Grandma's Cabin, Genealogy by Nancy Machuga

Some of her ancestors and descendents

Grandparents:  John Burk Sr. born in 1746 in Ireland, came to Massachusetts circa 1771 and
                         settled in the Spencer/Brookfield, Worcester County area where he met and
                         married Rachel Haire on 19 January 1775.   Rachel was born in Massachusetts in
                         1739 and was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Owen Haire.
                         3 children were born to John and Rachel: a son John Jr., a daughter Polly who  
                         married Jesse Mix of Orange County, Vermont and a son whose name is

Parents:  John Burk, Jr. born in 1777 in Massachusetts married Betsey Green of Oakham,
               Massachusetts who was the daughter of William and Betsey Hudson Green.  Betsey
               was born in 1786.  The Burk family left Massachusetts to settle in Braintree, Orange
               County, Vermont and this is where John Jr. met Betsey Green when she resided with
               her grandparents William and Sarah Stone Green.  Betsey’s parents, William
               and Betsey Hudson Green resided in Danby, Vermont. 
               John Burk, Jr. and his wife Betsey Green were the parents of 9 children:
               1.  Betsey Burk born c. 1803, married Samuel Giles
               2.  Martha Burk born c. 1805, married Sheldon Mathews
               3.  John Spencer Burk born 1807, married Mary Schoonover
               4.  William Green Burk born 1809, married 1st Catherine Stoner, 2nd Lydia Vickery
               5.  Aurelia J. Burk born 1812, married Bildad Bennett
               6.  Nelson Perry Burk born 1814, married Fanny Olmstead
               7.  POLLY MARIAH BURK born 1817, married 1st John Whitwell, 2nd Amos Gillett
               8.  Electa L. Burk born 1821, married Charles Goodrich
               9.  Daughter, name unknown born 1825 and died before 1854


Polly was born 1817 in Danby, Vermont and died in 1867 in Cato, Cayuga County, NY.  She was buried in the Cato-Meridian Cemetery in the family plot belonging to her brother Nelson Perry Burk.  Her brother William Green Burk was the legal guardian of her daughter Frances Ella (Francella) Gillett and, as the executor of Polly’s estate, he purchased her gravestone.

Polly lived a short 50 years and, after much research, some information on her life has surfaced.

Polly’s parents had left Vermont in 1825 to reside for a short time in Marcellus, Cayuga County, NY.  In the early 1830s, John Jr. and Betsey Green Burk, along with 7 children including Polly, went to Washtenaw County, Michigan where they resided in Grass Lake Township.  (William Green Burk and his brother Nelson Perry Burk remained in the Cato, NY area the rest of their lives.)
The elder Burks had a farm in Grass Lake township and are now considered among the pioneers of Michigan.  This farm was located near the village of Leoni, Jackson County, Michigan. It was here that their daughter Polly met John Marshall Whitwell who had come to Grass Lake in 1835 to open a store.  John was the son of John and Persis Whitwell.  On 14 February 1836 John and Polly were married and, sadly, the marriage ended with the accidental death of John Whitwell on 2 May 1840.  John was killed by the kick of a horse leaving Polly a widow who was expecting their first child.  P. M. Whitwell was listed as Head of Household in the 1840 Michigan census and she had several Burk family members residing with her in order to work the farm she owned.

Happiness was to elude Polly for she lost her infant daughter Frances Whitwell on 1 December 1840.   In the Grass Lake Cemetery stones can be found for John M. Whitwell and Frances Marshall Whitwell, infant daughter of J. M. Whitwell and his wife.  Father lies buried next to the infant daughter he never knew.

Her life had been very sad in 1840 because Polly lost to death not only her husband and infant daughter, she also lost her father John Burk, Jr.  Her faith in God was strong and she again began to try to wrest some happiness from life.

In 1843 she married Amos W. Gillett.  They went to live in Geneva, Kane County, Illinois and, in 1860, they were living in Hanover Township, Jackson County, Michigan.  The census record lists Amos as a miller, age 39, born in NY and Polly is listed by her middle name Maria(h) as age 40.  Their children were: Ann age 15, David age 11, Frances age 9 and Myron age 5.

For some unknown reason Polly and her daughter Frances Ella (Francella) Gillett returned to New York State and were residing in the Cato area by 1865.  It appears that Polly and Amos separated.

In 1867 Polly died of pleurisy and was buried in Cato, NY.  Her daughter remained in the area and married Charles Farnham.  This couple later lived in Minnesota and was the parents of Fred Eugene, George Thomas, Harry E. and Myrtle H. Farnham.

Polly’s other children remained in Michigan with their father Amos W. Gillett and their stepmother, the former Jane Elizabeth Bending who was the widow of Samuel Milnes who died in 1866.

Amos W. Gillett, a widower, died in 1901 from influenza in Jamestown, Indiana at the local infirmary.

Farnham information supplied by Les Taylor, a descendent of Polly.

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