The Burk Family History



The Burke Crest


Or a cross gules, in the dexter canton a lion rampant sable.

Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant guardant proper collared and chained.




The Burk Family Travels


James Burk is thought to have in arrived in Philadelphia, PA in 1720-1725 from Limerick, Ireland. In 1730 he was located in Chester County, VA. He was one of the original explorers, adventurers and hunters in Southwest Virginia. He spent many years in the Roanoke County and Montgomery County areas. The Montgomery County area he frequented eventually became Pulaski County, Floyd County and Carroll County. Burk died in 1783 in Surry County, NC but his daughter Mary remained in Montgomery County as the wife of Jacob Shell, Jr.






From Patricia Johnson’s Irish Burks of Colonial Virginia and New River 



James Burk of Burk(e)s Garden


            In 1745 when Augusta County was founded west of the mountains, Burk(e)s were living in the great expanse that is today the Virginia counties of Frederick, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Botetourt and Roanoke. Those found in the first court records in 1745 were Thomas, Charles, William and James Burk or Bourk. A Burk researcher, Dr. John A. Kelly, says William and James were brothers but gives no proof. There is a James Burke in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1730 and a William Burk in Thornbury Township, Chester County, in 1729. (Chester County Historical Society Files, Westchester, Pa.) Whether there is kinship between James, William, Charles and Thomas Burk is unknown. Most Burks were from Ireland from the old Anglo-Irish gentry family of Bourke. James Burk is first recorded in the Augusta records as "Bourk" but in Pennsylvania as Burke and is said to be from Limerick. William, known as Peaked Mountain William in this work, is said by his descendants, to be from Ireland.

            At the March 1746/47 Augusta Court these four Burks are in road construction orders. Thomas and Charles Burk were appointed road workers from Caleb Jones' mill down to the county line. William Burk and Robert Frazier were to work the road from the top of the ridge to John Terald's and James Beard's. At the April court Charles Burk is appointed a justice. In the March 1747

48 court Thomas Burk appears as a witness from Frederick. (CH, I, 17, 26, 35 and Kelly, Burke Family, 15) one historian says he was from Frederick, Maryland. (Robert Ramsay, Carolina Cradle, 76 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of N.C. Press, 1964)

            A Thomas Burk was in Rock Creek Hundred, Maryland, present Montgomery County, in 1733. (Cal. Of Mary. St. Papers, no.1 The Black Books or Proprietary Papers 1703, Bk. II) In 1751 there was a Thomas Burk, Indian trader, with the Miamis on the Ohio, captured by the French. There was an old Indian trail from eastern Maryland through Frederick county, Maryland which was the only route west. If Thomas Burk was an Indian trader he probably would be living there near the old Indian trail.

            At the March 1746/47 Augusta court William Burk complained that Torance McMullen had a horse that was the property of widow Fulsher of Orange. James Burk the same court day was appointed administrator of brother-in-law Isaac Bean (Bane) of the Roanoke River settlement. Since William and James Burk appear the same day at court they probably are kin.

            Isaac Bean or Bane was brother of Mary (Polly) Bane who James had married. She was daughter of Mordecai and Naomi Medley Bane who lived on 200 acres in the borough of West Chester, Chester county, Pennsylvania, east of High Street which they bought from Richard Thomas. (J.S. Futhey and Gilbert Cope, The History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881) They lived almost on the Great Minquas Trading Path, an important Indian trail, key to the Pennsylvania fur

trade. The Susquehanna Indians had used the trail prior to 1670 for their conquest of the Delawares. Thousands of beaver skins yearly were carried over the "Beversrede" to Fort Beverrede on the Delaware River on the site of present Philadelphia. (Pennsylvania Historical Marker in West Chester at Wilmington Pike and Church Street).

