The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

At the Jesse James family reunion in 2002, living descendants in the family of Peter Burnett appeared. They were seeking knowledge of the Burnett family’s connections to the Jesse James family. Stories of a connection had come down in their family lore.

To date, no specific connection with the James family, or with Drury Woodson James, Jesse’ s uncle and founder of Paso Robles, California, has been found. Given D.W. James social and political connections, it remains highly likely some connection existed. Is also is highly certain that Peter Burnett would have known Rep. Coleman Purcell Younger of Santa Cruz, California, the husband of Burnett’s niece, Rebecca J. Smith, among other Burnett-Younger kinships.

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“Ancestry & Kinship of Peter Hardeman Burnett”

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BOOK REVIEW: Nokes, R. Gregory, The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California

(Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2018) pp.ix-270, several photos and maps, appendix A-D, notes, bibliography, index, ISBN 978-0-87071-923-5, paperback, $19,95.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

Peter Burnett may not be a name that is familiar to many people these days. It seems a pity that he has been largely forgotten. He was a man of some rather significant achievements in the states of Missouri, Oregon and California. I have been interested in him for some time and was pleased to see that someone had finally written a book about him. However, I found that the author chose to judge Burnett by today’s standards of political correctness and ignore or belittle his many real accomplishments.

R. Gregory Nokes
R. Gregory Nokes, author of The Troubles Life of Peter Burnett

R. Gregory Nokes is a journalist and is a competent writer but the book will appeal more to a general audience than to historians or scholars. He did do a fair amount of research and has discovered a number of Burnett’s letters that have never been made public before.  He has also thoroughly researched Burnett’s other writings, and there is a considerable amount of this material.  There is no evidence, however, that he consulted any contemporary newspapers reports of the actions and events in Burnett’s life.  Nor did he dig very deeply into family connections and the accomplishments of many other members of this talented Burnett family and their near kinfolks.

The author makes much ado about Burnett’s contributions to the deplorable “Lash Law” in Oregon that Burnett helped put on the books. But little is said about the almost immediate revision of the law and the fact that the law was never once enforced. Many, in fact, most other states and territories had similar or worse laws on the books concerning African Americans and other minorities. Nokes is highly critical of Burnett in many ways and this detracts from the contributions Peter Burnett did make.

Peter Burnett was almost completely a self-educated man. He was born into a poor family in Tennessee but the family soon moved to Missouri to better themselves. Burnett was able to become an attorney and established a good law practice and engaged in several business enterprises. He was one of the men responsible for getting the U. S. Congress to approve the Platte Purchase that added a considerable amount of territory to the northwestern section of Missouri. Some of Burnett’s business enterprises were not successful and he soon turned his eyes to the Oregon Territory. He “boomed” Oregon and organized the first major wagon train to travel to Oregon in 1843. He was active in the organization of the Oregon Territorial Government and was Oregon’s first Supreme Court judge.

When word came of the discovery of gold in California, Burnett once more decided he could improve his fortunes by going to California. He took the first wagon train from Oregon to California and achieved a fair amount of success in mining for gold in California. He then moved to Sacrament and went back into the legal business. He took over some of the real estate sales for John Sutter and was well on the way to repairing Sutter’s finances until Sutter, Sr. fired him in a huff. Burnett did bolster his own finances as well from his sales of Sacramento real estate.

Burnett then turned his hand to helping get a state government organized in California and was overwhelmingly elected as the first Governor of California. He later resigned from this office to pursue his business interests. He later went into the banking business in San Francisco and was president of one of the most successful banks in California. Peter Burnett died a wealthy and highly esteemed man.

Burnett was completely honest, a rare quality in the hectic days of Gold Rush California, a deeply religious man, and a devoted husband and father. All of his children that survived were successful and talented people. His sons-in-law were attorneys and served in state government as did some of his grandchildren.

An item of interest to Wild West buffs was completely missed by the author. Burnett had close connections to the Younger and Dalton families. His brother, George William Burnett, was married to Sydney Ann Younger, an aunt of the Younger boys of James-Younger gang fame. Sydney Ann’s half-sister, Adeline, was the mother of the Dalton brothers of Dalton gang fame.  George William Burnett served in the Oregon legislature for some time and his son George Henry Burnett served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1911 to 1927, twice serving as the Chief Justice of the court. Peter Burnett also maintained close social relations with Coleman Younger, the uncle of the outlaw Younger brothers, in Santa Clara County. California for a number of years.

This book is certainly worth reading and it inspired me to dig even deeper and to see what else I could learn about this fascinating man. Peter Burnett is worthy of more study so we can fully appreciate his contributions to our history.

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Tuesday July 27th, 2021
Stray Leaves

WHY DID STRAY LEAVES REMOVE THIS COMMENT FROM STRAY LEAVES' YOUTUBE CHANNEL?

