William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt, Part 1
(The Burdicks owe a debt of gratitude to William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt. Without him, we would not know of the early Burdick generations; he was the original historian of our family. Susan Welch, his great-great granddaughter, has graciously offered to share what she knows of this incredible man. There is so much to tell that it will not fit into one Newsletter! In this issue Susan tells of her discovery of WMBH. The next issue will be the words of WMBH himself in a letter he wrote to his daughter. - HB)
William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt is my great-great grandfather. His eighth child (of eleven) was my great grandmother, Katherine (Kate) Estelle, born Dec. 11, 1882, died Feb. 23, 1957. Kate married twice, first to Louis Harting, then to Leon Wynants. The eldest son of her first marriage produced my maternal grandfather, William Monmouth Harting. My mother, Mary-Martha, is the eldest child of William Monmouth Harting and Martha LaPorte and I am the third child of her marriage to John Robert Welsh.
I first became interested in my family history about twenty years ago. Back then it was very time consuming and expensive to obtain information, largely because there was no Internet. Living on the West Coast was a disadvantage, since all the people and information I needed were back east.
My mother spoke of her grandmother Kate quite a bit when I was a child. I learned she was from a prominent Baltimore family and had a love of music. Kate attended the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, played at Carnegie Hall, and devoted her life to music. My mother told me how she had gone with her grandmother to visit a relative to see a genealogy book about the family. The book had belonged to Kate but she was forced to sell it for financial reasons.
My mother could not remember the title of the book, but suggested I write to her uncle, Charles Wynants, who was the half-brother of my own grandfather; both being grandsons of William Harcourt. I wrote to Uncle Charles for any information he might have regarding this book. He didn't know the title of "The Book", but suggested I start my search with the name Oliver Burdick, Jr. Oliver was a Revolutionary War soldier mentioned in a letter from Grandfather Harcourt to his daughter, Florence Mansfield Harcourt Williamson, who had expressed an interest in joining the Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR). Uncle Charles sent me a copy of that letter.
I went to a local genealogy library and asked if they had any information on a Revolutionary War soldier named Oliver Burdick, Jr. They didn't, but they did know a man named Carl Burdick, very active in genealogy circles, who I should contact. I wrote to Carl who lived in Oceanside, CA. He was delighted to hear from me! He knew who my great-great grandfather was, and told me about all of the research Grandfather Harcourt had done.
Without this research, Carl said, there would not be a Burdick genealogy. He also told me the name of Nellie Johnson's book: "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." It had been a limited printing, and he didn't know where I would find a copy. I called the Los Angeles Public Library and, remarkably, they had it! I copied the pages that pertained to my line, typed them up, and sent copies to several relatives.
Carl Burdick had told me he was a bookbinder, so I gave him two copies of the manuscript. He did a beautiful job binding them for me. I had the good fortune to meet Carl a few months later at a local genealogy gathering. While there, he sang the praises of Grandfather Harcourt and showed me a very large notebook with letters from Burdick's from all over the country. They had written to him in hopes of discovering their lineage, as apparently their ancestors did not respond when Grandfather Harcourt wrote to them in the late 1800's asking for information.
Carl also gave me a copy of an article that had been written by Heber J. Grant, President of the Mormon Church. The title of the article is "Seek, and Ye Shall Find." Mr. Grant's wife was a descendent of Gideon Burdick, and he had written Grandfather Harcourt requesting some information, only to find that Grandfather Harcourt had died ten years before.
I then traveled to Maryland to glean any information I could from the library in Baltimore. While there, I located the gravesites of Grandfather Harcourt at Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore. Also there was his first wife Florence May Adams Harcourt (my great-great grandmother) as well as his second wife Elizabeth Trudewind.
Also buried there was Captain William Stanton Burdick Harcourt, Grandfather Harcourt's father. Captain Harcourt served with Farragut's Fleet, on the "Albatross" and the "Arizona." During the Battle of New Orleans he suffered a severe head injury, which plagued him for the rest of his life. As a young man, His son, Granfather Harcourt had served as a clerk on the same ships with his father.
After this I put my research on hold for several years. The Internet brought me back. Last year I came across a posting on a message board by Leslie Erika. She was the great granddaughter of Florence M. Harcourt Williamson, the sister of my own great grandmother. We began an email correspondence. From that point I was introduced by email to Mary Ellen Batten, whose grandmother was Mary Ellen Harcourt Bowen.
