The History of Otsego County, New York
D. Hamilton Hurd
Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia
BURNSIDE, Samuel S., Gen. - Oneonta
The subject of this sketch was born on the banks of the
Susquehanna, in the town of Milford, Jan. 6, 1812. he was the youngest child in a family of five children of Samuel BURNSIDE and Hannah COON, the former a native of Saratoga, N. Y.
The Burnside family is descended from the great-grandfather of
the general, whose name was Gloud, and who came with his three
brothers from Ireland, and settled in this country in the year 1765.
His grandfather, James, eldest of the sons who came to America, settled
at Stillwater, Saratoga county, N. Y.
The names of the other brothers of his grandfather were William,
John, and Thomas. The descendants of the great-grandfather, Gloud,
all settled in New York State, the other brothers of Gloud Burnside
settling, one in Pennsylvania, another in Massachusetts, and a third in
North Carolina. The origin of the name "BURNSIDE" is as follows: the
original name of the family was WALLACE, but from a custom in
Scotland, that a family residing by a stream (Berne) they were called
Thomas by the side of the Berne, and hence the name, when changed
about, BERNSIDE or BURNSIDE. The family was originally of
Scottish origin, but previous to his great-grandfather's birth had
migrated to the county of Tyrone, Ireland, whence they emigrated to
America. His mother was a native of Albany county, N. Y., and daughter
of Conrad COON, a native of Germany, and Nancy STAFFORD, a
native of England.
In the year 1800 the Burnside and Coon families emigrated from
Albany Co. to Otsego County, town of Milford, when it was a wilderness,
preferring to do this rather than submit to the feudal system under
General Van Rensselaer, the Patroon, by which each family contributed
yearly to many bushels of wheat, so many fowls, and so many loads of
Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, his grandfather
James and his brother William enlisted in the service of the colonists.
James was a captain in the American army at the surrender of Burgoyne,
A remarkable incident in the family of Thomas Burnside, showing
longevity and endurance, is that in his family of fourteen children,
every one grew to manhood and womanhood, and themselves raised families, and two now survive over eighty years of age.
The family of Burnside have their annual festival at Colliersville,
now numbering some five hundred persons including the branches of the
family, and at the time of the writing of this sketch the general is
president of the Burnside Association, and has heretofore often largely
contributed to its interests intellectually.
The general spent his early life at home. His father died May,
1824, when he was only twelve years of age. His subsequent years, until
he wasseventeen, were spent in district and select schools, where he so
improved his opportunities as to be able at that time to engage as a
teacher. He continued as a teacher, more or less winters, until 1832,
when he commenced reading law with Judge WORCESTER, of
Otsego County, and was admitted to practice in the Court of Common
Pleas, 1835; Supreme Court January, 1839, as attorney, and as
counselor in 1842.
He first opened an office for the practice of the law in Schenevus,
Otsego County, where he remained only one year, and went to
Worcester in May, 1836, and remained there in the practice of his
profession until 1859, with the exception of three years spent as
custom-house district officer at New York.
In August, 1859, he removed to Oneonta, and opened an office, and
to the present time continues the practice of the law. His library
consists of some 950 volumes, and is considered one of the best
libraries in the county.
In 1835 the general was commissioned as first lieutenant of
riflemen by Gov. Wm. L. Marcy, and in 1836 as captain by the same governor. In 1839 he was commissioned by Gov. Wm. H. Seward as major of infantry.
In 1841 he ranked as colonel by a commission from Gov. Seward. Feb.
7, 1846, he was commissioned a brigadier-general of the second brigade
of infantry by Gov. Silas Wright. In 1849 he was, under a new
organization, commissioned brigadier-general of the eighteenth brigade
by Gov. Hamilton Fish. April 6, 1854, he was commissioned
major-general of the fifth division, containing ten counties of the
State, by ex-Gov. Horatio Seymour, which commission he still holds. At
the breaking out of the late rebellion, the general had 10,000 men under
very good discipline.
General Burnside has always been an unswerving Democrat of the
Jeffersonian school, an ardent supporter of the Constitution, and a
strict constructionalist. He has been largely identified with the local
interests of his town and county, holding offices of honor and
responsibility, and has been, for the past six years, police justice of
Oneonta village, and for the past four years president of the board of
education. General Burnside has officiated as executor of estates among
his fellow-citizens, showing their esteem of his integrity. The most
important is the Goodyear estate of about a half million. In all these
places of trust he has done honor to himself and justice to others.
General Burnside is a modest, unostentatious man, sociable,
and ranks among the representative men of his profession.
Although brought up under Presbyterian influences, he became
identified with the Universalist church soon after becoming of age, and
has since remained consistent in that faith, supporting liberally all
causes looking to the education of the rising generation.
In May, 1835, he married Miss Lydia Ann, daughter of Lemuel SHERMAN and Hannah LEFENWELL, of Milford, but fomerly of Connecticut.
They have no children, except one by adoption, D. C. COON, whom the
general is educating as a lawyer.
Mrs. Burnside is a consistent member of the Universalist church
unassuming in her ways, honored and respected by all who know her, and a friend to the needy poor.
Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, opposite page 235
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