James A. Burgess biography

JAMES A. BURGESS. April 9, 1859, the subject of this personal mention was born near St. John, New Brunswick, from which place he migrated, in the early years of his majority, eventually reaching Texas and establishing himself in business in the Lone Star state in 1884 took him over a wide region of our common country and sufficed to gratify an ambitious longing for “seeing the world” and contributed much to his contentment when he finally settled down.

Mr. Burgess’ business connection with Bowie dates from July, 1889, when he embarked in the lumber trade in the city. He had been in Texas then five years, having opened a lumber yard in Joshua, Johnson county, in March, 1884. The panic of 1893 worked a hardship on lumber dealers all over the country and Mr. Burgess closed out his yard in Bowie, with considerable shrinkage, and during the interim between his business exit and his return, in the spring of 1895, he was variously employed in lumber yards elsewhere and in other matters, going into the furniture business with Z. M. Wilson in Bowie; then his former lumber partner, B. S. Pollard, succeeded Mr. Wilson and the twain did business together till the year 1900, when it sold out and Mr. Burgess joined D. H. Sigmon in the undertaking business, the only establishment doing an exclusive undertaking business in Bowie, and in the spring of 1905 Mr. Burgess bought out his partner, D. H. Sigmon, and now conducts the business himself.

Recurring to Mr. Burgess’s place of birth, we find it the home of the Burgess family since the forepart of the nineteenth century. William Burgess, our subject’s grandfather, was a native of Gaxhill, Yorkshire, England, where he married Mercy Beauhom. A few years subsequent to their marriage they emigrated and took up their residence in the country about St. John, New Brunswick, where their lives were spent in pastoral pursuits. Their children were: Robert P., father of our subject, and William, who died without heirs.

Robert P. Burgess’ birth occurred in 1818, in the vicinity of St. Johns, and, while he owned a farm and reared his family upon it, he was a carriagemaker and he actively followed his trade. He was united in marriage with Margaret McLeod, a daughter of William and Jemimah (Littlejohn) McLeod. From boyhood Mr. McLeod served in the English navy and was on the transport which took Gen. Wellington across the English channel to win the battle of Waterloo. He afterward, in the closing years of his active life, took his family to New Brunswick where, near St. John, he and his wife lie buried.

Robert P. and Margaret Burgess were the parents of: Mary B., wife of A. C. Smith, of Boston, Massachusetts; Jemimah M., widow of Andrew Kee, of St. John, New Brunswick; William, who died in Laguna, New Mexico, leaving a family; Robert, of Kingston, New Brunswick; J. Charles, of Parsons, Kansas; James A., of this notice; and Alfred E., of St. John, New Brunswick.

James A. Burgess grew up on the farm and about his father’s carriage shop and acquired a fair education in the common schools. At eighteen years of age he began the serious side of life, among his first acts being his trip from St. John to Navajo Springs, Arizona, a journey diagonally across the United States and embracing some four thousand miles. There he joined his brother as a cowboy on their ranch and in this vocation he remained some three years. Going next to Parsons, Kansas, he took a clerkship in a grocery but a short time later went into the employ of the M. K. and T. Railway Company, finally becoming a fireman. Concluding this service he came to Texas and established himself in the lumber business as previously stated.

Mr. Burgess first married, July 7, 1887, Amelia B. Marley, daughter of Dan and Elizabeth Marley, of Oak Point, New Brunswick. She died March 20, 1889, at Parsons, Kansas. One child was born and died in California at the age of six months.

May 4, 1892, in Montague county, Mr. Burgess married Miss Jessie M. Alsabrook, a daughter of James M. and Laura (Stallings) Alsabrook, who came to Texas form Alabama. Mr. and Mrs. Burgess’ children are Robert L. and Aileen.

Mr. Burgess has exemplified his thrifty tendency in Bowie by the accumulation of some of its real estate and in the improvement of a home on Wise street he has contributed toward the city’s internal development. Although a Republican in national politics, his neighbors and friends—strong Democrats though they are—have chosen him to represent them on the common council from the Second Ward and in many other ways has he felt the assurance of their sincere confidence. In Masonic work he has taken the chapter degree and in Phytianims he is one of the brave.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History of North and West Texas, Vol. II (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), pp. 65-66.