Contra Costa County











     The man of business measures his degree of failure or success by the worldly goods he is enabled to amass in a given time---the greater his wealth and the more quickly it is accumulated, the greater his success.  Judge John J. Burke furnishes an example of one who has won success financially and otherwise, in the state of California, which has been his home almost from his earliest recollection.   It was in December of the year 1848 that he first stepped upon California soil, having at that time accompanied a portion of the United States regular army from Mexico to Los Angeles.  These troops were a part of the command of General Taylor, with whom Mr. Burke became intimately acquainted as a child.  It was owing, perhaps, to this intimacy, that he early evinced a desire for a military life, which proved an important factor of his life in after years.  Although of distinguished Irish ancestry, Mr. Burke was born November 12, 1842, at Carlisle, Pa., the youngest of three sons born to John and Mary Teresa (Daley) Burke.

     In reviewing the history of these ancestors we find both to have been natives of Kildare, County Clare, Ireland, and upon their immigration to America about 1835 they settled for a number of years in the east.  Soon after the breaking out of the Mexican war, the family removed to Mexico, where the father, a tailor by occupation, joined General Taylor's forces, his eldest son, James, also serving as a drummer boy.  The family lived in the city of Monterey for a number of years, and while residing there the great battle of Buena Vista took place.  It was during this time that Mr. Burke became acquainted with General Taylor, whose noble deeds probably also influenced the lives of his brothers in favor of a military career as well as himself, for in after years, the eldest son, James D., became a captain in the Confederate army, while the second son, William, was first lieutenant in the Union army during the same conflict and was placed in command of a detached company of Missouri cavalry.  The father passed to his final rest in 1860, and was followed to the grave three years later by his widow, each having attained the age of about fifty years.

     Educated in the Denman school, Happy Valley, in San Francisco, at the age of sixteen Mr. Burke became apprenticed to learn the harness and saddlemaker's trade, and about a year and a half later began work at this occupation for himself, which he followed off and on for many years in various coast counties, meeting with the success which comes as a natural result of application and perseverance.  In addition, Mr. Burke has a military career of which he is justly proud.  In early manhood he assisted in organizing the Bloomfield guards of Bloomfield, Sonoma county, of which he was made second lieutenant from its organization, and for two years he was one of its most active members.  Subsequently removing to Tomales, Marin county, and while a resident of that county, he organized the Lincoln cavalry company, being chosen second lieutenant of this company, also serving as such until his enlistment, August 19, 1864, in Company I, of the Sixth California Infantry.  Although he enlisted as a private, promotion followed and he became sergeant, and afterward acting hospital steward at Fort Gary, Cal., and it was while serving in the latter capacity that he was mustered out of service December 20, 1865.

     After the successful termination of the great internecine conflict, Mr. Burke re-engaged at his favorite occupation in Ione, Amador county, and until 1868 he carried on a successful business from that point.  He subsequently followed similar work in Sacramento and in Colusa county, but worked only a few months in the latter county.  It was not until 1877 that he again took up military life.  Enlisting at that time from San Francisco in Troop A, First United States Cavalry, as a saddler, he served for five consecutive years, rendering efficient service during the Indian outbreaks in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and was mustered out of service as a sergeant.  Returning at once to San Francisco, he again engaged in business, afterward removing to Haywards.  It was in 1883 that Mr. Burke took up his residence in Concord, [Contra] Costa county, which has been his home ever since.  For several years he conducted a harness shop in that town, but in 1886 he was elected justice of the peace from the fifth township, a position he has filled in an admirable manner ever since, with the exception of four years, from 1892 to 1896.  During this time he served as postmaster of Concord, having been commissioned by President Harrison.  In addition to his duties as justice of the peace, he is also serving as notary public, and deals in real estate and collections.

     Through his efforts two big guns of the original battery on the old battleship Independence (now the receiving ship) were secured for the public plaza of Concord in June, 1903, having been brought over from Mare Island.   They were thirty-two pounders, about as heavy as battleships then carried.


     The home ties of Mr. Burke date back to 1866.  In that year his first marriage took place in Ione, Cal., which united him with Miss Martha Gregory.  This union was blessed with the birth of two children, Melzina B., wife of Capt. Andrew J. Wood, and Charles S., and both reside in Ione.  Judge Burke afterward contracted a second marriage, this time with Kunnigunda Blecher.  Mrs. Burke is a native of Germany, and her birth took place March 19, 1837.  In fraternal circles Mr. Burke is allied with Lodge No. 8031, A.O.F., and with the Ancient Order of United Workmen of Concord, being a charter member of the latter organization, of which he is the present recorder and financier, and upon several occasions has represented his local lodge at the grand lodge.  Among the most prominent Republicans in Concord, Judge Burke is a man whose political influences is far-reaching, and as a citizen he is highly esteemed.





Transcribed 4-19-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 811-812. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library