Burdick Newsletters

July/August, 2002

Robert Burdick of Rhode Island, Part 1

by Nellie Willard Johnson

(I receive numerous requests from people trying to find their Burdick roots. Unfortunately, most of those requests go unfulfilled -- I'm not a genealogist. But I always take a quick look through Nellie Johnson's "Burdick" book to see if I can find a match, which sometimes I do. What's the old saying? "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometime." I mail copies of the appropriate pages along with the first few pages of the book giving the history of Robert Burdick, the original Burdick immigrant. I thought it would be useful to share these pages with everyone who may not have Nellie's book or access to it. This issue reproduces the first few pages, describing the political intrigue between colonial Massachusetts and Rhode Island that lead to the formation of Connecticut, in which Robert played a central role. The next Newsletter will chronicle the lives of the first Burdick family. - HB)


"There is good reason to believe that the surname Burdick is identical with Burditt (also spelled Burdett, Burdette, etc.) The spelling Burdick is not given in English works on surnames, and like many American names it is probably a variation in spelling from the English Burdette, etc." (W.R. Cutter, New England Families, Vol I, p. 60.)

Savage, in his Genealogical Dictionary, says of the name:

"Burdick or Burdict -- This name is often confounded with Burditt." (Savage, Gen. Dic. of New England, Vol. I, p. 301.)

Add to this the fact that the name of Robert, the emigrant ancestor, appears on the official records of Rhode Island and Massachusetts variously as Birdict, Berdick, Burdett, Burditt, Burdict, and Burdick (as will be shown later), and it seems reasonably certain that his ancestors are to be found among the ancient family of Burdetts in England.

Before the Normans came to England the Bordets, or Burdetts, were barons of Cuilly, near Falaise, in Normandy. Cuilly or Quilly formed only part of the possessions of the Burdetts. Their name seems to have been adopted from the place name Bourdet. Two brothers of this name, Robert Bordet, Lord of Cuilly, and his brother Hugh, came to England with the Conqueror (The Duchess of Cleveland, Battle Abbey Roll, Vol. I, pp 191 et seq., 276, 277. Baker, British Family Names, p. 99. Baring-Gould, Family Names and Their Story, p. 256.) On the Roll of Battle Abbey the name is spelled Burdet. Robert and Hugh both appear in the Domesday as sub-tenants in Leicestershire, where Hugh held considerable estates under the Countess Judith. The wife and son of Robert are also on the list of landowners. Robert was dead before 1086, when his widow held land from Hugh de Grantmesnil, in Lincolnshire (Dom. I, 232b). He had a son Hugh, and this Hugh had sons Robert de Cuily, and Walter de Cuily, from whom descended the Cuilly, Quilly, De Cuilly, deCuleys, Culey, Cully, Colley, Culai, Cuilys, Caileys, Cayles, and Cuiley families.

Dugdale tells of a William Burdet "who flourisht in Henry II's time," and who was undoubtedly an ancestor of the later families of Burdett. "The said William Burdet, being both a valient and devout man, made a journey to the Holy Land for subduing of the Infidells in those parts..." He left two sons: Hugh, whose line expired in the next generation, and Richard, who died in 1223." The accompanying pedigree will show the descent of some male members of the family.

It is probable that Robert Burdick or Burdett was a descendant of some of these early ancestors.


Names of those who may have been his relatives appear very early in Colonial records. A WILLIAM BURDITT, aged 25, came to Virginia in the "Susan" in 1615. GEORGE BURDITT or BURDETT came from Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, where he was by popular election had preached two years, and resided for a time in Salem, Mass. WILLIAM BURDICK was master of the ship "Hopewell" which brought many colonists to this country in 1635. (Cutter, New Eng. Families, Vol. I, p. 460.) A ROBERT BURDITT, who may have been related to Robert above, was born in England in 1633, came to New England when a young man, and settled in Malden, Mass. There he married, November, 1653, Hannah Winter. The names of his children are similar to those of the Rhode Island family, being, Hannah, Mary, Joseph, Thomas, Ruth. He died June 16, 1667. His descendants retained the spelling BURDITT. (Cutter, New Eng. Families, p. 978.)

The first BURDICK of record in America was ROBERT BURDICK, who was living at Newport, R.I., in 1655. He came from England to Newport in 1651. (Abridged Compendium of Amer. Genealogies, 907, 518, 970.) He was married, Nov. 2, 1655, to Ruth Hubbard, the first white child born at Agawam (now Springfield), Mass, Jan 11, 1640. Her father, Samuel Hubbard, came from England to Salem, Mass., in 1633. (Cutter, New Eng. Families, p. 978.)

Robert BERDICK and Tobia Sanders were admitted as Freemen of Newport, May 22, 1655. Robert BIRDICT (1656), Tobia Sanders, and Joseph Clarke were all living at Newport in1655. Robert BURDICK was admitted a Freeman of the Colony of Rhode Island, May 20, 1657. (Rhode Island Records, 1636-1663, Vol. I, pp. 302, 303, 356.)

