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Burdick, Theodore Weld 1836 – 1898


Posted By: Joy Moore (email)
Date: 11/7/2020 at 15:10:30

Source: Decorah Republican July 21, 1898 P 1, 2 C 6, 1

It is with more than ordinary grief this pen is taken up to write the obituary of one who, from young manhood to gray hairs, was a friend in the fullest sense of that endearing term.
Theodore Burdick was born in Crawford county, Pa., Oct.7th, 1836, and the most active years of his life—from 1853 until 1888—were spent in Decorah.
It is enough to say that during twenty-five of those years his influence was the widest and most potentially wielded of any one who resided in this county.
He very early entered into political life. When scarcely eighteen years old he became deputy Treasurer and Recorder under his father, Nelson Burdick, performing most of the labor of the office so satisfactorily that, when he became of age, he was promptly elected as his father’s successor. This position he held until 1862, when he resigned the office in order to enter the service of his country in the War of the Rebellion. A call was made for a regiment of cavalry, and he at once begun recruiting a company. The character of the man easily commanded a class of recruits equalling in most respects any company previously enlisted in the county. In men of ripened years and matured character it was excelled by none. They confidently expected to go South, but the necessities of the government caused the regiment to be sent to the frontier, and they had little chance to distinguish themselves, except as “Indian fighters.”
Upon his return home he accepted the position of cashier of the First National Bank of Decorah, and in time became in effect the financial manager of that institution. This relation has held for over twenty years, except during 1877-8, with the highest credit to himself as a thoroughly capable financier. During the same time he was also associated in other financial organizations, chief of these being the first Savings Bank of Decorah and the State Bank of Estherville, the natural successor of the firm of Graves, Burdick & Co.
In 1887 he, with other associated capitalists, became identified with property matters at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., especially in a National Bank. They started at a boons period, but the enterprises which were expected to make that city the site of one of the greatest water powers on this continent failed to materialize, and none of these ventures proved compensating. They were but the beginning of adversities that at last reduced the man of competence to the rank of poverty.
In 1876, without his assent, and almost against his wishes, he was nominated as the Republican candidate for Congress from the district which then included Dubuque, Delaware, Buchanan and all the counties north of them. The political preponderance of the district was at that time trembling in the balance. The Democrats nominated Hon. J. M. Griffith, a widely known and wealthy lawyer of Dubuque. Mr. Burdick was comparatively unknown, except to a few working politicians in each county. Mr. Griffith was a trained speaker; Mr. Burdick never attempted that role. From the day of his nomination Mr. Burdick laid aside his private employment and devoted night and day to a thorough organization of the district. He enthused the workers in every county; and although unknown at the beginning of the struggle, when it closed on the night of election, he was the best known man in the district. The people believed in him, and accepted him at his worth—a worth which only his most intimate friends fully knew. He was elected by over 1200 majority; he "redeemed” the district: and to this day if you ask the old-timers what has been the great political contest in Northeastern Iowa, they will at once and unhesitatingly reply: "The Burdick-Griffith fight of 1870." Every inch of territory in most of the seven counties was gone over carefully. School house meetings were held everywhere: the ablest stumpers in the state visited the larger places, and men of state-wide reputation as orators consented to visit even the villages: and when the votes were polled there were scores of townships in which every last voter was accounted for, and only absence or severe sickness were permitted to excuse the act of voting.
One term in Congress satisfied Mr. Burdick’s ambition. He loved the delights of a charming home-life too well to go deeper into public service, and the business affairs of himself and his patrons needed all the care and attention he could bestow.
In 1885 he reluctantly consented to become a candidate for State Senator. It was a time of political exigency when no person cared to make the fight that would become necessary. His opposition to the use of his name was so positive that he had written a letter, on the day of the nominating convention, which, less than two hours before the convention assembled, he read to the writer of these lines. It was to be given to the writer, and in case his name was brought into convention, it was to be used. He was so modest in such matters that he would not presume to decline an honor not preferred. With some difficulty he was persuaded to withhold that letter and let matters take their due course, under the assurance that his nomination was the only one that could harmonize all interests. It so proved; he was nominated and again triumphantly elected. It was an important session into which he was plunged. The quarrel between Gov. Sherman and State Auditor Brown resulted in the impeachment of the auditor, and his trial by the senate ensued the following summer. In this matter Mr. Burdick’s wise judgment and sound counsel were appreciated, and in that contest he bore an active and conspicuous part. The one measure he had at heart as a legislator was the creation of a "home” for invalid Iowa soldiers. He prepared a bill for such an institution, and the exertions of a few of like mind with him created the Iowa Soldiers’ Home at Marshalltown. Little thought he, then, that for a brief while in the closing days of his life it would become his own shelter and refuge.
In 1887, as has been stated, moneyed investments led him to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. As he expressed it, the home bank was becoming top heavy with high-class men, and it seemed wisest for him to go to that city to look after associated ventures. There he at once entered into the various projects, chief of which was the development of a magnificent water power. Several times it seemed almost an assured fact. Every thing was ready, including ample capital, when the panic of 1893 came and again crushed all hopes. Had this project succeeded all the plans of these capitalists would have been realized. During his residence at the “Soo” he was duly appreciated as a man of acts rather than words—as one who was capable of meeting trusts and responsibilities. One evidence of this was in his appointment and service as one of the commissioners who built the last Insane Hospital of Michigan, at Newberry, on the Upper Peninsula.
One more paragraph is due to the memory of Mr. Burdick, because of his relations to the public in another capacity. For upwards of a quarter of a century he was connected in some form with the official management of the Republican party. He was never a "high private,” or in the rear rank. The many years this writer was associated with him on county committees, and in similar relations, enables us to say with absolute knowledge, that in this respect this was an honest, ungrudging, unselfish service. In important elections, such as congressional or presidential, he gave days and weeks of his time, likewise his best thoughts, and the wisdom of large experience with men in aid of his party principles. Often he was also one of the largest contributors of money to campaign funds, and, with all this, he was always a scrupulous stickler for economy in the use of such funds, in order that poor men might not be deterred from candidacy for office, and that there might be purity in politics.
All this he did without hope of personal reward or political advantage. He loved to serve friends in this way, and therefore he possessed many who delighted to be known as his friends.
The failing health which lead to Mr. Burdick’s death began about a year ago.
A shock of vertigo of which he made but little account was the first warning.
In the winter this decline became more marked, but fears were not thoroughly aroused until spring was closing. The weakness of approaching death steadily grew more and more apparent. In his necessities a few weeks ago application was made for admission to the Soldiers’ Home at Marshalltown, to which as an Iowa Soldier he had rights. Thither he went about the 3d inst., but he declined so rapidly that the authorities speedily notified his relatives in Decorah that Bright’s disease was working its sure course, and the end was near. His brother. C. W. Burdick, went to Marshalltown, on the 12th, and found his condition such that he resolved to bring him back if only to die at “home.” Release came early last Saturday morning, and late Monday afternoon his remains were laid away besides his beloved dead in the city on the hill.
Mr. Burdick was twice married. Nancy Graves, the wife of his youth, bore to him six children, of whom four survive. She died at Battle Creek early in 1889; and in the year following lie married Mrs. E. A. Moore, who also survives him and has been his faithful companion in all the afflictions of the last years of his life.
Funeral services were held at 5 p. m. from the Burdick residence in West Decorah, Rev. Mahlon Willett officiating, and Messrs. L. L. Cadwell, C. N. Goddard, A. W. Grow. E. J. Riley, J. J. Marsh and A. N. Vance acting as bearers.

Phelps Cemetery

Winneshiek Obituaries maintained by Bruce Kuennen.
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