            James Burk and Mary Bane declared their intentions to marry on May 20, 1730 in the Goshen Monthly Meeting and Isaac Vernon and David Davies were appointed to inquire if they were free to marry. John Yarnall, Evan Lewis and others witnesses. They were liberated to marry on June 17, 1730 with Mordecai James, Griffith Lewis of Goshen; Lewis Rees, Lawrence Pearson of Newtown and Griffith John and John Morgan of Unwch. as witness. By July 14, 1730, they were removing with Alexander Bane and Thomas Evan of Goshen, Francis Yarnall, Joseph Thomas of Newtown and Samuel John and Cadw. Jones Unwch. as witnesses. (Goshen Monthly Meeting Minutes, p. 39-40, Chester Co. Historical Society)

            James Burk must have been a Quaker for there is no mention in this marriage transaction that he is not a Quaker.

            It is surprising to find Burkes among the Quakers. Many Burkes or Bourkes in Ireland had lost their land to Cromwell's followers. Most Irish Quakers were descendants of these Cromwellian settlers so it is doubtful many Bourkes would be Quakers. They had been forced into the trades or mercantile business much like the old Jewry of Europe. The Quakers also were noted merchants so this is most likely how Burkes and Quakers first contacted

 through commerce, as traders. James and Mary, with some Bane brothers moved south to the Yadkin, then to Roanoke, present Salem, when James was listed as Isaac Bane's greatest creditor. Surety for Isaac Bean was Humberston Lyon, a notable trader from Prince George's County, Maryland who in 1733 was living in Monocacy Hundred near present Frederick, Maryland. A Thomas Burk was in Rock Creek Hundred. (Cal. of Maryland St. Papers, no. 1, The Black Books-- Proprietary Papers B.B.2, Prince Georges Co.)

            Humberston Lyon is noted as a New River trader and Thomas Burk of Frederick is probably the trader on the Miami in 1751.

            William Burk in 1729 witnessed a deed of a George Pierce in Chester County, Thornbury Township near Philip Taylor and John Taylor. (Chester Co. Pa. Historical Society Deed 22)

            Is there a relationship between James Burke and William Burk of Chester County, Pa. and Thomas Burk of Rock Creek Hundred, Maryland?

            James Burk was in Chester County, Pennsylvania at least by 1730, said to be from Limerick and came to America about 1720-25. (Jim and Louise Hoge, History of Tazewell County, p. 411)

Whether he was a Quaker or not feeling against them was running high in 1720 in Ireland. In 1719 James Cotter of the Irish gentry was hanged for an outrage committed against a Quaker family. Cork and all the south of Ireland burst into outrage and Quakers were marked for punishment. The passion spread to Tipperary and Limerick, all over Catholic Ireland. A Quaker could not show himself in the streets. Placards against them covered the walls. If traveling about the country they were waylaid and beaten. (Albert Cook Myers, Immigration of Irish Quakers, p. 45-46 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969)

            The Quakers were already highly disliked by the Irish gentry such as the Bourkes because their land had been confiscated and many Quakers now owned their land.

            No matter the troubles in Ireland James seems to have associated with the Quakers and married one. James and Mary were on Roanoke River at present Salem in 1742 where he was in George Robinson's militia and in December 1744 was at Daniel Monahan's estate settlement, purchasing goods. (CH, 11, 509; CH, 111, 9)

            George Robinson was from the New Castle, Delaware area which adjoins Chester County, Pennsylvania, where James and William Burk are in 1729, so probably they knew each other there. Robinson was selling land on Roanoke river for James Patton so seems to be the person who inspired James Burk to come to Roanoke river.

            Naomi Burk, daughter of James and Mary Bane Burk, was born February 1, 1745 on Roanoke near Salem. She would marry Samuel Pepper. (Letter, Jesse Pepper, Peppers Ferry, New River, Montgomery County, Va., undated in author's collections)

            James Burk owned land on both North and South Fork of Roanoke, later sold to Dr. Walker and Andrew Lewis so was probably where Lewis later lived at present site of Mohawk Rubber plant. Burk's main tract was on the bottom land on the south side of the river, now South Salem, beside Thomas Tosh. (Elizabeth Woolwine, Mark Evans Family (Privately printed 1941, VPI & SU) He was appointed road worker in November 1746 on the road on the ridge dividing waters of New River from those of South branch of Roanoke to end in a road leading over Blue Ridge. Neighbors helping were his brother

law James Bean (Bane), Ephraim Vause, Mathusalem Griffith and sons, and James Campbell, the overseer. (CH 1, 24, 355)

            Mathusalem. Griffith, Mark Evans, Tobias and Martin Fry were Pennsylvanians accused in Maryland on 1 October 1736 of having tumultous meetings. (Archives of Maryland, 1732

53 (1908) Proceedings of Council, 106) They had fled what is known as the Maryland "Border War" and came to Roanoke.

