Tag Archives: R. Gregory Nokes

The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett

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”

FREE DOWNLOAD

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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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Wednesday May 27th, 2020

Stray Leaves

It's taken me 5 years to do it. Last night at 2 am, I finally screened the movie Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston. The movie is about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was a personal friend of Daniel Lewis James Jr. of our family. Like Trumbo, Dan James also was unjustly blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood movie industry. Both Trumbo & James appear in JJSL Vol I in my chapter "All for the Underdog."
The film's storyline was known to me, in fact, intimately known, based on my research about Dan James for my book. But it sure was fun seeing the story on a movie screen. For years, I've thought Dan James' story would make a great movie. I still think it can, despite the appearance of the Trumbo movie.
If you read their story in JJSL or don't want to wait for a movie about Daniel Lewis James, see Trumbo now. Just imagine the title of the movie is James instead.
... See MoreSee Less

Its taken me 5 years to do it. Last night at 2 am, I finally screened the movie Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston. The movie is about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was a personal friend of Daniel Lewis James Jr. of our family. Like Trumbo, Dan James also was unjustly blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood movie industry. Both Trumbo & James appear in JJSL Vol I in my chapter All for the Underdog.
The films storyline was known to me, in fact, intimately known, based on my research about Dan James for my book. But it sure was fun seeing the story on a movie screen. For years, Ive thought Dan James story would make a great movie. I still think it can, despite the appearance of the Trumbo movie.
If you read their story in JJSL or dont want to wait for a movie about Daniel Lewis James, see Trumbo now. Just imagine the title of the movie is James instead.

Monday May 18th, 2020

Stray Leaves

WHAT'S YOUR PHOTOSHOP I.Q.? Today's photo submission queried to be Jesse James betrays multiple instances of original image tampering & subsequent photoshopping. The left image is an ambrotype. The right image shows evidence of photoshopping to comply with known and recognized physical characteristics of JJ. Comparing the two, can you spot the instances of photoshopping in the image on the right? ... See MoreSee Less

WHATS YOUR PHOTOSHOP I.Q.? Todays photo submission queried to be Jesse James betrays multiple instances of original image tampering & subsequent photoshopping. The left image is an ambrotype. The right image shows evidence of photoshopping to comply with known and recognized physical characteristics of JJ. Comparing the two, can you spot the instances of photoshopping in the image on the right?

Comment on Facebook WHAT'S YOUR ...

The fake photo....Looks like the entire head was pasted too far to the right.Jesse,my 3rd.cousin,woulda shot the faker to death for that,lol.

The picture on the right; eyes are wider. Eyebrows don't match. Nose holes are different. There is a wrinkle in the white shirt and more white shirt showing for a start.

No amount of photo shopping would make that look like Jesse James.

I can't.

Friday May 15th, 2020

Stray Leaves

Can you detect the common lip formation that Robert Woodson "Woot" Hite shares with his Madison cousins in President James Madison's family? ... See MoreSee Less

Can you detect the common lip formation that Robert Woodson Woot Hite shares with his Madison cousins in President James Madisons family?Image attachment

Comment on Facebook 699902420163063_1675925099227452

Despite any foofaraw, I am going to go way out on al limn here and say the mouth and eyes. You have mentioned similar eyes in other posts.

Thursday May 14th, 2020

Stray Leaves

DID YOU KNOW Titanic star Gloria Stuart is a James family relation? As the third great-granddaughter of Richard James Cole & Anne Hubbard and of Humpreys Sparks & Mildred "Milly" Nalle, Gloria is a third cousin to Frank & Jesse James. Find her in Stray Leaves' genealogy database under her birth name of Gloria Frances Stewart. ... See MoreSee Less

DID YOU KNOW Titanic star Gloria Stuart is a James family relation? As the third great-granddaughter of Richard James Cole & Anne Hubbard and of Humpreys Sparks & Mildred Milly Nalle, Gloria is a third cousin to Frank & Jesse James. Find her in Stray Leaves genealogy database under her birth name of Gloria Frances Stewart.Image attachment

Comment on Facebook 699902420163063_1675129189307043

Beautiful lady. (I am the fifth great-granddaughter of Richard James Cole, Sr and Ann Hubbard. Also the fourth great-granddaughter of Anthony Lindsay III and Alice Cole. The Coles and Lindsays were certainly friendly! )

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