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Alameda County




Ben Turner Burton, M.D., a physician and surgeon of Oakland, was born in Yamhill county, Oregon, April 20, 1859, a son of John James and Margaret (Watson) Burton.  The father, born in Shaldon, Devonshire, England, February 19, 1816, a son of Captain James and Jemima (Champion) Burton, emigrated to Australia in 1832, became an architect, and was married in 1839 to Miss M. Watson, born in Lancashire, England, in 1822, a daughter of Charles and Mary (Linnoir) Watson, who had also emigrated to Australia, where the father was accidentally killed at the age of fifty, but the mother lived to be seventy-five.  Grandfather Joseph Watson, a native of Scotland, was taken to England at the age of six weeks, by his parents in their flight under Chieftain Townley, from religious persecution.  Joseph Watson lived to be eighty-four, and his wife, Phoebe Whitman, eighty-two, both dying of cholera in the great epidemic of 1831.  William Linnoir, the father of Mary (Linnoir) Watson, was pressed into the British service against the American colonies, but found opportunity to join the patriots, with whom he served for seven years, and, returning to Ireland after the war, was killed in the battle of Vinegar Hill.  Captain James Burton, born in Teignmouth House, Shaldon, England, about 1783, became a sea captain, and was married to Miss Jemima Champion, a daughter of Captain John Champion and his wife (nee Periman).  In the Napoleonic war captain Burton was captured at sea and kept a prisoner for seven years.  Resuming his seafaring life he died of yellow fever in Cuba, in 1821.  His brother, Rev. John Burton, of Woolwich, England, is living, in 1890, at the age of ninety-two, and their father, also Rev. John Burton, lived to be ninety.  The maternal grandmother of John James Burton, died at his home in Oregon, in 1862, aged eighty-four, and three unmarried great-aunts, Periman, died at their home in England, aged over ninety.

     John James Burton emigrated from Australia to this coast in 1843, with his wife and children, and after a voyage of six months settled in Willamette valley, in 1844, where he engaged in stock-raising and general farming, eventually becoming owner of 1,500 acres.  He was among the first of the California gold-seekers, arriving in the mines in September, 1848, and remaining until 1850.  Held in high esteem by his fellow citizens in Oregon he was repeatedly invited to run for office but he declined even the nomination for Governor. Though entirely devoted to the welfare of his adopted country he was of the opinion that native citizens should be preferred for official stations.  He died in September, 1879, thirteen of his fifteen children and their mother surviving, of whom one has since died.  The children in the order of birth are:  Mary Ann, deceased at the age of seventeen; Jemima, deceased at nine; Henry Heber, born on the voyage from Australia, now of Portland, Oregon, married to Frances Robb, has one child, Dwight Elmer; Kate, born in the old homestead in Willamette valley, as were all the younger brothers and sisters, now the widow of John R. Lake, of Portland, Oregon, residing in Oakland with her mother and only child, Margaret, and and [sic] John Lake, born in 1873; Charles Watson Burton, a millwright engaged in the sawmill business in Willamette valley, married to Miss Annie Squires, of English parentage, has four children; Heber, Alfred, Nellie and Belle; Eliza, the wife of Major P. Moore, a farmer of Willamette valley, is now deceased, leaving four children:  Mabel, Lulu, Queenie and Ray; Keziah, the wife of Dwight Rogers, a farmer of Willamette, has five children: John Merle, Lynn, Dwight, Lilda and Elizabeth; John James Burton, of Portland, Oregon, married to Miss Mary Brady, of New York city, has four children:  John James, Mary Francis and the twins, Margaret and Jennie; Edward Ransom Burton, a farmer of Willamette, married to Miss Mary Withycomb, of English birth, has three children:  Lenora, Magaret [sic] Annie and Frank Calbreath; B. T. Burton, M.D., of Oakland, the subject of this sketch; Lord Linnoir Burton, who first studied law, but is now a student of medicine in San Francisco; Lincoln Creswell Burton, engaged as foreman in the Cathlamette salmon cannery, is married to Miss Nellie Graham, a daughter of Judge Graham of Columbia county, Oregon; Clara Lizzie, the wife of E. H. Anthony, of Portland, assistant freight agent of the Northern Pacific railroad; George Launcelot William, foreman of a fish cannery at the Dalles, is married to Miss Nellie Gregor, a Southerner, born of a Scotch father and a Spanish mother; Margaret Edith Alma Burton, living with her mother, is a graduate of the high school and business college of Portland, Oregon.  The venerable mother of these fifteen children is now a resident of Oakland, and in full possession of all her mental faculties.

