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William H. Burkett

submitted by: Dorman Holub

William H. Burkett was a Private in the 5th Infantry Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army when he came to Fort Belknap at Young County, Texas in 1852. Burkett came to Texas from Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, that Fort was was located in present Muskogee County, Oklahoma.

Fort Belknap Post returns show that William Burkett was Post Sutler. He was a Pennsylvania native, but grew up in New York. William was a 38 years old bachelor when he came to Fort Belknap.

He was discharged in 1855 and decided to stay in the area purchasing land and beginning to ranch. From his probate, William Burkett was a sheep rancher. He has the distinction of being the first to raise sheep in Young County. On 2 February 1856, Burkett was appointed commissioner by the Texas State Legislature to call an election of county officers to organize a county On 18 August, a meeting was held at Duff's store at the town of Belknap, one-half mile east of the Fort. At that meeting, William H. Burkett was elected the first County Clerk of Young County. His sureties were Marvin V. Bowers and Hugh Harper. Burkett would serve as County and District Clerk of Young County from 1856 until his death in 1860.

Young County records indicate that many of the soldiers from Fort Belknap upon retiring would stay in the area and made an impact on the early days of the county.

In August 1858, William Burkett took on the added responsibility of Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1. That same year, he became Postmaster of Belknap, an office he would hold until his death. Post office records show the post office was housed in the home of M.A. Thompson. William H. Burkett and M.A. Thompson were both employees of the Butterfield Overland Stage and Mail Company in this time period as well. The Stage came through Belknap twice a week.

It was outside the office of William Burkett, that a long-time friend, Major Robert Simpson Neighbors was murdered in August 1859. Burkett wrote the letter to the wife of Major Neighbors explaining the details of the incident and send her the personal effects.

In the 1860 Young County, Texas census, William H. Burkett was living at Belknap in the home of M.A. Thompson and his wife, Georganna. William was 41 years old and was still the Young County Chief Clerk. M.A. Thompson was the District Clerk for the area. William had property valued at $300 and his personal property was valued at $1260, a considerable time for the 1860s.

Young County Probate reveals that William H. Burkett had $870 in personal wealth at his death. Among his material wealth were: Silver pencil and pen; Shotgun, Silver headed cane, gold spectacles, gold watch, 32 shirt collars and a bird cage.

The San Antonio Ledger and Texas brought the sad news about the death of William H. Burkett in its 29 December 1860 issue. "Belknap: Young County, Texas on the morning of 22 November 1860. William Burkett died of typhoid fever."

Burkett was 41 years old when he died suddenly. He lies buried in an unmarked grave in the Belknap cemetery. There were no immediate survivors in the area, but he was well loved by the citizens of the County.

Young County Bond Book B
Fort Belknap Post Returns
Young County Commissioner's Court Records
Young County Probate
Gammel's Laws
San Antonio Ledger and Texas newspaper
U.S. Post Office Records
National Archives
Young County Marriage Records, Volume 1, Book A
1860 Young County Texas Census
Letter from Dr. Kenneth Neighbours to Dorman Holub

Saturday, July 11, 2009

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