Volume 2, Number 8 - Summer 1966

The Story Of Two Pioneer Families Whose Lives Intertwined
by Claude Hibbard

Dr. and Mrs. K. L. Burdett

Dr. and Mrs. K. L. Burdett

The two pioneer families of whom we write are those of Dr. K. L. Burdett and David Ray Riggs. Tennessee and Kentucky seemed to furnish a goodly part of the pioneer families of the Ozark area. These two families were no exceptions. Most of these early people were anglo saxon stock, generally spoken of as the purest anglo saxon stock in the United States. Again these two families were no exceptions.

Dr. K. L. Burdett was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, August 13, 1833. David Ray Riggs was born in Maury County, Tennessee, May 20, 1832. The two families were friends.

Dr. Burdett took a degree in medicine, in 1857. He moved to Fair Grove, in Greene County, Missouri in 1858. It was here that he married Nancy E. Ramey, in 1860. They moved to Taney County, Missouri in 1871 and served as Postmaster of Forsyth during Grover Cleveland’s first administration. For a number of years, he was active in the practice of medicine in Taney County and moved to Douglas County in 1888 and continued to practice medicine actively.

Those years were rather turbulent times, attended with violent deaths because of the many feuds that followed the Civil War. These feuds were inevitable in an area that was border country and the people divided in their loyalty. The feuds were largely caused and fanned by the lawless element that plundered and killed during the war and immediately after the war.

The Vigalantes or Bald Knobbers that came into being to protect the helpless and keep down the lawless, got out of control and contributed to the murder, arson and robbery of the times, although their organizers had good in mind when they helped organize the organization. Some of the best men of the area belonged.

Dr. Burdett took his hippocrates oath seriously. He often treated and relieved the suffering of both sides. Some times, after a shooting, he administered aid on the spot. One such case will be remembered by some of the elderly people or because the incident was related to them by some eye witness. We refer to the shooting at Taneyville, at a picnic when Dr. Burdett and his family were in attendance. His one living daughter, Mrs. Lilie Burdett Holestine, the wife of the late James Holestine. She was a young girl at the time, but remembers the ones who were killed and the wounded that her father treated.

Dr. Burdett served his profession well. The night did not get too dark or the weather too bad or the roads too rough, for him to go to attend the sick or suffering. Most of the roads at that could be negotiated, only by horses or horse and buggy and some times on foot.

Dr. Burdett practiced actively in Taney and Douglas County, until his death in the latter county, August 12, 1902. His wife, Nancy, lived until 1926. They were the parents of ten children, of which only two are now living. They are Mrs. Lilie Burdett Holestine, living in Ava. Mr. and Mrs. Holestine reared two children, both boys. Vernon, the elder of the two, became a dentist and practiced in Ava for a number of years and then moved with his wife, Mable (Judd) Holestine, to St. Louis, where he has built a name for himself and is not only a good practicing Dentist, but is an eminent citizen as well. The younger of the two boys, Olis, is deceased. He died a young man.

The other living child of Dr. Kenneth Burdett is F. E. Burdett, who now lives in Ava. It is the wife of F. E. Burdett, Mayme (Wilson) Burdett, a granddaughter of D. R. Riggs, later discussed in this article, that married F. E. Burdett and thus made the two families that had been friends for over a century, relatives. This marriage took place December 23, 1906 and for nearly sixty years, they have been happily married.

Two of Dr. Burdett’s sons became M. D.’s. Dr. Charles Burdett, who practiced medicine in both Taney and Douglas Counties of Missouri. He will be remembered by many who read this. He died in 1922.

F. E. Burdett, affectionately known by his many friends as "Eddie," took his degree in medicine, but practiced very little. He liked the farm and liked to see and cause things to grow. He lived on and owned a good farm, on Cow Skin Creek, some four miles west of Ava until recently when, when age made it necessary that he and Mrs. Burdett retire. On this farm they reared six girls. All fine girls and a family that were very close. They operated as a unit.


