Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 659-661
John BURCH was one of the pioneers of Winnebago County [IL], and is in the enjoyment of large means. He has a pleasant home in Winnebago, where he is surrounded by all the comforts of life and lives in a manner much less pretentious perhaps than his means might justify. Our subject was born in what is now the city of London, Province of Ontario, Canada, 03 Aug 1823, and is the son of John BURCH, Sr., whose birth occurred in Woodstock, Windsor County, VT. The grandfather of our subject, who was also a native of VT, was of English ancestry and spent his last years near Kensington, Canada. John BURCH Sr. was a lad of fourteen [p 660] when his father removed to Canada, where he grew to manhood and was married. He then removed to London District and purchased a tract of timber land, which is now included in the city of London. He erected a log house on the place, in which our subject was born, and as the markets were very inconvenient to reach, the family lived mostly off the products of the farm.
In 1834 the father of our subject sold the property above mentioned and removed to Port Stanley, where he bought a farm and resided until 1839, which was the date of his advent into IL. He was accompanied on the journey to IL by his wife and seven children, and made the entire journey overland with teams, the trip consuming four weeks. On locating in Winnebago County, Mr. BURCH found the land still owned by the government, and making a claim to a tract, he purchased it when it came into market and erected thereon a double log home. Commencing at once the improving of his new home, there the father resided until 1848, when he sold out, and removing to Guilford Township, lived there for ten years. His last days were spent in Fayette County, IA, whither he went in 1858, and purchased property in the city of Fayette, where he was engaged in the combined occupations of druggist, shoe merchant, money lender and tanner.
The maiden name of our subject's mother was Lydia HOGABOOM, whose birth occurred in Saratoga County, NY. She was of German ancestry and accompanied her parents on their removal to Canada when quite young, the journey being made in the winter with teams. When crossing Lake Champlain the ice broke and her mother and one sister were drowned. She resided with her father until her marriage, and departed this life at her home in Fayette County, IA. The father of our subject was a Whig and joined the Republican ranks on the the formation of that party. He filled various positions of trust and was the first Justice of the Peace in Winnebago Township. With his wife he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and before a building was erected meetings were frequently held in his home.
John BURCH had seven brothers and sisters: William, Benjamin, Levi B., Laura Samantha, Hiram, Henry, and Charlotte. He had reached his 16th year when he came to IL with his parents, and with them he remained until reaching his majority. Starting out in life on his own responsibility, he purchased three yoke of cattle, for which he went in debt, and engaged in breaking prairie for $1.75 or $1.50 with his board. Mr. BURCH was thus occupied for two seasons, and then having saved a sufficient sum of money, purchased a tract of land which is included in his present farm. The grain raised on his place was marketed at Chicago, and on the return trip our subject would bring back a load of goods for the merchants at Freeport, Galena or Rockford.
The original of this sketch went to CA, starting with teams from Westfield, this township on 04 Apr 1850 and traversing IA to the present site of Council Bluffs, which was then called Kanesville, where he was taken sick with smallpox. He had made a contract to take two men through to the Western coast and board them on the way, for which he was to receive one-half of what they made in two years. Council Bluffs was a Mormon town at that time, and the party secured a vacant Mormon cabin, in which our subject and one of the gentlemen, who was similarly afflicted, lay during their sickness, cared for by a Mormon doctor and nurse. His companion, Daniel CASE, died and the remainder of the party carried out their plan of visiting CA, leaving a team of horses with a wagon for our subject to return home.
On recovering his health Mr. BURCH joined another party of emigrants bound for the Western country, led by Captain DUNCAN from MI. They landed in Nevada City in September, where our subject engaged in mining and resided until 1853. In June of that year he started home b the way of the Isthmus, and had his first ride on the railroad, paying $11 for eleven miles. Again coming to his old home, he resumed farming on the old place and at the time of his marriage located on the farm which is his present property, and which includes 715 acres of land, besides which he owns a quarter section in Greene County, IA, and 55 acres in Ogle County.
The lady to whom our subject was married 22 Jan 1866 was Sarah Martha JOHN, a native of Northumberland County, PA, and the daughter of Jehn and Patience (HOUSEWERT) JOHN. The father was a native of PA, of Welsh ancestry, while the mother was born in NJ, of German stock. Mr. and Mrs. BURCH have been granted a family of seven children: Georgiana, Judson, Willard, Preston, Nellie Thressa, Jessie and Mildred. Our subject cast his first Presidential vote for Henry Clay, and since the formation of the Republican party has been a firm adherent of its principles. When Mr. BURCH crossed the Missouri River on his CA trip, buffalo were seen in great numbers and he says the only way to compute their number was to estimate how many would stand on an acre, and in that way calculate how many acres a herd covered. A portion of the house in which our subject lives was the first frame building erected in Winnebago County.
Submitted by Cathy Kubly.