Peeking Into Lake City's Past

Pioneer Preacher Son Became Manufacturer

During the past 126 years, Lake City has produced many fine people. All of whom made their contributions to the sum total of what our community is today. It is the writer's hope that when this series of historic articles is completed, it will be useful to residents for many years to come.

Today's story begins when a young couple by the names of Morris and Ella McBride Burch of Hickory Island, Courtland county, New York gave birth to a baby boy that grew up to become a minister of Christ's gospel in the pioneer village of Lake City, Iowa. The baby was christened William Burch and was affectionately known in this community as "Rev. Bill Burch".

During the year 1842 in New York state, at the tender age of 18, the Rev. Bill Burch began his ministerial career. This was 12 years before our first settler, Ebenezer Comstock, built his cabin on the west side of what was to become Lake City. The Rev. Burch was twice married. His first wife, Miss Polly Harrington, died at an early age. Family records do not show cause of her death but it is assumed that she may have lost her life giving birth to their son, Morris Seward Burch, born April 16, 1865 at Hickory Island, N. Y. Rev. Bill Burch's second wife, Miss Susan Peabody, born July 6th, 1850, was a fine, charitable woman who made her mark in the Lake City community. To this union were born four children, Eugene, Calvin, Susie and Hattie. Family records do not show where and when each of the four children were born but we are quite certain that at least three were born in Lake City.

When Rev. Burch and family arrived here in 1871, he brought another young man along who was to become the founder and editor of the Lake City Graphic and other newspapers in Calhoun county. His name, T.B. Hotchkiss, a close friend of Rev. Bill and Susan Burch. Three years after arrival, Rev. Burch performed the wedding ceremony for Hotchkiss and his young bride with Mrs. Susan Burch as witness.

According to information in Rev. Burch's obituary, he was a kind and charitable man whose wife Susan helped him in their ministry. She was known to help families when a mother was sick, nursing the patient, looking after the children and doing their housework, all without accepting payment in cash. The Rev. Bill ministered to those in need, both inside and outside his church membership. He was always ready to lend a helping hand when necessary.

Because all good Christians are endowed with the gift of eternal life, the Rev. Bill Burch was called to his reward on February 4, 1897 after a siege of illness that lasted ten months. He was 72 years old. The Rev. Burch was the pastor of a non-denominational group called the Christian Church, (not the Disciples) which was one of the earliest organized groups in Lake City. The building was located one block north of the Lake City Bank. Rev. Burch's obituary further states that the church could not begin to hold the crowd of people who attended his funeral service. He was highly respected and much loved in the Lake City community. The Rev. F. G. Coffin conducted the memorial service. The Reverend's loyal wife Susan Peabody Burch served her husband faithfully, but was not awarded the gift of longevity. Susan died at an earlier age of only 53 years, going to her demise on April 1st, 1892. Both are interned in the Lake City Cemetery.

To continue our story, we select the eldest of Rev. Burch's sons, born of his first wife, as our next subject. Morris Seward Burch was only six years old when the family arrived in Lake City. He grew to manhood attending Lake City schools and was to become a prominent businessman. Morris was united in marriage to a twenty year old bride by the name of Miss Minnie Dodge, whose parents settled near Storm Lake when Minnie was a small child. Minnie was born on July 2, 1868 and was married in the year 1888. She was a member of the Methodist Church.

Morris, unlike his father, the Rev. Bill, joined the Methodist Church in Lake City where he was active the balance of his life. He was also a member of the IOOF lodge. Morris and Minnie Dodge Burch raised five children; Elmer, Eva, Myrtle, Ella and adopted son, Milton. Morris Burch played an important role in the past life of our community.

