Burl Jefferson was born on October 16, 1837, in Missouri. His father, Burwell/Burl, was 40 and his mother, Hannah, was 37. They were born enslaved in Virginia and were moved to Missouri.
Burl too was born enslaved and the spelling of his first name varies greatly from Burl to Burr, to Burrill, etc. Gary Simpkins and Susanne Paradis have been researching Burl Jefferson since 2020 and have chosen to use the name Burl as it is the name on his gravestone.
The earliest record on his enslavement is an estate sale document from RM Craghead to Thomas J Atkinson on Sept 19, 1859. We have extensively researched the Craghead and Atkinson families.
Burl enlisted for USCT 68th regiment and was mustered in Apr 23, 1864. He was mustered out on Feb 5, 1866. Burl used the last name (his slave name) Atkinson during the Civil War and Thomas J Atkinson collected $300 for his service at the end of the war. The 1890 Special Schedule on Surviving Soldiers, … etc. shows both Jefferson and Atkinson as his last names.
The following information was taken from the National Parks Service Civil War website about the 68th Regiment:
“Overview: Organized March 11, 1864, from 4th Missouri Colored Infantry. Attached to District of Memphis, Tenn., 16th Corps, Dept. of the Tennessee, to June 1864. 1st Colored Brigade, Memphis, Tenn., District of West Tennessee, to December 1864. Fort Pickering, Defences of Memphis, Tenn., District of West Tennessee, to February 1865. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, United States Colored Troops, Military Division West Mississippi, to May 1865. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, United States Colored Troops, District of West Florida, to June 1865. Dept. of Texas to February 1866.
Service: At St. Louis, Mo., till April 27, 1864. Ordered to Memphis, Tenn., and duty in the Defences of that city till February 1865. Smith’s Expedition to Tupelo, Miss., July 5-21, 1864. Camargo’s Cross Roads, near Harrisburg, July 13. Tupelo July 14-15. Old Town Creek July 15. At Fort Pickering, Defences of Memphis, Tenn., till February 1865. Ordered to New Orleans, La., thence to Barrancas, Fla. March from Pensacola, Fla., to Blakely, Ala., March 20-April 1. Siege of Fort Blakely April 1-9. Assault and capture of Fort Blakely April 9. Occupation of Mobile April 12. March to Montgomery April 13-25. Duty there and at Mobile till June. Moved to New Orleans, La., thence to Texas. Duty on the Rio Grande and at various points in Texas till February 1866. Mustered out February 5, 1866.”
Burl married Amanda Dalis Stuart in 1867 according to the 1900 census. Amanda lists her father’s name as Lewis Stuart. And he was from Kentucky, where he was likely enslaved and brought to Missouri. A last name that also comes up for her is Muir. We have researched the Muir family in Missouri and records show they came from Kentucky.
Burl and Amanda had ten children between 1863 and 1894, as far as we have been able to determine. We have been researching their children and descendants to find a living relative and have so far been unsuccessful. We have communicated with others researching this family and they are not related directly to this family. This work continues to be a priority for us.
Our list of their children includes: Ann Jefferson (1863-1937) who married John Ferguson, George William Jefferson (about 1864-about 1906), Mary Jefferson (1869-unknown) who married James Meador, Burl William Jefferson (1871-1919) who married Florence Reese, Katherine Jefferson (1872-1969) who married James Smith, James Jefferson (1875-unknown) who married Martha Smith, Elizabeth Jefferson (1879-1964) who married Charles Brown, David Jefferson (1882-1941), Garfield Jefferson (1883-1978), and Alma Jefferson (1894-before 1907).
We did not find Burl and Amanda in the 1870 census. We did find Burl Sr., his mother Nancy, and his wife Hannah in Callaway County.
After the Civil War, we next found Burl and Amanda with their children in the 1880 census in Callaway County and information about the land they lived on in the 1880 Agriculture census for South Fulton, Callaway County. We found a record of land sale from Harvey Newsom to Burl Jefferson in 1882. That land remained in the family until after Amanda died in 1928.
Burl died on Saturday, January 25, 1908, at the age of 70. His gravestone was located at Black Walnut Cemetery in 1986 by Echele and Pfaff. It was not found by Mary Johnson McIlhiney when she surveyed the cemetery in the late 1920s/early 1930s and Burl is not included in her publication Gone But Not Forgotten. Burl’s gravestone was found without a base or footstone. The composition of the headstone is like those found in Callaway County (granite with 2 prongs to fit in base – see Doris Handy’s book Black Communities of South Callaway County page 67) rather than those found at the Black Walnut cemetery – limestone which fits into a base. We did not find a death certificate for Burl in either Callaway County or St Charles County as his death was before 1910.
Burl died on Saturday Jan 25, 1908 and his will was probated in Callaway County on Tuesday Jan 28, 1908. His estate was inventoried on Thursday Jan 30, 1908. We have no reason to think Burl was ever in St Charles County. He was a farmer and owned land in Callaway County. The timing from his death to probate to estate inventory supports that his body was in Callaway County, as there would not have been time for St Charles County to send proof of death documents to Callaway County. Why would his family come all the way to St Charles County to put a gravestone and bury him there, rather than take him home for burial? They wouldn’t and we don’t think he was ever there at all.
It is our opinion that Burl may have been buried on his farm or at a local cemetery, most likely the New Haven AME Church Cemetery. This is the cemetery where Burl’s wife Amanda is documented as being buried in 1928 and the cemetery that was destroyed sometime after 1930. This corresponds to the fact that his gravestone was not found in the late 1920s/early 1930s by Mary Johnson McIlhiney and was located in 1986 by Echele and Pfaff. At some point in the intervening years, we suspect Burl’s gravestone was dumped at the Black Walnut Cemetery where it was eventually found leaning against a tree. We are continuing our search of the land records to help determine when the New Haven AME Church and Cemetery were destroyed and searching for someone in the community who knows the history of the New Haven AME Church and Cemetery.
This man was a Civil War veteran. He deserves to be honored where he lived and, we believe, died in Callaway County. In October 2022, Susanne visited Callaway County and with the help of the Historical Society visited the location of the New Haven AME Church and Cemetery near Burl’s farm where Burl’s wife Amanda was buried, which has been destroyed. We have found cemeteries listed in Death Certificates for some of his children but have not found gravestones for them. We have worked extensively with the Callaway County Historical Society but have not been able to locate Burl and his family in the 1870 census or the time frame for the destruction of the New Have AME Church and Cemetery.
We have not yet found a living relative to decide what to do with his gravestone. In October 2022, Susanne also visited the area near Auxvasse, MO where Burl’s daughter Katherine and her husband James Smith owned land and a nearby cemetery where they are documented as being buried, but where no gravestones for them have been located. Susanne also met with a representative from the Fulton, MO NAACP who has agreed to publicize our research and outstanding questions about an appropriate location for Burl Jefferson’s gravestone to their membership and the greater Fulton community.
We hope that with some publicity about Burl Jefferson, we will find family or an organization who will assist in determining a final resting place for Burl’s gravestone.
In the meantime we are doing our best to honor Burl Jefferson where his grave stone is located at Black Walnut Cemetery.
Grave stone photo by Jerry Prouhet 2020
Burl Jefferson Will Journal Book of J on page 515 of the Callaway County Court
1900 Census Caldwell, Callaway County, MO
1880 Census Callaway County, MO
Amanda Dalis Jefferson – Burl Jefferson’s wife – Death Certificate
68th Regiment USCT documentation
1890 Census Special Schedule
Property deed 1886