The Curious Case of Eleanor Burke Bean
Accurate genealogy is only as good as the records available at one's fingertips. Personal memories are faulty. Stories are oftentimes a jumble of related facts from family member to family member and generation to generation. One new record or tidbit of information can change a family tree in dramatic, earth shattering ways.
Take the case of Eleanor Burke Bean.
About 1852, Eleanor Burke married George Pleasant Bean, probably in Tyler County or a surrounding county, such as Jasper or Polk. George, of course, was the son of Leroy D. Bean and Jane McQueen of Tennessee. Bean and McQueen divorced about 1838, and George came to the Republic of Texas with his mother.
Eleanor came to Texas about 1829, ten years previous to George. She was about two years old at the time. For years, and in a number of family trees, she was given as the daughter of Benjamin Burke and Susan Ogden. The most reliable source for that information was her obituary in Don Hendrix's Polk County Folks, Vol. I, Newspaper Obituaries & Death Notices (St. Louise: Ingmire Publications, 1984). That obit, combined with family tradition and anecdotal evidence, seem to create an ironclad connection between her and Benjamin Burke.
But, was there another story that was lost to everyone? Perhaps, even to Eleanor herself?
Eleanor Burke was born 31 December 1827 in either Arkansas or Mississippi. Her mother, Susan Ogden, had been born in 1808 in North Carolina to the Rev. Benjamin Ogden and Susannah Moore. Her father immigrated to Tennessee and later Arkansas, where he remained until his death in 1837. While Susan's marriage to Benjamin Burke has been well-known, what had nearly fallen into obscurity was her marriage previous to Samuel Burke, Benjamin's brother. Someone, however, found the documentation, and a memorial marker now erected in the family cemetery in Trinity County, Texas, sheds new light on Eleanor's father.
Memorial in family cemetery in Trinity Co., TX.
The back has more of the history of Susan Ogden and Benjamin Burke.
Susan and Samuel married, perhaps in Tennessee or Arkansas, about 1826. Daughter Eleanor was born on 31 December 1827. The next year, in 1828, her husband, Samuel, died. Susan, now young and widowed and with an infant daughter, was not quite twenty years old.
On 19 January 1829, Susan Ogden Burke married her brother-in-law, Benjamin Burke, probably in Arkansas or Tennessee. Benjamin subsequently immigrated to the Republic of Mexico that spring or summer at around the same time that John McQueen and Nancy Crews did. Eleanor, as stated earlier, was barely two years old. She was, of course, raised by Benjamin Burke, and her mother and uncle went on to have nine more children, although she was considered the oldest.
So why do so many records have Eleanor Burke as the daughter of Benjamin Burke, her uncle?
Simply because records in the early part of the 19th century on the frontier were scarce. And, most importantly, Eleanor herself may never have known of her real father. Surely, she called Benjamin Burke by that name. Unless someone thought to tell her otherwise, she would not have believed otherwise. Later generations took the family lore, thought little of another scenario, and determined she was the daughter of Benjamin Burke.
Cemetery markers for Susan Ogden Burke (above) and Benjamin Burke (below).
A memorial to Eleanor's parents Benjamin Franklin Burke and Susan Ogden was recently erected in the family cemetery in Trinity County, Texas. The back of the marker lists both of Susan's husbands, including her marriage date to Benjamin Burke, and their children. Eleanor is listed as the oldest. Benjamin has an additional marker (as a citizen of the Republic of Texas) which details his history from the time he moved to Texas.
Eleanor (Burke) and George P. Bean lived their lives out in Tyler and possibly Polk Counties, Texas. They raised eight children. George passed away in 1883. Eleanor survived him by thirty years, passing away in 1913. Both are buried in the Old City Cemetery in Livingston, Polk County, Texas.
Headstones for George Pleasant Bean and Eleanor Burke Bean.
Special thank you to Sarah Smith McCormack Nuche from bringing the new information on Eleanor Burke Bean to my attention.