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Murrell & Karen Burton's 4th Annual: Burton Ridge Reunion
This article first appeared in issue 14, and was written by Ed Waggener.
It is a bit of the Adair County fair, a little Colonial Will-iamsburg, some old time religion, some Fountain Ferry Park, a lot of Republican politics and a little Democrat, a lot of singing, more stories-mostly true-than Hans Christian Anderson, and a mountain of fun.
Hundreds of Burtons and their kin have descended on Murrell and Karen Burton's farm on Hancok and Redmon Roads in suburban Vester each Saturday before Memorial Day every year for the last four years.
They come from everywhere. All over Kentucky and as far away as Texas, as did Avis Marie Powell, who once tended to the present Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives. "I don't take credit for making Joe D. the Speaker," she said, "but I did teach him how to behave."
Storied Burton Ridge is like no other place in Adair County. It was poor once. There was a time when the primary color seen along the highway was the orange of broom sedge.That all changed when Murrell's Uncles, Zina and Edgar (Cubby) started hauling lime to The Ridge. And The Ridge had a frontier reputation. There are people living today who would tell you their fathers would come from north of Green River through The Ridge only if they were armed-this as late as the '30's. And legends of the fights and feuds in those days are still perpetuated, mostly by the descendants themselves. "Why," one Reunioner said, "40 years ago we couldn't have held this without there being at least two fights and one killing."
It is nothing to be embarrassed about, you see. The people of Burton Ridge recall these tales more as grand boasting than as a reluctant admission. Now pride rules. The clan's historians, Erwin Lepiarazyk and Stella Norman Patton are proclaiming long-awaited book Burton and Proud of It. "It will be the Bible of the Burton family," they say.
You wouldn't know there were ever hard times by seeing the prosperous, black-green farms, the well-kempt homes, the fine automobiles, the expensive hobbies; by checking the degrees after the names of so many from 206, or by reading a Who's Who of Adair County Success Stories-if there were one-and seeing their names always prominently mentioned. You wouldn't know by pricing the land, some of which sells for $10-11,000 an acre and some, like the Murrell Burton and Terry Farris lands, you couldn't buy for $10,000 an acre-or at any price, they say. And you'd never even suspect a wild past by visiting The Ridge today. If anything, it's getting too genteel, too gentrified, for some.
The reunion farm is an Adair County museum. There's a pre-50s farmhouse which was built by mill-hands at Murrell Burton' s father's mill for a Mr. Breeding. It still has a step cook stove, antique radio, an antique bed, linoleum floors-all in the old tradition, and more.
There's a working sawmill, much like the one Lloyd "Bodie" Burton, Murrell's father, ran and made a fortune with.It came from the Henry Sandusky estate. Mr. Burton had a third grade education, his son said, "But he had the best head for math I've ever seen in my life. He could walk through a boundary of timber and tell you how many board feet of every tree in the boundary there was-and he never took a note." Lloyd Burton retired in 1957. He died in 1983.
Murrell still square bales hay. "I like the look of it," he says. There's a working grist mill operated each year by little Elzy Burton of Edinburg; a blacksmith shop, a broom plant which came from Yank Loy, and usually, there's soap making on the grounds, but not this year. The Turners provided background Gospel music.
For the record, PhoneDisc lists 172 residences of Burtons in Adair County, 137 in Edinburg.
This story was posted on 1997-06-15 12:01:01
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