            In 1712 Mathusalem Griffith was in Gwynedd, a Welsh settlement commonly called North Wales. He petitioned for a road from the Welsh Tract to Philadelphia. These Welsh had passage on the Elizabeth and Robert. Most of them were not Quakers but some became Quakers after arriving in Pennsylvania. (Howard M. Jenkins, Historical Collections Relating to Gwynedd, A Township of Montgomery Co., Pa. 1698, p.285 (Philadelphia: p.p., 1897)

            During this period on Roanoke James Burk had a hunting camp on a beautiful stream in Floyd and Carroll counties now called Burke's Fork. (Burke's Garden, Louis and Jim Hoge, History of Tazewell County, p. 412) He was a noted hunter trading his skins. The "Trader’s Path" came down from Pennsylvania to Roanoke River to the Big Lick where it joined the "Carolina Road" from the Yadkin River. On the Yadkin the road crossed at the Shallow Ford where there was a settlement of Quakers. A road from eastern Virginia coming through Bedford County terminated at Big Lick. So James Burk had settled near a crossroads for trade.

            Traders were known as a wild and careless lot. In 1747 James "Bourk" was noted in the Augusta Order Book as "a common swearer" and "profaner of God's name." At the same time Colonel Thomas Chew and Valentine Sevier were accused of the same offence. Both Chew and Sevier were from Maryland and Orange County, Virginia, and active in land speculation; this probably had to do with a land dispute. (CH, 1, 28)

            But James Patton President of the Augusta Court and a large land speculator, knew Burk was a man he could use to explore the land he had opened for land speculation on the Roanoke river and further west.

In April 1745 Colonel Patton got a 100,000 acre grant on the New and Holston rivers known as "the Great Grant." When given permission by the Virginia Council to survey land he came to Roanoke river to James Campbell's house and sent for James Burk. When Burk arrived Patton asked whether he had found good lands and Burk said yes. Patton asked him to go with him and show him the land promising to give him a "valuable consideration" and they agreed in James Campbell's presence that Burk should have a plantation for so doing. Burk said he had found a place called "Burk's Choice". Patton drew up an agreement to this effect with Burk and Campbell witnessing. Later it was lost but Campbell remembered that "Burk insisted the agreement was written the way he wanted it and would not go until it was." (Botetourt Court Deposition, James Campbell, Aug. 9, 1773)

            Burk's grandson Jesse Pepper of Pepper's Ferry on New River later wrote, "Grandfather Burk was a great hunter; he would take his knapsack filled with bread and a little salt and a few potatoes and go to the woods, west of this place (Pepper's Ferry), which was all a wilderness at that time and stay several weeks; on one of these excursions among the mountains, he got into a beautiful valley and having a few potatoes in his knapsack, he found a place clear of timber and planted his potatoes. The next fall he returned and found them growing." (Jesse Pepper, undated letter in author's collections)

            E.L. and A.S. Greever wrote in "Burk's Garden-A Sketch" that James Burk and another hunter trailed a large buck from Poor Valley over the mountain into the basin that came to be known as Burke's Garden. (Roanoke Times, Dec. 1, 1969)

            Letitia Preston Floyd says the other hunter was Morris Griffith, step-son of Burk. (History of Burke's Garden, p. 408) There is a Gose Knob in the Garden which on early maps was "Morris Knob". (Louise and Jim Hoge) The Greevers record that Burk first saw the elk on Elk Creek in Grayson County and gave chase, wounding it on Cripple Creek but the elk ran on and finally came to a stream whose banks were heavily covered with reeds. Burk named this Reed Creek. The elk, with Burk in pursuit, continued crossing mountain after mountain and into the west end of Burk's Garden where he killed it. Others say he finished the elk on Elkhorn. The pursuit lasted three days. So goes the Greever's story.

