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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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WILLIAM R. BURCH has made farming his life pursuit, and in the prosecution of his calling has achieved a success that has placed him among the leading farmers of Randolph County, where he owns a valuable and well managed farm. He is the son of Joshua G. Burch, whose sketch will be found elsewhere in this work, and was born in New Haven, Nelson County, Ky., April 10, 1840. He is the second in order of birth of seven sons born to his parents, and was an infant when the latter emigrated from the Blue Grass State to Red Bud, Ill. In 1847 the elder Mr. and Mrs. Burch came to Kaskaskia, where William began attending school. His studies, however, had been previously carried on at home, where he was taught to read and write by his mother. His first teacher, John Cleveland, conducted the school but two weeks, when he died from cholera, which was raging in the vicinity. Shortly afterward Albert Phillip opened a subscription school, which he carried on for three or four years. George S. Ellis, the founder of Ellis Grove, was the next teacher, and was followed by John Lindsey, known as “one-armed” Lindsey, in order to distinguish him from another teacher of the same name, who is now Judge Lindsey, of Chester.

In the fall of 1857 our subject entered St. Mary’s College in Marion County, Ky., where he prosecuted his studies for ten months. In 1861 he became a student in the Christian Brothers’ College of St. Louis, and after completing a ten months’ term in that institution, abandoned his studies and began rafting on the upper Mississippi River. In the fall of 1864 he entered the Jones Business College in St. Louis, where he attended for a time before starting for the west.

In 1865 William R. Burch started overland for the mountains, going as far as Atchison, but there his plans were changed. On reaching home, in company with three of his brothers, in the spring of 1866, he rented part of his father’s estate and began farming, operating in partnership until they had raised four crops. At the expiration of that time our subject purchased the tract of land from his father on which he has resided ever since.

April 20, 1869, our subject was married to Miss Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew A. and Helen (Smith) Stephenson. The lady was born in Kaskaskia, October 3, 1845, and died April 6, 1877. The lady whom our subject chose as his second companion was Miss Mary A. Stephenson, sister of his first wife, born January 3, 1854, and was married to our subject October 25, 1877. Andrew A. Stephenson, who was born October 16, 1815, and died February 5, 1869, was the son of William J. and Elizabeth (Abel) Stephenson, the former born October 6, 1788, and the latter born October 16, 1793. The mother of Mrs. Burch was the daughter of Maurice D. and Rosalie (Senagal) Smith, and was born December 16, 1822, and died February 11, 1879. Maurice D. Smith came from New York State in 1820, and located in Illinois. His wife, who was a native of Kaskaskia, was a member of an old French family who trace their ancestry back for hundreds of years.

By his first marriage, our subject became the father of four children, namely: William R., Robert E., Helen E. and Augusta. By his second marriage Mr. Burch became the father of eight children, one of whom died in infancy. Those living are, Mary L., Agnes A., Grace B., Walter E., Nancy F., Mark A. and Omega, so called from having been born on the last day of the week, month and year of 1892.

March 16, 1871, our subject was elected Justice of the Peace to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge Lindsey, now of Chester. He was the incumbent of that position until November, 1878, when he was elected County Commissioner, holding the office for three years. He was again made Justice of the Peace in 1881, which office he is still holding. Mr. Burch is operating two hundred and ninety-eight acres of his own land, besides cultivating several hundred acres belonging to his father. He has been a life-long Democrat in politics, and is looked upon as a leader in his party in this section. With his wife he is a member of the Catholic Church, worshiping at Kaskaskia.

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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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