Burrough Farm: “Heritage Plowed Under”

A reader asked if I knew anything about a big brick house that stood on the hill on Bloomfield Rd., just east of Kingshighway. It didn’t ring a bell, but Mother said, “Wasn’t that where those old maids lived?”

She was, of course, right.

The building, now more than 150 years old, is the resident center for the Cape LaCroix moderate-income apartments. I never realized that the building existed, much less its importance to the city’s history.

Misses Mary and Jean Burrough

Two old women HAD lived in the house. Misses Mary and Jean Burrough (which is the way they were referred to in almost every story) died in the early 50s. Along with stories about teas and socials, were these three Missourian stories:

  • Dec. 12, 1944Misses Mary and Jean Burrough, 2121 Bloomfield St., have Christmas presents for Cape Girardeau youngsters who like dogs. A stray mother dog and eight pups came to the Burrough home a few days ago and the owner has not been located. Youngsters can have the canine brood for the asking.
  • Oct. 13, 1948A mother and her three puppies, the latter six months old, are available to anyone who will give them a good home, Misses Mary and Jean Burrough, 2121 Bloomfield Rd., told The Missourian today. The animals, of mixed breed, are handsome ones and healthy. The mother came to the Burrough home, Kenwood, uninvited several months ago, but since there are six other dogs on the place things are becoming somewhat overcrowded.
  • Oct. 14, 1948 Misses Mary and Jean Burroughs, 2121 Bloomfield Rd. who said yesterday they would give away a mother dog and three puppies, had many telephone calls last night and gave away one of the young canines.

Kenrick Burrough, last survivor

Excerpts from a Dec. 3, 1960, Missourian Kenrick Burrough obituary that’s worth reading in its entirety:

Kenrick Burrough, last surviving member of a family that featured prominently in Cape Girardeau’s legal and social life for more than a century died today… His parents were the late Judge and Mrs. Frank E. Burrough and their family home, now 101 years old, was at 2121 Bloomfield. Mr. Burrough’s sisters, Misses Mary and Jean Burrough, the last prior members of the family, died on Mar. 18, 1952, and Aug. 22, 1953, respectively.

Called by a colleague “one of the most brilliant men ever to have his origin in Cape Girardeau, Mr. Burrough was widely known in the legal profession, practiced by his father and grandfather before him, until an illness in the early 1930 forced his retirement.

Youngest judge to sit on the bench

Mr. Burrough’s father died on Dec. 9, 1903, when the son was 12 years old. He had served as judge of the Common Pleas Court from 1897 to 1900 and was the youngest to sit on the bench of that court.

Judge Burrough’s father was Jacob H. Burrough, who died on Dec. 2, 1872. He had come to Cape Girardeau at the age of 22 and the family resided on Spanish street. Subsequently, Judge Burrough acquired the large estate bearing the family name on Bloomfield Road. It had been built in 1859 by Cong. Samuel Caruthers. [For whom Caruthersville was named.]

Jacob Burrough was prominent in the law in southeast Missouri and was a U.S. Marshal for this district. He,too, was a man of education, and during the days of steamboat traffic, he became acquainted with Mark Twain during the latter’s stops in Cape Girardeau.

Pre-Civil War heritage lost

George McCue wrote in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Burrough farm was an “intact early Missouri array of pre-Civil War house, beautifully crafted barn and brick ice house, all in a grove of fine old trees on 10 upland acres.”

McCue went on to explain that some townspeople had the impression that Kenrick Burrough had bequeathed the property to the city, but when he died, it went instead to a cousin in Kentucky. A zoning change from one-family to multi-family didn’t attract attention around town.

The park board had just acquired a 78-acre tract nearby for $2,700 an acre, but the new owners wanted $10,000 an acre. The property was acquired by Clover Leaf Construction Co. of Indianapolis, which swung a deal with HUD to put up medium income apartments on what Patricia Holmes, State Park Board architectural reseacher, has called “one of the state’s best example of a Pre-Civil War farmstead.”

McCue’s piece goes into much more detail.

Confederate soldiers sheltered during Battle of Cape

A Bicentennial feature by Ann Dittlinger descibed how Confederate forces were sheltered by the hill where the Burrough farm was located when they were being shelled by batteries from Fort C.

In 1975, Melvin A. McMillen dug up a cannon ball, pieces of human bones and four buttons from a Union soldier’s uniform in his garden on Sheridan drive (the nearby street Wife Lila lived on when I met her). That find led to the discovery of four more cannon balls that year.

