Joseph Burt

Joseph Hugh Burt was born on 19 November 1865, a few months after the Civil War ended. Many trees on Ancestry indicate that he was born in Barry County, Michigan and the 1870 census shows a Joel Burt born to H. J. and June Burt in Barry County. Most of the Burt’s in Barry County were born in New York. In the 1880 census, Hugh Burt was living with the Aaron Boone family as a servant in Bucklin, Linn County, Missouri, far from Michigan. The age and place of Joel’s birth are consistent with what we know about our great-grandfather’s birth. Some of the Boone children were born in Michigan and Aaron was born in New York. These facts most likely show a relationship between the Burt and Boone family and more in-depth research needs to be done.

On 3 December 1891, Joseph married Virginia Williams. He was twenty-six and she was twenty-two. Their first child Elmer Hugh was born nine months later on 5 September 1892. Five additional children, Nathaniel Edward, Estella May (my grandmother), Everett Elzie, Curtis Arthur, and Mayme were born during the next seven years. Between 1901 and 1915, Otis, Irene, Amy Rose, Ernest, Clara, and Ransom were born. Mayme and Otis died in infancy.

Burt, Joseph Directory Advertisement 1915

Ad Appearing in the 1915 Osage County Business Directory for Joseph’s Well Digging Company

During the late 1890s Joseph was a watchmaker and in 1905 he was appointed postmaster for a short period of time for Feursville in Osage County. Perhaps because of his large family that he had to support he changed occupations and started digging wells, most likely a more lucrative job. He would continue in this profession until he retired.

A cousin, who lived with our grandmother for a while, told me that Joseph worked at the construction of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. This is an interesting fact that needs to be pursued.

Jennie died on 4 September 1915 of gastrectasia, a generally rare but fatal disease. Joseph was left to raise all twelve children by himself. No doubt, the burden of the everyday care of the children fell on Stella, his oldest daughter.

Joseph was postmaster of the Post Office in Feuersville, Missouri for a short period of time between 4 November 1905 to 22 January 1906. The Feuresville post office was in service from 21 August 1887 to 29 April 1916 when it was merged with the Byron post office. Even back then institutions didn’t last.

Burt, Joseph, Appointment U.S. Postmasters

Joseph’s Name Can Be Found on Line Nine

In the 1920s and 1930s, and living in Jefferson Township, Osage, County, Joseph continued to dig wells with the help of several of his boys. In 1940 he was retired from his business and living with his two sons, Elmer and Edward, who continued in the business. They were living in Herman, Gasconade County.

Joseph, who was living with our grandmother, passed away on 23 March 1945 at the age of seventy-nine. He died of bronchopneumonia after six days in St. Louis County Hospital in Clayton. His funeral was held at Bopp Funeral Home at Hanley and Forsyth in Clayton. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood. Sadly, both Joseph and Jennie are buried in unmarked graves.

Burt, Joseph, Death Certificate

Joseph’s Death Certificate

Joseph Hugh Burt (1865-1945) m. Virginia Williams (1869-1915)

Elmer Hugh Burt (1892-1965)
Nathaniel Edward Burt (1892-1974)
Estella May Burt (1894-1987)
Everett Elzie Burt (1897-1972)
Curtis Arthur Burt (1898-1977)
Mayme Burt (1899-1901
Otis Burt (1901-1903)
Irene Burt (1902-1999)
Amy Rose Burt (1904-1997)
Ernest Burt (Abt. 1908-Aft. 1977)
Ransom Burt (1915-1955)

In Search of Virginia Williams

Like most women born in the 1800s, little is known about my great-grandmother Virginia (Jennie) Williams. Women were enumerated in U.S. census records after 1840 and their names may have appeared in deeds. But it was a man’s world and records for women are lacking.

According to her obituary, she was born near Cooper Hill in Osage County, Missouri on 15 Nov 1869. However, her death certificate showed that she was born on 15 Mar 1869. The fifth of ten children, she was born to Henry Williams and Syrena Simpson Williams. The family consisted of five boys and five girls and one child who died in infancy.

As an older girl of a farm family and later a farmer’s wife, Jennie would have sewn her own clothes made of wool, cotton, calico, or muslin. Sometimes the cloth would have been dyed. In the 1880s and 1890s, the dresses and skirts would have been long and full, the neckline of the blouses and dresses would have been high, and the sleeves would have been long. The dress would have been covered by an apron. These flowing garments were always a concern when cooking over an open hearth.  The clothing would have been hot in the summer but warm in the winter. Bustles were the rage in the 1880s but I doubt very much if Jennie would have had a bustle in her wardrobe.

Churning Butter

Churning Butter, Courtesy of Library of Congress


Besides caring for her children, she would have been responsible for milking the cows, churning the butter, making soap, tending to the family garden, caring for the chickens, and many of the other responsibilities that were required in running a farm.

Jennie, her mother, father, and siblings could read and write. There was probably little time to read however. Because all the children were able to read and write I assume that they went to school.

