MARK BURGHARDT TALKS WITH ZEST OF DAYS OF '58
[Source: Clinton, Iowa Herald, Feb 1930; Contributed by Al Rothe]
With balmy days now in the offing, Priscilla has laid-aside her winter chains and is beginning to spin here and there, calling on long time friends. One of these visits was to a man who is quite nimble of foot, and certainly spry of mind, Mark D. Burghardt, born August 6, 1834 in the Berkshire Hills country of Massachusetts. In addition to his remarkable span of years which rest lightly on his shoulders, Mr. Burghardt has a unique outlook upon this country.
It was on the first day of January 1858, that Mr. Burghardt came to this vicinity, came to Fulton , where his Uncle Henry Grinnold, conducted a general store. This uncle has the reputation of having secured the first marriage license issued in Whiteside County . But listen to some of the things that Mr. Burghardt told while Priscilla was waiting outside the F.D. Grant home. Mrs. Grant is Mr. Burghardt's daughter and he is making his home there, sharing some of the years, occasionally with another daughter, Mrs. Stone, of Muscatine .
First of all, there had to be shown a picture of the old home, a house back in the Berkshire Hills , a house that was built in 1728 and has been occupied by one generation after another of the Burghardt family, until very recently it has been sold. The quaint old rooms, windows, staircase with heavy tread, all are there, even to a front door that is pitted with bullet holes, a relic of days beyond this present generation.
'I was one of seven boys,' said Mr. Burghardt, 'and we all slept in the big room upstairs, a room that extended apparantly across the whole upper floor. I was only thirteen years old when I took my first trip into the world, going to Jackson , Mich. , by boat. I stayed there with relatives for two years, then went back home. It was in the fall of 1857 when Uncle Henry came to our house. He had been in Boston on a purchasing trip for his big store in Fulton , Ill. , and as he talked with the folks he said, 'Wouldn't some of you boys like to go west with me.' Would we? We were not slow in getting ready to go. And after we got to Fulton I clerked in my uncle's store and then had charge of his branch store at Thomson and was working there when the Fulton store burned. Much of our stock at Thomson had to be taken to Fulton under other goods could be brought in.
I had not been there so very long when news came of the find of gold in the Pike's Peak district. Everybody was talking about it and once again uncle said, 'Wouldn't some of you boys like to go?' Would we? We did. We immediately got ready and on the 18th day of February 1859 started. Nobody knew where we were going, didn't even know we were gone until we were on our way, because we didn't want extra company. Uncle did not drive away from Fulton with us but went to Davenport and then took the train telling us when we left that he would meet us in Iowa City .
We crossed the river by ferry and went through Clinton which was a fine looking city with its handsome hotel right on the river bank and much business although the place was only a few years old. It was a thriving town.
We met uncle at Iowa City and drove on until we were near Council Bluffs , stopping at some cabins that had been left by the Mormons when they had passed that way. Here we assembled with others west bound until there was a train of 47 wagons.
Just think of the length of that train, forty ox teams, a few mules, a few horses and one team of cows. And we got through without any trouble--getting to Denver and beyond where uncle got a claim and than back again in the fall. And we went west again in the spring of the next year.
Just think of it, Boy Scouts, of going back and forth across the plans when there were Indians who were deemed safer of contact than the badmen that frequented the stations where the pony express and stagecoaches stopped. This part of life on the frontier is very vivid to Mr. Burghardt who tells of the stations that were 12 to 15 miles apart and were a rendezvous for the sporting element. 'I remember,' he continued, 'of the fording of the North Platte at Fort Kearney , following the stream to Julesberg where it took three days to get the long train across. Stopping for a Sunday rest we went on toward the South Platte which had just enough water in it to wet the wagon tires. And there we camped again. Into our camp came three Indians. We were always friendly with the Indians, never had any trouble with them at all, but they were most always hungry and seemed to want things to eat. We carried our own cook stove in one of the wagons. We had finished breakfast when these Indians came along, and had eaten everything in sight. Said uncle, 'Get to work and cook them something.' So my brother who could toss up a mess of soda biscuit, fine flaky biscuit that were as high as the (Mr. Burghardt measured with the width of his palm) made some, and those Indians surely did have a big feed, biscuit, ham and coffee and cooked dried apples. What did we use for fuel? We carried some wood with us, we picked up when we could but for 300 miles there was never a tree in sight and buffalo chips were the fuel that went most often into the little stove.
I never had to do any cooking. I was sort of handy man about and my principal job was greasing the wagons, which I had to do every morning that was what I was doing after breakfast when the Indians ate. We didn't talk much to them, just said 'Howdy' and made signs that everybody understood. And now let me tell what happened just five years later.
FIVE YEARS LATER, AND INDIAN HAS GOOD MEMORY
Five years after Mr. Burghardt has been with a wagon caravan crossing the plains, this was way back in the '50's, he was again the same part of the world when an old Indian walked up to him 'Know me?,' said the Indian. 'I shook my head,' said Mr. Burghardt, 'because I didn't think I knew him.' Then the Indian patted his stomach and smiled in reminiscent mood. Then he held up three fingers and pointed to himself: held up five fingers and pointed to me, showing that there were three in their party and five in the group I was in. 'Captain?,' he said with a query. Then I knew he referred to my uncle for he was generally called captain by everybody. So with sign language and simple words I told the Indian about uncle's death on one of the return trips across the plains and of his burial in a remote place. By this time I remembered the incident of feeding the Indians at uncle's command. The old fellow seemed quite sorrowful at the news of uncle's death. Before we parted I gave him a silver half -dollar. The Indians loved the silver money which they hammered into ornaments to hang on their arms or on the ends of the long braids of hair that were a part of the Indian brave's headdress.
'This Indian was a Sioux,' continued Mr. Burghardt, 'I also learned to know many Indians of the different tribes, the Pawnees, the Cheyenes and the Utes. We never were afraid of them but on one occasion they did cause us some perturbation. That was in 1861. I had my wife with me and in the night we heard a jingling sound. It was the silver rattling from the end of some brave's scalp lock and I immediately went to see. Here stood the handsomest Indian I ever saw -- a finely dressed man, tall and straight, clad in blue broadcloth. It was very evidently the uniform of some army officer, but that didn't prevent his being hungry. He wouldn't take a handout but came to the table where he sat with us. After much questioning I learned that he was a Kiowa, a tribe that ranks with the Apaches for deviltry. His name and Indian number was engraved on a large plate of silver. He explained that he was going for a Pawnee squaw but whether he was to marry her or steal her from some other Indian I never knew.
'Trading for moccasins and other things was quite the custom and sometimes some rare bargains were made but the best I ever knew about was when we got moccasins for three large Boston crackers, and a buffalo skin for two cups of sugar.'
After his life of crossing and re-crossing the plains Mr. Burghardt came back to Whiteside County . 'When I first came west,' he said, 'the big stone, college building was in Fulton , and there was a very good hotel, for Fulton was at the end of two railway lines. And when I first went to Denver the place wasn't anything.. There were just eight little buildings there. Uncle had taken goods west for another shore and we went up into the country. When we returned in a month there were big store buildings practically completed. That's the way the building was done out there, the place sprang up like a mushroom.'
'We were there when Horace Greeley came west to find out if it was really true, the stories told about picking gold out of the ground. John Gregory had two lead mines and a gulch claim. When Mr. Greeley came there he took him up to the leads and down in the gulch, carrying a shovel and pick. Digging into the dirt he would stand up and hand over some grains of gold, with the result that Mr. Greeley went back to Denver where he wrote a brilliant article about the richness of the land. Mr. Gregory owned afterward that he had taken the pay dirt in his pocket and salted the place. Mr. Greeley, having been so easily fooled.'
And then from among his treasures this pioneer of the middle-west found bits of ore, all that are left of many samples that were taken from the assaying and smelter shipments, just to show how gold is detected in just a bit of rock. Is it any wonder that he retains all the energy and interest of youth in spite of his 95 years?
More About Mark Dewey Burghardt: Burial: 1930, Garden Plain, Whiteside , IL / Christening: 10 July 1835
More about Emily Baker - Burial: 1914, Garden Plain, Whiteside , IL
BACK -- HOME
© Copyright Genealogy Trails