Burke family: Five generations in Piceance Basin

phMKfeatureBurkeMEEKER I The close ties and neighborly attitudes of Lime Kiln are comparable to some of the other long-standing “communities” within our county such as the Powell Park and Piceance Creek areas.
Five generations of Burkes have lived on the family’s original property in the Piceance Basin. They are well-known not only for their sheer numbers, but for traits like loyalty, work ethic and simply enjoying life; characteristics revealed again and again throughout the generations.
Fred and Annie (Jones) Burke were joined in holy matrimony on Nov. 30, 1905. From their union, 15 children were born. From those 15 children came 29 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, 48 in what would be the sixth generation, and six, so far, in the seventh generation. The connection between the nearly 150 people honestly speaks to the strength of the family and perseverance in a time lesser men and women would not have endured.
Thanks to help from Claire Burke’s written history and the incredible memory of Nettie Faye Modlin, the family tree has been completed to the best of their knowledge, creating a rich resource of history and information for generations to come.
Fred Burke’s parents, James and Mary (Fletcher), came to the United States from Ireland. Fred was born in Providence, R.I. He came to Meeker when he was 15. His father had owned the Silver Dollar Saloon in Leadville, Colo., when the town was booming. James came to the Piceance Creek area looking for a ranch. On Sept. 15, 1887, he paid for what is now the Burke Ranch with gold he carried in his saddle bags. James passed away April 7, 1909, and left an estate to be divided between his three sons: Fred, James and Tommy. Fred bought his brother’s interest in the ranch in 1910 and continued the cattle operation they had started. He and his wife Annie lived in a small log house with a sod roof and brought forth nine sons and six daughters. They carried water from the pump, heated it on a wood stove, and the washing and bathing was done in a wash tub. The food supply was brought in twice a year: 50 lb. bags of flour, sugar in cloth sacks, oatmeal, salt, pork, beans, rice, coffee and dried fruit. Everything else was grown on the ranch: beef, eggs, milk and garden-fresh vegetables.
Every night, without fail, the entire family sat together in the evening for a meal, with their “hands washed and hair combed,” according to Nettie. Annie would make up to eight loaves of bread at a time, and rolls and cinnamon rolls twice a week. Her ability to attend to the daily needs of her large family was amazing. Annie was said to be the second white child born in this new frontier, between the time the Indians were removed from the White River area in 1882, and the incorporation of the town of Meeker in 1885. She was raised in Powell Park and attended school there. As the children grew up and moved out, they started families of their own, bringing with them the love of family they learned in that small cedar log cabin.
Fred and Annie’s oldest son, James, was born in 1906. He married Elle Mae Anderson in 1931 and they had James, Jerry and Patricia Ann. James would have seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Mary Alice was born in 1907 and married Frank Berry in 1925, they had one daughter, Elle Lee, and would have two grandkids. Anna Margaret was born in 1909 and married Dallas Collins in1935. They had Joe, Dick, Ed and Patricia (Anderson). Annie would have 18 grandkids, 23 great-grandchildren, and nine great-great-grandchildren. Richard Burke did not have children, he was born in 1910 and passed away in 1983. Thomas Owen was born in 1913 and married Nina Patterson in 1947. They had David, Richard and Monford and would have five grandchildren. David was born in 1915 and passed away in an accident involving a horse in 1935. Winnie was born in 1917 and married Ivo Shults in 1937. The two had Loann (Klinglesmith) and Lonnie, they would have four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Freddie Burke was born in 1918 and passed away at only 18 months. Claire Burke was born in 1921 and did not have children of her own but hundreds of Meeker students claimed Aunt Claire as their own. She passed away in 2008. Nancy Lee was born in 1923 but passed away at nine years old from Leukemia. Nettie Faye was born in 1925 and married Lonsdale Modlin in 1946. They had Larry, Janet (Henderson) and Sherry (Rubin). Nettie has seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Dean and Dale were born in 1928. Dean married Fern in 1966. They have Clint, K.C., Jimmy and Carol, and six grandchildren. Dale married Diane Lawrence in 1973. They had Susan, Robert and Carolyn. Lex was born in 1929 and married Kay Dornberger. They had Annie Kay and two grandchildren. He later married Jan Barlow with son Chris. The last of the children, Pat, was born in 1931. He married Peggy Cook in 1951. They had Fred, Peggy Sue and Debra, and have seven grandchildren.
Although we regrettably may have missed a great-great-grandchild born in the last five years, the large majority is accounted for, and the major relations understood. This was a project that was absolutely intriguing, and yet another example of how interesting small town history can be.