Photos by Melanie Burns Kennedy
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Our great grandfather, Patrick Burns, was born in Clonalig on the Emerald Isle in 1837, the year that Pope Gregory designated The See of Natchez. He experienced poverty at an early age due to the potato famine of 1840’s. He was among three thousand who emigrated to America in 1857 from his home county of Armagh, entering the port of New Orleans.
He soon came to Natchez and worked at hard labor.
During the Civil War, in 1862, he enlisted in Company B, of the Louisiana Regiment, “Miles’ Legion”. There were five other “Patrick Burns” in this unit! How they answered roll call is not known.
He fought in the battles of Grand Gulf and Port Hudson. He was captured and held a prisoner for 22 months at various places. He was paroled at Richmond, Virginia. He had entered the army as a Sergeant and at the time of capture was a Lieutenant. His discharge papers state he was 26 years old, 5 feet 5 inches with grey eyes and black hair.
Acting as church sexton, Patrick knew St. Mary Basilica as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows during the time of Bishop Elder. On a cold day in November, 1865, he discovered a two week old infant who had been left in the church’s vestibule. She was baptized two days later on the 14th as ‘Mary Joseph Church’ by Rev. Charles Van Queckelberge.
Patrick married Mary Welch on August,16, 1869. In 1870, at the age of 33 Patrick became a citizen of the United States at the Circuit Clerks Office of Adams County, Mississippi.
In 1873, he borrowed sufficient money to start a bakery on a small scale. He was very successful in his enterprise. Three years later we find him in general merchandise at Pine and St. Catherine Streets (The Triangle).
He started a shoe business, first at The Triangle, then, on Main Street. It soon grew to have the largest inventory of boots and shoes in the city of Natchez. When Bishop. Elder departed Natchez for Cincinnati in 1880, Patrick was one of three men who escorted him to Vicksburg on the riverboat Lee.
Mary Welch Burns died in 1882 and six years later Patrick married Bridget Scanlon.
A newspaper article from 1908 states that Patrick returned to Ireland for a visit with his youngest son, Connor, and his brother, Francis, aboard the steamer ‘Campania’ departing from New York. On board was Cardinal Logue of Armagh returning home to Ireland.
“Behind every good man there’s a woman”: Patrick had two.
Mary Welch Burns is buried here beside Patrick. They had 6 children. Bridget Scanlon Burns, Patrick’s second wife, is buried in the Zurhellen section #2. They had 4 children.
Patrick died on his birthdate, 17 March 1909, which is St. Patrick’s Day!
The tradition of giving out Shamrocks in Natchez on St. Patrick’s Day began with Patrick, and continued until Burns Shoe Store closed in 1998.
I am Peter Burns and I am descended from Patrick and Mary Welch. Charles Conner Burns who married my sister, Annette, is descended from Patrick and Bridget Scanlon.
“May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.” - Irish Blessing
Composed by Annette Burns and presented by Peter Burns for All Souls Day Procession, November 6, 2011.