Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Burdette Family in Summers County

Genealogy can be an aggravation.  Sure, there are those outstanding moments when you find the name of an ancestor on a document in the court house, but most of the time is spent in searching dozens of sources to find nothing.  Zip.  Nada.  This can go on for years, as in the case of the Burdette family, which seems not to have bothered recording births and deaths as they occurred.

In recognition of the fact that I may never identify with confidence the father of Joseph Burdette, I'm going to write about what I have found in the last 15 years.

Some sources say that the surname "Burdette" is of Old French origins and entered Great Britain when the Normans conquered England in 1066.  The name is found in the Domesday Book of 1086 when Robert Burdet was recorded in Leicestershire.  There are so many interpretations of the meaning of the name that it's counterproductive to list all of them.  A coat of arms was granted to a Burdett family in Surrey. (  As a later note, two men, Peter and John Bourdet, are found on a list of French Protestants who immigrated to England in 1687. 

Another theory is that the name arose in Wales.  In ancient Gaelic the rounded hill that served as a defensive structure  in a village was called a "bur", roughly translated as "bastion".  The war-chief in pre-Christian times utilized a special guard to insure his safety, and that guard was called a "dett".  See where this is going?  As occupations came to transfer from generation to generation, and surnames were required, this special guard became "Burdett".  (The Burdette Family of Virginia and West Virginia, Howard W. Burdett, 2001)

Howard Burdett cites Paul Burdett, Jr., who reasons that King Arthur was an actual person, whose father, Uther Pendragon, was the first Christian chief of the Welsh.  Uther chose his brother, Ambrose, as his first bur-dett, and from then on, the Christian bur-detts were all of the Pendragon family.  Paul Burdett bases his conclusions on translations of ancient Celtic sources plus the Chronicles of Nennius and Wace. Since about 480 A.D Burdett has been a clan name in the ancient Welsh language. 

The only way to determine which of these theories explains our family's origin is to begin here in America and trace the family back through the generations until we connect with either the Welsh or the French (Normans).  I have not been able to do this but hope that if my searches continue to hit dead ends, someone else's will be productive. 

Mary Catherine Burdette sits in the center in a dark dress.
My father, Austin David Ballengee, was born to Lonnie D. Ballengee and Mary Catherine Burdette Ballengee near Hix, WV, in Summers County on 25 June 1911.  My father knew little of his mother because she died of dropsy (accumulation of fluid, either from congestive heart failure or kidney failure) at the age of 32 on 9 March 1912.  She is reportedly buried at the Alderson Family Cemetery beside the Lively School on Keeney Mountain.  I suspect that her grave is not marked; she's listed in the Summers County Cemetery Book as Kate Ballengee.

My father was the only child born to Lonnie and Catherine. Apparently his name was constructed of the middle name of his father and Catharine's father's middle name (Austin David).  He had no memories of his mother.  He once had a card on which her name was stitched with a lock of her hair, but the card was destroyed in a house fire. After Catherine's death, he lived with the Cales family, where his half-sister, Grace Ballengee, also lived.  

Frank & Gladys Burdette, front center; Austin Ballengee, back row in plaid shirt 

Before she married Lonnie Ballengee, Catherine had three children, and the identity of the father remains a mystery.  A cousin of mine once said that she was told the father was a Kincaid, but that could be nothing more than genealogical gossip.The oldest of Catherine's children was Benjamin Frank Burdette, born 22 February 1901.  Nona Burdette was born in 1903, and Donna Burdette was born in 1906.  In the 1910 census of Summers County Catherine lives with her brother, Benjamin O. Burdette; her father, Lewis A. Burdette; and her three children, Benjamin Frank, Nona, and Donna.  They live in house number 123 on the census, and Lonnie Ballengee, widower, lived with his daughter in house number 118, the home of David Cales.

