Burrell Burge Duke, born 1816

by Gary D Duke 2006

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Burrell Burge Duke was born in Kershaw, South Carolina, on 1-5-1816, to Moses Duke and Nancy Keziah Burge. His mother’s parents were Burrell Burge and Elizabeth Ford. Obviously, Burrell Burge Duke was named after his mother’s father. Burrell was the youngest of four sons and it is believed that he had three sisters, although only sister Sarah Keziah Duke is proven.

Burrell’s Aunt Elizabeth Duke, sister to his father, married in Kershaw to Thomas Lloyd Foster and in the early 1820's, the Fosters moved away from South Carolina. Burrell’s father Moses then also moved about 1831 or 32, joining his sister in extreme northwestern Alabama. Thomas L. Foster had obtained land in Marion County, then additional lands a few miles south into the adjoining county of Fayette. Moses Duke obtained lands only a few miles west of the Fosters but his lands fell across the Mississippi state line into Lowndes County.

When they moved away from South Carolina, Burrell’s older brothers Richard and Bartlett and sister Sarah came with them to the same area of northwestern Alabama. His other brother Austin, went to south-central Alabama. Richard was already married, Bartlett married in 1834 and Sarah married in 1836, so, after that time, Burrell was the only child still living at home.

In February, 1835, only 19 years old, his father authorized him to return to South Carolina and sell 300 acres of land which his father still owned there. In April he concluded the sale and returned to Mississippi.

In 1836, when he was 19 or 20, Burrell went to Lexington, Kentucky and studied medicine at Transylvania University. He was probably there only one, maybe two, years, then returned to Lowndes with his parents.

A neighbor, Stephen Tunnell, died 2-9-1837 in Lowndes and in June 1837 his widow Sarah filed a court action to enforce her dower rights on the land where they were living. It consisted of 145 acres all located in section 14 of township 17s, range 17w. Her petition was granted and on 1-5-1839 Burrell was one of five men selected to lay out the widow’s dower for her. The five men were Burrell B. Duke, Willie Buck, William Belk, David Boswell and William Bray. These men were all related to each other but, at that time, none were related to the Tunnells. Only a few months later, however, Burrell married one of Sarah’s daughters.

From March 1838 through July 1840, Burrell was involved in an investment deal involving land transactions in Lowndes which I will not repeat here as they are covered in detail in the “Moses-Elizabeth Duke” story. The end result of these deals was that after July 1840 neither Burrell nor his father Moses owned any land in Lowndes although I believe they continued living there for several more months.

On 3-26-1840 Burrell married in Lowndes to Sarah Ann Tunnell, she born 5-16-1822.

In the 1840 census they lived in Lowndes:

Moses Duke male 60-70 & female 40-50 ...... no slaves

B. B. Duke male 20-30 & female 20-30 ...... no kids but one male & one female slave.

On June 11, 1840, Burrell sold this male slave to Moses.

It is obvious that Burrell or Sarah had reproductive difficulties. It appears that one daughter was born and then died, but from their marriage in early 1840 until Sarah died in the early 1850's they only had three children.....and in those days we “normally” saw children every 2-3 years. The deficiency may have been with Burrell because we will see that he married secondly to a woman who was only 30 years old but they never had any children either. Burrell was a physician....I wonder if he was an early practioner of birth control? He and Sarah had:

1. Stephen Tunnell Duke 02-07-1841 MS

2. Moses Laney Duke 07-23-1843 AL

3. Martain Haze Duke 10-28-1845 AL

Because of problems with the investment in 1838-1841, resulting in a loss of the 320 acres in Mississippi where both Moses and Burrell had lived, Burrell lived in Alabama, probably Fayette County, from late 1841 until about 1849. He may have rented land or may have lived on property owned by his several relatives, including two brothers, who lived in that area.

B. B. Duke and Moses Duke are both listed in the Mississippi state census for years 1841 and 1845. For 1841, the census was taken before June when the property was sold and before Moses died about that same time. For 1845 it is difficult to establish their residency. If Burrell was in Lowndes in 1845, we don’t know where he lived – see next paragraph.

In mid-1841, Moses Duke died in Fayette County and Nancy Duke then filed a petition for her right of dower on the 320 acres in Lowndes which had been sold in mid-1840 and then again in mid-1841. But Nancy had never released her right of dower in the original sale and in early 1842, she was granted 140 acres of their land “to live on”. I think she must have moved back onto the property but, in early 1844, she then sold her dower rights to the man who had bought the property so she then must have moved back into Fayette County again.

A couple of years or so later, Nancy developed some kind of mental problem which required that a Fayette Court appoint a guardian for her. Her nephew Moses Duke Foster, who was married to Nancy Tunnell, sister of Burrell’s wife, was appointed. Moses D. Foster was a son of Elizabeth Duke and Thomas L. Foster.

Around the first of the year in 1849, the families made a great exodus about 60-70 miles west, away from Fayette County, Alabama, crossing the old lands in Lowndes County, Mississippi, and going on west to what was then Chickasaw County, Mississippi. This exodus included almost all of the Fosters, both Bartlett S Duke and Burrell B Duke with their families, several of the Mixons, Bouchers, Belks, and a few members of the Wood family. All told there were over 70 of them and they all moved at, or very near, the same time. At first, all of them were in Chickasaw County but the eastern portion of that county was later split off so that some were in Clay County.

Not long after they moved, Nancy Duke died in Chickasaw County. We don’t know where she is buried, perhaps she was taken back to Lowndes and buried in the Piney Grove Church cemetery where we believe Moses was buried. Because a guardianship had been established in Fayette County, Alabama, Moses Duke Foster had to return there in September of 1851 to get approval for his handling of her funds.

