Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Jabez) Burns Brass Band of Brooklyn, New York - circa 1880

Burns Brass Band, circa 1880
Courtesy of the Margaret McPherson Burmeister Family
     The above picture intrigues me an a number of different levels.  First and foremost, I can only identify with any sense of surety Jabez Burns, the Coffee Roaster, front row center. The notation on the copy that was given to me indicated that it was a picture of
"Uncle Jabez and sons (six)
 and son (Clair?)
Taken in Brooklyn, New York"
      I don't know whether Maggie McPherson Burmeister (niece of Jabez Burns, the Coffee Roaster) or perhaps someone in her family, wrote the notation.  However there are some discrepancies;  Jabez had seven sons, William (b. 1849), Jabez (b. 1852), Joseph (b.1855), Robert (b. 1857), James B. (b. 1863), Abraham Lincoln (b. 1866) and George Washington (b. 1869).  I have followed each of the children of Jabez, Coffee Roaster, through several decades of census reports and have not found any one named  "Clair", male or female.
     It seems likely that  Jabez is flanked  by his youngest two sons; George Washington Burns (b. 1868) and Abraham Lincoln Burns(b. 1866) because of the closeness in age of the two.. But that belief is open for discussion and change because young George is reported to have died in 1877, or at about 9 years of age and the young man on the left certainly looks older than eight or nine years of age.  Also I have no corrobarting evidence or information about if or why he died so young, so is does seem possible that yourng George is in the picture.

     Lincoln Burns, as Abraham Lincoln Burns was called throughout most of his life, was a tall, slim man according to his passport description,  also describes the young man to the left of Jabez.  Lincoln Burns attended the College of Mines at Columbia University and then started working his way up in the family business.  By 1925 he retired as Vice President and took his position as Director of the Board.

     In this scenario for the above  photo, my next identification choice would be James B., center of the back row.  James was born two to three years before A. Lincoln Burns. This would make sense if this is indeed a picture of Jabez and his seven sons.  He was listed as Jabez'es son in the 1870 census, with an estimated birth year of 1863. There is a James B. Burns, born in the same year and married to Amelia with two daughters in the 1900 and 1910 census.  They live where I would expect them -- in the area of Brooklyn near where the Jabez Burns family lived.  Also the parental birthplaces match.  James B.Burns is also listed as an engineer, which also fits with working at the family coffee roaster machinery business.  Unfortunately, James B. died before the 1920 census, leaving Amelia a widow living with their two daughters..

     However, if I am wrong about the two young men in front being George W. and A. Lincoln Burns, then the sons flanking Jabes Burns, would most likely be A. Lincoln and James B.Burns; then the identity of the back row Burns brothers and/or band members awaits more information.


     I am hoping that sooner or later, a Burns family member will see this picture and the Jabezes series and feel compelled to respond.  I am sure that there is a hoard of Burns family pictures just waiting to be found and shared.  I hope and hope and hope those pictures will surface and come to me.


     Also intriguing  to me is actual history of the band.  How did it start?  Where did they play? Competitions?  At rallies? I know that Mary Burn McPherson's husband and son also played instruments at political rallies in Springdale, WI, so were their English relatives also engaged  in musical endeavors?


     So my Burns family, out there in cyberspace, take a look at this band, this picture of Jabez, the Coffee Roaster, and his sons, then leave a message, send an email,  find a way to contact me as I would really like to know my Burns family.

Jabezes, Part 1 - The Baptist Minister
Jabezes, Part 2 - The Coffee Roaster 

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© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

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