Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


GEORGE W. BURGE. The biographer is glad to herein set forth the salient facts in the eminently successful and honorable career of the well remembered and highly esteemed citizen of Springfield whose name appears above, the last chapter in whose life record has been closed by the hand of death, and the seal set thereon forever, but whose influence still pervades the lives of those with whom he came in contact. For many years the late George W. Burge was closely identified with the industrial development of the city of his choice and vicinity. The filial causes which shape the fortunes of individual men and the destinies of nations are often the same. They are usually remote and obscure, their influence wholly unexpected until declared by results. When they inspire men to the exercise of courage, enterprise, self-denial, and call into play the higher moral elements such causes lead to the planting of great states and great peoples. That nation is the greatest which produces the most useful men, as these must constitute the essentially greatest nation. Such a result may consciously be contemplated by the individuals instrumental in their production. Pursuing his personal good by exalted means, they worked out this as a logical conclusion, for they wrought along the lines of the greatest good. Thus it is that the safety of our republic depends not so much upon methods and measures as upon that manhood from whose deep sources all that is precious and permanent in life must at last proceed. These facts were early recognized by Mr. Burge, and the salient points marked his career, for those who knew him best could not but help noticing his many manly attributes and appreciating his efforts to inspire good citizenship and right living, in both public and private life, and because of these many commendable characteristics he won and retained the confidence and good will of all who knew him or had dealings with him in any way.

Mr. Burge was born in Troy, New York, May 25, 1842. He was a son of William and June (Stevens) Burge, both natives of England, where they spent their earlier years, finally emigrating to America and establishing the family home at Troy, New York, where they spent the rest of their lives, Mr. Burge engaging in the blacksmith's trade. To these parents seven children were born, of whom George W., of this memoir, was the youngest, and of whom only two are now living.

George W. Burge spent his boyhood in his native city and was partly educated there, and when he was but fifteen years of age he and his brother, James Burge, came to Springfield, Missouri, where our subject finished his education and here he spent the rest of his life, about forty-five years, during which period he saw the city whose interests he had at heart, grow from a mere village to the metropolis of southern Missouri. His first business venture was as a druggist on the south side of the public square, in which he continued about three years, then moved to aA farm north of Doling Park and lived there four years then moved back to town and began clerking in a drug store on the North Side. In the spring of 1876 he went into the general merchandise business on East Commercial street, in which he remained, enjoying a large and lucrative business and ranking among the leading merchants of the city, until his retirement from active life in 1886. He had been very successful in a business way, and accumulated considerable valuable property and a competency, and the last sixteen years of his life were spent in looking after his property interests, his death occurring, April 12, 1902. Politically, he was a Republican. He belonged to the United Workmen order. He was a charter member of Benton Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, was long a trustee in the same and was prominent in church work.

On January 4, 1865, Mr. Burge married in Rolla, Missouri, Ellen A. Starks, who was born in Ware, Massachusetts, near the city of Springfield, October 18, 1843. She is a daughter of Charles L. and Amelia Dorman (Whitman) Starks, also Massachusetts people, from which state in 1852 the family moved to Georgia and after remaining there a short time came on to Tennessee, and in 1858 to Missouri, locating on a farm about fifteen miles from Springfield, and in 1860 they moved to this city. Mr. Starks devoted his life to agricultural pursuits. His birth occurred, July 4, 1819, and he died in January, 1887. His wife was born in March, 1820, and died in 1896. Politically he was a Democrat. Mr. and Mrs. Starks were the parents of four children, two of whom are now deceased. Mr. Starks was the owner of land near this city which is now known as the Starks Addition. In his earlier life he was a stone mason by trade. He sold the first lot on the corner of Campbell and Mill streets, on which a foundry was built. Religiously, Mr. and Mrs. Starks were members of the Methodist Episcopal church.

The union of George W. Burge and wife was without issue.

Mrs. Ellen A. Burge owns a beautiful home on Washington avenue, Springfield, and she is a great church worker, being a charter member of the Benton Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, being trustee of the local church ever since its organization; she is also an influential member of the Ladies' Aid Society.

James T. Burge, brother of the subject of this memoir, first came to Springfield in 1855 from Troy, New York, returning to his home in 1857, and soon thereafter he brought George W. Burge to Springfield and they located here. He was a contractor and built many of the leading buildings, public and private, in this city and vicinity. He was born in England in 1831 and his death occurred February 25, 1911. He was never married. He was a resident of Springfield for a period of fifty-five years, and his name figures conspicuously in the early history of the city and county.

