the story of Edward DeVere Burr
Edward DeVere Burr, affectionately know as “Bun” to his family and friends, was a pioneer of Arch Creek, Florida.
The moniker, it is told, was derived from the fact that as an infant, his ears were rather large and the family wondered aloud whether he might first walk or hop like a bunny.
By all accounts, Bun Burr was a magnanimous fellow that spent the best years of his life serving his community well. An articulate, considerate and often humorous gentleman, Bun always had time to listen and offer advice to family and friends.
From the day he joined the county commission in January, 1915, he proved to be the dominate force in Dade politics, serving as chairman of the commission from 1917 to 1921.
During his tenure, East Dixie Highway (US1), the Miami Canal Highway (Okeechobee Road), Ingraham Highway (Old Cutler Road), The Bay Causeway (I-395), the Tamiami Trail (US41) and a myriad of bridges and public roads were conceived and constructed and millions of dollars of bonds were issued for infrastructure improvements in Dade.
His most significant contribution was to connect all the disparate settlements of Dade with modern roads, then connect these communities to others throughout the state. Between 1910 and 1920, the population of Dade County quadrupled. Much of this growth can be attributed to aggressive improvement of infrastructure.
Edward's brother Richard Hudson Burr served as Chairman of the State Railroad Commission from 1902 to 1927 when the building of railroads in Florida was the highest priority. A popular man throughout the state, Richard was urged to run for governor in 1903. He chose to support his friend Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, elected on a platform to re-claim much of western Dade's expansive swamp lands.
Over the course of more than 2 decades as chair of this important commission, R.H. Burr was often encouraged to run for governor, but numerous newspapers and civic activists proclaimed that his honest and forthright leadership of the railroad commission was more critical to the long term development of the state than his service as governor.
This theme of noble public service was a virtue handed down in the Burr family over many generations.
Edward and Richard and their siblings were Florida pioneers -- the fourth generation of their family to call the state home.
They are buried side by side with their wives in the first plot of the Old Miami Cemetery.
The family could trace its roots back to Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland; Sir Thomas More of Chelsea, a noted English Scholar and Chancellor to King Henry VIII and author of the legendary book, Utopia in 1515.
The Burrs that first settled North America in the 1640s were Quaker pilgrims, leaving Surrey, England for the promise of religious freedom abroad. The lineage also traces back to William Brewster of the Mayflower.
In Colonial America, one noteworthy ancestor was Governor General Alexander Spotswood of Virginia (serving from 1710 to 1722). He lead the Knights Of The Golden Horseshoe Expedition up the Rappahannock River valley and across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap into the Shenandoah Valley to expedite settlement, among a long list of notable accomplishments.
American Revolutionary War hero Colonel Benjamin Temple of the Virginia Dragoons and the Virginia State Assembly is a noted ancestor. He equipped and lead his own company of fast horsemen during the revolution. As one of Washington's most trusted officers, he was a founding member of the Order Of The Cincinnati and voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence in the Virginia legislature.
Our Declaration of Independence was scribed by Timothy Matlack, a descendant of Henry Burr and Elizabeth Hudson through their second son Joseph Burr. Joseph Burr's wife, Jane Abbot, through her mother Ann Mauleverer, is the direct descendant of several of the 25 Barons of England, including Robert de Vere, that signed the Magna Charta in June of 1215.
Edward takes his name from another noted ancestor, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, outstanding wit and preeminent poet at court of Elizabeth I, widely believed by scholars to have been the author of the works of Shakespeare.
The Burrs settled in Goochland County, King and Queen County and Georgetown near Washington D.C. I’ve been told the Burr family long ago owned property in Virginia where our nation’s capital building now stands.
Edward came south as a six year old child in 1876. Along with older brother Richard and younger brother Raymond, sisters Mary Marian and Sarah Caroline (Carrie), parents Richard Hudson Burr and Margaret Marion Fenwick, grandfather DeVere Burr and Great Aunt Mary McDaniels, they left the comfort of their Georgetown, Washington D.C. community to settle the wilds of Florida.
His father Richard went to college in Pennsylvania and at Georgetown. After graduating, he worked for U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, DC as third auditor.
His grandfather DeVere Burr, a Yale Graduate, was a distinguished commissioner for the District of Columbia for Georgetown and formerly the Indian Agent of the State of Maine.
