Biography - John Burke

JOHN H. BURKE, who is a descendant of the early pioneer stock of Illinois, and was one of her patriotic citizen-soldiers that did such good service at the front during the rebellion, is an intelligent member of the farming community, owning and occupying a good farm in Simpson Township. He was born in Randolph County, July 4, 1844, and is a son of Thomas C. Burke, who was a native of Rowan County, N. C. The latter was a son of John B. Burke, who is supposed to have been a native of the same State, and was of Irish Scotch parentage. He removed from North Carolina to Tennessee in 1819, and from there to Illinois in 1827, becoming a pioneer of Randolph County where he improved a farm one mile from Shiloh, and resided there until his death in 1859, at the age of sixty-five years. The maiden name of his wife was Cowan.
The father of our subject was young when his parents made the journey with a team from Tennessee to the wilds of Randolph County. After he had grown to manhood he too became a pioneer in that section, entering a tract of Government land a half-mile from Shiloh, and he developed it into a fine farm, comprising two hundred acres of fertile, highly productive land. He lived on the old homestead until his life was closed by death. The maiden name of his wife was Jemima Barrow, and she was a daughter of John Barrow, who was born in Kentucky of Scotch-English parents. He came to Illinois in 1811, and settled near Campbell Hill, Jackson County, where he redeemed a farm from the wilderness, and there died at a ripe age. His wife was Mary Steele before her marriage, and she was born in this State. Her brother was Archibald Steele, a native of North Carolina, who boldly set forth to brave the dangers and hardships of life on the frontier in the year 1800, and making his way to Illinois, which then formed a part of the Northwestern Territory, he settled among the Indians and wild beasts that abounded in that part of the State now known as Randolph County, locating on the present site of Steeleville. Only by reading the history of the early settlement of Illinois can one gain an idea of the struggles of this sturdy pioneer to obtain a foothold in the wilderness. But he succeeded, becoming very prosperous, and improved a large farm, which was his home until his earthly career was closed in death. His wife also died on the home farm. The mother of our subject died near Shiloh Hill, Randolph County. She reared four children: John H., Francis M., Edvan T. and Kate.
The early life of our subject was passed on his father's farm in his native county, and he was educated in the public schools. He was but a boy when the war broke out, and but eighteen years of age when he entered the army to do his share of fighting for his country, and it was meet that one born on the nation's birthday should offer his services to help save it from disunion and dishonor. He enlisted in July, 1862, and his name was enrolled as a member of Company A, Eightieth Illinois Infantry. He displayed excellent soldierly qualities on the field and bore au honorable part in many encounters with the enemy, the most notable battles in which he fought being those at Perryville, Milton, Missionary Ridge and Buzzard's Roost. He was discharged January 20, 1865, shortly before the close of the war, on account of disability, having finally succumbed to the hardships and privations of a soldier's life.
When he returned home from the South, our subject, ambitious to obtain a higher education, attended school at Sparta, and in 1868 he entered the teacher's profession, in which he was successfully engaged until 1879. He then accepted a position as an officer in the Southern Illinois Penitentiary. In 1885 he resigned in order to turn his attention to farming, and bought a farm in Bloomfield Township. He lived upon that three years and then bought another of forty acres in Simpson Township, which is still in his possession. In 1889 he became agent for the Franklin Life Association at Springfield, and is still acting in that capacity. He is an excellent man of business and stands well in his community as a man and a citizen. He is prominently identified with Simpson Post No. 683, G. A. R., of which he is PastCommander.
May 21, 1868, is the date of the marriage of Mr. Burke with Miss Mary E. Green, and three children have been born of their pleasant wedded life: Wallace O., Clarence and Grace. Mrs. Burke is also a native of Randolph County, a daughter of Carter and Elizabeth Green, and a granddaughter of Greenbury Green, of Tennessee. Her father came to Illinois in 1837 and cast in his lot with the pioneers of Randolph County, settling near Steeleville. He is now a resident of Perry County.

Extracted 21 Sep 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 283-284

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