Monday, November 14, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948; History of James McPherson Family

The following was written by Margaret Burns Mc Pherson Burmeister in 1946, for inclusion of the Centennial History, Township of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848 -1948. Maggie, as she was known in the family, was the youngest child of James P. and Mary Burns McPherson, who came to Springdale in 1850.

 From pp. 101-102,, Centennial History of Springdale:

James P. McPherson left Dundee, Scotland, in 1842, for (“from” per J.P.s diary) the City of new York, April 30, 1850. Came by the way of canal. Arrived at Buffalo, May 11th. Came by way of Girand (“Grand” per J.P.s diary) River, Cleveland and Detroit to Milwaukee. Left Milwaukee for Madison the 17th by wagon, the fare costing 10.80. At that time they had four small children aged, 6,4,2, and 3 months. On May21 they moved into a log house, which belonged to John Stewart and stood beside a farm store just east of where the Stewart's stone house now stands. He worked at the tailor trade, making pants and vests for the Stewarts', McDonalds', David and John Beat, Pattons' and many others. On June 23rd the family went to see the land on which they were to live and began cutting logs for their new home. They lived their log house the first winter with a thatched roof and no floor. Their heat was logs burning in the middle of their large room with a hole in the roof for the smoke to go out. Their bread was baked and other food cooked in a large iron pot, hung in the fire place over burning coals. They had no money the first year they were here. Mr. McPherson helped with butchering and got meals for his work. His wife helped neighbors sew and helped with other work and got milk, buttermilk and a chunk of fresh butter direct from the churn. Mr. McPherson was elected town clerk and assessor in 1851. He held the office of town clerk for about 40 years, not steady, but off and on at different times. He was clerk of the first Dane County Board held in Dane County. He was Justice of the Peace and postmaster of Springdale post office for more than 40 years. He was school clerk for many years and was commissary at Camp Randal during the Civil War. His oldest son, William, was in the 8th (Eagle) regiment during the war, going on 18 years of age. Mr. McPherson was also one of the trustees who bought the land for the Dane County poor farm with Wm. R. Taylor and others. There were eleven children in the McPherson family. Two passed away in early life, but the rest of them lived to past 80 years. A Mrs. Blair (Mary Jane) who passed away last January , was 91 (the underlined phrase was an error as it was attributed to Mr. McPherson ), Mr. (James P.) McPherson was 84, Mrs. (Mary Burns) McPherson was 89 years of age at death. I (Margaret Burns McPherson Burmeister) am the last of the family and will be 80 years old September 5th (1946). I have had one granddaughter in service as a nurse overseas in World War II, and four grandsons, and one son-in-law. One is still in Manila Is. And one in the4 Pacific somewhere. My father had a farm of 160 acres. I think he bought it as government land as I cannot find anything to the contrary. John Stevenson, Wm. Thompson (Uncle Willis as we called him) were other old settlers. I am enclosing a paper I found in my father's diary which gives you some of the very old settlers of Mt. Vernon with their own signatures, which you might like to have. Also a very old building was the first log schoolhouse, which was in the northwest corner of the Oak Hill or Springdale cemetery, built in '51 or '52. I believe Sandford Shummwan was the first teacher. I have a family of seven. One son has served 22 years as policeman and one 23 years as a city fireman.

B y Mrs. Margaret Burmeister

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I added comments in italics when I thought it would be helpful for the reader and underlined corrected passages.

List of the J.P. McPherson family:
James Peter McPherson, Nov 14, 1816 – Aug.11, 1900
Mary Burns McPherson, Jan. 30, 1821 – Sep. 1, 1910
William Burns McPherson, Apr. 23. 1843 – Mar. 15, 1926
James Burns McPherson, Mar. 17, 1845 – Mar. 6, 1932
Jabez Burns McPherson, Aug. 12, 1847 – Apr. 7, 1924
Ann Adamson McPherson (Foye), Jan. 31, 1850 – May 17, 1922
Elizabeth Spink McPherson, Dec. 4, 1952 – Nov. 30, 1873
Mary Jane McPherson (Blair), Jan 27, 1855 – Jan 17, 1946
Jessie Stewart McPherson (Watts), Jun. 9, 1857 – Mar. 17, 1929
Emma Ellen McPherson (Ireland), July 17, 1859 – Dec. 12, 1921
Harriet Burns McPherson, May 3, 18672 – Nov. 16, 1865
Peter Burns McPherson, Jun 1, 1864 – Mar. 15, 1946
Margaret Burns McPherson (Burmeister), Sep. 5, 1866 – Aug. 5, 1959


  1. What wonderful information Joan!

  2. Whew, I can't even imagine what it must have been like to undertake this journey with four small children.