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Martin L. Burke

Photo page 352

The following obituary of Martin L. Burke was written by C. L. Lucas, and appeared in the Madrid Register-News in 1908:

A noted pioneer of Boone County, and in the early history of Central Iowa, a driver for the historic Western Stage Company, died at his home near Belle Point on the morning of March 28, 1908, aged 77 years, 7 months and 18 days.

Mr. Burke was born in Ireland August 10, 1830, where he continued to reside until 1847, when he came to the United States, and took up his abode at Columbus, Ohio, which was at that date the headquarters of the Western Stage Company. Soon after his arrival, he commenced work for the company, first in and around their barns and repair shops, but in about a year he became one of their most trusted drivers. In 1854, the Western Stage Company came into Iowa, and established lines over much of the state. In the same year, Mr. Burke was transferred from Columbus to Muscatine. Here, he remained about six months when the company sent him to Ottumwa and placed him on the line between that city and Chariton, the county seat of Lucas county, where he continued until the beginning of 1855. At this date, Mr. Burke was again transferred to the Des Moines and Fort Dodge line. He began driving over that part of this line situated between Des Moines and Boonesboro, the old county seat of Boone County, where he continued to drive for a number of years. Whether in sunshine or in storm, Burke managed to make a trip over this line three times a week. This was much better mail service than the people along the line had been receiving prior to this time — a thing they highly appreciated.
About the year 1866, the Western Stage Company was superceded by the railroads and went out of business in this part of Iowa, and Mr. Burke closed his career as a stage driver and settled down to farming at Belle Point where he still continued to reside up to the time of his death.
Mr. Burke was married three times. He was married in 1858 to Miss Eliza Dobkins who died about one year after their marriage. Early in 1860, he was again married to Miss Maria Hull, who died in 1872. To them were born three children, one son, and two daughters. Patric and Almyra live in the state of Washington and Maty Moyer, the other daughter lives in Des Moines. In 1887, he was married to Miss Anna McDivitt who still survives him. To them were born three sons and three daughters - Mabel, William, Grace, Laurence, Sarah, and Leo, who all live at the parental home.
When Star Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. was organized at Madrid in 1857, Mr. Burke was one of its early members, and for years took an active purl in building it up.
Mr. Burke became a member of the Catholic church in the days of his childhood and lived a firm believer in its doctrines every day of his life. Mr. Burke was a good citizen, a kind neighbor, and always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need of assistance. He had many friends, which is evidenced by the fact that he held the offices of road supervisor and constable longer than any other man in Douglas township ever did. His sudden taking off was a surprise and regret to all of them. The funeral services were held at the home on Tuesday afternoon March 31, and the remains were laid to rest in the Hull cemetery. A large number attended the obsequies, Atty. M. C. Creighton delivering a short but splendid address at the grave. Peaceful be his rest.

Martin Burke was a very important character in the history of Madrid and the surrounding communities. By driving the mail coach and providing a communication link, he became well known by many in the area. The following is an excerpt from "Trail Tails," the publication of the Boone County Historical Society:

Old settlers recall an amusing story which Martin delighted to tell upon himself. While he was living near Madrid, where the stage changed horses, and he himself took the box seat, the horses were, of course, the property of the stage company. In between stages, the horses were idle, and Martin also, who hated idleness. So he decided to take action. He rented ten acres and put this in corn, tending it with the stage company's horses, between times. One day, just about the time Burke intended laying his corn "by", the sun shone, and the corn leaves glistened. It was high time for the final cultivation, and Burke figured that he would have ample time in which to finish before the northbound stage arrived for a change of horses. He took out the team, hitched them to the cultivator, and "Laid the corn by."He had barely finished, when he saw the stage coach approaching, far toward the south. He hurried the bewildred beasts into their stalls and began rubbing them down like mad. The horses were in a lather of sweat, and badly winded. The worst of it was that as the coach drove into the yard, Burke saw that the superintendent of the company was aboard!
The coach stopped. The superintendent alighted atid walked over to the horses tied to the corner of the barn where old Burke was rubbing and currying. 'What in the world is the matter with those horses'?' he asked, noting their heaving sides and jaded look. Burke straightened up with a gesture of disgust and with true Irish resourcefulness, replied 'Faith, and ivety time I tot them horses out to pasture in the' marnin' they rin thimsilves like that until they're in a lather! They're feelin' their oats that well, sorr-r, I guess I'll just have to shtop turning thim out to pasture!'
The superintendent said nothing, and Burke never knew for certain whether all of his excuse was believed or not.
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