Solomon Richard Burford

Solomon Richard Burford was born on September 26, 1832, in Lawrence County, Alabama, to Leonard Burford and Rebecca Clark. His father was a wealthy planter who owned at least 77 slaves. The family moved to DeSoto County, Mississippi, in January 1837, and Burford received his early education there. He enrolled at LaGrange College in 1850, and by his own admission he was a “very wild” student. One evening, for example, he poured water into the college bell and let it freeze solid in the cold night air. On another occasion, he and his friends stole a flock of turkeys and hid them in the woods. In response, he recalled, the college president “gave [him] some rather severe lectures.”

Burford transferred to the University of Virginia around 1852 and spent the next two years studying law, chemistry, and moral philosophy. He withdrew from UVA in December 1854 and returned to Mississippi, where he worked as a farmer. In 1856, he traveled to Nicaragua to support American Filibuster William Walker’s regime. He returned to America after several months, and he married Catherine E. Bennet in Brazoria, Texas, on September 8, 1856. They had at least five children together: Carrie, born around 1859; Leonard DeSoto, born on February 22, 1860; Rebecca, born around 1865; Kate, born around 1868; and Richard, born around 1870.

Burford joined the Democratic Party in the 1850s, and he supported Stephen Douglas in the election of 1860. That July, he helped organize a Democratic meeting in DeSoto County, where he drafted resolutions “heartily approv[ing]” Douglas’s nomination. He remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and the Confederate draft prompted him to flee from Mississippi to Tennessee on April 21, 1862.

In a letter to Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson the following month, Burford wrote that he “came through on horseback, contending with but little or no difficulty in the way of Rebel pickets.” He assured Johnson that he had “been a Union man from the beginning” and had “never by word act or deed countenanced the present rebellion.” Mississippi Unionists were “scarce,” he confessed, yet “nevertheless there are a few. There would be more were not life & property jeopardized by an expression of such sentiment.” Burford celebrated the “fundamental principles upon which our great & good government was established,” including “the liberty of speech the liberty of the press, & the right of trial by jury.” These principles, he insisted, were “not respected by the [Jefferson] Davis usurpers” and had “no practical existence in ‘Dixie.’”

By 1863, Burford had settled in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, where he worked as a farmer. The Union army drafted him in April 1864, but he paid a substitute to serve in his place. He probably travelled back to Tennessee that fall, and Memphis merchant Augustus P. Burditt assured local officials that Burford was “an unconditional Union man and a man of undoubted veracity.” In March 1865, Burford registered his Mississippi plantations with the Freedmen’s Bureau, ensuring that the government did not consider them “abandoned and confiscable lands.” He agreed to accept emancipation and abide by all “local rules and military and naval orders.”

In December 1865, Burford purchased almost 1500 acres of land near Memphis. By 1867, however, he and his family had returned to Cape Girardeau, where he purchased a mill and 640 acres. He opened a woolen factory there two years later, and by 1870, he owned $50,000 in real estate and $7,000 in personal property. In 1876, he owned 2 horses, 18 cows, and 100 hogs, and his farm produced 1,800 bushels of wheat, 4,000 bushels of corn, and 200 bushels of oats.

In 1876, he served in Missouri’s Democratic State Convention and helped organize a Centennial Celebration in Jackson, Missouri. Two years later, he joined the Greenback Labor Party and secured a seat in the state legislature. He remained an active member of the party until at least 1880.

Burford visited Los Angeles, California, in 1891 and, according to one local editor, began “making numerous loans on valuable property.” He spent the following year travelling “over nearly all the Western country,” including a visit to Central America. By 1892, however, he had settled in Salem, Oregon. He remained there for about a decade before moving to Los Angeles. He remained active in local politics and registered to vote in 1908, 1910, and 1912. He died in Whittier, California, on November 28, 1913, and was buried beside his wife in Bethlehem Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.


Solomon R. Burford to Andrew Johnson

Solomon R. Burford Registers His Plantation with the Freedmen's Bureau

Name:Burford, Solomon Richard
Alternative names:
  • UVA (Union)
  • Civilian
Branch of service:
Residence at UVA:Cockrum, MS
UVA Begin Year:1852
UVA End Year:1854
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:
Rank Out:
Highest rank achieved:
Birth date:1832-09-26
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Lawrence County, AL
Death date:1913-11-28
Death place:Whittier, CA
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Burford, Solomon Richardparent ofBurford, Carrie
Burford, Solomon Richardparent ofBurford, Leonard DeSoto
Burford, Solomon Richardparent ofBurford, Rebecca
Burford, Solomon Richardparent ofBurford, Kate
Burford, Solomon Richardparent ofBurford, Richard
Burford, Catherine E.wife ofBurford, Solomon Richard

1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 United States Federal Censusus, available from; 1876 Missouri State Census, available from; Selected Records of the Tennessee Field Office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, available from; Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Individual Civilians, available from; U.S., Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865, available from; California, U.S., Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, available from; Session 29 of the Chairman's Journal, October 10, 1851-June 25, 1852, Jefferson's University: The Early Life; Session 31 of the Chairman's Journal, October 2, 1854-June 25, 1855, Jefferson's University: The Early Life; Catalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1852-53 (Richmond: H. K. Ellyson, 1853); Catalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1853-54 (Richmond: H K Ellyson, 1854); Catalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1854-’55 (Richmond: H K Ellyson, 1855); Solomon R. Burford to Andrew Johnson, 11 May 1862, Andrew Johnson Papers, Library of Congress; The Vicksburg Whig, 18 July 1860; The Memphis Daily, 31 December 1865; Iron County Register, 22 July 1869; St. Louis Republican, 29 May 1876; Missouri Cash-Book, 15 June 1876; The Peoples' Tribune, 4 September 1878; Henry County Democrat, 23 September 1880; Los Angeles Evening Express, 25 August 1891; The Cape Girardeau Democrat, 10 September 1892; The Leighton News, 5 October 1906; The Cape County Herald, 5 December 1913.