In the westward expansion of the early New England Colonies three of them laid claim to a tract of land called the Pequot country. In October, 1658, Massachusetts declared a small settlement which had been made there, to be a plantation with the name of Southertown (now Stonington), and annexed it to Suffolk County, Mass. Special commissioners and a constable were appointed to administer it (Mass. Recs., IV, 353.) The Rhode Island Assembly, the next month, retaliated by warning all settlers in the disputed area that if they put their lands under another colonial government their holdings would be confiscated (R.I. Col. Recs., I, 401).

"Meantime, the Narragansett settlements (of Rhode Island) bought from the Indians, under the name of the Westerly Purchase, land a part of which lay in Southertown, and began to settle it." (Osgood, American Colonies in the 17th Century, pp. 367-369.) Among the settlers were Robert Burdick, Tobias Saunders, and Joseph Clarke, farmers of Newport, and they soon found themselves in the thick of the fight between Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

William Chesbrough testified before the General Court of Massachusetts, Sept. 30, 1661, that about the middle of September, 1661, he was "occasioned to goe abroad upon his affaires, and understanding that divers persons, about thirty-six inhabitants of Road Island, were come into the bounds of Southertowne, to lay claime unto the lands... and to divide and lay out lotts in the same," whereupon he demanded "the reason of their intrusion into other men's rights; telling them those lands were within the bounds of Southertowne and appropriated to several persons." The reply came from the leader, Benedict Arnold. He "said, in way of answer many things impertinently, the sum whereof was, that they owned themselves to be the men that claimed the lands, and said they would keepe possession, and that they would not try their title any where but in Rhode Island, or in England; and Arnold said that if any should attach him at Boston, he would lie in prison seven years before he would try the titles there."

The General Court then issued a Warrant, as follows:

"WARRANT. To the Constable of Southertowne:

"Whereas, We are informed of sundry rude fellows, that contrary to the peace of our soveraigne Lord the King, etc., of this Collony, have, in a riotous manner entered upon, and taken possession of the lands of sundry of our inhabitants in the bounds of your towne. These are to require you, in his Majesties name to apprehend all such persons, and safely convey them before some of the magistrates of this jurisdiction, to give an account of such their proceedings; and hereof you are to make a true returne under your hand, and not faile. Dated 25, 8 month, 1661.

"Signed by Jo. Endicott, Gov'r.
"Ri. Bellingham, Dep. Gov'r.
"Daniel Gookin."

This Warrant was endorsed by the Constable:

"According to the trust committed to me, I have arrested three men, viz: Tobias Saunders, Robert Burdett, and Joseph Clarke, which last upon extraordinary occasion was, by the Commissioners and constable, set at liberty. Dated 1st November, 1661.

"William Palmer, Constable."

It developed later, that at the time of their arrest the Rhode Island men "did lye in wait to intercept and seize the Constable and Deputy, with such as came with them to prison as they returned, which they had donne, but they being gone to dinner missed them."

On Nov. 14, 1661, they were brought to trial before Governor Endicott and his associates at Boston.

"Tobias Saunders and ROBERT BURDETT being brought prisoners by virtue of a warrant from the Governor and magistrates for a forcible entry and intrusion into the bounds of Southertown, in the Pequot country, upon severall men's properties granted to them by the General Court of this jurisdiction, who upon being examined by what authority or order there were there, Tobias Saunders answered, that the Court of Road Island gave liberty for certayne of their inhabitants to purchase lands of the Indians, and that these lands were purchased by them... Being asked whether they had understood that warning was given... to depart out of those lands, and out of the bounds of said towne, Tobias answered, that they looked upon the lands to be their right, and therefore they abode upon them, and confessed he was upon it when the constable apprehended them.

"ROBERT BURDET being examined, acknowledged that he was upon the same land, and built a small house there, upon the lott layed out to him; and that he went upon this designe, upon the same grounds as are declared by Tobias Saunders.

"Tobias Saunders and ROBERT BURDETT being told that they must give security to the value of one hundred pounds apeece, to answer what shall be objected against them at the next General Court, otherwise to bee committed to prison, they refused to find security and were committed."


"The Keeper of the prison of Boston. You are hereby required to take into your custody the bodyes of Tobias Saunders and ROBERT BURDETT of Rhode Island and them safely to keepe, untill they find sufficient security, to the value of one hundred pounds apiece, to answer at the next Generall Court, to be holden at Boston in May next, for forcible entry and deteyning of possession of lands belonging to the Colony of Massachusetts within the bounds of Southertowne in the Pequot country, to the endangering of men's lives contrary to the peace of our Sovereign Lord, the King.

"John Endicott, Gov'r.
"Rich'd Bellingham.
"Daniel Gookin."

In a letter from the General Court of Massachusetts to Rhode Island is told the result of the trial in May.

"Dated Boston 10 3rd month, 1662.

"You may hereby take notice, that two of your people namely Tobias Saunders and ROBERT BURDITT, being long since taken on the place, and secured by us to answer their trespasse, we have now called them before the Court and find nothing from them to justify their proceedings. This Court has therefore fined them 40 pounds for your offence... and they stand committed to prison till your fine be satisfied..."