            Burk's granddaughter, the wife of "Strait Back" Allison in Buncombe County, N.C., told that her grandfather James Burk wounded the elk on Cripple Creek and followed it into Burke's Garden arriving late one evening. The next morning he decided to give up the chase of the elk and let it go. So goes the granddaughter's story. (History of Tazewell, p. 408-411) in this pursuit James Burk discovered Burke's Garden in present Tazewell. He had done this before he ever promised to go out with Patton.

            Johnston in his "Middle New River Settlements". p. 137 says that James Burk was one of the original Draper's Meadows settlers. This agrees with what his grandson says - that he scouted from New River which is within five miles of Draper's Meadows. Thomas Preston says Burk explored with Patton in 1748.  William Sayers says Burk came to Sayer's house saying he was going out with Patton to show him a beautiful tract and Patton said he would give him 400 acres in the tract and ten pounds. (Botetourt Court Deposition, William Sayers, June 15, 1772).

            Burk says he agreed to show Patton 30,000 acres for which he was to have 400 acres in any part of the lands shown where ever he wanted it and ten pounds. Burk was to pay the patent fee which Patton said would be five pounds and Patton would deliver the patent to Burk. Patton did pay the ten pounds. (Botetourt Court Deposition, James Burk, June 15, 1772).

            So James Burk as guide went with Patton and James Wood, Frederick county surveyor, assorted chain carriers, among whom may be Peaked Mountain William Burk, since he worked for Wood, and other speculators. (Goodrich Wilson, Smyth County p. 4-5, Radford: Commonwealth Press, 1976)

            Patton's son-in-law, William Thompson, was a surveyor. According to Burk's grandson, Jesse Pepper, it was the year after Burk planted the potatoes that they went out. "The next fall he got William Thompson a surveyor to go and survey part of the valley. Grandfather hunted to provide meat for the surveyors. One day he came near where he had planted the potatoes, he found a fine crop of potatoes with which he filled his knapsack and returned to camp. William Thompson who was also an Irishman was highly pleased to see the luxury of potatoes in their camp, 50 or 60 miles from the settlements, that he swore that the beautiful valley should be called Burk's Garden, which name it has retained ever since." (Jesse Pepper Letter)

            Patton surveyed the entire tract first and after this Burk asked Patton to lay off his promised 400 acres. Patton asked him if he would take a place in the Garden containing 500 acres which was surveyed separate because Patton did not want to break up the big survey. Burk answered he would have nothing but "Burk's Choice" - the 400 acres at the spot he had originally chosen and where he later settled.

            Patton answered that they were in a hurry, afraid of bad weather closing in, but that Colonel John Buchanan should lay the Garden off in 400-acre tracts and Burk should have his choice. Burk right then told Patton if he did not get his "Choice" he would return home. Patton answered that he could not do without him. Burk stayed with the party and continued with it as it wound its way out of the Garden. This trek took them down Clinch, by the Maiden Springs, on to the Elk Garden thence to Mockinson Creek, down that all day, then across the ridges to Clinch below Castle's Woods, then up the Castle's Woods to the end of them, thence through the ridges to the head of Mockinson thence over the mountains to North Fork of Holston and to Stalnaker's, who lived on Patton's Indian Fields tract and had a Cherokee trading post. They surveyed on "this jaunt" as Burk called it, at Reed Creek, at Burk's Garden, on the head of Mockinson, Elk Garden and one other place. According to Burk, in the trek they passed by much more good land than the quantity Burk had promised to show but when they got to Stalnaker's Patton said to Burk, "Well, we have not surveyed so much land as you expected you could show." Burk answered, "Why, I showed you enough you might have surveyed it!" Patton answered, "Well, well, James, I believe we can do with what we have and you may go about your business." (James Burk, Deposition, Botetourt Court, June 15, 1772)

            After Burk left Stalnaker's William Sayers said he overheard Colonel Patton and Colonel Buchanan talking. They said that Burk had not shown the quantity of land he was supposed to show. (William Sayers, Deposition, Botetourt Court, June 15, 1772)