Last June I was fortunate enough to make a trip to the East Coast to attend a gravestone dedication ceremony, arranged by Mary, for Honor Shipley Lee, the grandmother of Florence May Adams Harcourt (Grandfather Harcourt's wife). All who attended were descendants of Grandfather Harcourt: Leslie Waters Erika, Mary Batten, Lew Thomas, Laura Williamson Geseking, Jane Wheeley Maher, Diane Thomas Perry and Jane Arminger Schwartz. I was also fortunate enough to stay at the home of Richard Williamson Waters and his wife Judy. Richard passed away shortly after my visit. As Mary remarked to me, "I'm so glad you had the opportunity to meet him, although you saw only the ghost of 'The Golden Boy' he had been all his life." Richard was handsome, personable, possessed of a pixie sense of humor, which held him in good stead through his long illness. A typical Harcourt Man!
I know very little about Grandfather Harcourt, the people that knew him well passed many years before I was born. I have been told he was a devoted family man, spoke five languages and enjoyed a highball every now and then. All his descendants that I have met hold him in the highest esteem.
Near Ground Zero
I was on the scene that infamous Tuesday. I live half a block from Seventh Avenue, a main thoroughfare, and had an unobstructed view of the Towers. A neighbor, leaving for work, reached the corner of Charles and Seventh, glanced south to see the North Tower engulfed in flames. She ran back to our apartment building and frantically rang my bell. We dashed out in time to see the second plane dive into the South Tower, at about the 90th floor. The tower exploded into flames.
St. Vincent's Medical Center, 2 blocks north on Seventh, had recalled their entire staff. Doctors, in green gowns, lined the sidewalks awaiting the triage cases. There were few, compared to the thousands who didn't need it.
The aftermath was emotionally wrenching. Pictures of loved ones plastered on the walls of St. Vincents. Hundreds, now faded and drooping. Candles, no longer flickering, with hardened wax at the base. Withered bouquets at the Towers site. Dante would have to rewrite his Inferno, if he saw this. The total picture was one of unreality. And the world will never be the same.
It was pretty harrowing. I work about one-half mile north of the WTC and I saw the hole in first tower. I saw the second tower collapse, live, from the street. Thankfully, none of our family or friends were lost. Work reopened that Friday and the kids went back to school on Thursday. The immigration building across Hudson St. was cordoned off for 7 weeks, so you had to hike a block north or south to get around it.
Many New Yorkers still look up when they hear a plane overhead. We still don't have all the TV stations back on the air. Tourism is way off and a lot of our book authors have canceled their tours. I've had several dreams with the smell of burnt plastic rising from the WTC. There are many stories about New Yorkers abandoning their apartments to relocate.
I have no desire to visit the site myself. The Yankees lost last night but I don't subscribe to all "the city needed it" stuff. What the city needs is rebuilding and real relief for those who have lost or will yet lose their jobs.
My grandparents and some great-grandparents were New Yorkers, and it's still the place I want to be with my family.
A Eulogy for Butch
(Clayton "Butch" Burdick was Gary Arnold's cousin by blood and uncle by marriage. Butch was born on May 25th, 1919 and died Sept. 27th, 2001. He is survived by Beatrice Irene (Starbird) Burdick, his wife of 58 years, 3 sons (Bradley, Lowell, and Lynn), and 4 grandchildren (Rhonda, Mathew, Jessica, and Cassandra). Gary wrote the following in Butch's memory. - HB)
Last night an E-mail from Jane I read,
"Butch died today about 1 pm." it said.
It was no surprise. It was expected you see.
But still some sadness overcame me.
Now it is morning and taking a closer look,
I think it was like the period at the end of a book.
Like pages in a book are the days that go by,
and years are but chapters. Oh how they fly.
The scribe of time who wrote every line
completed 82 chapters, one day at a time.
In nineteen nineteen, the twenty fifth of May,
Clayton E. Burdick saw his very first day.
I don't know about much of his life,
I just know aunt Bea was his dear wife.
And the earliest that I remember of him,
was his big smile, or was it a grin.
Butch was fighting the war back in '42
and that was the year I was brand new.
So I figure I must have been three
before Butch ever laid eyes upon me.