They were committed to the Boston jail and kept there for two years. Each colony sought to arrest citizens of the other. The two were at last released on being exchanged for two Massachusetts officials taken in retaliation by the Rhode Island authorities.

"From this sturdy, conscience-minded ancestor, Robert, sprang all the Burdicks who claim an early Rhode Island ancestry." (R.I. Records, Vol. I, pp. 455, 456, 462.)

When Connecticut was granted a new charter, the disputed area of Southertown (Stonington) was given to her, and Massachusetts retired from the race. Later a compromise was arrived at in England between Connecticut and Rhode Island, whereby the latter was awarded the area of Westerly, where Robert Burdick had built his house, and where he settled on being released by Massachusetts.

(And that's why Rhode Island has that little bulge in it's southern border with Connecticut. - HB)

In 1902...

submitted by Bill Stillman, Jr.

(Bill sent this to me, which I thought was appropriate since we don't often think about how drastic things change over time. - HB)

The year is 1902, only 100 years ago... What difference a century makes:

- The average life expectancy in the US was forty-seven.
- Only 14 Percent of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
- Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.
- There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
- The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
- Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
- The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
- The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
- More than 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.
- Ninety percent of all US physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."
- Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
- Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
- Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
- The five leading causes of death in the US were: Pneumonia and influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart disease, Stroke
- The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
- The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
- Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
- There were no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
- One in ten US adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
- Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. according to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."
- Eighteen percent of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
- There were about 230 reported murders in the US.

Burdick News... Up-To-The-Minute!

Robert Burdick (rob0325@mindspring.com) reports the birth of his daughter, Paris Anne Burdick, on March 4, 2002. Unfortunately, Robert also reports the loss of his grandfather, Ellis Rex Burdick, to a heart attack on February 6, 2002. But Robert found a great treasure when he came across some old cassette recordings of his "PaPa" singing old Tom T. Hall country songs and Gospels. Included on the tape where recordings of Robert's great-grandmother, Bonnie Rue Cook Burdick and great-uncle Jack Burdick telling stories of the old days. Robert is looking for links to these Alabama Burdicks, he lives in Sylacauga. If you can help, please contact him.

Steve Burdick's (sburdick@umich.edu) Dad is somewhat of a celebrity in southern Michigan. Will Burdick (wbfb104@dmci.net) wrote a 300-page book about his Army experiences in World War II. It was done as a labor of love for his friends and family, but word leaked out and Will has been getting coverage in the local papers and on television. While he does not have books to sell, I for one would love to hear more about his experiences. I hear from vets and active military, of whom the extended Burdick family is so very proud. Please drop Will an email to give him your support. You never know, if we ask real nice perhaps he'll write something for the Newsletter...

Joe Burdick (jburdick@ee.net) reports in again! Guess what? He and Melissa are expecting a baby, due in February, their first. Joe wants a boy, Melissa wants a girl, you decide. Point your web browser to this URL for the first ultra sound picture: http://www.burdickfamily.org/baby1.jpg

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Kelly (Howbar@webtv.net) have an interesting Burdick connection (Howard is a Burdick by birth but was adopted by the Kelly family). It turns out that Howard's mother, Ruth Burdick, comes from a branch of the family that settled on South Manitou Island in beautiful Leelanau County, Michigan, where they were associated with the Light House as either keepers or members of the Coast Guard. The island is a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the light house, the family home, and other various Burdick homes are being preserved.

So now we have an Irish connection! Jim Street's (jstreet@eircom.net) step-grandfather was a Burdick and Jim has now made the link back to Robert. In the 70's Jim and family moved from Livermore, California to the beautiful Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway, where his wife is from. Jim and family are currently on a cross-country U.S. trip. I'm ready for a vacation, Ireland sounds pretty good. Mind if I stop by to see you, Jim?

Connie Johnson (conniej@hrfn.net) would like to hear from anyone who knows about Lt. Frank Burdick who served in the New York State volunteers Union Army during the Civil War. So would I.

Thomas Roderick (roderick@acadia.net) would like to know more about Burdickville, RI. What families comprised the settlement, the history, etc. Anyone know the whole story?

Maureen (mola29@webtv.net) is having a very tough time finding information on Catherine Burdick Camp. She was born in Claverack, NY in 1846 to Nathaiel and Polly Burdick. Maureen can't find anything on the parents either, other than the 1850 census which lists their children. Maureen has been able to trace Catherine's brother Wesley for a while in Copake NY. If you know anything about this branch, please contact her.

There's more Burdick writers out there. Kit Linford's (kitlin@sisna.com) mother was a Burdick. Kit has one published novel, four in the hopper, many articles, skits, etc., and two full-length musicals to her credit. Wow! Kit's daughter is writing a novel about her Linford ancestors, and granddaughter Jennifer just won a writing contest in school! Must be a genetic thing.

And finally my brother, John Burdick (jburdick49679@yahoo.com) has started his own consulting business. John is one of a very few people in the country who installs and maintains industrial heat treating furnaces. His work scares the heck out of me, he has lots of hair-raising (and hair-singeing) stories to tell. I'm proud of him. His web site is: http://www.jbservicesllc.com

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