            Burk continued to inquire of Patton about his land in the Garden. Patton wrote one of his surveyors in the winter of 1750 telling him "the only answer you can give James Burk is to write him a complisent letter and send him the inclos'd.1'. (Letter, Patton to Buchanan? 1750, Duke University, John Preston Papers)

            The “inclos'd" was probably the ten pounds.  The following year Burk met Patton and talked of going to live in the Garden. Patton mentioned him taking the 500 acres instead of  "Burk's Choice". Burk again refused saying he would have "Burk's Choice" and nothing else. Patton answered, "Well, James, in the name of God, go and settle where you will."  (James Burk, Deposition, Botetourt Court, June 15, 1772)

            Mrs. "Strait-Back" Allison said, "When Patton saw the land, he determined to defraud Burk in making a survey, which was made April 24, 1749.11 (History of Tazewell, p. 418) The exploring trip to find the land would have been the previous fall, 1748, which agrees with Thomas Preston's date.

            Patton then went to Michael Doughearty's house in the forks of James River and told him he had given Burk the 400 acres. James Davis told later that he heard Patton say after several families settled in the Garden that none of them should have the land except James Burk. (Michael Doughearty, James Davis, Depositions, Botetourt Court, June 15, 1772)

            James Burk's first wife Mary (Polly) Bane Burk had seven children but died in 1750. There was a terrible flood on Roanoke in August 1749. She might have been a victim. Neighbors Peter Kinter, wife and child were washed away.

            One spectator said, "Entire hills were swept down and leveled and several tracts of bottom land, all inhabited, were filled with so much sand and gravel they can no longer be lived on. Houses and barns were carried away and with them a great deal of the crop. The Roanoke was a mile wide at several places and the water rose to 15 feet above dry land."( Samuel Eckerlin to Alexander Mack, Sept. 1749, Johnson, Patton and Colonists, p. 63)

            The flood was about midnight, August 25. Mathusalem Griffith, James Burk's neighbor made his will on September 11. He may have been injured in the flood for during the winter he died leaving wife Lucretia and six children. (CH,III, 16)

            By August 1751 James Burk had married Lucretia and their families together totaled thirteen. Lucretia was Welsh listed in the marriage records of Christ Church, Philadelphia, as Lyky Rees when she married Mathusalem on February 2, 1730 (Pa. Archives, Series II, v.8, 93, 116). 

            James Burk took his family to "Burk's Choice". He built a cabin, cleared land and planted potatoes. They lived there about four years and moved "in the time of the Indian War." (James Burk, Deposition, Botetourt Court, June 15, 1772)

            Burk's children were Mary, Sarah, James, Joseph, Naomi, Benjamin and two other daughters, one md. Coleman and the other Brookshire, their given names not known. His will mentions 8 children. The Griffith children were Morris, eldest; John and Benjamin and three daughters, Elizabeth, Hannah, Lucretia. (James Burk Will Surry Co., N.C., Bk 1, 1; Nov 4, 1782; Griffith Will Bk 1, 239 CH,III,16 and CH,I,47)

            In May 1753 James sold 117 acres of the Goose Creek tract on Roanoke to James Bane. Burk had probably already gone to "Burk's Choice" in Burke's Garden where he built a cabin and made improvements on Burk's Creek which still retains its name.

            About Valentine's Day 1756, James was still in Burke's Garden but had evidently sent his family out in 1755 when the Indian war began. This February day James discovered Indians near his house, so he mounted one of his horses and tried to avoid them. They shot his horse and he outran them in a foot race. He ran through Walker's Gap, across Poor Valley, through the gap in Brushy Mountain into Bear Garden near Ceres. After crossing Walker's Mountain he went east to the cabin of Alexander Sayers where he learned that Indians had just killed Robert Looney. He hurried on and got to Andrew Lewis's army gathering at Fort Frederick at Dunkard's Bottom on New River (present Claytor Lake). Lewis's force was to march against the Shawnee towns on Ohio. Burk said that Robert Looney had just been killed by Indians on Reed Creek and he himself had lost six horses to them but escaped. (William Preston, Sandy Creek Expedition Journal, Feb. 1756)

            On February 24 Andrew Lewis's force in its advance toward the Ohio villages, crossed two mountains and arrived at Burke's Garden discovering plenty of potatoes which the soldiers gathered in the deserted plantations.

