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Below is a family biography included in The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois published by Biographical Publishing Co. in 1894.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JOSHUA G. BURCH. This venerable gentleman is distinguished in the annals of Randolph County as one of its early residents, and here his declining years are being quietly passed in a comfortable home in the enjoyment of the companionship of his faithful wife. He is a native of Kentucky, having been born near Bardstown, Nelson County, November 15, 1815, and is the eldest and only survivor of the ten children born to his parents. The latter were John Hanson and Nancy (Greenwell) Burch, both natives of Maryland. Walter Burch, the grandfather of our subject, was born in London, England, coming to America during the Colonial period. Born a Protestant, on his marriage in London with an Irish maiden named Hagen, he was converted by her to the Catholic faith, in which the family has continued since.

The father of our subject was born in 1782, and was only a child when his father removed from Maryland to Kentucky. His wife, the mother of our subject, was Miss Nancy A., daughter of Joshua and Elizabeth (Holton) Greenwell, both probably of Scottish origin. Our subject spent his boyhood days in his native county, and was given only five months’ schooling, attending what was known as a subscription school. His parents, however, supplemented the meagre knowledge gained therein by teaching him at home. He is unusually apt in mathematics. A few years ago, by the aid of a level which he invented, he determined the difference of the height of water between the Mississippi and Okaw Rivers. He predicted many years ago that the former river would overflow into the latter at Kaskaskia, and endeavored to have leading Missourians urge their members of Congress to cut across the “Oxbow,” and in this way protect the Illinois farms. His endeavors only provoked their derision, but his prediction that he would cross over to the Missouri side dryshod to mill had a strange fulfillment during the holidays of 1893. St. Mary’s is now almost an inland town, and a part of Illinois is on the west side of the river.

When twenty-five years of age, our subject left his native state, and coming to Illinois, located in Horse Prairie, this county, which is now the site of Red Bud. There he purchased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which he improved and made his abiding place until 1847, when he moved down into the Kaskaskia Bottoms and rented property for some four years. At the end of that time, having sold his farm on the prairie, he purchased the old Morrison estate from Col. Don Murray and Robert Morrison, sons of the former owner. To this he added from time to time until he possessed about nine hundred acres of the richest land to be found in the state. He lost about four hundred acres of this later, it being engulfed by the river.

Farming as it is now carried on seems to one of Mr. Burch’s age as though he were in another world. His earliest recollections of harvest are of the old reaping hook, when men cut an armful at a time and bound the swath while walking back. The invention of a cradle was supposed to be the acme of perfection, and such things as reapers or self-binders seemed too much to even be dreamed of. Mr. Burch brought the first reaper and first wheat drill to this neighborhood, and was the first to own a thresher, though itinerant machines had been here before. Since making his first purchase of land in Randolph County, our subject has had to move three times, owing to the encroachments of the river. His present home is located a mile and a-half from the Mississippi, which he hopes is a sufficient distance to prevent any more “wash-outs.”

Our subject has been a life-long Democrat in politics, as were his ancestors. During the Rebellion he passed through many exciting adventures and nothing but his iron nerve and unbounded courage saved him to tell the tale. He was strongly in sympathy with the south and made no attempt to conceal his sentiments. Several of the men who had plotted against his life had been saved from Hildebrand mainly through the influence of our subject, and to repay him for his kindness they had him reported at St. Louis as having raised a company to enter the Confederate service. Consequently orders were issued to take him before the Provost-Marshal at Ste. Genevieve, and a detective named Ruby had arranged to capture him at the house of a neighbor. Divining their intention, Mr. Burch feigned a desire to have a private conversation with Clark, to whose house he was taken, that being the headquarters of Ruby and his men, and when in an inner room seized a revolver and sent word for them to come and take him. As a matter of course, they did not care to do so just then, but by practicing a ruse hoped to make him their prisoner. Ruby, the leader, promised our subject that if he would accompany them peaceably he should not be harmed, sealing his promise with uplifted hand and solemn oath. Mr. Burch decided this was the best thing to be done, and when the party reached the river it became evident that something was wrong, and the detective called two of his companions aside to hold a conference. During this time our subject, who was laughing and joking with the boatman as though nothing was amiss, at the same time made arrangements with him that when the middle of the river was reached the latter was to knock one of the men on the head with an oar, while our subject was to throw the larger of the two into the river. This was not necessary, however, as the conversation disclosed the fact that his captors were from the same place in Kentucky as Mr. Burch and knew many of his old friends. Before the river was crossed they became friends, and the men confessed to him that Ruby’s orders were to “leave him in the woods.”

