Thomas Franklin Burke
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Company A, 116th Illinois Infantry
South Kansas Tribune, Wednesday, June 20, 1917, Pg. 5:
Death of an Honored Citizen
In the passing of Thomas Franklin Burke, who died at the age of 75 years Wednesday, while sitting in his chair while his wife was preparing to walk up town with him, the county lost a good citizen. He was born in Macon county, Illinois, and served his country in the 116th Illinois, Company A, and was with the General Grant campaigns down the Mississippi, at Vicksburg and across Tennessee, with Fifteenth Army Corps. At Ezra Chapel he was struck by a rebel bullet and lost an eye. After returning from the hospital he was with the army that chased Hood to the Tennessee River and later marched with Sherman. In the battle at Fort Waggoner he was color sergeant and the first man to plant the Union flag on the breastworks, around which the victorious army rallied and won the battle. He was with those who marched through Raleigh and on to Petersburg and Richmond, and it was the pride of his life to have had a place in the grand review at Washington, and was discharged at Springfield, Ill.
Oct. 22, 1871, he was united in marriage with Miss Ellen Nesmith, who has been a loving, faithful wife.
In the early eighties Mr. and Mrs. Burke came to Kansas, locating in Sycamore where they resided many years until he was elected register of deeds and re-elected serving four years. He has been a faithful trustee of the county high school for many years and its treasurer at his death.
The funeral was held at his home and very largely attended by the friends. And his pastor and neighbor Rev. F. L. Pettit of the Christian Church paid high tribute to his character as a citizen and soldier. There was present at the funeral his widow, son Arthur of Denver, and daughters, Bessie and husband Attorney William Brown of Iola, and Alice, wife of Professor Humes. The son Walter could not be reached by telegram.
At the cemetery the Grand Army conducted the beautiful funeral ceremony and Rev F. L. Pettit pronounced the benediction.
From History of Montgomery County, Kansas, By Its Own People, published by L. Wallace Duncan, Iola, Kansas, 1903, pgs. 378-380:
THOMAS FRANKLIN BURKE – Ex-register of deeds, Thomas F. Burke of Independence, has resided in Montgomery county twenty years. Fourteen years of that time he was engaged in farming in Sycamore township, and only abandoned rural pursuits to assume public office, to which he had just been chosen. After five years of official service, in one of the most important positions in the gift of the people of Montgomery county, he retired, and became a member of the real estate firm of Heady & Burke.
Mr. Burke’s parents were early settlers of Macon county, Illinois, Micajah Burke, his father, emigrating from Hardin county, Kentucky, in 1832, and founding the family on the bleak prairies of the “Sucker State.” Virginia was the original American home of the family, and early in the century just past, John H. Burke, grandfather of our subject, joined the throng of immigrants to Kentucky, remained there some years, and accompanied his son, Micajah, into Macon county, Illinois, where he died in 1854. He was a shoemaker by trade, married and had a family of two sons and six daughters. James Burke was his other son and he brought up a family in Illinois.
Micajah Burke was born in Virginia in 1803 and died in 1863. The labor of the farm furnished him with employment through life and he and his wife, nee Lucy Ann Pasley, of Kentucky, reared a family of sever children. Mrs. Burke was a daughter of Rev. Henry H. Pasley, a Methodist minister of Hardin county, who was a native of the State of Kentucky. Mrs. (Pasley) Burke died in 1892, at seventy-two years of age, being the mother of: John H., of Macon county, Illinois; James W., deceased; Robert Y., of Iola Kansas; Thomas F., Adelpha C., deceased, wife of Henry Stevens of Macon county, Illinois; Joseph W., of the home county in Illinois; and Lewis D., of Pueblo, Colorado.
Thomas F. Burke grew up in the country where school advantages were not of the first order. His enlistment in the army, for service in the Civil War, marked his exit from the domestic and parental fireside. He joined Company “A”, One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois Infantry, first, Col. Tupper, and later, Co. Maddox. The regiment formed a part of Grant’s Army, operating on the Mississippi river, and its first engagement, in which Mr. Burke participated, was at Haines Bluff. Then came Champion Hills, and the siege and capture of Vicksburg. The army then came up the river to Memphis, and started on its journey from there to join the Federal troops, operating in the east. Mr. Burke took part in the Missionary Ridge battle and was present with his regiment, at the relief of Gen. Burnside at Knoxville, Tennessee. During that winter, the command with which Mr. Burke was serving, was stationed at Larkinsville, Alabama, and the following spring, it took up the work of the Atlanta campaign, at Resaca, Georgia. Was in battle at Dallas, Big Shanty and Kenneshaw Mountain, in which latter the troops charged the Confederates and captured their redoubt. The One Hundred and Sixteenth then went to Rossville, Georgia, on orders, and was in the fight of the 21st and 22nd of September in front of Atlanta. On the 28th, it was at Ezra Chapel, where Mr. Burke was struck on the head with a Rebel ball, which, in time, caused blindness of the right eye. After a turn in the hospital, at Marietta, Georgia, he returned to his regiment, and was in the fight at Jonesboro. The command then marched back to Atlanta and followed Hood to the Tennessee river, near Chattanooga; returned to Atlanta and took up the march “to the sea”. Mr. Burke participated, with his company, in the charge on Ft. McAllister, at Savannah, in which engagement he was color bearer, and he believes he placed the first banner of the stars and stripes on the Rebel works. At Savannah the One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois was embarked aboard a ship for Pocataligo, South Carolina, where it disembarked and went to Charleston and on to Goldsboro, North Carolina. Took part in the engagement at Bentonville, North Carolina, marched on through Raleigh, to Petersburg, and into Richmond, Virginia, the late Confederate capital. Leaving there, the army marched to the Grand Review at Washington, D. C., and terminated its services and celebrated its victories in the grandest military display the world ever saw. Mr. Burke was discharged at the Capital, but was mustered out at Springfield, Illinois, with a promotion from private to color-sergeant, and with three years of arduous and patriotic service to his credit.
On returning to his old home, our subject donned the habiliments of a farmer and resumed civil pursuits where he left off three years before. For thirty-two years, in Illinois and in Kansas, he continued at his favorite calling, and only separated from it at the behest of the people to assume public office.
October 22, 1871, Mr. Burke married Ellen Nesmith, a daughter of Samuel Nesmith, a lawyer by profession and an Ohioan by birth. The Nesmiths were English, their family home being Londonderry, which this branch left, came to America, and settled at Londonderry, Connecticut, away back in Colonial times. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Burke are: Walter S., of Denver, Colorado; Alice G., wife of Morris Humes, of Emporia, Kansas; Bessie F. and Arthur N., of Denver, Colorado.
In his political life, Mr. Burke is an avowed Republican. He had ever taken a keen interest in local politics, and was first elected Register of Deeds, in November, 1897, by a majority of sixty-six votes, being the only candidate on his ticket to “pull through”. In 1899, he was reelected, this time receiving a majority of three hundred and fifty-two votes, and being again the only Republican candidate to win on the county ticket, except the surveyor and coroner. His service as county recorder was efficient and pains-taking and it included the time from January, 1898, to January, 1903.