While little information has been found for Nona and Donna Burdette, Frank Burdette married  Gladys Spade (b. 22 May 1905 to L. E. and Verna Spade) on 24 October 1922 in Fayetteville, Fayette Co., WV.  Frank listed his parents as "Lon and Kate" on his marriage license.  Census information states that over the years Frank worked in a lumber yard, was an engineer on a steam railroad, and as a tipple man in a coal mine.  Frank and Gladys had 13 children:
1.  Clifford Palmer Burdette, b. 3 August 1923, d. 7 October 1948
2.  Alma Burdette, b. 1925
3.  Lucille H. Burdette, b. January 1928
4.  Katheryn Burdette, b. May 1929
5.  Ruby Lehues Burdette, b. 1934
6.  Jack Leo "Ross" Burdette, b. 9 December 1935, d. 3 April 1986
7.  Major L. Burdette, b. 30 July 1937, d. 17 October 1996
8.  Mona Gladys Burdette, b. 15 June 1939, d. 29 March 1987
9.  Robert L. Burdette, b. 16 April 1940, d. 14 April 1988
10.  Lucretia Burdette
11.  Linda S. Burdette
12.  Merril Burdette
13.  Maxine Burdette.  
Frank and Gladys, along with four of their children (Ross, Major, Mona, and Robert) are buried in Patton Cemetery at Meadow Bridge, WV.

Mary Catherine was born to Lewis Austin Burdette and Christiana Fink Burdette on 17 January 1880 at Ramp, WV, the 10th of 11 children.  Christiana, who died probably about January 1902, was born in January 1841 and was the daughter of  Joseph Fink and Jane Miller Fink.  The children of Lewis and Christiana are listed in the table below. 

Unnamed child

Elizabeth J. Burdette
30 May 1864
15 January 1919
Henry N. Kincaid
Dicy Lluwellyn Burdette
About 1867

William H. Dequasie
William Newton Burdette
1 March 1867
29 July 1939
Martha F. Allen
Emma Susan Grimmett
Malinda N. Burdette

Lewis L. Burdette
About 1873
9 October 1892

Josephine Burdette (Josie)
6 July 1873
25 July 1925
Rufus C. Grimmett
Silvester Adran Burdette
24 September 1875
Emma Susan Grimmett
Mary Catharine Burdette
17 January 1880
9 March 1912
Lonnie D. Ballengee
Benjamin O. Burdette
7 July 1882
26 July 1935

Lewis Austin  Burdette was born in April 1834, according to the 1900 Summers County census.  His parents were Joseph Burdette and Dica (Dicy) Burns Burdette, who had 11 children.  At the age of 22 years, Lewis married his first wife, Mary Jane Withrow, the daughter of Samuel Harrison Withrow and Sarah Kincaid Withrow, on 25 January 1856 in Greenbrier County.  Lewis and Mary Jane had five children, of whom two died as children.  A son, unnamed, died at about 1 month of age on 1 August 1856.  Two daughters, Margaret M. (b. 10 April 1857) and Sarah F. (b. 23 March 1858) are assumed to have survived to adulthood, but no other information has been found for them.  Another son, Samuel B., was born 1 February 1860 and died August 1861.  They had another son, unnamed, in August 1861, but no other information has been found for him.  None of the children of Lewis and Mary Jane appear on any subsequent censuses with him.  Mary Jane died sometime before or around 1863, because Lewis married Christiana Fink on 26 March 1863.  Christiana was born in January 1841 to Joseph Fink and Jane Miller Fink in Monroe County.

In 1870 Lewis and Christiana lived in Blue Sulphur in Greenbrier County, but their first son, William Newton, was born in  1867 in Mason County, WV, according to his birth record which states that the family was living along the Kanawha River.  In previous records Lewis listed his occupation as mechanic, so it may be that toward the end of the Civil War, he moved to Mason County where he could find work. No doubt the Civil War affected the move of the newly-married couple, no matter what the specific circumstances were.  By 1870 they had returned to Greenbrier/Summers Co.

