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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (B)
Burns, Mary Sewell


My name is Mary Burns.  I was a little girl, growing up in Pittsburgh. I had 4 brothers, my dad had 5 sisters, my grandfather had 8 sisters and a brother nobody ever mentioned.

My grandfather's name was Joseph Anthony Burns.  He had quit school at 12 years old.  His father, John Charles Burns, my Great grandfather was the youngest conductor on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad  Less than an hour after my grandfather had walked him down to the station in Alison Park, Pa., the train lurched to a start at the Struther's Ohio station.  It was Thanksgivingnight, November, 27th, 1901.

My greatgrandmother's youngest child was only 6 weeks old. My grandfather took on the primary care and feeding of the family.  My greatgrandmother, Mary Emma Miller Burns, had an Uncle.  His name was Thomas Noble Miller.  He was Andrew Carnegie's first business partner and the person that Carnegie credits with much of his success in Andrew's handwritten autobiography.

Uncle Thomas helped my great grandmother with the mortgage, saw to it that my grandfather found work appropriate for a 12 year old, and was a generous benefactor to her. My grandfather eventually honored his commitment to stay at home until all of the girls were on their own.  He put his own marriage off for 3 years.  It is told that when he met his prospective father-in-law, he laid his hand in
the older man's large farmer's hand to shake it.  He was so warmly welcomed, and so grateful to have a fatherly presence, that he began to cry. When he married at the age of 23, he took his 12 year old sister into his new household with him.  He and my grandmother went on to have 5 daughters and one son (my father) of their own.  When my grandmother's sister died, he and my grandmother helped raise her 5 children as well. 

Little Mary When my 4 brothers and I were out of school for the summers, he had jobs for us all at the pool that he had built in the 20's.  It was that pool that had carried his family of 8 through the depression after his business failed.  He lived until I was 18.  I wish I had appreciated what an amazing person he was while he was till alive. I am happy to share him with you.  We are part of the group of rebellous artists who left Scotland for Ulster and Ulster for Pittsburgh.  As I have searched and researched, it seems to me that our true home is Scotland. 

My dad and my brothers have music, I have art, another is a story teller, 2 of us are inventors, most of
us are poets.  We are Burns' after all.  This is me in  1957 painted from a black and white photo.  I actually remember the color of the dress!  As for Thomas Noble Miller, the biographies of Andrew Carnegie no longer include him, only his autobiography speaks of him. I am on a search for answers on the mysterious missing history of Uncle Thomas.  Wondering where in Scotland we Burns', Kerrs, Browns, and Clarks may have sprung from, for there is surely the seed of our genius and our sorrow.

Mary Burns


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