Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Burns, James ------ December 2008

James Christopher Burns was the son of John and Lydia Ann Porter Burns. He was born in Linden-Rock Port, Atchison Missouri in September of 1849. His parents were headed for California in the Great Gold Rush of 1849.At the place known as “the Last Crossing of the Sweetwater”, in the State of Wyoming, two-month old baby James Burns was found by a company of other travelers. He was lying at his mother’s breast. Both parents lay cold in the embrace of death. They had succumbed to the deadly disease of cholera. Deadly cholera is a very contagious disease. One brave soul from the company by the name of Milton Dailey risked his life to save the baby, if possible. The kind-hearted people of the wagon train did what they could for the baby, and they put forth efforts to find any relatives.
Arriving in Salt Lake City, they found the Saints gathering for conference, and Milton Dailey, gave the baby to Brigham Young who held him in his arms before the conference gathering, told of his parents tragic death and asked for information. The baby’s aunt, his mother’s sister, was among the saints and claimed the child.
He was then taken to the home of his grandmother at Provo, Utah. His early boyhood and manhood was spent in Mt. Pleasant, where he was educated and grew to the type of man that earned the love and respect of all who came in contact with him.
He fell in love with Matilda Josephine Anderson. It was thought by many to be “love at first sight”. James Burns often remarked that when he gazed into Matilda’s eyes of blue, he knew she was the one being in the world to make him happy. They were married on the 22nd March 1869.
After the Blackhawk War, he made friends with the red men, allowing his children to play with them, learn the Indian songs and dances, and many of their phrases.
James Burns prospered and progressed and became the Sheriff of Mt. Pleasant, and later served the people of Sanpete County in the same capacity.
Then on the 24th of September 1894, he received a telegraph notice from Scott Bruno, asking him to meet him in the morning at Moroni, as there had been a sheep stealing case.
The following is taken from the writings of Niels Heber Anderson:‘Bill Brewer, Scott Bruno, Niels Heber Anderson and Sheriff James Burns confronted sheep rustlers at Reader’s Ridge back of the Horseshoe Mountain. Evidence of the changing of the ear marks and brands made it quite clear that certain sheep had been stolen.
Sheriff Burns made an attempt to place the rustlers under arrest without first disarming them. As he approached them, they shot and killed the sheriff, then warned the other men that if they did not stay out of the affair, they would receive the same treatment as had been given the sheriff.
Bill Brewer and Anderson brought the news to Spring City and Mt. Pleasant. Thomas Braby, with the Mt. Pleasant Militia, was soon on the scene of the shooting, and the body of James C. Burns was taken to Mt. Pleasant. Although the Militia searched and guarded for a couple of weeks in the ledges and dense timber, the murderers were never apprehended.’ (This has since been proven wrong. They were apprehended)
“James Burns’ life was short but some there are who do not have to live long to accomplish big things. He was killed in the performance of his duty.” Olivia Burns – daughter in law and author of James Burns History


  1. For the sake of fairness, there are a lot of versions of this sad event and should be researched completely before reaching any judgment. also I'd really love to know when Mickel & Kofford were really apprehended as there were many false arrests made. The family might like to know!!

  2. According to my aunts, mother(s). One of the two . mickle or kofford were never really far away. One returned to Mt Pleasant in 1936 at the learning of his mothers eminent passing. Once this was learned by a Deputy , he had just gotten away again. Rustling had been an increasing problem in the valley as well as other thefts. Rustling in Utah in general was not uncommon mostly brought on by picking up in or poorly marked strays for 20 years previous and thenrogressing to more serious proportions. One of the 2 already had a warrant for the same, but I've not found it - yet- . It may not ever surface as it was not an often kept item . Sometimes done verbally and quickly in the interest of timing. SO . If the Spring City relatives account of Mickel and Kofford is to be believed , and the 2 were so innocent (self defense as Burns drew first they claimed). Why did they not come forward ? They remained lifetime fugitives. likely with aliases. But known by their families or friends ? One would expect the Sherrif to hold suspects at gun point in a Corrall way out of town until the markings are checked. No ? The telegraph was more than average urgent. Burns had a reputation for fairness. Why would he or the others with him shot these guys if there was no confirmation of the rustling and their identities? I suspect if there was a big enough reward put out - long enough- someone would have turned them in. Then let a trial sort through the testimony and evidence. Burns widowed a pregnant wife and 5 children. These guys left a dead man and stolen sheep.. Never making an effort to clear their names