A PIONEER DIES
Henry Burnet, an old and respected citizen of Youngstown, died at his residence at Lansingville,
one of the suburbs of this city, about half past three o'clock on Monday afternoon, the 28th
inst. [10 Apr 1801 - 28 Aug 1876], aged 75 years, 4 months and 17 days. He had lain sick about three weeks, of a bilious
intermittent fever, complicated with chronic disease of the kidneys.
THE BURNETT FAMILY - NJ AND OHIO
Mr. Burnett was one of the pioneers of this part of the State. His father, Samuel Burnett, was
a native of Morristown, New Jersey, the family being a prominent and influential one in that
State, and came of the good old Scotch and English family of that name. The father, Mr. Samuel
Burnett, was a man of liberal education, and at one time of considerable fortune, but meeting
with reverses and loss of property about the time of or soon after the revolutionary war, he
finally concluded to emigrate to the west, and along about the year 1798 he moved to and took
a piece of land near the site of the present town of Hudson in Northern Ohio.
This district was then an unbroken wilderness. Here in the year 1801, April 11th, his son
Henry was born, and here in the midst of the limitless forests many of the years of his
boyhood were passed. Later and along the year 1808 or 9 Mr. Samuel Burnett moved to Warren,
Ohio, and he and old Mr. Quinby (to whom Mrs. Samuel Burnett was related) erected a large
log cabin on what is now known as Quinby Hill, and both families lived in it for some time.
Mr. Burnett's youth was passed with no opportunities for education, and what little he acquired
was under the instruction of his parents at home. His time as a boy was mainly devoted to
hard work in assisting his father in his hard battle with rugged nature, and in helping him to
gain a livelihood for a large family.
In those early days, when white settlements were far apart, when there were hundreds of
Indians to every white man, when there were no roads or bridges or means of communication
between the white settlers save by blazed paths
through the far stretching dark old forests, when there were no mills, stores,
shops, or any of the conveniences of civilization, struggles had to be encountered
and hardships and sufferings endured of which we in this later time can have little
or no conception. Under these circumstances Mr. Henry Burnett was reared. Without
the advantages of any early education, he yet was endowed with great natural abilities,
and with an iron constitution.
A SELF-EDUCATED MAN
While pursuing usually the avocation of a farmer, he from time to time, took contracts
to build bridges, roadways, mills, furnaces, etc. He was a tireless
ceaseless worker; an active busy man, buoyant, full of hope and energy. His mental
characteristics were rather extraordinary. Without having studied mathematics
a day in his life, he had invented a system of his own, by which he could take a chain
and compass and survey an irregular piece of land, and give the number of acres, as
accurately as any of the surveyors.
When making estimates for roads, railway tracks or other earth works, he would run his
own levels, and make, in his head, without aid of paper or pencil, his computations of
cubic feet or yards of excavation or fill; and in erecting buildings he would, in the
same manner, compute the number of perch of stone in the cellars, the number of feet
of boards and timber, etc., required for the buildings, never placing a figure on paper
until the calculation was complete and then putting down only results.
By this mathematical system of his own, he used also, in the prime of his life, to
compute very accurately and rapidly, the interest on contracts or notes, on which
irregular payments had been made. His skill in this respect has often been tested
by accomplished scholards, and it was found that he could make his computations and
give results much more rapidly than they with paper and pencil.
A MAN OF FAITH
He was a good judge of character and had great mental and physical energy. He was also
a man of very ernest and deep religious convictions, and yet with broad catholic views.
He believed undoubtedly in the religious doctrines of the church of the Disciples, and yet
believed that all professing christians of every church and creed who lived up to thier faith,
would be saved. He was the first person baptized into that church on the Western Reserve,
about fifty years ago. He has often told, with a twinkle of pleased recollection in his eye,
how, in riding along the roadway one day, with the Reverend Walter Scott, of Pittsburgh, they
fell upon the discussion of religious subjects, and how in combatting, the Rev. Mr. Scott's
views, the truth in a moment seemed to flash upon him, and with him to be convinced was to all.