During the Civil War, life in Washington was intense and troubling. The nation was on the brink of ruin. Everyone was suspect of being a spy for one side or the other. One night DeVere Burr was attending a charity fund-raiser, the next night President Lincoln was assassinated.
After the Civil War, Americans turned once again to the task of exploring the continent, many heading west in search of gold, riches or wide open spaces. But Richard Hudson Burr dreamed of living the frost-free life in Florida and raising his family in a sub-tropical setting, far from the troubles of Washington.
Enticed by rumors and legends of life in paradise, of balmy winters that cured a dozen ailments, of a land where an abundance of exotic, delicious fruit fell from trees only to rot on the ground, Richard yearned to build a new home down south. After reading the captivating stories of Dr. Henry Perrine in the Washington newspapers, he was eager to try his hand at growing exotic palms, orchids and other flowering plants, tropical fruits and winter vegetables.
Leaving the family behind and traveling south with best friend (and brother in-law) Frank Fenwick, Richard Hudson Burr set out to explore the possibilities in early 1875. Traveling to Florida was not for the faint of heart. Along the way, both men contracted yellow fever and were hospitalized in Charleston, South Carolina. Frank died shortly thereafter and Richard recovered. He subsequently continued to Florida, returning to Georgetown with wonderful stories and invigorated enthusiasm for the prospect of a new life as a rustic pioneer.
The next year found the extended family traveling far inland of the great Florida peninsula on the St. Johns River, heading toward the small settlement of Windsor, just east of Gainesville in Alachua County.
Windsor was attracting the attention of many Florida-bound families. It had a church, a school, a store and the basic infrastructure necessary to sustain the Burrs in their hopeful mission as pioneer farmers.
Edward, his siblings and his family enjoyed the mild winters and sunny climate of Florida. The census of 1880 found them settled in Alachua county with a new baby sister named Helen, but Edward's father had a keen interest in moving even further south. He learned of an emerging community along the Peace River, just south of Bartow named Homeland, where rich growing land was inexpensive and plentiful.
By 1886, the Burrs were moving south again, settling on a beautiful tract known as Kissengen Springs, a small watering hole that fed into the mighty Peace River. Legend has it that an agreement between the Seminoles and settlers would insure a peaceful coexistence if each stayed on their own side of the river.
Edward was a teenager when the family settled in Homeland. He attended the little school that remains there today, along with the original church and a collection of pioneer structures at Homeland Pioneer Park, just west of Route 17. His father created quite a showplace of exotic plants and fruit trees, experimenting with the cross-breeding of several species of palms to create his own unique variety.
The Burrs were active in civic affairs and were known to host wonderful social events at their place near the springs. Among others in the area, the Burdine and Wiggins families called Homeland home.
Edward’s grandfather, his great aunt Mary and his mother passed away during the years the family lived in Homeland and are buried in the old Homeland Cemetery, just east of Highway 17.
Although they enjoyed their adventures in horticulture and life in Homeland, nature conspired to ruin their utopian outpost in the remote wilds of Florida with the devastating freezes of December 28, 1894 and February 7, 1895. The tragically cold weather wiped out the majority of their hard earned labor from the previous decade.
The effects were widespread and the severity of the infamous "Big Freeze" that winter is still considered the worst disaster in the modern history of central Florida. It also motivated Julia Tuttle and William Brickell in Miami to contact Henry Flagler with an offer to extend his railroad past Palm Beach to Miami. Flagler sent a team to explore the possibilities and they returned with fresh citrus grown in Dade county, unaffected by the freeze. Flagler was impressed and the railroad arrived in Miami on April 13, 1896.
Edward met and married Lucy Moore Crouch of Goochland, Virginia and their first child, Margaret Fenwick Burr, was born before leaving Homeland. Lucy was a woman of great intellect and noble stature from a prominent family of Virginia. Her contributions to the founding of institutions in South Florida are numerous, including the Tequesta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Miami Pioneers Historical Association and the establishment of several of Dade County's first Episcopal Churches.
