John Burk

The Pioneer

  • Born in 1754 - Orange Co, NY, USA
  • Died in 1827 - Brooke Co. West Virginia , age at death: 73 years old
  • Farmer and entrepreneur


Spouses and children


Francis Burk 1725-1768   Eunice Merck †1769
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John Burk , The Pioneer 1754-1827



"The Pioneer":

His first move was from Orange Co. to Northumberland Co, on the west branch of the Susquehanna river (April 1783). Then on to Newton (now called Elmira) on the North branch of the Susquehanna in NY state. John had been a schoolmaster but was capable in many ways. His next move was to Ontario attracted by Gov. Simcoe's proclamation offering free land to settlers. Land was expensive in settled US areas and to go further west into indian lands was forbidden.

The winter before he left, he killed 22 bear and sold their skins. In 1794, John arrived with his family at Newark, Upper Canada. There he was told to proceed to Darlington township that had been surveyed
He landed at Barber's (Bowmanville) Creek on the north shore of lake Ontario in october 1794. They put up a shelter and trapped during that winter. Next march, John went to the Bay of Quinte and got 11 barrels of flour for the skins.

We have copy of his petition for land dated 1796,. He obtained Lot 13, Con 1 and Lot 13 Broken Front, a total of 400 acres just where West Bowmanville is to-day. Later he was joined by his brother James.

According to Opal Mills, he then built Darlington's first grist and saw mill where Vanstone's Mill now stands. He also opened the first general store and then an inn (In 1824, Charles Bowman purchased the store). He also acquired over 1000 acres of land in addition to his initial grant in 1798. Today, much of the Burk land forms the Darlington Provincial Park as well as the Darlington generating site.

Ironically, Darlington's first citizen did not live out the rest of his days in Bowmanville. In 1820, he sold his store and returned to the USA in West Virginia. Before he died, John returned to Bowmanville on horseback twice to visit his family.

Notable family members include Durham MP William Harvey Burk and Bowmanville lawyer John Burk-Simpson.

Ref gives pictures of the dedication of the Burk Pioneer cemetery on the site of the Darlington generating station and mentions Paul Burk, who still resides in Oshawa.

- birth, spouse: Geneanet - pegdoyle