Biography of Hon. B. F. Burch

HON. B.F. BURCH. – B.F. Burch was born on the second day of May, 1825, in Chariton county, Missouri, where he lived during the first twenty years of his life, and received what was then considered a good, common-school education. It was complete enough to secure him the position of teacher for the families of Honorable Jesse Applegate and neighbors the first winter after his arrival here, – 1845-46. He also taught the first school in what is now known Polk county.

In 1846, in company with Jesse Applegate, Lindsey Applegate, David Goff, William J.G. Parker, William Spotsman, John Jones, John Owens, William Wilson, Robert Smith, “Black” Harris, John Bogus, F.H. Goodhue, Levi Scott, John M. Scott and Bennett Osborne, he viewed out and located what is known as the Southern Oregon wagon road, and conducted a large number of immigrants over the new route to Oregon City, cutting the road and piloting the newcomers through the famous Umpqua cañon. In 1847 he started to return to Missouri, but met his father and family on Bear river and came back with them over the new road.

When the Oregon Volunteers were organized under Colonels Gilliam and Watters, he was adjutant of the first regiment, and served through the Cayuse war of 1847-48, participating in all the battles, and was with Colonel Gilliam when the latter was killed, taking charge of his body and sending it to his family. After the colonel’s death, Mr. Burch took charge of the command until it returned to the main body at Walla Walla.

He was in the Yakima war of 1855-56, and took command of a company. At the close of that war he returned to his farm in Polk county, and was elected a member of the constitutional convention that framed the constitution, and in the committees of that body was a member of the military committee and chairman of the finance committee. He was afterwards elected a member of the first legislature under the new constitution, and took an active part in framing some of the most important laws of the first session. He was elected state senator in 1868; and that body honored him with the position of president of the senate, a place which he filled with becoming dignity and to the satisfaction of all.

The legislature of 1870 appointed him one of the committee to examine the books and papers of the various state officers; and he was made chairman of the committee. He was appointed superintendent of the penitentiary by Governor S.F. Chadwick, and served during that official’s administration. The committee that was appointed by the legislature to examine his accounts and the management of the prison was so well pleased that it unanimously recommended his continuance in the office; and both branches unanimously adopted the report and recommendation. In 1887 President Cleveland appointed him receiver of the United States land office at Oregon City, in which capacity he is now serving.

Mr. Burch was married in September, 1848, to Mrs. Eliza A. Davidson, who was born in Kentucky, but with her parents settled in Illinois, emigrating from there to Oregon in 1847. Seven children have been born to them, only one of which, B.F., Jr. now survives. Mr. Burch’s occupation is that of a farmer; and his residence is in Polk county, near Independence, where he has made his home during the whole of his married life.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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