            The Burks probably did not return to the old Roanoke River neighborhood among the Griffiths, Vauses and Banes at Ephraim Vause's Fort Vause (present Shawsville). Stepson Morris Griffith was captured there August 14, 1755 and taken to the Shawnee villages on the Ohio. He said he spent 20 days traveling to their Towns, that not more than 300 warriors were in their Great and Little Towns on the Scioto. He was well treated, employed in planting corn and building cabins. There were 100 English prisoners there but only six men among them. He met George Brown now called Gascothepe, who had become a Chief among the Shawnees who said they proposed to send a messenger to Virginia to sue for peace. The French supplied them with ammunition but it was very scarce and the French traders sold them goods at extravagant prices. Morris escaped home to Virginia and testified before the Council in Williamsburg in January 1757 when they were planning another punitive expedition against the Shawnees. ( Preston Register, CH 11,510; Morris Griffith, Deposition, Ex. Journals Council of Va. 11, 24)

            In the summer of 1756 Fort Vause was burned by the French and Indians. So if the Burks had been near they fled. There was a Goose Creek Quaker settlement in Bedford and they next appear there where a daughter marries and on 28 February 1758 James Burk avoids militia duty. Col. John Buchanan wanted him as a militia man but on that day James hired William Hand as a substitute. (Virginia Soldiers in the Revolution, p. 227) Because of his peaceful faith, to escape involvement in the frontier Indian war he took his family to North Carolina.

            By 1760 James Burk's family were in Cumberland County, North Carolina and James sold another hundred acres on Roanoke to Dr. Thomas Walker of Albemarle. In May 1767 Burk's land on Roanoke sold to Bane passed through Walker into the hands of Andrew Lewis. (CH, 111, 455)

            When the Indian War was over in 1763 James Burk led his family back to Burke's Garden where they stayed ten' days but hearing of another Indian War starting (Pontiac's War) they left the Garden never to return.

            After the war they may have returned to Roanoke river for a time. During some period when they lived on Roanoke according to Mrs. "Strait Back" Allison, Burk came every season back to his Garden.

            Even before the Indian War Burk had persuaded two brother-in-laws to settle in this remote region. One was named Davis. One settled on Walker's Creek and one at Sharon Springs but they left for fear of Indians. Burk would stay in the deserted Davis cabin before crossing the mountain to go into the Garden.

            The 1748 surveying trip had run 1300 acres on the headwaters of the Holston for James Davis called “'Davises Fancy". This is probably the brother-in-law whose wife must have been a Burk. There was in New Castle County, Delaware, a John and Ann Davis who are the ancestors according to one genealogy of Jefferson Davis. Did they have a son James Davis who married James Burk's sister? If Peaked Mountain William Burk was brother to James Burk then he was brother to a girl who married a Davis. Is this the Burk-Davis connection to Jefferson Davis?

            One time when James Burk had his entire family with him they were sleeping in the deserted Davis cabin when an Indian party surrounded the place but peeping through cabin cracks thought they saw 30 sleeping forms and believing they were outnumbered, fled. It was only Burk and his family, and rolls of skins and barrels of supplies the Indians saw, but the Burks escaped death through this mistake. ( Burkes Garden, Louise and Jim Hoge, History of Tazewell County, p.418)

            Burk made so many trips back and forth between Sharon Springs and the Garden that the road between those two points today is called "Burk's Road." In the old Fincastle Surveyor's Book on March 31, 1774 the road from Ceres to Brushy Mountain was called Burk's Road. ( Ibid. 292 and Letter, James Bane to author)

            During the Burk's sojourn on the Roanoke river the older Burk girls were marrying. 

