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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
Biography of William A. Burgess

This biography is from "Memorial and biographical record; an illustrated compendium of biography, containing a compendium of local biography, including biographical sketches of prominent old settlers and representative citizens of South Dakota..." Published by G. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1898. Pages 242-243.

WILLIAM A. BURGESS, treasurer of Brookings county, South Dakota, and one of its most popular officials and business men, resides at White. He conducts a general hardware business there, and is also interested in the firm of J. C. Allison & Co., lumber and grain dealers. Mr. Burgess has been remarkably successful in business and public life, and has established an enviable reputation throughout the county for his ability, integrity and enterprise. 

He was born in Nelson township, Buffalo county, Wisconsin, August 3, 1863, and is a son of John and Rachel (Evens) Burgess. John Burgess is a native of Scotland, and came to this country in 1854. He settled upon a farm in Buffalo county, Wisconsin, and in the fall of 1877 was elected county clerk, whereupon he removed to Alma, the county seat. He held this office for seven years and was then appointed state lumber inspector, serving in that capacity for two years. In 1892, he went to Winona, Minnesota, where he has since been engaged in the grocery business. Our subject's mother, who also resides at Winona, was born in Waukegan, Illinois, and is a daughter of Thomas Evens, a Welshman, who came to the United States and located in Illinois at an early day. In 1860 he went to Buffalo county, Wisconsin, settling upon a farm; where he spent his declining days. 

William Burgess received his education in the common schools of Alma, Wisconsin, and Galesville university, at Galesville, Wisconsin, where he spent two winters. In the spring of 1881 he journeyed west, finally locating in Brookings county, Dakota, where he took up the occupation of farming. For three years he tilled the soil most successfully, but, perceiving that his greatest talents lay in another direction, he gave up the plow in 1884 and went to the village of White. This hamlet was a rather discouraging sight at that time, if indeed, it was large enough to be seen, for there were but a few straggling cottages, perhaps a half dozen in all, and a handful of people to make up the population. 

Notwithstanding these little drawbacks, Mr. Burgess went ahead and established a hardware store, just as he had planned to do. Some time after the hardware store came to be an assured success, Mr. Burgess, in partnership with Mr. Allison, launched another venture, a lumber, implement and grain firm, under the name of J. C. Allison & Co. It is quite needless to say that this has been a prosperous enterprise since its inception, and to pronounce it one of the most reliable and prosperous concerns in Brookings county would be no exaggeration. 

Mr. Burgess has been a Republican from his youth, and has always enthusiastically adhered to his party. He has held numerous local and township offices, and in 1896 was elected to the office of treasurer of Brookings county. He still occupies that office, and is giving general satisfaction to those who like to see a political office run in a business-like manner. 

Mr. Burgess is a member of the Masonic fraternity - Washington lodge, No. 11, at White - and the I. O. O. F. and A. O. U. W. In March, 1887, he married Miss Clara M. Fox, who was born in Buffalo county, Wisconsin, and is a daughter of James H. and Margaret Fox, of White, South Dakota. Her great-grandfather came to this country from Ireland, settling first in Indiana and then in Wisconsin. He was a Presbyterian minister, and represented one of the best families in the northern part of Ireland. The genealogy of the family has been traced back for many generations, and, it is said, to the beginning of the Celtic nation. The remote progenitors of the family or clan located there at the time of the Milesian migration. 

Mr. and Mrs. Burgess are the parents of five children: Norman J., John L., Florence, Agnes and Erle.



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