     B. T. Burton, the subject of this sketch, was graduated from the high school of Portland, Oregon, at the age of sixteen, and soon went to reading medicine under Dr. Littlefield, in Lafayette, Oregon, and after his removal to Portland.  he then came to San Francisco and studied under Dr. L. C. Lane, two years, attending lectures in the Pacific Medical College, in which Dr. Lane, the most eminent physician of the day, was professor of surgery.  Having finished the regular course at the age of nineteen, being too young to receive a diploma, he became again a student under and assistant to Dr. Littlefield, and was matriculated in the medical department of the Willamette University, from which he received his diploma April 27, 1880. Three days later he was appointed assistant surgeon to Dr. Littlefield by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, and placed in charge of their field hospital at Blaylock Landing.  There were about 8,000 men at that time in the construction department along the line.  In November, 1880, Dr. Burton was appointed Division Surgeon at Texas Landing with about 3,000 men under his medical charge.  In 1881 he was transferred to the Pendleton Branch, now known as the Oregon Short Line, as surgeon-in-chief of about 2,000 men, with an average daily attendance in hospital of over twenty men.  Later in that year he was transferred to Hood river in charge of the track-laying and bridge-building department, comprising about 1,500 men, where he had occasion to perform as many as six amputations in a single day.  After six months, about July, 1882, that branch being completed, he was transferred to Cabanette Landing on Clarke's Fork of the Columbia river, and placed in charge of 12,000 men, during the illness of Dr. Littlefield, with a salary of $350 a month.  In August, 1883, Dr. Littlefield returning to duty, Dr. Burton tendered his resignation, which was met by the offer of remaining at the same salary as assistant.  Obtaining leave of absence he spent a month in Spokane Falls and again sent his resignation, which was again demurred to, and a highly complimentary preamble and resolutions were transmitted, but Dr. Burton being still firm in his purpose to go into general practice, his resignation was accepted September 20, 1883, and three days later he opened an office in Sprague, where he remained about four years.  He also conducted a drug store, doing at one time a business of $18,000 to to [sic] $20,000 a year, and became interested in real estate there and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington.  He was elected Coroner for two terms, and was offered a nomination to the Legislature, which he declined.  He there joined the A.O.U.W., and was Master Workman of Lodge No. 52 for two terms, and twice its representative to the Grand Lodge; also the I.O.G.T., in which he was elected Chief Templar.  Joining the Sprague Lodge, I.O.O.F., he was elected its Noble Grand, but was prevented from serving by his departure to other fields of labor.  Dr. Burton is also a Knight of Pythias.  Desiring to perfect himself in surgery, his favorite department in general practice, he went to Chicago to take a special course in operative surgery and diseases of women and children, and received a diploma from Rush Medical College February 8, 1888.  Returning to this coast he first practiced in Fresno, and bought some town property there and in Merced.   Preferring a wider field he came to Oakland in August, 1888, and opened an office on San Pablo avenue, November 28, 1888.  His practice growing rapidly to such proportions that he absolutely required assistance he formed a partnership with Dr. J. L. McCollum, December 14, 1889, which, however, was dissolved in August, 1890.  Dr. Burton's residence and office are at No. 1002 Adeline street, northeast corner of Tenth and Doctors Burton and McCollum had their office at No. 867 Willows street.  Dr. Burton is a member of the Medical Association of the State of Washington, and is examining physician of the I.O.O.F., and K. of P., the Brotherhoods of Railroad Trainmen, Firemen, Brakemen, Switchmen; to the Equal Aid Union and the Royal Argosy.

     Dr. B. T. Burton was married in Yamhill county, Oregon, January 2, 1881 to Miss Annie E. Robertson, born in that county April 28, 1863, a daughter of William I. and Nancy (Arnett) Robertson, both now living in Oregon.  The father, born in Kentucky in 1820, moved with his parents to Missouri in 1828, and was there married, in 1852, to Miss N. Arnett, born in Kansas December 31, 1826.  They came to Oregon in 1852.  Grandfather Basil W. Robertson, the son of an English emigrant of the same name, lived to the age of sixty-five, and his wife lived to be seventy-six.  Grandfather Andrew Jackson Arnett, of Scotch descent some generations back, was a soldier in the Mexican war and in the civil war, rising to the grade of Captain in the latter.  He died of heart disease about 1867, at the age of fifty-five.  His wife Elizabeth died in 1878 at the age of seventy-six.  Of the nine children of Mr. and Mrs. William I. Robertson seven are living, in 1890.  Dr. and Mrs. Burton have one child, Horace Roy, born October 24, 1881.  While residing in Fresno he was almost fatally injured by being run over by a wagon.  His entire restoration was a marvel of surgical skill on the part of his father, supplemented and made effective only by the constant watchfulness of both parents for three months.  The fractured leg and broken skull were by increasing vigilance so healed as to leave no lameness nor lesion, and no one who now sees the bright, energetic, bustling child, could imagine that he had ever passed through an ordeal so critical.


Transcribed 12-1-04  Marilyn R. Pankey. 

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 1, page 625-628, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.


Marilyn R. Pankey.