1) Sarah Burk married Samuel Wilson in Bedford County. He died in the Battle of Point Pleasant

2) Naomi Burk called Ami, found her step-mother Lucretia, "not pleasing", so went to live with her sister Sarah Wilson in Bedford. There she was married to Samuel Pepper at Goose Creek, near Liberty (Bedford Courthouse), on 13 March 1764. In the spring of 1764 Samuel Pepper and Naomi moved to North Fork of Roanoke River and the next spring to New River, where they established Pepper's Ferry. Samuel was the son of Dr. Robert Pepper whose wife, Samuel's mother, came to New River and died at Pepper's Ferry. (Jesse Pepper Letter) Dr. Pepper's sister married a Pearis and was mother of George Pearis and Richard Pearis, Cherokee Indian trader See Giles Defense - 1780 for more on George Pearis and the Burks.

3) Mary married Joseph (Murphew -Marphew- spelled Murphes in her father's will) at Goose Creek, Bedford. (IGI, Genealogical Society of Utah). Murphew is a very ancient Irish name.

4) Daughter who married William Brookshire

5) Daughter who married a Coleman

            In these years of the 1760's James Burk demanded of Colonel John Buchanan his title to "Burk's Choice" and offered to sell to Buchanan for fifty pounds, saying that if he had title he would not take one hundred pistoles for it. Buchanan replied that fifty pounds was more than he could get for the whole of Burke's Garden. He told Burk to leave it to court arbitration. Burk flatly refused. Buchanan died in 1769. After this James sold his land in Burke's Garden to William Ingles and John Draper for fifty pounds. But because the title was confused a court battle of many decades continued until the Ingles could legally claim "Burk's Choice".  (James Burk, Deposition and John Draper, Deposition, Montgomery Co., Va., 1794)

            The Burk family definitely thought that the Patton faction had tried to cheat them according to Burk's granddaughter Mrs. "Strait Back" Allison.

            For all his effort James Burk got little from his Virginia explorations. He lost his first wife after moving to Virginia, his Roanoke River land was inudated; he lost property to the Indians; his step

son, Morris Griffith, was captured., he sold his land on Roanoke hastily because of Indian wars and he could never get title to "Burk's Choice" in Burke's Garden, though he was the discoverer and had led land speculators to it. For his effort he got only ten pounds and much worry.

            When the American Revolution came along James Burk took the opposite side from the land speculators, Prestons, Buchanans and Thompsons, with whom he struggled over "Burk's Choice". James Burk, already associated with Quakers who did not believe in fighting, became a Loyalist, supporting the King. During the Revolution he was in the upper Yadkin region known as "the Hollow" near the Shallow Ford where there was a large Tory settlement. He supported the Tory efforts and disinherited his son James Burk because he fought for the Americans. In his will he says "by the disobedience and undutifulness of my Eldest son James Burk I have had just cause to denie him or his heirs any portion of my living". He left him five shillings. (Josephine Pepper N. Fagg, "Pre

Revolutionary Settlers on the Roanoke River, Blacksburg, Montgomery News Messenger Aug 5, 1976 and James Burk, Will.)

            James Burk of Burk's Garden had a son Joseph who dies after 1782. His wife comes to New River and lives near Samuel Pepper. What happened to Joseph? Family legend says "he drowned in New River about 1785". There is another Joseph Burk who was captured with Mark Atkins and hung at Bemas Camp in Henry County toward the end of 1779. (James Boyd Pension Application S12269) He had roamed the mountains near Surry - his origins are a mystery. In 1761 James Burk lived on 440 acres in Surry County, North Carolina on Burk's Creek sometimes called Forbush or Joseph's Creek on the Yadkin in "the Hollow". Living nearby were Benjamin and John Griffith in February 1783 when James Burk died. (Jim and Louise Hoge, History of Tazewell, p. 418)

            James Burk's daughters have been discussed. His sons follow:

1) Joseph who md. Margaret Grant, 29 Dec. 1766 Rowan County, N.C., and lived on New River where the family say he was drowned near Pepper's Ferry 1785. He was still living in 1782 when his father made his will. After Joseph's death Samuel Pepper went security for marriages of Joseph's children who follow.

