Marshall County
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BURT, John Spencer

John Spencer BURT, editor of the Henry Semi-Weekly Times, is one of the ablest journalists of Marshall county, and one of the prominent and representative citizens of Henry. He was born on the 16th of March, 1834, in Hartfort, Connecticut, a son of George BURT, whose birth occurred in New York, January 26, 1806. In early life the father was a tanner and currier, but after coming to Marshall county, Illinois, in 1846, turned his attention to agricultural pursuits. He held several minor offices, including those of school director, tax assessor and town clerk, the duties of which he discharged in a most capable manner. He was a faithful member of the Baptist church, with which he was officially connected, and by his honorable, upright life gained the confidence and respect of all who knew him. He died at the ripe old age of eighty-two years.

In Hartford, Connecticut, in May, 1833, was celebrated the marriage of George BURT and Miss Jerusha SPENCER, who was born in 1800, and died in 1882. She was reared a Presbyterian, to which belief she always adhered. Our subject is the oldest of their five children, the others being as follows: George, editor of the Henry Republican; Clarence E., who operates the old home farm; Cornelia E., twin sister of Clarence, and the wife of George LOSEE, of Lake City, Iowa, and Elizabeth R., who died at the age of twenty-five years.

At Knox college and Lombard university of Galesburg, Illinois, our subject completed his literary education, and later successfully engaged in teaching for some years in Marshall and Putnam counties. While thus employed the civil war broke out, and he enlisted April 25, 1861, in Company D, First Illinois Cavalry, but was not mustered in until the following July. Bing taken a prisoner at Lexington, he was paroled and sent home. Later the company was called into service by the officers, but were mustered out again when it was learned that they were paroled men.

Mr. BURT again followed the teacher’s profession until 1869, when he established a news and notion store in Henry, which he conducted until 1888, since which time it has been successfully carried on by his wife. In the latter year he purchased the Henry Weekly Times, and has ever since been engaged in its management. In May, 1894, he started the Semi-Weekly Times, which is issued Tuesdays and Fridays. It now has a large and constantly increasing circulation, which is certainly justly merited, as it is a bright, newsy sheet, neatly and well printed, and the editorials show deep culture. The Times also publishes the “Poultrydom,” a monthly magazine devoted to the interests of poultry raising. It is now in its second volume and is successful.

On the 12th of April, 1868, Mr. BURT was united in marriage with Miss Julia CHAPMAN, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Hiram and Eleanor (ROGERS) CHAPMAN. One son has been born of this union – Robert F., who was married in January, 1896, to Elizabeth SMITH, of Henry, and assists his father in the office.

Politically, Mr. BURT affiliates with the democratic party, and fraternally is connected with the Odd Fellows society, in which he has filled all the chairs, and is a member of the Lookout Mountain post, G. A. R., of Henry, of which he is the present adjutant. His genuine worth gives him a high place in the regard of his fellow citizens, and in social as well as business circles he holds an enviable position.

Extracted May 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.


The press has not only recorded the story of advancement, but has also ever been the leader in the work of progress and improvement the vanguard of civilization. The philosopher of some centuries ago proclaimed the truth that "the pen is mightier than the sword," and the statement is continually being verified in the affairs of life. In molding public opinion the power of the newspaper cannot be estimated, but at all events its influence is greater than any other single agency, and in this connection John Spencer BURT, as editor of the Henry Times, has done much to mold public thought and action.

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, he was born on the 16th of March, 1834, and is a son of George and Jerusha (SPENCER) BURT. The father's birth occurred in Lansingburg, New York, January 26, 1806, and in early life he learned and followed the trade of a tanner and currier. He became a good workman and had a large business. In 1833 he married Jerusha SPENCER, who was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1800. In 1846 they removed with their family to Marshall county, Illinois, and here the father turned his attention to general agricultural pursuits. He was a representative citizen of the pioneer community and in various public offices, such as school director, tax assessor, and town clerk he rendered capable service in the community. He also held office in the Baptist church, to which he belonged and lived an upright, honorable life, which was terminated in death when he was eighty-two years of age. His wife was always a devoted member of the Presbyterian church and her death occurred in 1882.

John Spencer BURT, the eldest of the family of five children, acquired his more specifically literary education as a student in Knox College and Lombard University, at Galesburg, Illinois. He pursued a scientific course, but did not graduate. He was only twelve years of age when he accompanied his parents on their removal westward to Illinois, the family home being established upon a farm in Marshall county at a time when there were not more than a half dozen settlers in the township. He assisted in the farm labor until eighteen years of age, when he engaged in teaching school through the winter seasons, while in the summer months he aided in the work of the fields. Thus his time and attention were occupied until his marriage.

In the meantime, however, he responded to the country's call for troops. Hardly had the smoke from Fort Sumter's guns cleared away, when, in the spring of 1861, he offered his services to the government, but the company was not needed at that time and it was not until July, 1861, that he became a regular soldier, enlisting in the First Illinois Cavalry. He did scouting in Missouri for a time and was taken prisoner with the rest of Colonel Mulligan's command at the battle of Lexington, Missouri, by General Sterling Price. He was then paroled and sent home, but later was called into service again, when the government, finding him and his comrades were paroled men, however, they were mustered out.

On resuming the pursuits of civic life Mr. BURT again engaged in teaching, which profession he followed until his marriage. In 1869 he removed to Henry, where he established a news, book and notion store, which he carried on with a gratifying measure of success until 1888. He then bought the Times, a weekly newspaper, which he has since published. The office has been greatly improved under his direction. The Times is a six column quarto, all printed in the office on a large Cranston cylinder press with foundry type and run by a gasoline engine. There are also three job presses, a paper cutter, perforator and a full equipment of type, all of which have been put in since Mr. BURT purchased the office, which was very poorly supplied when it came into his possession. In his journalistic venture he has also met with gratifying prosperity. The paper which he is publishing is vital, enthusiastic and progressive; they aim to advance the interests of the county, to aid in laying fast and sure the foundation for an enlightened commonwealth, further the ends of justice and uphold the banner of the state of Illinois.

In his political views Mr. BURT is a democrat and through the columns of his paper stanchly supports the principles of that party. For twelve years he served as county surveyor, but otherwise has sought nor held public office. He belongs to the Odd Fellows' society, of which he is treasurer, and to Lookout Mountain Post, No. 84, G. A. R., of which he is adjutant. He is also a member of the Illinois State Editorial Association and attends most of its meetings.

Mr. BURT was married in Henry, April 12, 1868, to Miss Julia CHAPMAN, the eldest daughter of Hiram and Eleanor (ROGERS) CHAPMAN. They have one child, a son, Robert F., who was born in 1869, and married Miss Elizabeth SMITH, by which union there is one son, Robert, born November 24, 1903. The son has been associated with his father in business for the past eleven years under the name of J. S. Burt & Son, which is a strong business combination, while their ability in the field of newspaper work is well known to the many readers of the Times.

Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.


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