In the memoir of Adena Kincaid Fleshman Lusher (, 1984), she gives insight into the character of Lewis Burdette.  Adena was the daughter of Elizabeth Burdette and Henry Noel Kincaid.  Elizabeth died 15 January 1919 of tuberculosis, and in the 1920 Summers Co. census, Lewis was living with his daughter, Josie, and her husband Rufus Grimmett in the Upland District of Summers Co.  Adena writes,
Our Grandpa, his name was Lewis Burdette, came to spend Christmas with us and brought a bag of candy hearts for up kids.  They were about half the size of my hand.  When they were divided we all had one apiece.  The rest of the kids ate theirs but mine was so pretty, I kept it to look at.  One day I wanted to be extra good to Flossie, so we were playing with our dolls and mine was a rag doll Mom made for me but Flossie's dish doll had a wee mouth, so I told Flossie I would give her half my candy heart and we could eat it.  But when she tasted it she didn't want it as her throat was still sore.  So we poked it into her doll's mouth, tiny wee bits at a time until it was all gone.  Then we both cried because we had no more candy heart.
 Our Grandpa Burdette stayed with us a lot.  He had two other children living, Uncle Ben Burdette and Aunt Josie Grimmett.  So he just visited around between the three children and had no real home of his own.  He stayed mostly with us.  He was with us when Mom passed away and stayed with us for several months after Mom passed away.  I can't forget the day he left.  He went to Aunt Josie Grimmetts and I can see him now as he started out walking with his cane.  He was real old and soon after that, he died.  I never saw him after he left me that day. 
As the years passed, Adena's father found that some of his children wouldn't let him stay with them.  She compared what happened to him with how her father had treated her grandfather, Lewis Burdette:
  To explain what my dad did in 1919, then reaped in 1934 is; He asked my dear old grandfather Burdette, (after mom passed away) if he didn’t think Uncle Ben Burdette or Aunt Josie one had a better right to look after him (Grandpa) than my dad did, and I did not know at the time, but learned later that he had said this to Grandpa.  I know now that was why Grandpa left so suddenly that day long ago with tears in his eyes.  It still hurts me to this day when I think about it.

The exact date of Lewis' death is not known, but it is estimated to be about 1922.  Neither is his burial place known, but it's probably near Keeney Mountain.  

Joseph Burdette, the father of Lewis, was born in 1789 in Virginia, this date being calculated from census information.  He married Dicy Burns, the daughter of Thomas Burns (said by Oren Morton to have had a brewery in Union), on 7 October 1811 in Monroe County, VA/WV.  Dicy was born around 1788 in Virginia.  Neither death nor burial information has been found for either Joseph or Dicy.

Ten children have been documented for Joseph and Dicy:
The marriage bond of Joseph Burdette and Dicy Burns.
Christopher, b. 6 April 1812
George St. Clair, b. 1813
Isham, b. about 1817
Elizabeth, b. about 1819
Robert Burdette, b. about 1821
John, b. about 1823
Joseph, b. about 1824
Mary, b. about 1825
Sylvester, b. about 1829
Lewis Austin, b. about 1834.
Research by David Fridley says that Sylvester went to Kanawha County, and Christopher migrated to Indiana, along with perhaps others of the Burdettes. 

Monroe County school records for 1831-1842 found on Monroe County genweb list two of Joseph's children in 1836 and 1838:  Joseph Burdette at age 13 and 14, and Mary at age 11 and age 15.  Their teacher was Samuel Wiseman.

At this point the trail goes very cold.  Some researchers, in the absence of documented proof, say the most probable parents of Joseph Burdette are Giles Burdette, b. 1749 and Sarah Dunbar Burdette, b. 1753.  Giles died in 1829 in Monroe County, VA/WV.

In A History of Monroe County, West Virginia by Oren F. Morton (1916), the early Burdettes in Monroe County are outlined.  William Burdette, who died in 1836, came to Monroe County from Culpeper County and was a son of James Burdette.  Morton also mentions Giles Burdette who died before 1829 and married Sarah Dunbar.  He lists only one child, John (1794-1882), for Giles, but this history is not meant to be a genealogical study, and most assuredly Giles and Sarah had other children.  On the website, Don Norman says that Giles was the son of James Burdette and was born ca 1775.  If this is the case, it's doubtful that Giles is the father of Joseph who was born around 1789.  The more logical conclusion would be that Joseph and Giles were brothers, both the son of James.

In West Virginia and Its People, Vol. 3, Thomas Miller (1913), Miller says the James Burdette from Culpeper County died in Harrison County, WV, and had the following children:  Dorothy, married Alexander Davidson; Frederick; Stephen; James; and Joshua.

A problem arises in reconciling the differing birth dates of Giles Burdette:  if he were born in 1775 (Don Norman's records), he would not be the father of Joseph; if he were born in 1749, as reported in other research, he certainly could be the father of Joseph.  There may also be a Giles, Sr., and Giles, Jr.  It's possible that James, b. 1729, who had a son also named James, and James, Jr. was the father of Giles Burdette, who could then be the father of Joseph.

In Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666, George C. Greer (1912), we find William Burdette arriving in Accomack County in 1639, and Chris Burdette arriving at the York River in 1649, which is around 100 years before James Burdette appears in the Culpeper records.   

This is a skein of yarn that appears to have no ends at all.  It's certainly a puzzle, but it would also appear quite certain that Joseph Burdette was related in some way to these early Burdettes.  The tricky part will be to prove exactly how he's related to them.