Declarations that Miami was a freeze-proof town and the prospects of a boom in Dade County was enough to convince Edward’s father to explore further south again. By 1896, Edward's father Richard once again led his family south this time to the shores of Biscayne Bay, where a new bank was open, a newspaper was being published, a grand resort was being built and plotted lots were going on sale north and south of the Miami River.
Soon, the whole family was moving to Dade County, settling in the Little River area.
Sisters Carrie, Helen and Marian married prominent leaders in Dade County and the three Burr brothers each made their mark as pioneers in their respective South Florida communities.
Edward’s father, Richard Hudson Burr died in 1902 in Little River. The family had earlier purchased the first plot in the old Miami Cemetery and there laid their father the grand adventurer, the bold explorer, the nature lover to rest.
R. Hudson, jr. established a store and served as postmaster to Little River before being elected to the state legislature and serving a long term as state railroad commissioner. With great success and popularity in public service, he was often urged to run for higher office. In addition to serving as chairman of the state Railroad Commission, he served as chairman of the association of state railroad commissioners and worked with congressmen and senators in Washington to forge the interstate railroad laws at the federal level.
Edward and Lucy first settled in Little River, before moving north a few miles to Arch Creek in 1901, establishing a large and comfortable homestead on the creek in 1907.
In 1898, the Burr family helped established Dade County's second Episcopal Church building, St. Andrews in the prairies of Little River, north of 79th Street and Northeast Second Avenue. It was damaged by the hurricanes of 1904 and 1906. This little church served several dozen families until 1910.
The photo shows Bun's wife Lucy with children Margaret and Dick standing in front of the church, along with Mrs. B.C. DuPont, Mrs. Amos Cutler, Mrs. T.A. Winfield, Mary Douthit, Mrs. Littlefield and the minister, Mr. Camoron. This photo was probably taken by EDV Burr. Click here for a PDF with more information about the church.
Although the little church at Little River was short-lived, Lucy and Margaret and family soon became charter members of the emerging Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Buena Vista (NE 36 Street). Lucy was active in that church until she passed away in 1950, Margaret until her death in 1971.
Edward's younger brother Raymond and wife Carolyn Sophronia Hutchins (Carrie) established a very successful farming operation in Goulds after the railroad completed its southern migration there in 1903. Today, Burr’s Berry Farm on Hainlin Mill Drive (SW 216 Street) and Burr Road (SW 127 Avenue) is known far and wide as a required stop for tourists and locals who enjoy the incredible strawberries, delicious milk shakes and home-made jellies and jams produced just as they were nearly a century ago. The historic Raymond Young Burr pioneer home on Burr Road, built before 1920, still stands in its original condition as a local historic landmark. A county parked named "Burr Road Park" just north of the Burr farm now honors five generations of the Burr family to follow the tradition of farming in the neighborhood.
Edward's Sister Sarah Caroline married Mr. Vivian Rutherford and they operated the popular family-style Rutherford Hotel across the street from Miami's Olympia Theatre, now Gusman Hall Performing Arts Center in downtown Miami.
Edward's Sister Marian married G. Duncan Brossier, the first marriage in the Church of the Holy Name, later renamed Gesu, one of Miami's oldest houses of worship. He was a prominent leader in the community, founding and serving as president of the Board Of Trade (later the Chamber of Commerce) and the Miami Realty Board, among many other acomplishments.
Sister Helen married Dr. Carroll Monmonier and they later moved to Cantonsville, Maryland.
Edward and Lucy saw a wonderful future and great opportunities in Arch Creek. Farming the prairie and selling fertilizer to other farmers, the Burrs made steady progress as pioneer farmers.
Son Richard Temple Burr was born in Miami in 1899. Soon after, sister Mary came along and before 1907 the family had built a large comfortable home on Little Arch Creek which still stands today at 11900 NE 16th Avenue as a historic landmark. Son Robert Spotswood Burr rounded out the clan in 1911 and the Burrs settled into making the most of their pioneer life on Biscayne Bay.
Lucy and Edward's children's middle names each tell a story. The boys carried names from their mother's family, the girls from Bun's mother's family.
In 1901, Edward organized land owners and farmers in the Arch Creek neighborhood. By 1903, they had dug a canal that provided access to the bay from almost a mile into the prairie lands. Along with other families, they established the first churches in Little River and Arch Creek. Edward was among the first trustees of the new Arch Creek school house and he established the Knights of Pythias lodge to provide community service.