                        1. Jonathan md. Sally Cooper Nov. 6, 1805 (MCM, 109)

                        2. James md. Betsy Cooper dau. John Cooper Dec. 14, 1814 (MCM, 143)

                        3. Mary md. Jacob Shell Jr. Dec. 28, 1787 (MCM, 22)

                        4. Sally md. Richard Havens Dec. 17, 1789 (MCM 32)

                        5. Rebecca      

                        6. Naomi md. Bolling Rogers Feb. 8, 1798      

                        7. Nancy md. Jacob Douglas 4 Oct 1798  (MCM, 77)  (Montgomery County Marriages,  1777-1853, p. 74, 109)

2) James (disinherited)

3) Benjamin Burk md. Mary Eliot (dead by 1782

 James mentions Ben's widow in his Nov. 1782 will. She was in Montgomery Co., Va. He was involved with the Carolina Tories. Captain Ben Burk was killed at the Shallow Ford of the Yadkin. (Dorman, Virginia Pensions, v. 20, p.44) He is probably the "cousin named Burk" that was killed by George Pearis. Ben's children follow.

            1. Josiah, ancestor of the Lee County, Virginia, Burks.

            2. Samuel md. Ann Sovain Nov. 30, 1812 Jesse Pepper security

            3. Elizabeth

            4. John md. Mary Cloud Aug. 11, 1786 Bird Smith security

            5. Benjamin

            6. Thomas (Montgomery Co. Va. Will 1797 mentions all siblings)

            7. Hamar or Honour md. John Salman Peterson July 27, 1790 (MCM 34; History of Tazewell, p. 412; Gerald Purcell says James Burk had a son Thomas Burk who was at the "Battle of Big Meadows" in 1754. (Gerald C. Purcell, 163 Seminole Dr., Marietta, Georgia, 30060) This seems doubtful. He was probably brother of James and possibly father of Ursula who married the Purcell.

            Other Burks marrying (Montgomery Co, Va.,Marriages, 49, 56,72,258, 281, 301),probably grandchildren of James Burk:

            Joseph Burk md. Jane Reyburn, James Reyburn, father Dec. 17, 1794 Wilson Burk; Mary Burk md. Sam Sperry Sept. 24, 1793, security Ben Sperry; Margaret Burk md. John Douthat 24 July 1837; Jonathan Burk security; John Burk md. Effie Boaine Sept. 30, 1797 William Longely gdn.








The Burk Family in the Montgomery Co., VA Census Records


1787 Montgomery Co., VA Personal Property Tax-List “A”

1-W,M 16-21           2-Blacks 16+           3-Blacks <16          4-Horses, Mares, Colts and Mules       5-Cattle

Burk, David      Self      0          0          0          0          2


1787 Montgomery Co., VA Personal Property Tax-List “C”

1-W,M 16-21           2-Blacks 16+           3-Blacks <16          4-Horses, Mares, Colts and Mules       5-Cattle

Berk, John        Self      0          0          0          2          3 - N River

Berk, Thomas   Self      1          2          2          10        23                                Possibly brother of Joseph Burk

Birk, John         Self      0          0          0          1          2 - Greasey Creek

Berk, Margret  Self      0          0          0          2          10 - [not tithable]          Joseph Burk’s widow


1810 Montgomery Co., VA Census

p. 12  Burk, Jonathan               Son of Joshua Burk    

Male    2, under 10                                 1, age 26-45                                                                         

Female                         1, age 16-26


p. 18  Burk, Marg’t                  Wife of Joshua Burk, mother of Jonathan

Male                2, under 10       1, age 16-26

Female             4, under 10       2, age 26-45    1, age 45+


p. 30  Burk, Sam’l

Male                1, age 26-45


1820 Montgomery Co., VA Census

p. 169A  Burk, Jonathan                                                                           Son of Joshua Burk

Male    2, under 10     2, age 10-16        1, age 26-45

Female 2, under 10                                 1, age 26-45


1830 Montgomery Co., VA Census

p. 50  Burk, Henry F.              

Male    1, age 20-30


p. 53  Burke, Jonathan              Son of Joshua Burk

Male    1, age 10-15     1, age 15-20      2, age 20-30     1, age 30-40     1, age 50-60

Female 1, age 5-10       1, age 10-15     1, age 15-20     1, age 40-50


p. 54  Burk, Nancy in Blacksburg

Female             1, age 20-30    1, age 30-40