George F. Burckhartt Designer of Missouri State Seal

Boonslick Clio

Submitted - November 19, 2010

Boonslick Clio

George F. Burckhartt of Burckhartt Fields

by Joe Barnes

There should be a Randolph County Hall of Fame. Other counties within Boonslick country such as Boone have them. Cooper County has a small downtown park in Boonville with a full-size statue of Hannah Cole and several busts of historic persons. Rather than wait for such deliberation and decision, I shall proceed with my own Randolph County Hall of Fame and begin with “wise and honest” George Frederick Burckhartt, said to be “one of the best educated men” of the infant state of Missouri.

Within our local history, the best way to describe the Burckhartt family is “prominent.” The entire clan is notable. Later you will learn about his father Christopher Frederick Burckhartt, and George’s son George Hobbs Burckhartt — both highly laudable in their own right. George H. is worth at least two future articles.

Early LifeGeorge F. Burckhartt of Rhenish German stock was born Oct. 4, 1782, at Frederick, Md., the eldest son of Christopher F. — a Revolutionary War hero — and Elizabeth (Hobbs) Burckhartt. He was baptized into the Lutheran Church.

The clan migrated from Maryland to Louisville, Ky., in 1802. There young George married Ruth Dorsey on Jan. 4, 1803, at Elizabeth. The couple would have nine children.

During the War of 1812 George, now 29, enlisted in the Kentucky Militia and served as a major. He fought in the 3rd Regiment under Brig. Gen. William Henry “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison at the Battle of the Thames.

Following the war, he, Ruth and kids moved from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory. Traveling west on the Ohio by keel boat with slaves and gold, in 1816 they settled near the soon-to-be organized community of Chariton (near the present Glasgow) in the newly organized Howard County.

As the Lutherans were not established in Missouri until 1839, the family joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, the denomination in which they stayed — as did later generations of Burckhartts. Both George and Ruth were devout Methodists. The Burckhartt name is found in the records of Huntsville United Methodist Church. When in 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church split over slavery and other issues, they became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Burckhartts owned among the largest populations of slaves in Boonslick country.

George soon entered politics. Known as “an honest man and a man of great learning,” on Mar. 23, 1818, he became the first justice of the peace for Chariton. He was a Whig, but, though Boonslick country was strongly Democratic, this affiliation never affected his political career. The interests of his constituents always overrode party concerns. One biography states he “would discharge his whole duty to his country and state.”

Burckhartt FieldsFrom Chariton the family moved to the eastern edge of Chariton County, now a part of Randolph County, where he established a 1400-acre plantation, Burckhartt Fields. He was among the leading farmers of the period. There he raised tobacco with the labor of his slaves. His stock consisted of cattle, horses and swine. His horses were said to be among the finest in northern Missouri. Burckhartt was fond of racing, and had several excellent steeds. However, as a good Methodist, racing on the Lord’s Day was forbidden.

One Sunday while George and Ruth were away, his neighbors “borrowed” one of his horses and raced it. On his return he commented, “Well, Ruth, it is hard for one to preserve his Christian integrity and own race stock when away from home…”.

Milton, Mo., was organized by him within Burckhartt Fields in 1836. Burckhartt donated ground for the Methodist Episcopal Church there in 1840. He also donated walnut lumber and himself hew the logs from which the new preaching house was built. Among the oldest of Missouri Masonic Lodges is at Milton, but that story must wait.

Within Burckhartt Fields was a stop on the Hannibal-Glasgow Road, Burckhartt’s Station. This is important in another story, that of the Trail of Death.

Political CareerIn 1821 Missouri became a state. Burckhartt was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1822 for Chariton County, making him the first elected representative for this area. (Chariton County was separated from Howard County in 1820. The county at that time included the present Chariton and Randolph counties.) He was re-elected in 1824 and 1826. He was returned to the House by the election of 1838, now as the representative for Randolph County (organized in 1829). He was elected again in 1840, serving a total five two-year terms in the lower house.

In the House he proved a knowledgeable and effective legislator. He was influential in the early construction and maintenance of Missouri’s roads. He was chair of the standing (permanent) committee on “the Salines.” He sat on many significant select committees.

The Burckhartt law was enacted in 1822. This statue — and the controversy concerning it — is worthy of its own article. Read about this later in “The Mirror.”

About 1854, he moved to the Franklin area from Burckhartt Fields. He retired from politics in 1858 at the age of 76. As war approached, he became a Unionist. On Mar. 29, 1864, at 81 years he died at his home in the third Franklin, the current New Franklin. (The original Franklin had been obliterated by the meandering wide Missouri. The replacement town proved prone to flooding, so the citizens finally wised up in 1828 and built on the bluff instead of the flood plain.) His body was buried on the grounds of the farm he loved in Randolph County.

In 1931, his and Ruth’s bodies were moved to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery at New Franklin. A monument to his many accomplishments and memory was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution on the square in Fayette. In Randolph County not only do we fail to remember and honor George Frederick Burckhartt, some can’t even spell the name right. (Burkhart St. in Moberly is named for his son.) George F. Burckhartt lived here near the community of Milton. Randolph County was his home.

Though Christopher Burckhartt, the pater familias, was never a Randolph County resident, he does play a role in a local mystery which involves the Moberly Public Library, a true mystery which may only be resolved with the help of you readers.

Cutline: George F. Burckhartt / 1782–1864

Cutline: D.A.R. monument to George F. Burckhartt at Fayette, Mo. Credit: Liz Morales.