In 1910, Edward and C.F. Kalch built the first packing plant at Arch Creek, mostly to accommodate the plentiful produce of local tomato farmers. Always the entrepreneur, Edward was known to have been a successful salesman for national companies, such as Armor Meats.
Situated next to the train station at Arch Creek, the packing plant was a hub of activity during the harvest seasons. Men, women and children all worked overtime to insure that fresh fruits and vegetables were loaded onto the daily train cars that carried their produce north.
On the Burr property on Little Arch Creek, the family enjoyed the gentle bay breezes and copious shade of majestic oak trees that covered their homestead. The children attended the Arch Creek School and the Burrs became very active in civic affairs.
At the arch, "Dad" Wiggins, the self-proclaimed best barbecue chef in the world, would often fire up a pit of coals, cooking large quantities of fresh beef, pork, chicken and game. People would come from miles around to enjoy these pleasant outings along the creek.
Edward’s wife Lucy and daughters Margaret and Mary soon gained well-deserved reputations for their baked goods, home-made jellies and jams and other delicious recipes.
Margaret taught piano lessons, played at church and social functions and won awards for her handiwork. She was one of three members of the first graduating class of St. Catherine's School in 1913.
One of Mary's roomates at the little one-room Arch Creek School was historian Thelma Peters, who later wrote about the pioneer Burr family in her book "Biscayne Country."
The boys, Dick and Spot, enjoyed hunting and fishing in the vast expanse of undeveloped woods that surrounded their property on Little Arch Creek.
As a teenager, Dick worked for George Merrick's Coral Gables Corporation as a binder boy in the real estate office. He served 10 months in the army in World War I, before heading off to Gainseville for college with room-mate Hugh Wiggins. They graduated from the University of Florida in 1923.
Spottswood, wife Helen and son Bill spent many years in Bell Glade, breeding and growing ochids, among other endeavors, later moving to Ft. Myers to retire.
Over the decades in Arch Creek, Bun's pioneering spirit evolved into spirited enthusiasm for civic duty.
As Edward enjoyed the maturing fruits of his labor and the family established roots in the community, he turned his attention to public service, as was the tradition in his family for generations.
There was much work to be done to transform the pioneer wilderness into the burgeoning metropolis that he foresaw for South Florida and he made it his mission to provide effective leadership in these critical times.
In 1914, E.D.V. Burr was elected to the Dade County Commission on a platform of building the necessary infrastructure to embrace the rapid growth and increasing population of South Florida. From his first day on the board, he established himself as the leading proponent of road and bridge building.
Some suggested this was because he owned the first automobile in Arch Creek, but his real motivation was to link the disparate settlements in Dade County together in order to promote commerce, agriculture, tourism and social interaction.
In January of 1915, Dade County extended all the way to the Palm Beach County line, including Ft. Lauderdale. His first order of business in January 1915 was a motion to build a modern $25,000 steel bridge over the New River at Andrews Avenue, replacing the old wooden structure that had long outlived its usefulness. Dade County and the City of Ft. Lauderdale shared this cost and the project was completed in less than one year.
In October of 1915, Broward County was established by the state legislature and members of their new county commission met with the Dade counterparts to consider how best to divide their assets and obligations.
Note: it was widely accepted that EDV's older brother Richard Hudson Burr would have easily been elected governor of Florida if he had run in 1903. He declined, but supported his good friend Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, who won and served from 1904 to 1908. The county named for Governor Broward was taken from Commissioner EDV Burr's portion of north Dade County. Speculators have suggested that if RH Burr had served as governor rather than Broward, "Burr County" would have been carved out of Bun's portion of Dade County.
Also in October 1915, Coral Gables founder George E. Merrick replaced commissioner F.A. Bryan as the representative of district one. Together with EDV Burr, the two men proposed the lion’s share of road and building projects, and issued the bonds to pay for them, setting the pace for a decade of grand improvements throughout the county that would allow for the coming land boom and accommodate the overwhelming influx of new residents and visitors.
Another seminal event that occurred in October of 1915 was the suggestion of building a road westward across the everglades. The Miami-Marco portion of the Tamiami Trail was a grandiose project that would require years of work and large sums of money in an effort to better connect Dade County to other growing population centers in Florida. The name is derived from the route it would span Tampa to Miami.
