluff and we broke our own path still further along the lower trail. At last, we came to its apparent end. The drifts were well up along the horses sides; a perfect jungle of willows the size of your wrist and larger encompassed us by the thousands. To go on was out of the question — to turn, the same. The horses, greatly interested, were looking back at Bill as if to say, 'I guess, Bill, you've overdone it a little this time.' I was for unhitching, not so the boy. He was making mysterious preparations to go on — where, I had not the ghost of an idea. As progress was imminent in what looked to me like aviation as the only course, I'll confess that I slid over the side to await results.
Gathering the reins, the boy, standing up, took one look around him, tightened up the reins, and gave the word to Dan. Those mighty beasts simply rose on their rear feet, wheeling as they rose, and strode off at right angles in great lunges, astride, over, and thru drifts, saplings, logs, stumps, and what not, toward our backward trail. The sled lifted to all possible angles; there were the snapping of trunks and the snorting of the now thoroughly excited team; and amidst it all not a sound from Bill. When out on the trail the great machine of flesh and blood stopped. I worked my way back, concerned for Bill, whom I could no longer see. Running to the sled, I found him lying in the bottom of the box, utterly convulsed with merriment born of the unconquerable sufficiency of his friend, Dan.

This is how Bill continued living his life: forging foward, even when it seemed that forward was impossible, and breaking his own path. All of Bill's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are very proud of his pioneer spirit.

Bill was married twice - first, to Ellie Hall Madison, the widowed daughter of Nate Hall. Ellie died shortly after their marriage, leaving Bill and her son, Earl Madison, from her first marriage, on their Bill and Pearl Burke own.

In 1920, Bill married Ellie's sister, Anna Pearl Hall. This marriage was a long, happy union, until Pearl died in 1969. From this marriage were born eight children: Bill, Martin, Paul, Margaret, Bonnie, Bob, Gladys, and Betty.

Bill and Pearl farmed in Boone County until the Great Depression, when he was forced to give up farming and find work where he could in order to support his every-growing family. Even as hard as times were, Bill and Pearl always had enough room, food, and love for just one more, taking in various children to become part of their family. Bill worked as a farm hand and in the local coal mines until World War II. He then took a job in the ordinance plant and worked there throughout the War. After the end of the War, Bill took a job as a contruction worker, and continued in this line until he retired. He now lives in Madrid, in his own home, and every now and then can be talked into telling a good tale from his youth.

Of Bill and Pearl's eight children, five of them served in the armed services. Bill served in the Marines, Martin in the Army, Paul in the Navy, and Margaret in the Nurses Corps, in World War II, and Bob served in the Army during the Korean Conflict.

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