Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 386-88.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  David Burns

Almost one-third of a century has come and gone since David Burns took up his abode in Buena Vista county, and as one rides abroad today and sees the well developed farms surrounded with fine homes and substantial buildings, it seems hardly possible that at the time of Mr. Burns' arrival much of the land was uncultivated, while the work of general progress and improvement seemed scarcely begun.  He has long been numbered among the prosperous farmers of the county and, although making his home in Alta, still owns a valuable farm in Maple Valley township, comprising one hundred and sixty acres of rich and productive land.  He was born in Prince Edward's Island, June 15, 1850, and is a son of Captain Peter Burns, whose birth occurred in the same house in which his son David first opened his eyes to the light of day.  He was reared and married there, the lady of his choice being Miss Belle Kennedy, a native of Scotland, and of Scotch parentage.  Peter Burns was a sea captain and followed the sea for many years.  Eventually he became a resident of Canada, settling on a farm there in 1850 and making it his place of abode while he reared his family.  His last years, however, were passed in Ontario.

David Burns lived in Canada to the age of nine years and then crossed the border into the United States, going to Detroit.  He made his arrangements to earn his living by becoming a sailor on the lakes.  He was thus employed during the summer seasons, while in the winter months he returned to Canada and worked in a sawmill as an engineer.  Thus his .youth was a period of earnest toil, in which he fully recognized the value of industry, economy and persistency of purpose.

In Ontario, on the 23d of March, 1871, Mr. Burns was married to Miss Christine Ross, a native of Rosshire, Scotland, whence she was brought to Canada in her infancy, and was there reared.  Immediately following their marriage the young couple removed to Ogle county, Illinois, where Mr. Burns worked on a farm by the month, and in 1876 he removed to Iowa, settling in Buena Vista county.  His industry and careful expenditures during the years passed in Iowa enabled him to purchase land here in Maple Valley township.  He first became owner of eighty acres of raw prairie, which he placed under the plow and also fenced.  He likewise erected a home upon the farm, and as his financial resources increased he bought another eighty acre tract.  Eventually, however, he sold that property and invested in two hundred and forty acres of land, on which he took up his abode, giving his immediate care and attention to the further improvement of the place.  He built there an attractive residence, substantial barns, cribs and sheds, planted fruit and transformed the property into a model farm, carefully tilling the fields, from which he annually gathered rich harvests.  He later sold eighty acres of that place and invested in one hundred and sixty acres of land in Murray county, Minnesota, near Slayton—an improved farm.  He also owns one hundred and sixty acres of land given him by King Edward for service with the volunteers at the time of the Fenian raid in 1866.  He was also presented a medal by Queen Victoria, while King Edward later gave a one hundred and sixty acre tract of land to each volunteer who had aided in crushing out the rebellion.  Mr. Burns located his land thirteen miles from Rainy river, near Lake of the Woods, and across the lake from Wisconsin. It is a heavily timbered land, exempt from taxes for ten years.

Mr. Burns removed to Alta in 1903 and bought a residence property, where he now resides, and from this point gives supervision to his farming interests.  Unto him and his wife have been born nine children, four sons and five daughters:  Eugene, living at Hartley, O'Brien county, Iowa, is now a dealer in implements, in live stock, and is the owner of three hundred and twenty acres of land; Edgar G. is in partnership with his brother, Eugene R.; Guy is engaged in railroading; P. R. has recently completed a course in the business college at Quincy. Illinois, and is now at home; Belle is the wife of G. G. Baker, of Slayton, Minnesota; Ida W. is the wife of Amil J. Schmitz, of Storm Lake; Luella 0. is a trained nurse; Alta M. is engaged in clerking in her brother's store in Hartley; and Hughena V. is at home.

Politically Mr. Burns is a democrat and while living on the farm served as township treasurer, school director, and township assessor.  He was also treasurer and president of the school board, was road supervisor and is the present street commissioner of Alta, and in the discharge of his official duties he has labored earnestly and effectively for the interest of the community.  Mr. Burns is a member of the Masonic lodge of Alta, also of Cherokee Chapter, R. A. M., the commandery at Cherokee and the Mystic Shrine at Des Moines, Iowa.  He is well known in Storm Lake and throughout Buena Vista county as one of its public-spirited men and a useful and exemplary citizen whose sterling worth of character has gained him a high place in the regard of those with whom he has come in contact, while in his control of his business interests he has manifested enterprise and ability that have brought to him.