Even more critical to Bun Burr was the eastern route along the coast of Dade County, soon to be named East Dixie Highway. This newly paved path linked the settlements of Lemon City, Little River, Biscayne and Arch Creek through Burr’s district, as well as the upstart sub-divisions known as Fallasen Park, Elmira, Acadia, Biscayne Heights and Aqua Vista. This eastern road, built on a high ridge, also allowed wonderful views of Biscayne Bay and was the preferred route for travelers visiting the area by car.
By contrast, West Dixie Highway, the original military trail that linked Ft. Lauderdale with Ft. Dallas on the Miami River, passed through a number of low lying prairies and was subject to flooding all too often.
The distinctly raised coral ridges that define the eastern and western coasts of Florida, were long used by indigenous settlers who created foot trails on the high ground. Later, modern pioneers expanded these paths into trails and roads along the high ground that rarely flooded, known locally as the reef.
The route south of Miami and Coconut Grove, now dubbed Ingraham Highway as it was improved by modern road-building techniques, was further enhanced by erecting a proper concrete bridge over Snapper Creek, allowing travelers to reach all the way to Royal Palm Park and beyond in the Southern Everglades.
It was prominent members of the Woman's Club that insisted the road be named after Mr. Ingraham. Ironically, the ease of reaching Royal Palm Park created a problem: people could easily steal these plants and trees. The Woman's Club members worked hard to ensure that a warden was hired to protect the area, an act of environmental concern that eventually lead to the establishment of the Everglades National Park.
Not a commission meeting went by that a number of roads were not requested to be declared as public highways, to be constructed to the standards set by the commission and maintained in perpetuity for the benefit of the public. When citizens would petition the commission for such roads, a group of viewers would be appointed by the commission to evaluate the route and report back their findings. These connecting series of roads allowed farmers to get their crops to market before spoiling, increased the value of land surrounding them and raised the tax roles of a fast-growing Dade County to the greater benefit of the public.
Citrus Canker was a top priority of growers and the state agriculture department. On behalf of growers, the commission strongly urged the state to establish an experimental station to study the issue and provide growers with support in its eradication.
From time to time, citizens would come before the board to request relief for the poorest of their neighbors. The commission would often grant payments of $9 a month for individuals or $18 a month for families considered destitute. The commission also operated a property commonly known as the poor farm, where those of limited means were offered work in exchange for food, shelter and basic medical attention. Some elderly folks and children were provided one-way transportation by the commission to points north when relatives would accept responsibility for their care.
Roads were largely built with the labor of state and county convicts. Dade County operated several convict camps at this time and the inmates were designated to work on projects specified by the commission. Convicts could also be leased to landowners and construction companies, but owing to the urgent need for road building, the commission generally preferred to prioritize their use for public projects.
The county commission at this time, made a priority of purchasing the latest road building equipment, replacing out-dated stream driven tractors and rollers with modern gasoline powered units, which were kept busy at all times improving the public roads.
The process for issuing bonds to pay for improvements involved canvassing the public in each district as to whether they would approve tax increases to pay for improvement bonds. If 25% of freeholders and registered voters in a designated district were in favor of such consideration, the commission would call for public elections for such matters, prepare the ballots and assign overseers and clerks in each voting district to carry out the elections. The commission would later meet to count the votes, validate the election and announce the results.
In December of 1915, commissioners requested from the War Department, permission to build a causeway across Biscayne Bay. By utilizing spoil islands created by the dredging of Government Cut, the plan was to connect Miami and Miami Beach with a modern thoroughfare that would replace the aging wooden Collins Bridge. This enormous project, spanning almost two miles across the bay, would include steel bridges at east and west entrances to the causeway, a pedestrian walkway and light rail components as well as the broad road to accommodate increasing traffic needs. The bond issue, for $600,000 was far and away the largest in Dade County history and would have a major impact on the ability to move building materials, provisions and automobile traffic between island and mainland. Subsequently, the great building boom that launched Miami Beach was born.
In an effort to clean up the waterfront along Biscayne Bay, seawalls were constructed and the commission was asked to declare these newly filled additions to shoreline properties to be the titled in the name of respective property owners, rather than to the county or city of Miami. It was decided this was in the best interest of the public, as well as the land owners, as long as proper permits were issued.
