Jeremiah Burns is of Scottish origin. His grandfather, Patrick Burns (son of John Burness), migrated from Scotland and settled in Maryland. His father, James Patrick Burns, later migrated to Virginia and settled in that part of Luenberg County (formed from Brunswick in 1746), which became Bedford County in 1753. The name and family history of Burness are found on old tombstones in the churchyard of Glenbervie, Scotland. It is noted by “several historians” that Jeremiah was of the same line of descent as the illustrious poet, Robert Burns.
In June 1776 Jeremiah enlisted in the Virginia line of the American Revolution at Bedford County, Virginia for a period of three years as a private in Captain George Lambert’s Company commanded by Colonel George Matthews under Major General Nathanael Greene, it being the 14th Virginia Regiment, afterwards consolidated into the 7th; he continued to serve in said Corps, or in the service of the United States, against the common enemy until the expiration of his enlistment, during which time he served in the battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania, October 5, 1777; and the battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, June 28, 1778, where Washington harassed the British at Monmouth Courthouse. Without taking a discharge or bounty land he enlisted for another three years and continued with the army under Major General Greene. In 1781 he was marched to Yorktown, Virginia and served in the Seige of Yorktown which began October 6, 1781, which battle was the turning point in the war when British General Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781 to Washington. In August 1782, after serving six years, he was honorably discharged at Williamsburg, Virginia by Colonel Ross.
Jeremiah was a farmer and a noted Methodist preacher of his day. It is unknown just when his first wife died, but while preaching at a Methodist Church in Franklin County (created from Bedford and Henry in 1785), he spied in his congregation Elizabeth Rowland, born Franklin County, Virginia, June 11, 1770, who was a beautiful girl and a devout worshipper as well as being gifted with a melodious voice. An historian stated of her that in song she was wonderfully gifted; a brunette of the most perfect type; hair as black as a raven, heavy eyebrows, a curved lip, and a faultless figure. The preacher fell in love with her. She accepted his hand and heart and they became one flesh. After a short courtship he and Elizabeth were married on March 20, 1794 in Franklin County, Virginia by John Watt, a Methodist Minister. Jeremiah and Elizabeth were the founders of the Burns House in the Big Sandy Valley (Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky).
Jeremiah and Elizabeth had nine children, who honored their parents by rising to distinction in law, theology, and official stations. They are: Roland Tiernan Burns, Jeremiah Burns, Jr., Nancy Reed Burns, Jane H. Burns, Amanda Burns (my direct), John Lewis Burns, Charles C. Burns, James P. Burns and Julia Anne Burns. I have additional information for anyone interested.
Elizabeth was descended from a family made famous in French Huguenot history. Until Jeremiah’s alliance with Elizabeth, a French beauty of the perfect brunette caste, were all blondes, but the blood of the Huguenots has changed the type of the family to a full brunette. (From the book, The Big Sandy Valley by William Ely.) As a side note, here’s a little history of the Huguenots. The Huguenots (click here for additional information) were French Protestants, most of whom eventually came to follow the teachings of John Calvin, and who, due to religious persecution, were forced to flee France to other countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some remained, practicing their Faith in secret. . . .
Since the Huguenots of France were in large part artisans, craftsmen, and professional people, they were usually well-received in the countries to which they fled for refuge when religious discrimination or overt persecution caused them to leave France. Most of them went initially to Germany, the Netherlands, and England, although some found their way eventually to places as remote as South Africa.
Considerable numbers of Huguenots migrated to British North America, especially to the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Their character and talents in the arts, sciences, and industry were such that they are generally felt to have been a substantial loss to the French society from which they had been forced to withdraw, and a corresponding gain to the communities and nations into which they settled.
Jeremiah died October 13, 1824, age 72 years, and was buried on East Fork, Lawrence County, Kentucky. His Will dated May 11, 1824, was the second Will recorded in Lawrence County, Kentucky. It reads as follows:
In the name of God, Amen. I, Jeremiah Burns, of Lawrence County and State of Kentucky, being of sound mind and judgment, but knowing that it is appointed for all men to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following. I recommend my soul to Almighty God, the dispenser of all things, and my body to be buried in a decent and Christian manner at the discretion of my surviving friends hereafter mentioned. And as to my worldly goods that it has pleased Almighty God to Bless me with, after my funeral expenses are paid, I dispose of in the following manner, to wit: I give and bequeath to my wife Elizabeth Burns the place that I now live on for which I hold a title bond on David L. Ward for one hundred acres of land, being part of William Grayson’s 70,000 acre survey. Also two horse beasts, one mare named Canary and one two year old filly named Phoenix, also the cow beasts, which consist of three cows, a three year old steer, a three year old bull, and a two year old heifer; also two young calves, and ten head of sheep. Also fifteen head of hogs and twelve geese, and poultry of every description. The household furniture consisting of three beds with their covering, cooking utensils, with the table and furniture, the loom with its tackle, one shovel plough and one set of drawing gears, two axes, three hoes, with all the farming utensils. The Bible hymn book, the letter writer and Scot’s lessons, also two spinning wheels, one little wheel and one big wheel, and two large sugar kettles, two augers and drawing knife, and if there should be any part of my pension that should be in arrear that is to be for her use. And the balance of my books I give and bequeath to my son Rowland Burns which consists of the first Vol. of Blair’s sermons, the fourth Vol. Wesley’s sermons, Milton’s works, Paradise Lost. I also give and bequeath to my son John L. Burns one horse beast called Nudly, and a rifle gun, but he is not at liberty to dispose of them until he comes of age. And the within named property granted to my wife Elizabeth Burns, is to be hers her lifetime to dispose of as she thinks best if she remains a widow. But if she should marry she is only to have her third and balance of the estate is to be equally divided amongst my children, to wit: Rowland Burns, Jeremiah Burns, Nancy Githens, late Nancy Burns, Jane Rice, late Jane Burns, Amanda Burns, John L. Burns, Charles C. Burns, James P. Burns and Juliann Burns; and if she remains a widow at her decease whatever remains of the estate to be equally divided among the above named Rowland Burns, Jeremiah Burns, Nancy Githens, late Nancy Burns, Jane Rice, late Jane Burns, Amanda Burns, John L. Burns, Charles C. Burns, James P. Burns and Juliann Burns.
Lastly I constitute my son Rowland Burns and son-in-law John Githens executor of this my last will and testament, ratifying it to be such.
In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal, this 11th day of Mat. (sic) 1824. Signed, sealed and acknowledged in presence of:
Jeremiah Burns, Sen. :seal:
Elijah Rice Jun.
Elizabeth died at Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky, on April 27, 1859, age 89, and was buried in Widow’s Graveyard.