At least five of these girls became good school teachers. Rhasneh, the oldest, taught for a number of years and then became a welfare worker and it was in this field that she took her doctorate and is now teaching, at the University of Missouri, in Columbia. She has been eminently successful in her work.

Wanda taught elementary work, but took her degree (Graduate Degree) in Speech Therapy and is now teaching her field in the Ava Schools. She is married to Harry Williams, a Postal worker. She is an able teacher and her work is valued. The girls of F. E. and Mayme Burdett could hardly help being good teachers. They had a good course in teaching at home. Their mother taught prior to her marriage to Eddie and while she quit drawing a salary after the marriage, but as the girls came along, she continued to teach and take an active part in education and she still has an active interest in school work.

Miss Elloree Burdett lives in Ava, Missouri, and is an able office receptionist. Gwendolyn (Burdett) Harley, followed in the steps of the three sisters older than she and became a good school teacher, until she married Homer Harley of the firm of Harley Brothers of Ava. She was needed in the business and a good school teacher was lost and a good business woman gained. She can be found nearly any business day, meeting the many customers of the business.

Frieda (Burdett) Hesterly writes a similar story, she was a good teacher that married a good teacher and both became excellent business people. The afore mentioned Wanda taught before and after her marriage to Harry Williams, who is a postal worker. Elloree taught until she came back home to be a receptionist and be with her parents. Willimae married and lives in Dallas, Texas. The Burdetts have been active in civic affairs and are active Methodists.

David Riggs or D. R. Riggs and often called Ray Riggs, a son of Petronila and Ray Riggs, was born in Maury County, Tennessee, May 20, 1832. His parents were both natives of the Old North State, where the grandparents were also born. Samuel, the paternal grandfather, was a soldier during the Revolutionary War and died in the state of his birth.

Alvis Riggs came to Tennessee at an early date and could be called one of the early settlers. He was active in civic affairs and a useful citizen. He died in Tennessee in 1840. His widow came to Missouri with her son, David Ray Riggs, but later returned to Tennessee, but during the progress of the Civil War was again brought to Missouri by her son, David R. Riggs. She died in Springfield in 1890. She was the mother of nine children by her union with Alvis Riggs. Griffin died in Illinois in 1855, William came to Springfield, Missouri and lived here until his death, David Ray, who came to Springfield prior to the Civil War, Margaret married John Shaw of Springfield, John C. moved to Douglas County and became a farmer about four miles west of Ava. Robert was killed while in the Confederate Army. James moved to Polk County, Missouri, and became a farmer there. Peter died in Springfield in 1885; and Mary E., the wife of A. McCracken, died in Stone County, Missouri in 1884.

David R. was a single man when he came to Missouri and settled in Springfield. Here he married Lucinda McQuarter, daughter of J. S. McQuarter. After their marriage, they engaged in the hotel business in Springfield. The hotel burned in 1866. After this they moved to Taney County, Missouri where he entered the mercantile business. Mr. Riggs also farmed, bought and sold stock and was also in the milling business, on Swan Creek, near Forsyth, from 1867 to 1887. In the latter year they moved to a farm four miles west of Ava, and built a nice home in Ava. They moved to this home in 1893. He was one of the old timers of this part of Missouri and lived an active and useful life. He was a good businessman and was in very comfortable circumstances, and widely and favorably known.

David R. Riggs and his wife reared four children; Petronelia and Eliza Ann were twins; Alvis J., who was active in buying and selling stock, made his home in Springfield, Missouri; and David R., Jr., who became an active farmer and stock man of Christian County, Missouri. The daughter, Petronelia, became the wife of W. A. Wilson of Forsyth, Missouri. Eliza Ann became the wife of T. W. Davis of Douglas County, Missouri.

The child of Petronelia and W. A. Wilson of whom we know, is Mayme Wilson Burdett, the wife of F. E. Burdett, spoken of earlier in this story. This marriage brought even a closer tie to the two families that had been close friends for well over a century.

Eddie (F. E.) Burdett and Mayme are among the well loved and respected citizens of Ava, Missouri, at this time.


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