"how comes then,that a slave from the james family,back to jesse james,funeral.who was devoted to jesse.was also by the side of j.frank dalton,who claimed to be jesse james?And also senator clark,really the founder of LA! and jesse and frank,photo evidence of high degree freemasons.Jesse was not killed by bob ford.after the alleged killing of jesse,years later,frank was known to have visited bob ford, who had a saloon near a gold rush route. The jesse body that was photographed,and later buried,that was not jesse.It was charlie bigelow,who had infiltrated the james gang,and was a pinkerton informer,because two older bigelows,sit in graves side by side,and both graves show exact same death date. no-body really knows, but the ages on the grave stones of the 2 bigelows could have been charlies uncle and his father. And maybe killed by the james gang. the DNA evidence in the 80s was doubtful.others were buried buried in the same area,they did not find jesse james body,or grave. all they found was a tooth! I suspect jesse james junior,is the son of charlie bigelow. I dont know who this man is but jesse held a position of power in the US,years after he is dead.And had a hand in the assasination of lincoln, and maybe later US presidents,jesse was not a banker, but paid cash for big railroads,and copper mines,as william c.clark.US senator,and was one of the richest and most powerful men, in the US.J frank dalton told a few months before he died, everything, Dont believe? J for jesse, frank for his brother. Dalton for his mothers maiden name. but jesse james mother was not named Dalton. it was j.frank daltons cryptic clue.his mothers maiden name was cole,but she was adopted by another family,dalton. and its really the same as when jesse was so they say killed.jesse laid his gun down on the table,and bob ford shot him in the head from behind,All his friends knew jesse was not dead.Because jesse always put his guns on when he woke up,all who knew him would know jesse is not dead. so it was someone with the name hines,who went to pay his taxes,and was investigated,and found to actualy be jesse evans, a member of the james gang. who finally told jesse and billy the kid were still alive. jesse i think 12 years older than billy. you can see a picture on line of j frank dalton( as an old man) with brushy bill roberts,who admitted to be billy the kid,had his own story as one of the rough riders,and he is listed in theodore roosevelts rough riders. there is a photo a year or two before dalton died,and you can see his friend billy, and his child hood friend a black slave from his family there too.older than jesse.could it just be a co-incidence,that jesse james mother was attacked and had her arm or hand blown off,in attempts to find jesse,and later in the 1940s,investigations were made into the william c.clarke family,and one of the family screamed because old grandmother clarke,by then dead.Also had the same arm missing? jesse faked his own death twice,as jesse and as william c.clarke. his daughter when he was william c.clarke,became a recluse.she had married a man,but when her father died(jesse), it his rumoured after his death as william c.clarke,he came back after some time and told his daughter the truth,he was jesse james. clarke a rich man who lived in high society,was jesse james.she could not accept it,divorced her husband,and became a recluse. the assasination of lincoln by john wilkes booth was a conspiracy of those who still were true to the south. jesse and frank involved. Lincoln was was shot,but seriously injured,too weak to move him so far,so he was taken to the closest boarding house. And to an empty but rented room. to die. the room was though already rented. the name on the room, was william clark. wilkes booth killed after escaping but not. a soldier was set up to be killed in his place. john wilkes booth was also a freemason. wilkes booth died in 1901,as he had become a drunk and a liability,who could expose the truth,As to who controlled america at that time. jesse arranged a meeting and shot john wilkes booth.to protect the brotherhood. "
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That's impossible to read for a whole bunch of reasons.

Grammar

Saturday July 24th, 2021
Stray Leaves

MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves' "Genealogy Search" database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins don't even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But here's an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins! ... See MoreSee Less

MOST PEOPLE DONT KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves Genealogy Search database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins dont even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But heres an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins!
Sunday July 18th, 2021
Stray Leaves

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Cole's host was not named Warden.Every day is a great day to come to the Warden’s House, but today we have balloons! 🎈⭐️ Tours every Thursday-Sunday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Come see us! ... See MoreSee Less

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Coles host was not named Warden.
Thursday July 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAIL OF TEARS AS CHICKASAW & CHOCTAW HISTORY . . .NOT AS U.S. HISTORY. First, we stray leaves must grasp the fact that the ancestral Anglo blood that flows in our veins from the time of our arrival in America in the early 1600s through the American Revolution is the same blood that directed the course of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations among the descendants of Benjamin James Sr. the lawyer and Indian trader and his children Benjamin James Jr. "of the Choctaw Nation" and his sister Susannah James who married James Holmes Colbert, a Chief of the Chickasaw Nation. This, too, is our story.

In this, our story, we see our enthusiastic defense for a growing nation in the War of 1812 betrayed and deceived by expulsion to the Trail of Tears. We see the separation of our Choctaw and Chickasaw families in the West and the surrounding turmoil that engulfed them. We learn how our distrust of the U.S. Government folded us into the Confederacy. Lastly, we perceive ourselves as men of fortitude and women of power. We possess an enduring ancestral skill to put intelligence in the service of leadership, education, and conflict resolution. Our story is a legacy for peace and progress.

Chickasaw.tv | Winter Fire | Episode 2: Arrival In Indian Territory
Amidst Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory, the crucial Fort Washita was constructed and leaders such as Cyrus Harris emerged.
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