A History of the Burns Family
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PART ONE: Guy's Path to the Dance

CHAPTER FIVE: Ladies' Man

Jefferson County, Pennsylvania
December 3, 1877


PART ONE Overview
1 - Wildcat Brigade
2 - Battle of Wilderness
3 - Field Hospital
4 - Orphan School
5 - Ladies' Man
6 - Mary Dinger
7 -The Masons
8 - Mary Rebecca
9 - Guy the Wanderer
10 - Farmer Boy
11 - Center of the World
12 - Birthday
13 - Fish Story
14 - Miss Fenn
15 - To the Dance

More Information

"Mon 3 - I was sent up to Iowa to work it was pleasant"[1]

Eighteen-year-old Lorenzo Dow Burns is trudging home through the snow after a long day at the sawmill. The light's fading, but he's not concerned. He could walk these Knox byways in his sleep. It's been pleasant all day, no new snow has fallen.
Lorenzo's Diary

No Boot Jack Church tonight. Today he didn't go to Brady's, but south along Sandy Lick Creek to the Iowa mill, where they've been looking for extra help lately, and the six-mile round trip has made his sore leg ache with a vengeance. Damn that Charley Mason! It's been almost a month since they fought, but the pain lingers. It was a stupid quarrel. Protecting his sisters' honor, Charley said.

Lo sets his mouth. The accusation still stings. He's not a bad person, after all. He attends to his soul at the prayer meetings at Pioneer Chapel and Boot Jack. [2] He works hard at his job at the mill, and feels entitled to blow off a little steam at the schoolhouse spelling bees and neighborly cornhuskings and country dances.

It was at one of these dances that the trouble with Charley began. Lorenzo hadbeen out to Masons', holding his own with the young ladies through a gantlet of reels and polkas and schottisches, when out of the blue his old friend picked a fight. He ended up on the ground with a badly twisted knee.

He knows Charley's suspicions are not made of whole cloth, for he's been running pretty wild lately. Often he stays out all night drinking and carousing.  Rarely does he sleep in his own bed.  He's still trying to live down the Halloween caper, when he rolled a saw blade downhill until it got going so fast it sliced off a corner of a neighbor’s house.  And he sometimes visits venues he knows Mother Haugh would condemn, if she knew. Like the saloon, and worse. [3]
Entry from November 4, 1877

His job at A. J. Brady's shingle mill makes everything very easy. After work he cuts between the Masons and the Fords, or he turns north up to Mayville and the Boot Jack Church. If you want to meet girls, he's discovered, you'd better get in the vicinity of a preacher. He keeps a list of the Jefferson County girls he likes best – among them Charley’s sister Mag, and the younger one, Mary. Some are conquests, some are hopes.

He can't help it if he has a way with the girls. [4]  It had become quite obvious at Dayton, but the girls were under lock and key, and their responses limited to sideways glances, blushes, and suppressed giggles. In the two years since he moved back home, he's had a field day.


Map detail from the 1878 Atlas of Jefferson County [5]



Lorenzo's list (partial)
[See maps at sidebar showing locations]

 

He and Charley will eventually mend fences, of course. Their bond goes too far back to let one alcohol-fueled squabble ruin their friendship. He has never so much as touched either one of the Mason sisters, and eventually Charley will believe him.

Pine Creek Township map showing Lo's girlfriends
Warsaw Township map showing Lo's girlfriends

Coming around the bend near the turnoff to Swamp Run, Lo startles a fox, the first wild animal he's seen on the walk home.  He recalls many more such encounters just a few years ago, but now the bear and wolves and wildcats are in retreat, as the railroad brings more settlers, the Brookville seams disgorge more coal, and the sawmills carve up more timber. 