His first business venture of unusual magnitude took place when he and his brother Eugene founded the Burch Tent and Awing Company, where they manufactured various kinds of canvas products for home, business and agriculture. Their factory was located on West Main Street in the area of the Bernau Mfg. Plant and the Chiropractic Clinic. A few years later, when Eugene Burch's sons wanted to become affiliated with the firm, Burch Brothers dissolved their partnership and Eugene, with his sons, moved to Ft. Dodge where they established the Ft. Dodge Tent and Awning Company, a well known company throughout the middlewest.

After the dissolution of the Burch Tent and Awning in Lake city, Morris Burch established a partnership with Oscar Lundburg of the Lundberg (newspaper spelled it both ways) Monument Works, for the purpose of forming what was to become the Lake City Concrete Works. A new factory with modern machinery was built across the RR track on South Center Street, east side. The new company manufactured concrete building blocks, drainage culverts, field tile, ornamental vases and flower pots. Morris also owned a half square block located directly west of his home. In 1921, when the new plant was running full blast, Morris Burch built a fine new house across the street from his home, where the writer and family have lived since 1947. The unusually fine quality construction of this home prompted me to purchase it thirty five years ago. It stands today as a 61 year old monument to the quality of materials and craftsmanship supplied by the prudent company, owned and operated by Morris Burch and Oscar Lundberg.

Historic accounts indicate that business was good for the Lake City Concrete Works and prosperity was enjoyed by the owners. However, in small business firms, the operator's health can cause unwanted changes. For a number of years Morris Burch suffered with Tuberculosis, which gradually took its toll of human cell destruction, affecting his ability to operate the business. Unfortunately, Morris Burch died in his home on September 26, 1926 at age 61, causing this community to lose another fine and creative businessman. Morris's wife, Minnie Dodge Burch, sold her inherited equity in the Lake City Concrete works to Warren Snavely.

Minnie Burch was known as a very proper lady, however, some folks used to think she was a bit too formal. She would address her three daughters as: Miss Myrtle, Miss Ella, Miss Eve and her adopted sons as Sir Milton and Sir Elmer. Minnie was a person of quality. She was ambitious, hard working and economically frugal. She always raised a large garden, a flock of chickens and kept a cow to help supply her family with food. Minnie Dodge Burch died at the age of 67 years. She left to mourn her passing their children: Mrs. Eva Johnson, Mrs. Ella Leonard, Elmer Burch and Milton Burch.

Our subject hereafter will be the eldest daughter of Morris and Minnie Burch, Myrtle Burch Derby, who preceeded her mother in death, Myrtle was born at Lake City on January 21, 1889 and she spent her entire life in and close to Lake City. She attended Lake City schools and began a teaching career at Grant City in 1916 at age 17, teaching in this area for ten years. On March 14, 1915, she was united in marriage to Elmer L. Derby, then of Auburn. To this union were born four children, Katheryn, Helen, Dale and Dorothy. The family lived on a farm near Lanesboro until March, 1929, when they moved to Lake City.

As a young girl, Myrtle joined the Lake City Christian Church, where her grandfather preached.

Unfortunately, Myrtle Burch Derby did not receive the blessing of longevity. She died at her home on December 30, 1929, at the age of 40 years and 11 months, leaving her young family without a mother. Her funeral services were held in the Lake City Baptist Church with interment in the Lake City Cemetery.

The final subject involved in this capsule lineage of the Burch family encompasses the youngest daughter of Elmer and Myrtle Burch Derby, who was only three years old when her mother died. Dorothy Derby McClelland and her family still reside in Lake City. Dorothy is a great granddaughter of pioneer Rev. William Burch and his wife Susan. She offered proficient assistance in the matter of furnishing information about her ancestors of whom she is justly proud because they played an important role in constructing the religious and economic environment of the Lake City community.

When my friend, the late Arthur Lundberg, was living, he told me about the Burch family and their business relationship with the Lundbergs. Arthur's brother, Arnold Lundberg, of Fostoria, Ohio, offered some interesting information in a letter to Mrs. McClelland, which was helpful in the composition of this story. I offer sincere gratitude to all persons who furnished needed information.