Pension Application for John Burk (Burke)
Donated by Nancy Machuga
State of Massachusetts
County of Hampshire
I, John Burk now resident of Northampton in the County of Hampshire in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts being 72 years of age testify and say that I enlisted in the month of March 1777 at Brookfield in said commonwealth as a private soldier in the company commanded by Capt. Reuben Slayton in the Regiment commanded by Col. William Shephard and marched to Peekskill in the State of New York and I was placed in the Brigade Commanded by Gen. Glover. I think it was called the 4th Battalion of the Massachusetts line. In the first three years service and I continued in the service until the battle of Bemis Heights where I was taken prisoner and was carried to Quebec by the British and was kept there and suffered everything but death, to Providence in Rhode Island where Col. Shepards Regiment was then stationed and I marched in the same company above mentioned to the State of New York and continued to service in the same company and Reg. Until the three years expired and was regularly discharged at Fishkill in the State of New York. My discharge I have lost. I have never been placed on any pension list. I am in reduced circumstances and stand in absolute need of assistance from my country for support. August 20, 1818. (Signed with his signature) John Burk.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Hampshire Co., Aug. 20, 1818. John Burk came before me the subscriber, Judge of the Court of Probate of Wills, and within and for said county and made solemn oath that the above declaration and deposition by him subscribed, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and I certify from my own knowledge that he the said John Burk is a very poor man and is in absolute need of assistance from his country for support, and he states to me that when he rejoined the company and Reg. After his captivity the officers supposed he was killed in the action of Bemis Heights, and he says he was reported being dead and thinks it may so appear on the rolls. The Testimony where of I have here unto, set my hand and affix to the seal of this court the day and year foresaid.
Samuel Hinckley Judge of the Court of Probate of Wills and within and foresaid county.
Comments from Nancy: The Mohawk valley and its history have always fascinated me from childhood. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I learned many of my ancestors were German settlers (Wagner, Failing, Roof, and Laux) from this valley. Just 4 years ago I learned I was descended from a Charles and Lucinda Davis Andrus. Charles was the son of Samuel of the pension application and Lucinda was a full-blood Mohawk from the Ballston (Ballstown) area.
It was because of "18 hundred and froze to death" that my Burk family left Vermont to settle in NY. John Burk had quite a history unto himself. He was impressed by the British Navy in his native Ireland where he served "for awhile" before he jumped ship and ended up in America. He married Rachel Haire of Worchester County, MA and then enlisted to fight against the British. At the Battle of Bemis Heights near Freeman's Farm, he was captured by the British and taken to Quebec where he "suffered everything but death" before escaping with 14 others. These soldiers then made their way back to their regiment. After the death of his first wife John returned to Ireland and brought back to America Irish potatoes that were known as the "Burk Potato" in Braintree, Orange County, VT. A potato distillery was built and, after several years, dear old John Burk was in danger of becoming a town charge due to his hard drinking. He married a woman much younger than himself and fathered children while in his early 60s.