On 3 Dec 1891, Jennie married Joseph Burt at the age of twenty-two. Being one of the middle girls in her family she was well qualified to take care of her first child Elmer who was born nine months later on 5 Sep 1892. Five additional children, Edward, Everett, Curtis, and my grandmother Estella May, and Maimi were born during the next seven years. Maimi would die in infancy. Between 1901 and 1915, Otis, Irene, Amy, Ernest, Clara and Ransom were born.

Jennie died on 4 Sep 1915 of gasterectasis, a generally rare but fatal disease. Ransom, her last child was born on 16 Feb 1915. Whether or not his birth contributed to her death is unknown. Women in those days were so run-down from work and childbirth. However she was young, just forty-five years of age at her death. Twelve children in twenty-three years probably took their toll on her. And my great-grandfather Joseph was left to care for all of the children.

Years later my grandmother, Stella still mourned the loss of her mother. She was only twenty when she lost her mother. And as the oldest daughter she would bear the weight of helping to take care of the children until she married at the age of twenty-eight.

I would love to know what Jennie was like. Did she have a happy marriage? Did she love her children or was she weighed down by the sheer number of children she birthed? All but one of her children lived to adult-hood. Was this a testimony to the love and care she provided for her family? I would like to believe so. Hopefully someday I will meet a relative that can fill in the blanks for me that no historical record can. So if you are a Williams’ descendant with a picture or story to share, give me a holler’.

Stella Burt Schwegler … Leaving a Legacy of Silver White Hair

Estella May Burt was born November 21, 1894. Called Stella, she was born in Third Creek, Gasconade County, Missouri. She was the first girl, and third child, born to Joseph Burt and Virginia Williams Burt. She had eleven brothers and sisters.

By 1910 the Burt family had moved to Crawford Township in Osage County, not far from Third Creek. Her father was a watchmaker. It’s hard to believe that he could have supported that many children by making and repairing watches.

Burt, Stella, Picture-EnhancedWhen my grandmother was twenty or twenty-one, and unmarried, a daughter Golden was born to her. The 1920 census showed Goldie as the daughter of Joseph Burt. Back then many children born out-of-wedlock were listed as children of their grandparents.

On Saturday, May 5, 1923 my grandmother married Harrison Wright Schwegler in Vienna, Maries County, Missouri. Grandpa Schwegler’s first wife had died leaving him to raise six children  under the age of nine. I’m sure this marriage was one of convenience since my grandfather had children who needed a mother and my grandmother needed a father for Aunt Goldie.

From this union came eight children. Their first child lived only six hours before it died. One child, Billy, died when he was two years old. The remaining children were most likely born in the city of St. Louis or St. Louis County. By 1936, living on Manola Avenue in Pine Lawn, most of the older children had moved away from home.

It is this house that I remember the most. It was a large house with an enclosed front porch. Three bedrooms and bathroom were on one side of the house and the living room, dining room, and kitchen were on the other side of the house. The driveway ran along the left of the house and sloped down to the back yard where a huge Osage Orange tree grew. Fascinated by Hedge Apples, the fruit of this tree, I remember my parents bringing some home in hopes they would discourage crickets and water bugs from entering our basement. I don’t think that worked.

Granny came to babysit my brother and me several times when we were young. She loved to tell us ghost stories and to this day I love a good ghost story. Sometime in the nineteen-fifties she became a Jehovah’s Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays. I’m not sure if it was my brother and me waking up from bad dreams or Granny telling us that there was no Santa Claus, but her babysitting days for us were over. I do believe sometime later she began celebrating holidays again because we always took her a box of Brach’s Chocolate Covered Cherries for her birthday and Christmas.

I honestly don’t remember my grandfather being at the house on Manola except for a few times. He had a clubhouse on the Gasconade River, in Osage County, Missouri and spent most weekends there. Since my dad worked during the week, the weekends were the only time we visited granny.

Grandpa Schwegler's Clubhouse on the Gasconade River

Grandpa Schwegler’s Clubhouse on the Gasconade River

One of my favorite memories of my grandmother comes from an experience when I was twelve. Many weekends my family would go to my grandfather’s clubhouse. We would leave on Friday and come home late on Sunday. This particular weekend my grandmother went with us along with our dog and parakeet. It had rained a great deal during the week leading up to our trip. Rivers were running high and the Gasconade was no exception. The clubhouse sat next to the river surrounded by corn fields. As a precaution we parked our cars some distance away in case the river rose further blocking our exit. Saturday came and the river was high but nothing to worry about. Sunday came and the clubhouse, which was on stilts,was surrounded by water. Fortunately my grandfather had the foresight to tie two jon boats to trees close to the house. I’ll never forget the two boats riding on high water through six-foot high corn stalks loaded with my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, dog, parakeet, and luggage. It was quite an adventure.

When I think of an old-fashioned grandmother, with their granny shoes and loose-fitting house dresses, I think of my grandmother. She was a tall, large woman and I loved being enclosed in her warm hug each time we left her house. Eventually her dark hair became silver white. This is my lasting picture of her. As I have aged I realize my legacy from her is my silver white hair.

Estella May Burt Schwegler passed away on February 21, 1987 at the age of 92. If I’m lucky, not only will I have inherited her silver white hair but will have many more years on this earth making memories.