When the census was taken on 9-24-1850 Burrell lived in the western division of Chickasaw county.

Burrell B. Duke 34m SC physician

Sarah A. 28f AL

Stephen T. D. 9m AL

Moses L. 6m AL

Martain H. 4m AL

Rebecca Jones 21f unk

To date, we have not been able to learn why Rebecca Jones was living with them, nor can we identify her parents.

Next door to Burrell lived Moses D. Foster with his wife Nancy (Tunnell) and their seven children. Next door to them was the family of John Finley who was the ancester of a girl who later married a grandson of Burrell’s. And next door to Finley was Bartlett S. Duke with his wife Sarah Foster and their seven children

I’m not sure just when Sarah Tunnell Duke died, it was after the 1850 census, and Burrell married secondly to Rebecca Jones after 1855. Rebecca was born in 1825 in Alabama and, obviously had known Burrell before Sarah died.

In the 1860 census, the western portion of Chickasaw County was lost so most of the family cannot be found at that time. This included Burrell but we know that he continued living near Atlanta in Chickasaw. Beginning in 1867, there are land records which usually involved both Burrell and his son M. H. As noted above, Burrell had three sons but Moses Laney Duke joined the Confederate Army and was killed in 1862. And the oldest son Stephen was mentally retarded leaving only son Martain.

The next census was taken August 31,1870 and Burrell lived in the Atlanta district of Chickasaw County.

B. B. Duke 55m SC physician

Rebecca 45f AL wife

Stephen 29m AL son

Mary C. Jones 25f AL “at house”

As is seen Rebecca Jones is now his wife and there is now another “Jones” woman living with them. Mary Jones has also proven difficult to trace. Clearly we must assume she is related to Rebecca, but, at 20 years younger, is she a sister, a daughter, or a cousin? In all subsequent censuses, both of them say they were born in Alabama and that both of their parents were born in South Carolina. This suggests they were sisters rather than mother-daughter.

At the time of this census, son Martain H. was still single and lived in another household next door.

Burrell and son M.H. continued to work together in buying more land in the same area around Atlanta in 1871, 1875, and 1879. In 1872 Martain H. Duke married Mary M. Jones, the same woman who had been living with Burrell in 1870. NOTE - if Rebecca and Mary Jones are sisters, then father & son married two sisters ...... confusing?

In the 1880 census they lived next door to each other:

Burrell B. Duke 68m SC head

Rebecca 53f AL wife

Steven 38m MS son

Martin H. Duke 34m AL head

Mary M. 35f AL

Burg W. 5m MS son

Ruth A. 3f MS daughter

Alonzo H. 2/12m MS son

Mary Jones 80f SC mother-in-law

Another member of the Jones family has surfaced. Mother Mary Jones, born in South Carolina, is now living with Martain.

Burrell and Martain had one more land deal in 1884 but Burrell then died at his home at Atlanta, Chickasaw County, Mississippi in 1887.

After Burrell’s death, Martain H. moved his family to Indian Territory, settling in the Chickasaw Nation in the town of Chickasha (pronounced chick-a-shay) where they are found on the June 5, 1900 census report:

Martain H. Duke 10-1845 MS head

Mary M. 08-1844 AL wife

Burge W. 08-1874 MS son

Ruth A. 09-1876 MS daughter

Alonzo H. 03-1880 MS son

Thomas L. 03-1884 MS son

Rebecca 09-1825 AL mother

As is seen, Rebecca Jones Duke is still living and has gone with Martain to Indian Territory. She is listed as “mother” although she was actually a “step-mother”. They were living in lands of the Chickasaw Indian Nation, and this census asked whether any person was an Indian, if so, how much and from what tribe. Rebecca and Mary (Jones) both said they were “white” but Martain said that he was 3/4 Choctaw Indian and that all of the children were part Choctaw derived from him only.

From late 1900 until 1907 there was a series of petitions filed in the Choctaw Nation portion of Indian Territory by many family members. Almost all of the descendants of Burrell and his brother Bartlett filed claims that they were “part-Choctaw”. Several descendants of Elizabeth Foster filed identical claims. All of them testified that Moses Duke and Elizabeth Duke were “half-Choctaw” (actually, there was some confusion about the proper proportion of Indian blood). It was stated that Moses spoke the Choctaw language. All of these petitions sought benefits due to Choctaw Indians pursuant to a treaty made way back in 1830 between the U.S. Government and the Mississippi Choctaw Nation. To be eligible, the Indian had to have been living in Mississippi in 1830 at the time of the treaty. As was seen above, 1830 was just about when the Dukes moved from South Carolina and, although they had been in the “area” since about 1826, the Fosters were living just inside Alabama, rather than Mississippi. Anyway, the claims were made and the action dragged on for six years. Finally, all of the claims were denied for “lack of proof”......not surprising since the events had happened 70 years earlier and all of the involved parties were long dead.

In Chicksha, Rebecca Jones Duke died before 1810 but Martain still lived there in that census:

Martain H. Duke 64m MS

Mary M. 65f AL

Thomas L. 26m MS

Martain died in Chickasha 11-21-1913. Mary M. Jones Duke died in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1914.


Berge Whitley Duke died in Ardmore, Carter County, Oklahoma 6-22-1960.

Ruth Ada Duke married Samuel Lewis Smith and she died in Ardmore 9-27-1961.

Alonzo Haze Duke married Maggie May Finley and he died in Ardmore 6-11-1956.

Thomas Loyd Duke died in Ardmore 12-27-1926.