Notes for James Burke: James Burke (1710-1782) is known as "The Father of Burkes Garden" in Virginia, and is a legendary figure of history in southwestern Virginia. He was born in either Goochland or Orange County, Virginia or possibly in Ireland before his father, John Bourk, came to America.
In 1742 at the age of 32, James was a member of the Augusta County militia. That same year James bought land on Goose Creek near the Roanoke River in what is now Roanoke County. He began a rugged frontier life filled with danger and adventure. James was one of the first three white men to build a home in Roanoke County.
From his home on Goose Cree, James ventured deeper into the frontier to explore the areas of southwestern Virginia that no white man had ever seen. He apparently was a rough character. In 1746 and again in 1747, he was indicted by the Augusta County grand jury for "common swearing" and "Prophaning God's name in public.
"Burkes Garden": When a handful of other settlers decided to have their land surveyed, James joined the survey party of Colonel Thomas L. Preston. In the fall of 1748, the party was surveying land in what is now Tazewell County when a heavy snow forced them to break camp and suspend their work for the year. After cooking breakfast, James cleared away the place where their fire had been and planted a lot of potato peelings, covering them lightly with brush. The following spring or summer, the survey crew returned to the area and found a large bed of potatoes where the peelings had been planted. They named the valley "Burke's Garden", a name that is still used today.
In 1753, land records show that James sold his land on Goose Creek in Roanoke County and moved his family to "Burke's Garden" and built a fort that was called Burke's Fort. It became a haven for whites trying to escape Indian raids. Captain William Preston who kept a diary for Colonel George Washington, commander of the Virginia Regiment, described "Burke's Garden" as a tract of land of 5,000 or 6,000 acres, as rich and fertile as any he had ever seen, surrounded with mountains almost impassable.
In late 1760, James bought 440 acres of farmland near the Yadkin River in Rowan County, North Carolina. In 1760, Rowan County was truly a frontier. Squire Boone and his family, including son, Daniel, left Pennsylvania and came to Rowan County. The Boones lived only a few miles from the James Burke land.
James died in the winter of 1783. His land or his grave have never been located. There is no record of who bought James' 440 acres where he lived as his exciting and adventuresome life came to a close. He was 73 years old at his death. James left a legacy that lives on in southwestern Virginia.
More About James Burke and Mary "Polly" Bane: Marriage: Abt. 1730, Chester County, PA.
More About James Burke and Lucretia Griffith: Marriage: Aft. 1749
Children of James Burke and Mary "Polly" Bane are: