Archie James Burnside (1870-1972)

The text on this page is taken from an article which appeared in the Dade City Banner on March 23, 1972.

Editor’s note: The following article is a special tribute to one of Pasco County’s oldest living residents, Archie Burnside, who is now 101 years old. The author, Sallie Edwards, herself a longtime resident of Pasco County, is a personal friend of Archie’s and felt it appropriate to honor those Pasco Countians who have reached that magic year 100. Mrs. Edwards is currently working on an article about Ike Hudson, the oldest Pasco County resident. He is 30 days older than Archie. Known as Centenarians, these men represent living history, a history that goes beyond Pasco County itself. And here’s to you Archie Burnside, a salute!


Archie BurnsideMr. Archie Burnside sometimes asks his daughter Myrtle (Mrs. Jerry Hunt), "What am I living for? I think the Lord has forgotten to call me." She laughs and says, "Daddy, I've been thinking for years of attempting to write a history of your life, and I still have many questions to ask you so you can't go yet." At 101 years of age he is still as healthy, mentally and physically, as a lot of much younger people. As the kids say today, "Man, it’s not the years, It’s the attitude." After our recent visit, Mr. Burnside said, of me "If that girl’s writing about me, I hope she won't get carried away."

Archie James Burnside, familiarly known as "Archie" (though a family Bible records him as "Archa"), is of Scotch ancestry, his paternal forebears migrating to America in 1746. He was born Dec. 16, 1870 to James Edghill Burnside (deceased in 1936 and buried in Townsend House Cemetery), and Mary An Elizabeth Burnside (deceased in 1880). His paternal grandparents were Andrew Edghill Burnside born 1820 in Virginia, who was buried in 1876 in nearby Mt. Zion Cemetery, and Emily Anderson Burnside buried at Micanopy, Fla. (daughter of Richard Anderson, a founder of Andersonville, S.C.).

Family Moved Here in 1856

Grandfather Andrew had been an instructor at Cokesbury Male Institute and also a tailor in Aiken, South Carolina before moving his family to Florida in 1856. Archie’s father, James Edghill, 11 years old at the time, was the oldest child with four sisters. Their first residence was near Jacksonville, then called Cow Town, and the next was near Ocala where in due time both the father and son "Jim" were to enlist in the Alachua Rebels. The father became a lieutenant, and at war’s close James Edghill Burnside was a security guard at the military hospital in Richmond, Va.

State Park Named for General Burnside

Archie’s grandfather was a cousin of Union General Ambrose Everts Burnside, a West Point graduate, later becoming governor of Rhode Island, then a United States senator. The general is remembered, aside from Civil War activities, in the area of famous firearms for his invention and patent of a carbine on March 25, 1856, when 200 were purchased by the government, then two years later 709 were purchased by the United States Army, and during the Civil War the total number bought for Federal Cavalry came to 55,567, when the first model had grown to four.

In 1963 General Burnside Island State Park in Kentucky, to become a great tourist attraction, was opened commemorating Gen. Burnside who during the Civil War established headquarters at a nearby site to later be named Burnside. The island, connected to the mainland by a causeway, was created in 1950 by the impounding of Lake Cumberland behind mammoth Wolf Creek Dam. The pioneer town, the home of Burnside Charcoal Briquets (one of the few of its kind in the nation), relocated on a high mountain slope to clear the way for the lake, as was Highway 27 and the Southern Railroad, and was once a shipping and lumber center. The town also claims the organization in 1908 of the first American Boy Scout troop by Myrna Green Bass, artist and naturalist, and her husband Billy Bass, baseball pitcher and football coach.

Family Settles Near Blanton

Upon the close of the Civil War Archie’s grandparents (when Jim was about 20 years old) established their third Florida home one and one-half miles north of the present Blanton Methodist Church, N.W. of Dade City. Masonic records show his Grandfather Andrew to be a charter member of Ft. Dade Lodge, F. and A. M., chartered in 1873 whose meeting place was on the upper floor of a Methodist Church adjoining Mt. Zion Cemetery, and that he organized other lodges in the state. This scattered settlement of Ft. Dade included Dade City, originally known as Hatton. This church is gone but the cemetery is still in use.

His Parents Wed

It was in January 1870 that James Edghill Burnside married Mrs. Mary An Elizabeth (Keathley) Bowden who had come, a few years prior, from North Carolina as a bride. Born December 16, 1870, Archie James Burnside was the eldest of six children born of this union. (Their mother had lost her first husband in an accidental death, and was left with four young children.) One of her sons by the first marriage, Basil Orville ("Villie") Bowden became owner and editor of the Dade City Star which he established in 1904, consolidating with the Dade City Banner October 9, 1913, two years after the latter’s establishment.

His Birth and Early Education

Archie’s birth and home, until marriage, was in that part of Hernando County from which Pasco County was later formed in June 1887. (He recalls as clearly as though it were yesterday that he was playing ball with friends in his neighborhood when a rider on horseback came from Brooksville bearing the news that they now lived in a newly formed County called Pasco. Its first name considered was "Banner.")

Archie was born in a log cabin twelve miles N.W. of Dade City at the junction of State Road 577 and Bayhead Roads just off State 41, on the site of the T. F. Dieffenwierth home, a portion of which is Archie’s original two-story older-boyhood home.

This was a very primitive area in those days and children were taught to watch and protect themselves from panthers, wildcats, bears, snakes and alligators. The Burnside children walked with their nearest neighbors, the Thomas A. Hancock children, to attend the three month term of a school which was conducted in the hand-hewn log-structure Townsend House Church located a little north of their homes. (Archie and Joseph Hancock began a close life-long friendship, which was only terminated by Joe’s death in 1962). The first log structure had been built for his home in 1850 by Joe’s great-grandfather Captain John T. ("Jack") Townsend upon settling there from S.C., which in 1865 the Townsends gave it for a general community meeting place, building another home across Hancock Lake about a mile west of Archie’s birthplace.

Last School Attended

Archie’s last school was the Chipco school, which was across the road from the present home of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Nathe, south of Jessamine Gardens on Jessamine Road and a few hundred yards from the present home of his daughter Myrtle (Mrs. Jerry) Hunt whose birthplace was adjoining. (He lived with the Hunts for nine years after the death of his wife.) To get to this school they went by boat from Bowden’s Landing on Lake Moody, eliminating a walk almost to Lake Iola, which was then called Stake Pond, deriving its name from a stake placed there by government surveyors. Chipco merged into Blanton, St. Joseph and Fort Dade and was named for Chief Chipco of a Cow Creek Indian Tribe who took refuge here before the 1850s.

Mr. Hancock told me how much fun they had when they could get away from their chores. (They worked real hard in those days.) They had their dogs and went hunting and fishing and just roaming the woods. He said they knew the land in that area like the palms of their hands, every fence, path, post, old landmarks, etc.

One of the highlights of Archie’s boyhood memories was being permitted to go to Tampa or Leesburg on the semi-annual trip for supplies. Everything in the food line was raised on the farm but coffee and flour. The trip to Tampa taken in an ox drawn wagon through the wooded trails was a matter of three days and they had to pitch camp at least one night each way at what is now called Roble’s Pond. Tampa was a village then with dirt streets.

His First Train Ride

Archie told me of his first train ride in 1887 when he was 16 1/2 years old. There was an excursion on the Orange Belt Railway just completed, with a flag stop at Chipco Crossing where he boarded the train. It was 1 3/4 miles north of St. Joseph crossing of this recently discontinued railroad. After the Chipco depot was discontinued so was the nearby crossing of historic Handcart Road, a sand road from Tampa to Brooksville. At the end of this rail line from Sanford to St. Petersburg there was a turn table to enable the trains to turn around. To earn his fare he planted sweet potato vines for one day at $1.00. (The depot was on the present Hunt property.) He remembers a pair of scales where they all weighed, but said he could remember only the 97 pound weight of Maude Gregg (O'Berry) for whom her son Gregg O'Berry is named. He remembers that when the train arrived in St. Petersburg there was a store next to the depot and the store owner gave him a dime to run an errand enabling him to return home with money in his pocket. It was a big, big day!

Lives a While at Stage Coach Stop

After his mother’s death when Archie was nine years old, for a year he lived with his "Auntie", his mother’s sister Mrs. William L. McMinn, formerly Mrs. William Whitfield.

She had been Miss Adelaide Keathley and had come with her husband from North Carolina to Florida in 1856 bringing their slaves and establishing a plantation on 825 acres at nearby Ft. Taylor, a regular stage coach stop, 5 miles west of the boy’s birthplace. The line was Palatka to Tampa and served by the Concord Coaches. (This property is now the site of the E-How-Kee Boy’s Camp owned and privately maintained by Jack Eckerd of Eckerd Drug Stores who has visited him. At Mr. Whitfield’s death, the widow married Mr. McMinn, the family for which Dade City named a street.

A Boy’s First Jobs

One of Archie’s first jobs away from home in older boyhood was cutting cross ties for the new railroad, and at night he and his brother the late Walter J. Burnside of Tampa slept on a bench in the Emmaus Church. His second job was the general store of Uncle C.C. Keathley in Brooksville at a salary of $20 a month, with his board amounting to $11. (He slept upstairs over the store.) Mr. Burnside told me he took a large trunk to Brooksville which was practically empty but at that fabulous salary, he was sure that he would fill it with clothes in no time. Following 14 months on this job he went to work in his father’s mercantile business in San Antonio by the depot, which was then a little farther west

Married in Townsend House

During this time he was married to the former Albena Ella Eiland daughter of Neri Daniel Eiland and Emily Ellen Jones Eiland on May 15, 1892, at the historic Townsend House Church in the present frame structure constructed in 1884. They set up housekeeping in San Antonio in a small house which has been destroyed by fire within the past five years.

Leaving the employee of his father, Archie bought a young grove at Ft. Dade, losing it in the 1895 freeze which prompted him to buy 200 acres of uncleared land just north of Darby settlement where they lived in a one-room cabin with their young child while they built a home. The third year a disastrous drought forced him to give up this farming venture. Always trying to improve his economic status, Archie was employed then in the florist business at Jessamine Gardens owned by W. J. Ellsworth and W. N. Pike from New York. A post office was soon and efficiently established in Mr. Ellsworth’s home to take care of their heavy mail order business. Archie’s starting daily wage of $1.00 per day (10 hour day) increased to $1.10 per day within 1 1/2 years, when he was made foreman and his wage was boosted to $1.65 per day ($40 per month).

Operated General Store At Dixie

After three and one-half years Archie bought a general store in a small settlement called Dixie on the Pasco-Hernando County line. Later he bought 27 acres of bearing grove and 40 acres of cleared land southeast of Blanton Lake, which three years later he sold to J. T. Futch as he was entering politics.

A 40 Year Tenure of County Office

This was 1908 when he had run and was elected to the office of Clerk of the County Court which he held for 40 years from January 1909-1949 - a post his son Stanley has held since. He had only nine opponents, the last one in 1928. (His retirement was due to his wife’s illness.) After being elected to office, Mr. Burnside had moved his family in their double fringed surrey to Dade City, of his six sons and six daughters of whom he cherishes the memory of rocking each little one to sleep while singing mostly sacred hymns to them. The only surviving children now are Mrs. Jerry Hunt, Mrs. Essie Mae Blitch, Mrs. Huberta Stevens and Stanley Burnside, all of Dade City, and Mrs. Irene Jones of Crystal River. Upon retirement from office, the Dade City Banner said of Mr. Burnside that his diversified activities from pioneer days to the present time had made him not only "a personality but an institution," and that "he had retired from a court post but not from life."

After moving to Dade City, one of his business ventures on the side through the years was a cement business with L. M. Eck manager, which provided the cement for the first cement sidewalks in town, and the ownership several years later of the Dade Richey Title Company.

Many Interests and Hobbies

Ever a meaningful life, his many interests and hobbies have centered around helping others only. Perhaps first among them since the loss of his wife March 15, 1953, two months before their 61st wedding anniversary, has been the preservation of historic Townsend House Church. For it was there that not only had they both attended church and school when young, had helped to organize a Sunday School in 1902 with Archie serving as superintendent three years, had spoken their wedding vows, and had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there in 1942 when joined by many pioneer families in a picnic dinner.

When much-needed repair was underway on the building 20 years ago, Archie himself made the concrete pillars, and the concrete posts which outline the boundaries of the cemetery nearby. He reminded me that Charlie and I donated some acreage for additional cemetery parking some 20 years ago. He still attends the annual Homecoming Service and "Dinner on the Ground" which is held at this sacred place on the fourth Sunday in May, having begun in 1925 with Frank Blocker, pianist, and T. F. Dieffenwierth Jr., song leader of many years, still going strong.

Called Upon for Veterinarian Aid

Other interests have been cabinet making and furniture repairing for friends and family. And many times throughout his life he was sent for in the wee small hours to administer not only to persons but to doctor horses and cows.

By Nature, Man of the Soil

Archie is by nature and heart a man of the soil. He likes to root shrubs and flowers to give to friends. For two years he grew hundreds of Easter lilies as gifts on Mother’s Day and while preparing them, his son Stanley delivered to the ladies of the town. Lovely roses were always growing as well as a vegetable garden to share with others. He planted citrus nurseries just for the fun of it, and more than one bearing grove attest to the good stock developed from sour orange seed, which were planted in his late life. (His wife predicted that he would not live to see the trees mature.)

