James and Mary Burk were both Quakers. Its doubtful that James was Quaker when he first came to America from Ireland (about 1722), but was a Quaker when James and Mary married in 1730. Its surprising that James would become a Quaker. Feelings against the Quakers were running high in Ireland in the early 1700's. The Burks in Ireland lost their land to Cromwell's followers. Most Irish Quakers were descended of these Cromwellian settlers, so its odd that a Burk would become a Quaker. After the Burks lost their land, they had been forced into the trades or mercantile business much like the old Jewry of Europe. The Quakers were also noted merchants so this is most likely how the Burks and Quakers first contacted, through commerce - as traders.
After James and Mary married, they moved south to the Yadkin, then to Roanoke (present Salem). During his time in Roanoke, James had a hunting camp on a beautiful stream in Floyd and Carroll counties called Burke's Fork. He was a noted hunter trading his skins. The "Trader's Path" came down from Pennsylvania to Roanoke River to the Big Lick where it joined the "Carolina Road" from the Yadkin River. During his time in Roanoke, he explored a lot of the land in Virginia while hunting. His grandson, Jesse Pepper of Pepper's Ferry later wrote: "Grandfather Burk was a great hunter; he would take his knapsack filled with bread and a little salt and a few potatoes and go to the woods, west of this place (Pepper's Ferry), which was all a wilderness at that time and stay several weeks. On one of the excursions among the mountains, he got into a beautiful valley and having a few potatoes in his knapsack, he found a place clear of timber and planted his potatoes. The next fall he returned and found them growing." This place came to be known as Burke's Garden. It is in what is now Tazewell County, VA.
James was one of the original Draper's Meadow settlers. He built a cabin and planted potatoes. They lived there about four years and moved in the time of the Indian War. There was a Goose Creek Quaker Settlement in Bedford, and the family was there when their daughter was married. On Feb. 28, 1758, James avoided militia duty. Colonel John Buchanan wanted him as a militia man, but on that day, James hired William Hand as a substitute. Because of his peaceful faith, to escape involvement in the frontier Indian War he took his family to North Carolina. When the Indian War was over in 1763 James Burk led his family back to Burke's Garden, where they stayed for ten days, but hearing of another Indian War starting (Pontiac's War) they left never to return. However, Burk came to visit his garden every season. One time when Burk was visiting with his entire family with him, they were staying in a deserted cabin when an indian party surrounded the place. When the indians peeped through the cabin cracks, they thought they saw 30 sleeping forms and believing they were outnumbered, fled. It was only Burk and his family and rolls of skins and barrels of supplies that the indians saw, but the Burks escaped death through this mistake.
James sold his land in Burke's Garden to William Ingles and John Draper. For all his efforts, James Burk got little from his Virginia explorations. He lost his first wife, his Roanoke River land was inundated, he lost property to the Indians, his stepson Morris Griffith was captured by Indians, he sold his land on Roanoke hastily because of the Indian Wars, and could never get title to "Burk's Choice" in Burk's Garden, though he was the discoverer and had led land speculators to it. For his effort, he only got ten pounds and much worry.
When the Revolutionary War came along, James, being a Quaker and not believing in fighting, became a loyalist supporting the King. During this time he lived in the upper Yadkin region known as "the Hollow" near the Shallow Ford where there was a large Tory settlement. He died in 1782.
Forbush Family Info
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