George W. Burge was a member of the Home Guards, organized in Springfield in 1861 under Colonel Holland, and served three months for the Union, aiding in the defense of this city against the Confederates. Both he and his brother worked in the government shops at Rolla, this state, for some time during the war.

The work of Mrs. Ellen A. Burge as a broad-minded, conscientious Christian woman can not be estimated. Her lasting monument will be the splendid Burge Deaconess Hospital of Springfield which she built in 1907, after Mr. Burge's death. She has turned the property over to the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal church, she being still president of the local board of managers. This is one of the leading hospitals of the Southwest, is modern in every respect, sanitary, attractive and is well patronized. Its medical staff is composed of many of the leading physicians and surgeons of the city. Its training school for nurses has no superior. Dr. J. C. Matthews and Rev. J. W. Stewart, appreciating the inadequate hospital accommodations here, saw the possibilities of a Protestant hospital, and the former took the matter up with Mrs. Ellen A. Burge, who became interested at once, and offered a site on North Jefferson street to the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist church for a Deaconess hospital. The building on the site was remodeled so as to meet the requirements of an up-to-date hospital, and it was opened on Thanksgiving day 1906, and during the early part of the following year the work was in proper swing, having opened up much better than had been expected, and soon it was found that the quarters would have to be increased. In August, 1907, Mrs. Burge purchased the lot adjoining on the south with a view of erecting in the future a large modern brick building. Ground was broken for the same the 21st of October following, and the building was dedicated March 20, 1908, and the first patients admitted to the new building the following July. The institution has been a decided success, hundreds of patients being cared for, and hundreds of dollars' worth of charity work has been done. In fact, this excellent hospital has filled a long-felt want and is greatly appreciated by the people of Springfield.

Those actively in charge of the hospital very appropriately paid Mrs. Burge the following tribute, entitled "A Fragrant Life," which was published in their first annual report of the work of this institution, and which we believe should be appended to this article:

"In the picturesque northwest of this country flow the Gallatin and Jefferson rivers, each unmindful of the existence of the other. They are drawn unconsciously together at Fort Benton, Montana., From this union of waters, commence the melodious annals of the muddy, yet mighty Missouri river, having many miles of river banks and encircling them with its alluvial deposits.

"Some years ago Charles Starks and Amelia Dorman, two helpful hopeful and loving lives, were flowing on unconscious of any future relations. The Almighty guided these lives, made them strong and beautiful. Their life plans were merged, their lives became a unit. Into Ellen A., their daughter, flowed the best of their souls' desires. And the symphony of their lives has been heard all these years as a sweet cadenced tone of glorified love. This daughter, a follower of Jesus Christ, was the helpmeet of George W. Burge, and their lives, though not blessed by the prattle and music of childish lips, a cause of regret to them, yet their love was not buried in the casket of selfishness, but became a beautiful shrine on the road way of life, where many have worshipped. Their clouds have departed and its burning light on the altar, the beauty of its power have cheered the hearts and strengthened the souls who lingered as they passed, laying a wreath at its portals. Many and happy were the days of their united lives. God prospered them and they in gratitude gave to God's kingdom. For no fairer blossom casts its glorious sheen with richer color and balmer fragrance than true gratitude.

"Mrs. Burge is a charter member and first Sunday school superintendent of Benton Avenue Methodist Episcopal church in Springfield, Missouri, and the helper in the erection of four edifices on the present site. Her inspiration in this work was contagious. Others came laden with rare gifts from their heart's chamber of self-sacrifice. She came to God's altar, presented her gifts to the Marionville College, the Burge Deaconess hospital and Benton Avenue Methodist Episcopal church. She went away with the modest glow of the graceful violet, happy because she could bloom, fill her niche in life and help bless men. She was always looking up and not down,

‘Pessimism’s but a screen,
Thrust the light and you between
But the sun shines bright, I wean,
Just behind it.’

"Mrs. Burge was always ready to listen to the good things about her friends. The unpleasant pained her heart. Ever loyal to her church, her sympathy was a deep well. When a life-long friend was sadly bereaved, she could not go to her at once, but after three or four days she brought the tribute of her soul's love. Like a well in the mountain side which you can neither see nor hear, because of its depth, yet its crystalline waters assuage the traveler's thirst. With loving hands to help in causes good and true, she finds that the light at the evening time doth brightly shine. You might see, her as with hopeful step and buoyant heart she walks, Mrs. Ellen A. Burge, the donor of our hospital, in the devious ways of life. A handmaid blessed of God, may her years be many in the service for her Lord. God grant that the mantle of her gentle nature may fall on every reader of these lines."

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