Burnett, Robert (History - 1849)


Janet Schwarze





----Source: 1918 History of Clark County, Wisconsin

ROBERT BURNETT, one of the best known citizens of Unity Township, who came to Clark County as early as 1871, and has resided here many years, though absent for awhile, was born in Catteraugus County, N. Y., June 26, 1849. His parents were Benjamin and Mary (Summerville) Burnett. The father, Benjamin, was born in the old seaport town of Yarmouth, England, April 6, 1819, and was there reared and attended school. Subsequently coming to the United States with his father, he worked in his brother's tailor shop in New York City for a short time and then set up in business for himself in the same line of industry. On Oct. 29, 1836, he was married in New York City to Mary Sommerville, who was born in Washington, D. C., Jan. 16, 1819, her father being a carpenter who had helped to build the first capitol of the United States.


After their marriage Benjamin and his wife resided for some years in New York City, where they had two children born, Mary Anne and Mary Jane. The father's health failing, he gave up his trade and bought an improved farm of eighty acres in New York State, on which he and his family settled. There they resided until 1852, during which time the family circle was widened by the birth of five more children, Margaret, James, Katherine, William and Robert. In the year last mentioned a western migration was decided on, and the township of Auburn, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, welcomed the Burnett family as new acquisitions to its population.


They had come by train to Milwaukee and thence by wagon and ox team to the township. There Benjamin entered upon the task of clearing forty acres of wild land, beginning without any stock but his ox team, though he bought a cow later. A log house and barn were the first requisites, and these he erected. From that time until 1862, a period of about ten years, he was engaged in clearing his land and developing a farm. His labors were interrupted by the Civil War, for on Jan. 1, 1862, he became a member of Company G, 14th Wisconsin Infantry, being mustered in at Fond du Lac. Going South, he took part in the sanguinary battle of Shiloh, in which his regiment was almost annihilated. He was then detailed to the regimental hospital, and was subsequently mustered out at Camp Randall, Ohio. He returned to his farm, but his health had suffered from the hardships through which he had passed, and he was never able to work again. In 1866 he sold the place and moved to Osceola Township, Fond du Lac County, where he died Mar. 23, 1894. His wife survived him ten years, dying April 6, 1904. Robert Burnett was educated in Fond du Lac County, where he worked on the farm until reaching the age of 22 years. He then came to Clark County, arriving in Neillsville, Nov. 20, 1871, as he says, "the poorest man that ever blew in," having but two cents in money. The most available occupation at that time of the year was logging, and he accordingly engaged with Kater Hubbel to work on Poplar River during the winter. The next spring he entered the employ of the Wisconsin Central Railroad, helping to cut the first tree where the village of Colby now stands, the place being known as Station No. 51. After being thus employed for but six weeks, Mr. Burnett took up a homestead of fifty-four acres in Marathon County, Wis. On that place he built a log shack and cleared two acres of the land. He then went to Fond du Lac County for the harvest, returning to Clark County in time to take part in the winter logging.


In this way he earned his living for two years, and on his second return to Fond du Lac County, was married, Sept. 30, 1873, to Mary Parrot, at Campbell's Port, that county. She was the daughter of John Parrot, a farmer there, but was born in Massachusetts, coming to Fond du Lac County, Wis., when a child. After his marriage, Mr. Burnett brought his wife to the homestead in Marathon County, where they lived for two years. He bought a cow and a yoke of oxen, but often had to carry supplies on his back from Loyal, Wis., a distance of ten miles. For sixteen winters he worked in the woods. After residing five years on his Marathon County homestead, he sold it and bought his present place in section 26, Unity Township, Clark County, which he obtained from an old soldier. There was a small log house on the land, but no clearing. The tract consisted of eighty acres, of which he has since cleared about sixty acres. In 1887 he built a ten-room brick house. He has built two barns, one in 1879, measuring 36 by 49 feet, and the other measuring 28 by 64 feet.


Aside from his farming interests he helped to start the Romeo Co-operative Cheese Factory in Unity Township, and to build the Baptist Church in Spencer, and the Scandinavian, Lutheran and Methodist churches in Unity also the Methodist Church in section 32, Unity Township.


Mr. and Mrs. Burnett have been the parents of six children: Adel, Mabel Mary, Viola, Esther, Robert Irwin and Werdon. Adel, who is the wife of William Sook, resides in Spencer and has four children, Madeline Lola, Keith and Gordon. Mabel M., who married Burk Hamm, lives in Boston, Mass., and has one child, Beulah. Viola, who is now Mrs. Frank Page, and a resident of Menasha, Wis., has two children, Myrtle and Olive. Esther is the wife of John Mace and lives in Spencer, Wis. She has had five children, Lester, Morris, Mabel, Gerald, and Lucille (now deceased). Robert Irwin, who married Matilda Martin, resides in Marathon County, Wis., and has one child, Pearl. Werdon resides at home.



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