Practiced Arbor Day Planting

Archie probably made Arbor Day plantings long before he knew the meaning of the term, though Florida was one of the first states to observe the "tree planting day" which is on the third Friday in January starting in 1886, established to pay tribute to nature’s beauty and bountifulness. This was right down his alley and he prided himself on being able to transplant a pine and make it grow, which he did at the home on Meridian Avenue for the late Mrs. C. A. Locke.

Other civic plantings are as follows: (1) Two large cedars planted in the 20’s at the corner of N. 12th and Magnolia Avenue at the Church of Christ, prompted by the membership of Ida (Mrs. Will) Sparkman, his chief clerk for almost all of his 40 years tenure of office of County Clerk. (2) Two large cedars at W. Church for Mrs. Catherine McIntosh, another valued employee of 25 years. (3) Two camphor trees in January 1927 along the west side of the Dade City Woman’s Club and two large cedars on the N.E. corner of its lawn. (These were watered by hand at intervals with the aid of six-year-old son Stanley.) The taller cedar at a 60 foot height has been graced for several years with a large electric silver star which he presented to the club with the city agreeing to install and light it for the enjoyment of the community during Christmas season. (4) Various plantings made throughout his 1913-33 residency at his second Dade City home on the corner of Florida Avenue and 12th Street (then called Lockridge), and last home in the next block east, on Florida from 1933-53, also plantings for neighbors in the area.

Assisted Blue Birds in Planting

At age 86, Archie assisted that Blue Birds, Auxiliary of Camp Fire Girls, in a tree plantings ceremony on Arbor Day January 1957 at Pasco Elementary School (immediately planting a second oak himself). The girls dedicated their tree to their principal, Joseph Benson. (These trees can now be identified by their white benches.) He presented each Blue Bird member a small tree for their home plantings, following an explanation of Arbor Day by the late Mildred (Mrs. Frank) Price. Their sponsors were Mrs. Ronald Chapman and Mrs. Jerry Hunt.

Has Inspired Children

In 1963, at age 93, he demonstrated citrus budding to Cub Scouts, Pack 301 whose directors were Annie Laurie (Mrs. W. C. Baldwin) and Teresa (Mrs. William) Branas at the Branas home.

Started Birthday Parties At Age 90

Mr. Burnside does not recall childhood birthday parties, so in December 1960 for his 90th birthday he was given a large reception, hosted by five of his then six living children (Archie Eugene has passed away since). Then the children planned to fete their father annually and this time it was at the home of his daughter Myrtle and husband Jerry Hunt on Jessamine Road which was attended by a couple hundred. The county papers as well as those of Brooksville and Tampa carried the accounts of the event with his photograph. Because he liked to memorize and collect poetry (another hobby) guests were asked to bring selections for his scrapbook. He enjoyed the party even more than his guests.

There was no party as such in 1961 for his 91st but come the 92nd he was ready for a big family dinner on the patio of the home of his daughter Essie Mae Blitch on Church Avenue which was just following a year’s sojourn with daughter Irene Jones (then residing in Palatka). I had to laugh when I learned from him that he did not need glasses when driving even in his 80s, but at length he was told by the authorities that the law required it because anyone his age "just had to need glasses." On his last license is seen the restriction "Glasses."

For birthday 93 in 1963 his half-sister Corrie (Mrs. Jesse) Ziegler invited relatives from far and near to a picnic dinner on the lawn of her home at that time in Darby community. (That was really a cold day he says and that a nephew from Tampa shared his overcoat with him.)

At 94 years he skips a celebration but for 95 daughter Essie Mae again hosts an Open House at her home where he was making his home for three years. I used to talk with him a lot then as I lived only three blocks up the street. He told me that he had never had a shot, never been in a hospital, didn't have childhood diseases, and had never been what you would call sick - a cold maybe. I couldn't believe this, thought he had forgotten and asked a daughter. She assured me that was true. I was saddened when I heard he became ill a short time later and was in the hospital from where he went to the Herring Nursing Home in Zephyrhills and it was here in 1966 that Mrs. Bertha Herring held Open House for his 96th birthday.

At 97 he was honored at an Open House by the Jerry Hunts (daughter Myrtle and husband), at their home on Jessamine Road. For his 98th celebration, there was another Open House at the home of his youngest child Stanley and wife Marward on the corner of 12th and Florida Avenue directly across the street from where the son was born. For birthday 99 his landlady Mrs. Herring again entertained, inviting mostly his relatives. (He recalls that flowers were placed that Sunday in his honor on the altar of the First United Methodists Church.)

