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THOMAS BURKE, WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP.
This honored pioneer of Washington township, this county, who was one of the earliest settlers in that section, having located there in 1870, was born in renowned old Kilkenny, Ireland, on December 24, 1845. His parents, William and Bridget (Clauson) Burke, were natives of Ireland also, and the father farmed there until his death, which occurred when his son Thomas was but four years old. The mother also died in the place of their home, leaving three sons and one daughter.
Thomas Burke was reared to the age of sixteen in his native land, and emigrated to the United States in 1861, landing in New York, whence he proceeded to Athens county, Ohio. The Civil War had begun and the armies of each section were in motion. Mr. Burke soon found remunerative employment with the Union army in building bridges for the Federal Government in North Carolina, Tennessee, and other States, as they were needed. He continued in that work until the war closed in 1865, then yielded to the pressing influence of the gold fever and went overland to Nevada, crossing the plains with a strong train. They had numerous encounters with the Sioux, who were on the war path at the time, and lost eighty of the men in the train. In fact they were in peril from a short time after they crossed the Mississippi until they reached Green river in what is now Wyoming.
Mr. Burke remained in Nevada and California until 1870, busily engaged in mining with varying success. In 1870 he came to Iowa and located in Cass county, purchasing eighty acres of land where Wiota now stands. He sold this some time afterward, or rather traded it for the farm on which he now lives in Washington township. This was all unbroken prairie and he has made a model farm of it, bringing the land under fine cultivation, and enriching the place with good buildings and other improvements.
Thomas Burke was married in 1887 to Kate Miller, who was born in Germany. They have six children, Ernest, Minnie, Rose, Kate, Joseph and William. Their father is a member of the Catholic Church, and attentive to his religious duties according to its requirements. His has been an interesting career, and it furnishes to the thoughtful mind a fine and suggestive illustration of the variety and breadth of life in the land of boundless opportunity, which welcomes brain and brawn from every clime and opens its doors and its rich stores of resources to the worthy of all classes. Born and reaching the full bloom of youth in a land long oppressed and narrowed in its chances for advancement, then crossing the ocean to reach a country of promise, he was soon in the midst of alarms, as either a camp follower or a pioneer in the service of a great army engaged in a terrific strife. As if these trials were not enough, when peace returned to the land of his adoption, he dared danger in other forms, amid the wild savages of the plains and the lawless elements of society in the far Western mining camps. Then finally he found his most agreeable and promising outlook in settling on the frontier and helping to develop the country around him, building his own fortunes at the same time, and in this, enduring privations and hardships and facing perils also, until a better settlement of the region of his home removed them. What has the romance of the long past or the historic Old World in its most eventful phases that surpasses this in sweep of view, variety of incident or progress? Yet this has been the experience of so many in this country that the recital of it has become almost commonplace.
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 284-286.
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