Thinking back to the forties and the fifties too,
Butch was my uncle, that was all that I knew.
I played with the children, he talked with the men,
Oh how I would have loved to be a man back then.
Now for some reason I admired that man,
it might have even affected the way than I am.
The bastard was handsome, I say with a grin,
many men would have loved to look like him.
Don't ask me why I have tears in my eyes,
they just came, much to my surprise.
Good bye Butch, I'll say at last.
You wrote a good book but it went too fast.
Burdick News... Up-To-The-Minute!
I think I'll give Joe Burdick (firstname.lastname@example.org) the award for most entries in these Newsletters! Here's his latest: "I had a perfect chance for a goal. The puck was heading down the left side of the ice, the goalie was leaving the crease, but I had a better angle to the puck and a good chance at a back-handed goal. Then, all of a sudden, I was tripped by another skater. An accident, I assume. I went feet-first into the boards and slammed into them, hard. My left skate edge caught the ice. My momentum carried my body up and into the boards while my left skate stayed planted in the same spot. It appeared I had sprained my ankle. Two of my teammates helped me to my feet and to the bench. My left foot was shaking involuntarily. I tried to stretch it out. I skipped a shift, then headed back onto the ice. It hurt! The pain became unbearable! I fell to the ice. I went to the locker room and Melissa helped me out of my gear. My ankle was starting to swell, a lot. The next morning, I found out I had broken my fibula. It looked like a snapped toothpick in the x-ray. Plus, I had severely sprained my ankle with possible tendon damage. I am in a splint/cast right now and in a great deal of pain. This has officially ended my season, and quite possibly hockey my career (but we'll see about that). Melissa is a wonderful nurse, and is taking great care of me." Update: Joe had surgery on December 26, had a screw put into his ankle to help his tendons repair, and is no longer in pain. His doctor says he'll be able to play hockey next year; Melissa has other ideas.
Joe (email@example.com) has a second entry this issue. For months he has been trying to find out about Harry Gleason Burdick, his great grandfather, but with no luck. Harry was born in November, 1896 in Pennsylvania but disappeared in the 1920's, never to be heard from again. He walked out to buy a newspaper and never came back. He even left his brand new car in the driveway. If you know anything, please let Joe know.
While we're on the mystery front, Kelly (Kellys02832@aol.com) is a journalist for The Chariho Times, a Rhode Island newspaper. Her stories focus on history and unsolved mysteries, and she's currently working on one involving the Burdicks. Rhode Island State Senator Charles Burdick was murdered in Charlestown, RI on October 17, 1930. No one seems to know much more than that. Does anyone out there have any information on Sen. Burdick? Anyone know the story of his murder? If so, drop me and/or Kelly an email. Thanks.
Jane Maxson (JhMaxson@aol.com) is Secretary of the Maxson Family Association. There have been many Maxson-Burdick marriages over the years, the Maxsons are good friends of the Burdick family. Jane brought it to my attention that there was a book written a few years back by a Howard Burdick (not me, nor directly related to me). This Howard is 100 years old and still lives in the family homestead in Avondale on the Pawcatuck River in southwest Rhode Island. The book, "All Along Shore" (or something like that), is a collection of Howard's columns that appeared in the local Westerly Sun newspaper. They give a taste of life along the river in the early part of the last century. Jane is trying to find the book for me, but if anyone out there knows of it, please let us know, I'd love to have a copy.
Remember Dr. Dakin Burdick, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) , our perpetually-busy family member who is digitizing Nellie Johnson's "Burdick" book? The project has been on hold for a while, but Dakin may get back to it this summer. Here's his "excuses" for slacking off on the book project: 1) He's writing the martial arts entries for Encyclopaedia Britannica 2002. 2) Writing a book on the cultures and traditions of martial arts. 3) Creating the web version of his "Cultures and Traditions of Martial Arts" class. 4) Publishing his dissertation on British Boxing and Japanese Judo, 1845-1945. 5) Finishing various articles for American Combatives, Zorkhaneh (Persian Body Building), and other periodicals. 6) Getting ready for a trip to Japan in May to train in "iaido" and test for his "nidan" in that martial art, plus watch the "yabusame" at the Budo festival. Oh yeah, he's also a full-time father and husband. (When does this guy find time to sleep?)
Copyright Howard E. Burdick 2019. All Rights Reserved.