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Joshua Jonathan & Elmina (MITCHELL) BURKS;

Chester Cortez

Eddie Ollie Lee (BURKS) CRAWFORD

Joseph Fowler



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Joshua Jonathan BURKS (son of William & Lucinda (NORMAN) BURKS) was born Oct 10, 1847 in Arkansas. He was named after his father’s brother who was Jonathan Joshua Burks. His mother died in Arkansas and William returned to Georgia with J.J. and his sister Mary E. who was born circa 1850.

According to family tradition, William remarried, but the wife (name unknown) was so cruel to the children that the marriage soon ended. On the 1860 Census of Coosa County AL, Mary E. and Joshua are shown living in the household of William’s aunt, Unity (FOWLER) BURKS, the widow of Jonathan Burks.

(Jonathan and Unity were married on Oct 30, 1823 in Madison Co GA.)

It is possible that William had already died by the time of the 1860 Census, as he is not found on any census taken that year. After William's death, Unity had seven of her own children, plus the two stepchildren. J.J. went back to Clayton County, Georgia to live with his uncle Dave NORMAN. It is not known if his sister Mary E. stayed with Unity, or if she had possibly died by that time.

During his early years, J.J. went to school only long enough to learn to read, but not to write. After he was living with the NORMAN family in Clayton Co GA, he went to a writing school with the help of his cousin Yancy BARTON. (Yancy's mother was a sister to J.J.’s mother, Lucinda (NORMAN) BURKS)

On Dec 24, 1871 in Clayton County GA, J.J. married Elmina MITCHELL (daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth (RUFF) MITCHELL) in a civil ceremony conducted by A.P. Adamson, Justice of the Peace. Elmina was born Aug 17, 1851 in Clayton County GA.

J.J. and Elmina lived in Clayton County for approximately six years, then moved to the Brachfield Community of Rusk County TX in the early months of 1877. There they began farming and raising their family. They joined the Zion Hill Baptist Church in July 1877. Being active and faithful members of that church, J.J. was ordained as a deacon on July 31, 1886. According to church records, on Sep 2, 1893 he was recognized as "having the gift of exhortation." On Jan 4, 1901 he was ordained as a minister and began pastoring churches all over Rusk County.

Elmina had learned the art of being an herb doctor from her mother Elizabeth (RUFF) MITCHELL, back in Clayton Co GA. She continued that skill in the Brachfield area. Regrettably, none of her children or grandchildren ever went with her into the woods and fields to gather the plants she used for medicine nor did they learn how she processed and administered them.

For a time he was a circuit riding missionary, serving churches as far away as the Flatwoods Community in the extreme southeastern portion of neighboring Panola County. J.J. loved to sing religious music. His daughter Lee (BURKS) CRAWFORD remembered his favorites as being some of the Sacred Harp songs such as #288 "White", #418 "Rees" and #470 " There We Our Jesus Shall Adore". On Aug 28 1913 the family was gathered so the men could help Dr. Tim Deason cut hay. After lunch J.J. suddenly felt ill. Someone fixed him a pallet on the porch of his house so the afternoon breeze could help him stay cool. He laid down and requested that the women and girls go on singing hymns as they had been doing to amuse themselves. Suddenly he turned very blue and said simply, "I'm gone! " and he died. He was buried in Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery near his home.

Elmina then became the strong head of the family, continuing to live on in the home J.J. had built upon their arrival in Texas. A quiet, unassuming woman, Elmina loved her family and worked hard at keeping the family unit strong. Elmina died June 21, 1940 at her home and was also buried in Zion Hill Cemetery. Two months after her death, her children, remembering how they had always gathered to celebrate her birthday, decided the most fitting memorial to their mother would be to hold a family reunion each year on the Sunday closest to her birthday. That tradition, begun in 1940, continues today, reinforcing the family ties she felt were so important.

Children of J.J. and Elmina (MITCHELL) BURKS: 12

Lydia Florence Burks 1872-1951

Georgia Ann Ruff Burks 1874-1902

William Clifford Burks 1876-1954

Tommie Elizabeth Burks 1878-1936

Martin Edward Burks 1880-1959

Wyatt Alden Burks 1882-1942

Lexie Jane Burks 1885-1963

Eddie Ollie Lee Burks 1888-1973

Rufus Columbus Burleson Burks 1892-1975

Stewart Joshua Burks 1892-1975

Infant son Burks 1894-1894

Emma Odessa Burks 1896-1975

Submitted by Marylee Watson Knight Thanks for sharing your family with us!!

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