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            Mrs. Agnes Idella (Burnham) Spencer was born in Chaplin, Windham county, Connecticut, December 14, 1866.  Her parents were Chester and Mary (Canada) Burnham, the former born in Hampton, Windham county, Connecticut, March 13, 1843, and the latter in New Bern, Craven county, North Carolina, October 16, 1842.  Chester Burnham, of English descent, was a son of Asa Burnham, a grandson of Adonijat Burnham, a great-grandson of Andrew Burnham, a great-great-grandson of Ebenezer Burnham, a great-great-great-grandson of Josiah Burnham and a great-great-great-great-grandson of Deacon John Burnham.  The last named, who was born in 1618, settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and passed away in 1694.  Deacon John Burnham, a soldier of the French and Indian wars, was a son of Robert and Mary (Andrews) Burnham, who were married in 1608 in Norwich, Norfolk England.  John Burnham fought in the Revolution.  Mrs. Mary (Canada) Burnham, the mother of Mrs. Agnes Idella Spencer, was of Scotch and French descent.  Her grandfather, Captain Pierre Brugman, born in the family chateau in France, became the owner of three merchant ships.  Her father died in Los Angeles, January 26, 1925, at the age of eighty-one years.  He had been a resident of California for thirty years.  Her mother is living, aged ninety.

            Agnes Idella Burnham acquired her early education in the Old South school of Hartford, Connecticut, where he competed the high school course as a member of the class of 1886.   She also studied pipe organ and sang in church choirs until the age of fifty.  Until her marriage she was very active in the work of the Memorial Church, built by Mrs. Samuel Colt, and she was also a valued member of the Hartford Choral Society and the Shakespeare Club.

            On the 24th of August, 1891, at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford, Connecticut, Agnes Idella Burnham was married by the Rev. Samuel Hart, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School, to the Rev. Uriel Heber Spencer, M. A.  The Rev. Spencer was born in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, March 27, 1864, and completed a high school course at Springfield, Massachusetts.  Subsequently he was graduated from Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, and later received the degree of Master of Arts from his alma mater as a member of the class of 1890.  The following year he removed to Nebraska and two years later, in 1894, assumed the pastorate of Christ Church in Ontario, San Bernardino county, California.  He resided in the city of Orange for two years and afterward became rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ventura, California.  Returning east, he resided for a time in Ivoryton, Connecticut, but eventually returned to Ventura, California, where he died soon afterward, having suffered a prolonged illness.  His death occurred January 9, 1902, when he was in his thirty-eighth year.  To him and his wife were born three children.  Phillip B. served in the World war in Company H, Seventy-sixth Infantry, U. S. A., and is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Shriner.  He married Dorothy Broome of Ohio, and has a daughter, Barbara.  Chester Burnham served in the Sixteenth Coast Artillery Detachment at Fort Mills Corregidor, Philippine Islands, during the World war and lost his life as a result of his service, dying January 21, 1919.  Agnes I., died at the age of thirteen years.

            Mrs. Agnes I. Spencer worked for the national marketing bill before congress in 1916, sponsored by David Lubin, and was associated with Mrs. David McCann in the Outlook Association as a public speaker and as secretary.  She was in charge of the information bureau at Red Cross headquarters during the first six months of America’s participation in the World war, in 1917, and was associated organizer of the salvage department with its originator, Mrs. Otheman Stevens.   She rendered effective service to the government in the Liberty Loan drives as precinct secretary, with Mrs. Isador Dockweiler as chairman.  A stanch supporter of the republican party, Mrs. Spencer served on the election board as judge in 1917, 1918 and 1919.  She was organizer and charter member of the woman’s auxiliary to American Legion Post No. 8 in 1920 and served as parliamentarian.  In 1924 she became a member of the Gold Star Mothers, of which organization she was president for two years.  She has been a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and has taken an active and helpful part in its work as organist and Sunday school teacher.  Her activities have reached out along many lines of usefulness and all who know her hold her in warm regard and high esteem.

            We wish to quote here from a Washington (D.C.) newspaper of February 22, 1932:

            “The Order of the Purple Heart, established a century and a half ago by General George Washington as award for bravery on the part of his enlisted men in the Revolutionary war, was revived today, February 22, 1932, by the War Department at the direction of President Hoover.  Announcement of the re-establishment of the Order was made as a tribute to Washington on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.

            “The Order of the Purple Heart is the oldest honor in the decoration for enlisted men and non-commissioned officers in the history of the Army.  Only three men, Sergt. Daniel Bissel of the Second Connecticut Regiment, Sergt. Daniel Brown of the Fifth Connecticut Regiment, and Sergt. Eli J. Churchill of the Second Continental Dragoons, also a Connecticut regiment, ever have received the award.

            “Under the rules providing for its reinstatement, however, thousands of soldiers and ex-soldiers will become eligible for the decoration, since wounds suffered in action are held by the department to be included under ‘singularly meritorious acts of extraordinary fidelity or essential service,’ which Washington made the condition of the award.  The revived decoration consists of a heart-shaped medal with a face of purple enamel bordered with gold.  On the reverse side is a relief figure of General Washington in his continental uniform and the inscription, ‘For Military Merit.’”

            The above explains itself.  On October 21, 1933, Agnes Spencer was initiated into the Purple Heart Association Auxiliary of the United States, Incorporated, as an Honorary Life Member, an honor she very much prizes.




Transcribed by Joyce Rugeroni.

Source: California of the South Vol. V, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 257-260, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles,  Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  Joyce Rugeroni.