Lo can’t complain, though.  He has steady work, and Mr. Brady has given him the responsibility of inventorying the stock. He likes this job. Every week he records the number of shingles in a careful hand, one of the skills he learned well at Dayton School. And now Mr. Brady has shown his good faith by writing to arrange for Mr. Lithgow to repair Lo's boots, which are sorely in need of new soles. There's even talk of sending him to the timber auction in Pittsburgh next month.[6]

Lo stops to watch the fox lope down Swamp Run Road, thinking about the farm where he'd been born and taken his first steps. It was all so long ago that he has only the dimmest of memories of his dark-haired mother and bearded soldier-father. Or the house that burned down years ago. The property is Daniel's now. [7]

Deed Transfer from Elmer to Daniel Burns 1874
Deed Transfer from Robert to Daniel Burns 1874
Deed Transfer from Liberty Estate to Daniel Burns 1874

CuttersA wave of sadness prompts a search through his pockets. A little Cutter's might be just the ticket. He takes a few swallows, and puts the flask back, just as the fox's white-tipped tail disappears into the dusk. [8]

Just another mile or so, and he'll be back at the shanty. Many of his friends live near, so he's rarely lonely. Which makes him think of Mary Dinger, a neighbor girl he's been wooing. And, truth be told, already won....

 


Author's Note

One big mystery is where Lo lived after graduation from Dayton School in 1875. His diary does not tell us.

But along with his diary, Lorenzo kept a notebook full of autographs and songbooks from the late 1870s or early '80s. In it he lists his home address as Sigel, Pennsylvania, a village in Eldred Township. Census documents show Margaret and Daniel Haugh moved from Rose to Eldred in the 1870s and lived on a farm near Sigel. The Haughs do not appear on the Eldred map in the 1878 Jefferson County atlas (which might mean they'd not yet moved), but the 1880 census shows them being counted (with no Lorenzo in the household) near neighbors who were shown on the 1878 map living a bit north of Sigel. The Haughs' postal address probably would have been Sigel.

An elegant stamped signature of one H. M. Truman also appears in the back of Lo's songbook; Mr. Henry Truman is shown as the owner of two stores and other property on the atlas map of Sigel.


Detail from Lo's Diary

 


Map detail from the 1878 Atlas of Jefferson County

So was Lorenzo living with the Haughs when he wrote the journal entries this story is based on? The problem for this theory is that Brady's Shingle Mill was about 10 miles from Sigel, making for an impractical daily commute. In addition, Lo's girl-maps would suggest that he spent most of his time far from Sigel, and a perusal of 1870 and 1880 U. S. census documents indicates many of the buddies he mentions in his diary lived down near Port Barnett in Pine Creek, also at least 10 miles from Sigel.

In addition, Lo's frequent late nights of carousing seem more consistent with a young man on his own than a boy living with parents.

As a laborer, Lorenzo would have lacked the means to afford more than simple lodgings. Perhaps he rented a room in the house he drew in his diary? Or boarded with a family? One friend is described as staying in a shanty. Lo might have lived in a shanty too.

In any case, as we'll see in the next story, he must have had a private place to entertain a lady friend, so his accommodations couldn't have been too cramped!

He doubtless did stay with the Haughs in Sigel from time to time, however. He remained strongly attached to his adoptive mother, who went to live with him in Cuyahoga Falls for at least ten years prior to her death in 1930 at age 90.


Top flyleaf entry in Lo's journal of 1877-1878

 

Footnotes

[1] The totality of Lo's diary entry from December 3, 1877.
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[2] The Boot Jack Church was so named because of the sharp angle of the roads that intersected next to it. Here is an antique cast iron boot jack.


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[3] The out-of-control sawblade story is one Bob Burns heard as a child.
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[4] I created the maps of Lo's girls in Pine Creek and Warsaw Townships by cross-referencing the list of girls in his diary, census records, and the names of property owners shown on the 1878 Jefferson County atlas township maps.
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[5] From the Jefferson County Genealogy website.
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[6] Details all taken from Lo's journal.

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Court documents show that the younger four children of Liberty Burns signed their interest in Liberty's property to their half-brother Daniel, whose descendants still owned the property as recently as the 1970s.


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Cutter's was a Lorenzo favorite when he and Guy went on fishing trips.

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