Join Our Team



Fayette County, Iowa  

 Biography Directory


Portrait & Biographical Album of Fayette County Iowa

Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of

Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County

Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago

March 1891


~Page 381~


Robert E. Burlingham

"Robert E. Burlingham, a retired agriculturist residing in West Union, was born in Chautauqua County, N. Y., November 15, 1829, and is a son of Dr. S. R. and Lydia (Abbott) Burlingham, who were also natives of the Empire State. His paternal great-grandfather ran a sloop from Albany to New York City, and his grandfather who was born in Dutchess County, N. Y., and was a farmer by occupation, served in the War of 1812. The Doctor was born in Dutchess County in 1810, and reared to manhood on a farm. When a young man he went to Chautauqua County, N. Y., where he married Miss Abbott, whose father also served in the War of 1812, and followed farming in pursuit of fortune.


S. R. Burlingham studied medicine with Dr. Weld and became a widely known physician and surgeon. He followed his profession until his death, and in the exercise of his business interests acquired a comfortable competency. In 1835 he removed to Battle Creek, Mich., which then consisted of a log store, a log tavern and a few cabins. His wife died in 1839, at the age of twenty-seven years, leaving four children, two of whom yet abide: Robert E., of this sketch; and Nathan D., a miner of California. Subsequently Dr. Burlingham wedded Miss Elizabeth Young and they became the parents of four children. His death occurred March 11, 1850, he dying in the faith of the Baptist Church, of which he and his wife had long been members. He followed in the political footsteps of his father and was a supporter of the Whig party.


The subject of this sketch received but limited educational advantages in his youth, attending the district schools of the neighborhood which were not always of the best grade. When a lad of nine years he returned to Chautauqua County, N. Y., and resided about four years when he returned to Battle Creek, Mich. For a similar length of time he remained with a carpenter who was to teach him the trade and send him to school during the winter seasons. He then served a regular apprenticeship at tailoring, which vocation he followed. Having mastered the trade he went, in 1850, to Jamestown, N. Y., and the following year began business for himself. He chose as a helpmate on life's journey Miss Adelia Hale, their union being celebrated September 7, 1851. The lady, a native of Jamestown, N. Y., was born May 11, 1829, her parents being Hiram and Seraph (Spurr) Hale, who were natives of Massachusetts and emigrated to Chautauqua County, N. Y., in 1828. Having carried on tailoring until 1854 in Jamestown Mr. Burlington sought a home in Fayette County, Iowa, and the following year was joined by his wife, who while en-route for her new home had an attack of the cholera.


The business history of our subject in this county is as follows: He first opened a tailor shop in Auburn, which was then the most flourishing town in the county, doing more business then in a day than West Union did in a week. He also added to his establishment a clothing department and admitted to partnership in the business Henry Miller. Parties living a hundred miles away would trade with him. When he began here he had nothing, but he worked almost incessantly and soon had a good trade. He has the distinction of having brought the first sewing machine to this part of the State. The financial crash of 1857, however, killed the town of Auburn and many of those owing him could not pay so he sold out to his partner and rented a farm. Though he had no experience in that line of business he possessed energy, industry and a determination to succeed, and soon acquired a practical knowledge necessary for success. The war interrupted his operations in this line, and on the 22d of September, 1862, he enlisted in Company C, Sixth Iowa Cavalry, serving three years and forty days. He was mustered in as Corporal and discharged as Sergeant. The regiment was assigned to the Department of the Northwest and spent the time in Dakota, participating in the battles of White Stone Hill, September 3, 1863; Tahkahokutah, July 28, 1864; and Bad Lands, August 8 and 9, 1864. On the 1st of November, 1865, he was paid off and returned to this county.


After receiving his discharge Mr. Burlingham returned to Auburn where he worked at his trade until 1867, when he came to West Union and entered the employ of Thomas & McMasters. He then sold sewing machines for some ten years, running the first sewing machine wagon in the community. In 1877 he removed to his farm of forty acres, his home being situated within the city limits. The dairy business is his source of income and he is gaining a comfortable competence thereby. The family consists of Mr. Burlingham, his wife and two children: Ella A., wife of Samuel L. McMaster, of West Union; and Edwin H., a pharmacist employed by George H. Shaffer & Co., of Ft. Madison. They also lost one child, Clara, who died in 1880, aged twenty-three years. Both parents are members of the Baptist Church, in which our subject is Trustee. Politically, he is a Republican, having supported that party since casting his second vote for Gen. Fremont in 1856. Socially he is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and for a quarter of a century has been an Odd Fellow.




back to Fayette 1891 Biography Index

back to Fayette Biography Directory

back to Fayette County home