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Rose Divider Bar

One of the leading merchants, wholesale and retail, of Atlantic, the center of a rich agricultural and manufacturing country, Joseph Burnea occupies an elevated place in the business world of this region, and as a member of the City Council has a commanding voice in local public affairs. He was born at Detroit, Mich., on January 3, 1867, the son of Joseph and Anna (Laurach) Burnea, the former a native of Michigan, born at Mt. Clements in 1835, and the latter of Germany.

The father was reared and educated in Michigan, and for fourteen years was in the employ of the United States Government engaged on surveys of the Great Lakes. When he left that service he became interested in timber lands and in getting out material for hoops and staves. In 1871 he came to Cass county and bought land, but took up his residence in Atlantic, and the next year began the manufacture of brick there. In this industry he was engaged for a number of years, and as he was a pioneer in the business in this locality, he furnished the material for all of the earlier brick buildings in the city and surrounding country. Turning at length from manufacturing brick, he devoted ten years to farming, then returned to Atlantic, and in company with his son Joseph founded the mercantile business which the latter is now conducting. He died in July, 1897, leaving a widow who still survives him. Three of their five children are living, and all are residents of this county.

The father was not an active partisan and seldom took any part in potical contentions. He never sought or desired public office, but occupied himself exclusively with his business and domestic affairs. He was a member of the Catholic Church. His father, Peter Burnea, was a Canadian of French ancestry, and died in Michigan at the age of eighty-four years. The mother's people were Germans, who moved to France before the French Revolution, the horrors of which they witnessed. She remembers well its tales of terror as rehearsed by them, and the impression the awful recitals made on her childish mind have been unfading through life.

Joseph Burnea reached his maturity in this county and obtained the most of his education here. He assisted his father in all his business undertakings from boyhood, and at the death of the parent succeeded to the mercantile enterprise they had started together, and since becoming its sole owner he has added a general jobbing line to the trade. In 1904 he was elected a member of the City Council, and was re-elected in the spring of 1906. He has also been a member of the fire department for seventeen years. All members of the family belong to the Catholic Church.

The family name of Burnea runs through the history of the county from an early day, and always to its credit. It is now one of the oldest here, and in all the efforts at development and improvement of the region its members have borne their part faithfully, but without ostentation or noisy self-seeking, content to obey with cheerfulness and alacrity the daily calls to duty, and render such service as they could without desire for demonstrative approval or public honors.

From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pp. 285-286.

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