Reaches the 100 Milestone

Mr. Burnside had eagerly looked ahead to achieving the 100th milestone for which it was a great pleasure for his children to arrange in December 1970 what he called a super-duper party, an Open House at the Dade City Woman’s Club when persons came from far and near to bestow affections upon him. Perhaps his most treasured gift was a potted red poinsettia he placed on the baby grand piano which had been sent by his life-long friend I. W. Hudson who is 30 days older than he. (Likely we will never again see a cake with 100 lighted candles surrounding it.) Needless to say it was welcome assistance by grandchildren in rolling out so many candles. More than 300 guests called to congratulate the honoree who were welcomed by his children, 20 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren, and Little Miss Kelly Baldwin his only great-great-grandchild. (She is a great-grandchild of his deceased son Arthur James.) Channel Eight television was on hand to record the event which was shown on weekend news and the tape later given to the family.

Extra Thrills At Close of Century

Extra thrills for Mr. Burnside were the receipt of a congratulatory card from President and Mrs. Richard Nixon; a Resolution of Congratulations and Respect adopted earlier by the Board of County Commissioners for whom he had served faithfully as secretary for so many years; and a presentation later by his pastor, Rev. John Few, of a membership certificate in the Century Club, a recognition from the Together Magazine for United Methodist families to honor those celebrating their 100th birthday.

No Party for 101 -- Or Was There?

On Archie’s 101st birthday on December 16, 1971, just past, his children felt that a big celebration would be too much for their father so an appropriate cake embossed with red numerals and his favorite flower, red rose, was on hand at Miller’s Antonio House near San Antonio, where he is now residing. Relatives called throughout that day taking presents and briefly visiting him. But let me tell you, Archie out-smarted them, as friends and neighbors casually dropped by for a week or more and he saw that punch was stirred up and served with his cake -- and he kept a guest book! which he showed me with a gleam in his eye. He really enjoyed it more that way! Perhaps his most welcome guest was Mrs. George (Marge) Bartlett of St. Petersburg whose late mother Nena Hall (Mrs. J. C. Blocker) was the bridal attendant in his wedding 79 1/2 years ago, and with whom among other neighboring children he had walked to school when young.

Memberships He Holds

Archie Burnside holds membership in the Century Club; the First United Methodist Church of Dade City (serving for many years as its steward); Old Timers Association; Townsend House Association (for many years an active director); life membership in the Pioneer Florida Museum of Pasco County, to which he presented an antique organ in 1966 in his wife’s memory; and honorary membership in both Pasco County Fair Association and the Florida Sheriff’s Boys' Home.

On my last visit to Archie I asked him how he felt. He grinned and replied "Well I don't feel quite like a young bull in a rye patch." Later reflecting on his life I thought to think in this mobile society of ours how this man has lived 101 years near his birthplace and been happy and 5 out of his living children also have lived their lives here too. What memories to have seen the transition from candlemaking to oil lamps to electricity, from wagons to cars, planes, all the medical advances to the sophisticated equipment we have today - and hospitals factories, homes, spaceships.

We have gotten a long way from the morals and the spiritual meaning of what made America so wonderful. Never in world history have the Young had such opportunities, advantages and been so smart. I'm counting on them to straighten it all out and give America back to the people and the true meaning of what America should mean again.

Or Life’s Thread

The thread of life I'm told
Oft forms a tangled mess
With twists and kinds that hurt
and often bitterness.
But the thread is spun of gold
and perfect of life’s plan
And how the thread is woven
Depends largely on the man.

--Virginia Potter

Taken from one of the poems in Archie’s poem collection.

A. J. Burnside and wife Albena Ella Eiland (larger image); Arthur, Ella Fair, and Myrtle B. (larger image)

James Edgehill Burnside and two sets of children, about 1925:
James Edgehill II, A. J., Walter, Frank, R. E., Roy, Corrie, Albert, Hill, Ralph, Bentley Gray, Homer, Edgar (larger image)

Burnside family reunion, 1950s or 1960s larger image);
Stanley Burnside, Archie J. Burnside, John Burks and Monroe Covington larger image)

Archie J. Burnside and Wally Osburne; Irene Burnside

Left: To be identified (9);
Right: Neri Daniel Eiland, whose daughter Albena Ella married Archie Burnside (larger image)

To be identified (11) (larger image);
Archie Burnside and Ike Hudson on Hudson’s Dade City front porch

A. J. Burnside with former Gov. Ferris Bryant at the official opening of the Pioneer Florida Museum, Jan. 1962;
Myrtle Burnside and Jesse H. Hunt’s 50th wedding anniversary, May 27, 1977

Archie Burnside Jr. with Stanley Burnside larger; Archie J. Burnside

Thanks to Stanley Burnside and Archie E. Burnside Jr. for providing the photographs on this page. A video clip recorded in 2011 in which Stanley Burnside talks about his father is here.

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