Illinois Genealogy Trails

Franklin County, Illinois
Newspaper Accounts of Events

Henry L. Burkitt, Distinguished Southerner, Visits Here In 1880

by Lester Davis

Henry L. Burkitt was born in Halifax County. N.C, October, 1818. His family moved to Giles County, Tenn. in 1819, where he lived as a child. "He left home at the age of 19 without learning and was unskilled in the artificies of the world." His total wealth, the contents of his purse was the grand total of 31 1/4 cents. He received his advice from his father. "Be honest in all dealings with mankind, be industrious, and be faithful to every promise.'
Evidently he followed and lived by these precepts for he had a distinguished career and from published newspaper accounts, he was a wealthy man. The West Point (Miss.) Echo, a publication in his area, gave a detailed description of his 40th wedding anniversary on June 2, 1881. 'The General (one of his many titles) resides in a beautiful County seat about 14 miles west of this place, and owns one of the most magnificent plentations in this state. In politics and agriculture he has been distinguished." A lengthy description of the festivities and visitors was included.
In the year 1882 he compiled and published a small book (hard cover) titled "Burkitt's Maxims and Guide to Youth'
It is filled with these maxims and also is a collection of newspaper articles. It is somewhat of an autobiography and is interesting reading. This book quite worn in years of reading, is in the keeping of Guy "Buck" Burkitt, Christopher. In the preface occurs the following notation. "Entered according to act of congress in the year 1881, by Henry L. Burkitt, in the office of Librarian of Congress."
General Burkitt came to this area in October, 1880 and his visit was written up by the Benton Standard on that date.
They labeled him the "Old Man of the Cotton Fields" According to the article he came almost unannounced, yet had, a very fair audience gathered at the court house to greet him. After music by the band and songs by the Glee Club, he was introduced by W. S. Cantrell. His speech followed.
Just why they labeled him as an old man, at the age of 62, is not known, perhaps men in his time aged faster than those of a latter date. The Standard also wrote another article, a speech he made in Christopher. He then made speeches at Mulkeytown, Desoto and Du Quoin. No reason is given about why he came to this area. Quite possible because of his relations here, or it might have been by invitation. It would have been interesting to know why he came, how he traveled, where he stayed and more about his local contacts. He no doubt was aware that many of the local residents were descendents of the early settlers who had come from the south. The migration pattern of the early 19th century was naturally East to West. Many had come from the Carolinas and Virginia over the Cumberlands via Kentucky and Tennessee. They were generally Southern Democrats and retained strong ties with the South. He was no doubt well aware of this.
Although most of the residents here were of the dominent political party of the South, the question of slavery and then the Civil war caused some to break these ties, but there remained the definite relationship. Brians Silver Policy also caused some political friction. From a standpoint of physical geography this area is South. The Mason Dixon Line if extended due West from the original survey, that is the 39th parallel, would encompass all of Southern Illinois, including the area of St. Louis, Mo. Locally our immediate area is on a near direct line West of Richmond, Va. Illinois was of course a Northern State and was a strong factor in the Union Army, but there remains, even to this day, a degree of empathy with the South.
[Name and Date of Newspaper unknown - Submitted by Ronald Cramer. Transcribed by K. Torp]


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