Each commissioner was to receive an equal share for his district of monies budgeted for road and infrastructure improvements each year. Edward saw to it that Arch Creek, Little River and the areas now known as Greater North Miami received their fair share of improvements, including new concrete bridges over Arch Creek, Little Arch Creek and Little River.
The temperance movement was gaining influence and commissioners were asked to hold a special election to determine the public’s preference as to the sale of alcoholic beverages in Dade County. The final tally was 635 in favor and 1138 opposed, so Dade County was officially declared a dry county in December of 1915.
In 1916, Burr championed extensions to the Miami Canal Highway westward, the Ingraham Highway to Homestead, the initial work on Tamiami Trail toward Lee County, East Dixie Highway into Broward County and a myriad of other roads, deemed priorities to an ever-expanding Dade County.
In 1917, Edward was unanimously elected chairman of the commission. His proactive leadership set the standard in his community and throughout South Florida, providing the necessary precursor to the coming land boom of the 1920s. After only two years on the commission, the magnificent projects he proposed and steered to fruition in Dade County forever changed the landscape from a pioneer rural region to a modern, fast growing metropolis.
In September 1917, Mr. F.C.B. LeGro and his Biscayne Bay Islands Company requested permission from the commission to construct two islands in Biscayne Bay, to be connected by bridges to the coming causeway. These properties, later to be known as Hibiscus and Palm Islands, would become the homes for leading businessmen, movie stars and notorious gangsters in later years; now long considered some of the most desirable properties in Dade County.
In November 1917, a request was made to cut a channel through Baker’s Haulover so as to allow fresh water from Arch Creek, Little River and Dumbfoundling River to flow to the ocean more easily. Since the recent dredging of Government Cut caused the creation of spoil islands which blocked natural tidal flows, it was proposed that Biscayne Bay, north of the cut, was retaining fresh water to the detriment of bay oysters, and otherwise creating foul odors and unsanitary conditions for those that lived along the shoreline in the North Bay area. The dredging was funded in 1919 in the amount of $48,000 with the federal government asked to contribute to the effort.
In 1918, before the end of World War I, steel was a precious commodity. In order to procure steel to build the two bridges that would connect Miami and Miami Beach via the new causeway, commissioners appealed to the War Department Priorities Division to explain the urgent need for these vital materials. The War department agreed and permission was given to the construction company to procure the steel and proceed at once with the building of these bridges.
In January of 1919 E.D.V. Burr was once again elected as Chairman of the County Commission by unanimous vote. He continued to oversee major projects and lead Dade County toward its rightful place as a strategically important and geographically influential community in the 20th century.
|epitaph||Edward DeVere Burr passed away in 1937 at the Burr home on Biscayne Bay at 402 NE 22nd Street, surrounded by family and friends. “Bun” is buried, along with father Richard Hudson Burr, brother Richard Hudson Burr, jr. and son Richard Temple Burr in the the Burr family plot of the old Miami Cemetery.
Bun's wife Lucy Moore Crouch Burr lived with daughter Margaret and daughter-in-law Geneva until her passing in 1950. Margaret and Geneva moved to Coral Gables in 1965. Margaret passed away in 1971 and Geneva in 1981.
Shellie Clayton Burr passed away in 1962 in Tallahassee and was buried next to her husband Richard Hudson Burr in the old Miami Cemetery's first plot.
Bun's grandson Richard Child Burr lives in central Florida with his wife Margaret. Great-grandsons Richard Temple Burr II and Robert Adams Burr, and great-great grandson Robert Vincent Burr live in South Florida.
Edward’s legacy, as a pioneer of Homeland, Little River and Arch Creek, as well as his service to the Dade County Commission, is embodied in the restoration of his historic home on Little Arch Creek, thanks to the efforts of Rick Ferrer and Ivan Rodriguez of the Dade County Historic Preservation Department, the intesrest of the Greater North Miami Historical Society and the Arch Creek Trust.
Thanks to the Cornerstone Group, the well-respected developer of the Bay Winds community now erected around the historic Burr property, Edward DeVere Burr’s significant contributions to South Florida might be remembered and appreciated for years to come.