Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Postmaster of Argonia, is what may be termed "a gentleman to the manor born," possessed of more than ordinary intelligence and that courteous bearing which wins for him friends wherever he goes. He comes of substantial Irish ancestry, and was born March 7, 1819, in the city of Dublin, where he spent the first thirteen years of his life. Then, equipped with only a limited education, he started out in the world for himself, embarking as cabin boy on an ocean vessel and from that time until 1842 his life was spent on the water — the sea and lakes. The next four years were occupied at various businesses and in 1846 he entered the volunteer service of the United States during the war with Mexico, being a member of Company G, Fourth Illinois Infantry, under Col. Ed. Baker. He served for one year and returned a Third Sergeant. He and ex-Gov. Richard Oglesby, who was then a Sergeant in Company K, frequently reported together. He served under Gen. Taylor until a part of the army was ordered to join Gen. Scott, and he participated in the battles of Vera Cruz, Natural Bridge, Cerro Gordo and other minor engagements. Later he was under the command of Gen. Shields and under Division Commander, Gen. Twiggs.

Upon retiring from the service Mr. Burton repaired to Tazewell County, Ill., where he operated a sawmill until 1849. Being seized then with an attack of the California gold fever, he set out overland across the plains and worked in the mines until the fall of 1850. In returning home he went down the coast as far as Cape St. Lucas, where the vessel "Louisa Boston" was sunk in the harbor of Mazatlan, and he rode a mule from there to Durango, and finally succeeded in reaching home safely after being chased in Mexico by the Apache Indians. He now resumed sawmilliug and was engaged in the mercantile business for probably two years. He in 1852, crossing the Mississippi, took up his abode in Decatur County, Iowa, where he operated as a general merchant three years and also engaged in farming. He became prominent in local affairs and was County Auditor for three years until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Watching the conflict which ensued with more than ordinary interest, Col. Burton in June, 1861, organized a military company in Leon, Iowa, of which he was elected Captain and which was assigned to the Fourth Iowa Infantry, under command of Col. Dodge. He fought at the battle of Pea Ridge, skirmishing all through Arkansas, was in the fight at Chickasaw Bayou, and then at Arkansas Post, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, Ringgold, Ga., and Woodville, Ala. On the 2d of May, 1862, he was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fourth Iowa Infantry. At the battle of Pea Ridge he was wounded by a canister shot through the left arm, and at Cherokee Station received a sabre cut in the left hand. He resigned his commission April 10,1864, and returning to Iowa resumed the duties of a private citizen.

Col. Burton became well-known in the Hawkeye State and in 1869 was elected Auditor of Decatur County, which office he held three years. Later, for the same length of time he engaged in the livestock business, purchasing cattle in Indian Territory, and selling them in Iowa. In 1875 he settled on a farm near Mayfield, this county, where he sojourned until 1883, coming that year to Argonia and engaging in the mercantile business. He also began speculating considerably. On the 2d of April, 1888, he was appointed to the office of Postmaster, the duties of which have since occupied his time and attention until February 1, 1890.

In 1848, Col. Burton was united in marriage with Miss Jane Waring, who died in 1863, leaving no children. In 1865, the Colonel contracted a second marriage with Miss Martha S. Walton. This lady was born in Ohio and is the daughter of George and Martha Walton who spent their last days in Iowa. Of this union there were no children. Mrs. Burton was a very excellent lady and a member in good standing of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Colonel takes an interest in politics, voting the straight Democratic ticket. He is Past Grand in the I. O. O. F., belongs to the Encampment, is a Knight of Pythias and a member of the Chapter in Masonry.

The father of our subject was John Burton, a native of Dublin, Ireland, and a manufacturer of cotton cloth. The mother bore the maiden name of Martha Whitehead and she also was born in Dublin. They came to America in 1833, settling in Cleveland, Ohio, and about 1842. removed to Bloomington, Ill. There the mother died in 1835 and the father in 1848. Only two of the five children born to them are living — G. B. and Eliza, now Mrs. Burnes, the latter being a resident of Leroy, McLean County, Ill.

Portrait and Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, Chapman Brothers, Chicago, Ill., 1890, p. 177-8

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