Perry County Connection to Booker T. Washington? Really?

A while back we told the story of how some Burroughs children came to Perry County.  The post was titled, An Orphan’,s Son, A Teacher’s Daughter

Today happens to be the wedding anniversary of Peter Burroughs and Elizabeth Atkinson in 1816.  They were married in Virginia. Peter had a son named Robert who had four children that ended up in Perry County.  Peter had served in the War of 1812.  Here is a brief document of his service during that war.  peter-burroughs-war-of-1812-record

Since that war ended in 1815, Peter, having been born in 1796, would have been a mere 19 years old at the end of the war.  It was also just a short time after the war that Peter and Elizabeth were married.  It is said that Peter went on to become a physician.  The couple had 10 children, with Robert being number nine.  In 1827, the Burroughs family moved to Alabama.  They were not there long.  In 1829, we find them living in Coffee County, Tennessee.  It was there that Elizabeth died in 1839, the same year that the German Lutherans were arriving in Perry County.  Peter would die one year later in 1840.

Robert lived with his older brother, William after his parents died.  In 1855, he married Sarah Charles.  This couple moved to Gorham, Illinois.  It was that move that brought the Burroughs family within the neighborhood of Perry County, Missouri.  Here is a map that shows the close proximity of Gorham, Illinois to Wittenberg, Missouri.


Robert was wounded during the Civil War and died from those wounds in 1863.  Sarah remarried James Donald, and he died right away as well.  It was at this time that Sarah was reportedly told that the German Lutherans in Wittenberg would welcome children into their community, so she “let out” her four children there where they grew up as if they were orphans.

Now I must get back to the point of this post.  While navigating around on, I ran across the fact that Peter had a brother name James Burroughs who has a claim to fame of which I was unaware.  It was on the James Burroughs plantation in Bedford County, Virginia that Booker T. Washington was born.  Here is a photo of James and Elizabeth (Robertson) Burroughs.


It is reported that this couple had fourteen children, although I found one family history on that listed fifteen.  Here is what the Burroughs home looked like in 1937.


It certainly was no mansion, and it looks like it would have been a very crowded home with all those children.

James Burroughs was a tobacco farmer and also a slave owner.  One of those slaves was named Jane.  Some sources indicate that her last name may have been Taliaferro.  It was Jane that became the mother of Booker T. Washington.  It is unknown who was actually his father, although most say the father was another local white farmer.  After being emancipated following the Civil War, Jane married Washington Ferguson.  Young Booker would eventually take the name Washington as his own, and the T. was for Taliaferro.

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington would go on to become a very important figure in American History.  A short video biography of his life can be found here.

It was a long time ago when I read Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery.

I wonder if the many descendants of the Perry County Burroughs children are aware that their family has this connection to such a famous person from American History.

7 thoughts on “Perry County Connection to Booker T. Washington? Really?

  1. It is amazing to me that someone could write (without tongue firmly in cheek) that a black woman who was a cook at one white farmer’s house and was enslaved could have been raped by another totally unrelated farmer in the same town. It is clear from pictures of young Booker T Washington that he looks strikingly like James Burroughs, his father and enslaver. How could an enslaved women find time and energy to meet and be raped by someone other than her enslaved during this latter part of slavery? One aspect of slavery was how efficient it became near its end. A cook was very likely to be raped by her enslaved as were all women who worked in the home at that time. Likely, as a child, Booker T Washington was tasked with brining his half sister to school on a horse while he walked by her side and had to walk the horse back everyday. He longed to go to school as she did but he could not, even though he and she had the same father. She lived in that modest home and he lived in a drafty shack with 10 other people.

    1. Taliaferro was the doctor and the vet. He probably delivered the child that could easily have been his. This was a tiny farm, not a plantation, and absolutely not a town and until quite recently there was nothing resembling a town anywhere nearby.

  2. Do we know if Robert Burroughs fought in the Civil War and for which side? I would hope for the Union, especially given the apparent fact that his uncle owned human beings.

  3. James Burroughs was my 1st cousin 4x removed. I would love to find out if Booker T. Washington is a relative of mine. Very interesting and exciting.

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