When brought before the Provost-Marshal, St. Gemme, the latter asked our subject’s name, and on being told, exclaimed, “Ah! this is Josh Burch? There are many charges against you.” When asked who his accusers were, St. Gemme refused to tell. “Then I’ll tell you,” the prisoner replied, and he immediately recounted dates and names, much to the astonishment of the Provost. His way of learning this was to send a friend to make some report that Mr. Burch had himself written out. Then they would be told that the cause had been reported, and referring to the books would give name and dates, which were immediately reported to the intended victim. Mr. Burch acknowledged that he and his friends were organized in arms, but not for war against the Government, as was supposed, but to protect their lives and property from raiders on either side. He was then allowed to depart and returned home. Shortly afterward St. Gemme was removed through the influence of a letter written by Mr. Burch to Daniel Riley, the State Senator from this district, in which he set forth the grievances of the people and recounted the mysterious murders of a dozen of his neighbors. It was with joy on all sides that his removal was announced. He had been exacting tribute from the people, requiring them to purchase a permit to buy even salt. When his successor, who was an Irishman, was first asked such a favor, he was very much surprised, and asked in his rich Irish brogue, “An’have ye’es money to buy it?” Being answered in the affirmative, he replied, “Then git it, and the divil take the mon who interferes.”

Mr. Burch had Ruby arrested for kidnapping and taking him without a warrant from the state. On being tried, he received a sentence of six years in the penitentiary at Joliet. Though a southerner in sentiment, our subject had no intention of taking up arms, only asking to be left alone to go about his business. At the time of his kidnapping he had friends enough to have surrounded and killed Captain St. Gemme and all his men, but he did not think the affair would prove serious and did not desire to cause more trouble. He always gave aid to the suffering on both sides, and no Union soldier’s destitute wife or children were allowed to go hungry from his door. At one time when a rabid Unionist in open meeting at Sparta was advocating hanging “Old Burch,” a fellow-member of the league arose and remarked that his own books would show that his friend Burch had given more aid to the Union destitutes than any other man, and he would not sit and hear him denounced.

Though many times solicited to occupy public office, our subject always refused, preferring to devote his time and energy to conducting his farm. Vigorous and strong, in possession of all his faculties unimpaired, he has nearly attained four-score years, and bids fair to live to be a century old. Mr. Burch was married April 10, 1837, to Bridget, daughter of Roderick Tewel, a native of County Galway, Ireland, who came to America with his parents about 1785, when six years of age, and located in Maryland. When about twenty-five years of age he went to Nelson County, Ky., where Mrs. Burch was born. Of this marriage there were born seven children, of whom those living are, William R., who is farming near Kaskaskia; John H., a resident of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., who operates a farm of eight hundred acres on the Illinois side; Ignatius, making his home on a farm near Old Kaskaskia; and Joshua F., who is also conducting a farm near the home of his father.

Our subject was a second time married, September 30, 1877, his wife being Mrs. Catherine Allen, daughter of William S. and Nancy (Kelly) Haines, natives of Virginia, and of Scotch and Irish descent respectively. She became the mother of two children, Charles and Ross, who reside at home. By her first husband Mrs. Burch had three sons, William E., George N. and John S. (twins); the two latter are living under the parental roof and assist in operating the home farm. Mrs. Burch was born November 9, 1846, and first married George W. Allen, who was born November 22, 1844, and died December 27, 1876. With one of her sons, who is also Postmaster, Mrs. Burch conducts a general store at Dozaville.

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This family biography is one of 679 biographies included in The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois published in 1894.  View the complete description here: The Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois

View additional Randolph County, Illinois family biographies here: Randolph County, Illinois Biographies

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