So he requested the minister to proceed at once to a place where water could be found and
baptize him, which was done. Thereupon a great revival set in, under the preaching of this
minister at Austintown, where based alone upon the word of God and not upon any creed or
rules of faith or doctrine of purely human origin. Mr. Burnett, John Henry and a few others,
set about it at once to have a church and place of worship. Mr. burnett gave the
ground, selecting as the site of the building a spot where flows,
from the side of the hill, a clear ever living spring of cold water, and made the lot large
enough to include this spring, he saying that that spring of ever flowing, pure, crystal water
should be typical of the pure love of man and faith in the Redeemer that should flow out from that
church upon the world forever. Upon that site was built the old Austintown church, where
has assembled and worshipped, for nearly fifty years one of the most ernest and influential
congregations in the whole body of that church.
Mr. Burnett moved to Youngstown from Austintown about 32 or 3 years ago, having bought the
farm and for many years lived on the spot where Wm. J. Edwards, Esq., now resides. He
bought this farm about 150 acres, for thirty-five dollars an acre, and thought he was doing
well, when in a few years after, about 1846, he sold it for sixty dollars an acre. he
little thought then that within half the span of his life this farm would be a part of the
city of Youngstown and be worth from two to three thousand dollars per acre.
When he removed to Youngstown he united with the Disciple church here, he having been one of eight
who had paid for the grounds and the church building. His heart was always very ernestly with
his church and its work. One year he invited the various churches to hold their yearly meeting
on his farm at Flint Hill, which was done, he feeding and providing for the multitudes who came.
In the latter years of his life his affections seemed to turn back to the old church at
Austintown like a heart turning back with tender recollections to the scenes of its childhood;
and frequently on these Sunday mornings, when the weather permitted, he would be seen
driving many miles to the old church at Austintown to worship on the old spot and
mingle his prayers with the brethren whom he had known and loved in the early days of his
Christian life, and with whom he had fought the good fight, as he belived, for the triumph
of the pure Word of God.
In his last sickness he was without doubt, anxiety, or trouble in regard to his future state.
His faith was unquestioning in the immortality of the soul in the divine character of Christ
and His will to save and bless with everlasting peace and happiness those who believe in Him
and keep His commandments. He suffered during his illness all that mortal could suffer, and
his anxiety to be released and to enter upon the peace which he believed the Saviour had
in store for him, became very intense. The only impatience shown by him during all his long
illness and much suffering, was when told by any one that he was likely to get well. A couple
of days before he died he half rose in his bed, and said to one of his children, with an appealing,
supplicating look and voice, "Don't you think I will be able to get off tonight." And on the day
before he died he repeated with touching fervor the following verse:
"Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall,
May I but safely reach my home,
My God, my heaven, my all."
A MAN OF PRINCIPLE - THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
One peculiarity of his religious faith (if peculiarity it may be called) consisted in
his belief that a Christian's faith and professions must be supplemented by good
works to be of any avail. All through his life, when driving by the highway,
when sitting alone by his fireside or in busy crowds, like the refrain of an old song,
he kept ever repeating, "By their fruits ye shall know them." And this deep conviction
of religious duty had him always to the side and help of the poor and the unfortunate.
The hungry never came to his door without being fed, or the naked without being clothed.
And often he used to start out to hunt up the poor and suffering. When he found them he
would carry them food and clothing, and often brought whole families of the miserably poor
and homeless into his own house and until his own table, feeding and strengthening them back
into hope and courage to commence the battle of life anew. In his last illness, when many
poor people were coming to his door to inquire after him, "I can't talk to these poor people,
I'm too weak; but treat them with great respect; be kind to them."