300-year-old tree cut down

Southeast Missourian brief, Sept. 25, 1974: “A gigantic black oak tree believed to be at least 300 years old is leaving the Bloomfield Road scene. The landmark is being removed because its huge branches were damaging roofs at the Cloverleaf housing development. Said to be one of the largest trees in Cape Girardeau, the once-mighty oak was nearly 150 feet high and about eight feet in diameter.

12 Replies to “Burrough Farm: “Heritage Plowed Under””

  1. When I was in college I wrote a house history on the Burrough home for my Historic Preservation class at SEMO. This house has a very interesting history. It housed Confederate forces during the Battle of Cape Girardeau – which a large part of the battlefield is where the Town Plaza is now. At one time it had a kiln in the back where the bricks were made for the house. It was always a favorite house of mine.

  2. Ken, Melvin McMillen was my grandfather. I spent nearly every weekend on Sheridan drive. Playing all around that end of town. The cannonball was taken by army ordinance disposal because it was undetonated. It was assumed that the ball made a direct hit on the soldier, softening the impact causing it not to detonate. We still have the bones and buttons in the family. Did the Redwines live on that property at one time?

  3. I had always heard that Jacob Burroughs was a friend of Mark Twain’s and that it is possible the writer had visited in the house. He supposedly spent much of his spare time translating the Bible into other languages.

  4. Actually, the part of this story that distresses me is that a 300 year old magnificent oak was cut down because … why? … it was hanging over a housing project? No, I am not one of those California tree huggers but what a loss. Did any one consider tree trimming? Otherwise, the story was very interesting and makes me want to see the house when I return to Cape.

  5. Great story. I’ve been by there hundreds of times and just assumed that house was a modern “reproduction” of the old style architecture.

    Question: If the Rebs were encamped there seeking shelter from the cannon balls from Fort C at site of old St. Francis Hospital, why were Yankee buttons found with the bones?

    Reading about cutting down that tree also made me sick Mike. What stories that tree could have told.
    Brad Brune

  6. Ken,
    I sure enjoyed your article on the Burroughs Big Farm House in Cape. I’ve always wondered about its history and now I would love to see the inside of it. Cape should try to spotlight that lovely old home in its tourism brochures and tell about its rich history. Cape has several wonderful big historical homes which need to be preserved. If I would have known that someone was going to cut down a magnificent tree as was that mighty oak, I, personally would have chained myself to it!!!
    What a shame that someone would be so inconsiderate as to destroy another piece of history as was that tree.
    Do you remember the wonderful old antebellum mansion on North Main Street that was across the street from the sand piles years ago? That, too, was another devastating loss to Cape’s younger generation who could have seen and learned the history of that stately home with big white pillars and inviting portico. I hope we can all learn from those past mistakes and preserve Cape’s quaint history from all those “river tales” found here.
    Thanks again, Ken. I really enjoyed reading about the history behind that beautiful big home just off Bloomfield Road.

  7. Ken, he lived at 75 Sheridan Drive at the corner of Merriweather. Before the Town Plaza was built, an old farmhouse sat a top a hill where Sears now is. I believe the Gillands lived there. M Grandpa was always scavenging for garden dirt around the neighborhood; he was locally famous for his gardening. He and Burton Gerhardt, who built Town Plaza, became good friends. When he found the cannonball, he was digging in the field north of his house. We were never sure of the exact location because he may have not had permission to dig in that area.
    He was also well known as a liberator of unattended tools and modern day artifacts that he thought would be of some use to him. His philosophy was, if it was left unattended or uncared for then the owner did not deserve to have it. I believe in his day this was called the “law of the country”. (meaning rural)
    During the non-gardening season he would walk. His usual path took him down to the river and back. His favorite walking shoes were Florsheim wingtips. No fancy Nikes for him. He did this every day, weather permitting, we think to have peace and quiet from grandma. He was in remarkable shape up into his late eighties.
    Maybe you recall the day he was blown out of the garage. it made the newspaper. Grandma did not hold for liquor and tobacco. So he kept his “cold medicine” in his coat closet. He would sneak outside and smoke. One day he went into the garage for a smoke and a leaky gas meter ignited and blew him through the door. When the original gas service was installed, the meter was put inside the garage. If it would have been in his nature he could have sued Missouri Utilities. However, his generation never considered such a remedy. His neighbor came immediately to his aid and called the ambulance. When grandma came out of the house, while grandpa was lying on the ground with second and third degree burns, her first words were, “See Melvin, I told you not to smoke”!

    1. Van,

      I have photos of your Grandpa Melvin. He was my Great Great Uncle. The photos were taken around 1915. Your Great Grandparents are my Great Great Grandparents. Melvin’s middle sister was my Great Grandmother. What is the best way to share the photos?

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