All through his life he had a profound sympathy for the colored people. He was among the
first of the Abolitionists and old Anti-Slavery guard in this part of the State. His house
was one of the permanent stations on the underground railway. Many, many times in storm and
cold, has he been roused from deep slumber by the knock of the trembling fugitive, and
been compelled to start forth on his long night drive, carrying the poor slave one stage
further on his way towards freedom. Among those who at an early day started the Anti-Slavery
agitation and discussion here were: Mr. Burnett, John Kirk, Dr. Baine, Wilson Thorne, John Holcomb,
and Dr. Garlick.
Two or three young men, among others Nathan Holland and J.K. Wick, concluded
to test the sincerity of the AntiSlavery professions of these men and their associates; so one
evening they got themselves up in the best posible imitation of Southern plantation darkeys,
and started out on their rounds to visit every leading Abolitionist. They told a doleful story,
and then asked for help in the way of food, clothes and money. The disguise was so perfect that
all were deceived. In the main they found the persons they visited liberal, and ready to
respond according to their means, but in some cases, which they casually mentioned from time to
time thereafter as occasion served, they received a profusion of good wishes and abundance of
sympathy, but nothing more. Mr. Burnett, thinking them the genuine article, aroused his
household, had a good supper served for them, a lot of food put up in a parcel to carry with
them, gave them some clothes and money, and sent them on their way with his blessing.
When the fugitive slave law was passed, Mr. Burnett was in great trouble of mind. He recognized
fully the obligations to his government and the general duty of loyalty and obedience to law. But
here was a law to obey which might at some time bring him into conflict with the law of God as
he understood it. After more trouble or shelter or succor to the flying xx. The law of God
says feed the hungry, clothe the naked, succor and help those in affliction. This law says at
the call of the master or the officer of the law I must turn out and help hunt down and bring
back into bondage the poor fugitive; the law of God says "let the oppressed go free;" as for me
I openly announce that when the poor slave comes to my door for food, shelter, clothing or help
on his way to freedom, he shall have them; if fined for the act, I will pay my fine so far as
I am able, if imprisoned I will patiently endure my imprisonment, but that which the Lord
commands me to do that will I do, as I understand it, even unto the death", and
his acts were according to his words.
Many men are above the average, approach greatness in some one particular. Mr. Burnett's
strongest characteristic perhaps was his broad and deep humanity, his ernest and deep
sympathy with the poor, the suffering or the unfortunate.
WE HAVE LOST A GOOD MAN
Governor Tod said many times that had Mr. Burnett, with his strong natural faculties, been given
the advantages of a thorough education, he would have been one of the first men of the land,
but we think that those moral qualities usually located in the heart were as strong in his nature
as any of the faculties of his brain.
He was a man of most deep and tender affections; towards his children it was a passion so deep
and tender, so true and steadfast under all errings, that no words can compass or measure it; and
few parents have ever passed from the world more deeply loved and revered than he. While he
was a man of quick and violent temper, his sense of right and justice were so strong, his
determination to do and be right so unyielding, that the moment his passion had passed he was
ready to make apology or reparation where wrong had been done.
With Mr. Burnett passes away another one of the early settlers and pioneers. They were
of a grand type and character. They were sturdy, honest and brave, industrious and
temperate. Something after the manner of the old puritans they carried into all the
practical affairs of life their deep religious convictions and influences. They were
ernest in purpose and tireless in endeavor. Striving to do no wrong, they had the manly
courage to submit to no wrong. Such men, with their might courage, strength and purpose,
have changed the trackless wilderness, the frowning forests and the reeking swamps into
green fields, the sun-lighted hills, the pleasant valleys we have around us. Savage nature
passes on before them and after them follows smiling plenty. Civil and relgious liberty
are ever safe in such hands, and we should gather up and preserve the leading incidents in
their lives, as our dearest public possessions.
Mr. Burnett was buried Wednesday from the church of the Disciples in this city, the funeral
services being conducted by the Rev. Mr. Smith and the Rev. Mr. Calvin. The funeral was
attended by a large concourse of his neighbors and friends.
A good old man, a true christian, has gone to his rest.