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Ambrose Burton's enormous family touched Adair CO, KY, long after his death

Is a "Gooley" just a Burton who is tight with his money? There are other possibilities for the origin of the term, historian notes.
Photo, several comments, accompany this article

By Jason Harmon
Admirer and Devoted Servant to Adair County history
Ambrose Seber Burton was a simple man and a general farmer by all accounts. He was a resourceful man and wise with his money. Like any well known man he had enemies, but his family and friends always outnumbered them.

How could he have known that his enormous family would permanently touch Adair County long after his death?

Mr. Burton was born in Adair Co., KY in 1853 and was the son of William Lent Burton. His father had come to Adair County at an early day and probably settled near his cousins in the eastern part of the county.

Ambrose received the usual education that the times permitted. In those days he could learn a more valuable lesson on the family farm.

After Ambrose had reached manhood he was ready to pursue his own lot in this world and was ready to marry. In 1876, he chose Serena Goodin as his wife and they were ready to begin their own family. The family circle grew quickly and in a little over a decade the family now included six children, one daughter had died in infancy. Unfortunatley, Serena Burton passed away in 1892 and was layed to rest in the Bear Wallow Cemetery.

Ambrose and his descendants were given nickname "Gooley"

At the close of the 19th century, the Burton name in Adair County had grown to remarkable numbers. It was impossible to distinguish all the Burton folks from one another and so the different Burton groups were given nicknames. Ambrose and his descendants were given the nickname of "Gooley".

There are many origins of the nickname. Some say the name comes from the previous owners of a farm he bought off of Bull Run Rd. While others claim that a "Gooley" is a person who is tight with their money and wastes nothing. Some of Mr. Burton's grandchildren say that a "Gooley" is a Burton that marries another Burton. The nickname whether good or bad is still a name that is used for people who call Ambrose Burton grandpa or even great-great-great-great grandpa.

Ambrose Burton took active interest in education; was Trustee in Vester Community

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ambrose had expanded his farm and was now taking an active interest in education and local politics. He was also serving the public interest as a School Trustee in the Vester Community.

He had remarried to Miss Patsey Burton and his family was multiplying rapidly. The death angel visited the family home many times and Ambrose and Patsey lost four of their eight children. Family accounts imply that Patsey was especially devastated by these events. Ambrose had now buried a wife and five children beneath a shade tree in Bear Wallow Cemetery.

Tragedy befalls family in 1916

In 1916 another tragic event fell upon the Burton home. Patsey's father, Cyrenius Burton, passed away. Cyrenius Burton left a will that divided his estate to all his children except for Patsey. His will would give a fair share to Patsey in the event that Ambrose died or she divorced him.

This was probably another hard time for the family knowing that her father and his father-in-law disliked him for whatever reason. Patsey stayed true to her husband and never saw any inheritance from her father's estate. Patsey died in the 1920's, leaving Ambrose alone and the head of one of the largest families in the county.

Patriarch is buried in the Bear Wallow Cemetery

Ambrose spent his last years surrounded by his family and could reflect on a hard and useful life. He died in 1936 and was interred in Bear Wallow Cemetery beside his loved ones. Mr. Burton had 16 children, at least 94 grandchildren and now has well over 225 great-grandchildren.

Many of his own descendents lived out their lives in Adair County the way he did and just as many continue to reside in Adair County. I'm sure Ambrose Burton is smiling down from up above as he sees his family members are now not only leading citizens of their community, but some of the most respected leaders in the state.

His descendants have become successful members in all walks of life, preachers and church founders, businessmen, politicians and even millionaires. His descendents have fond memories of "grandpa" and honor him as a man who taught his children and grandchildren to be honest and hard workers of the land he loved so much.
PS: I also have a picture of Ambrose Burton and his first wife. It may take me awhile to submit it because my scanner is broken, but I would love to share the picture. I have been fascinated with Ambrose Burton for a long time. I couldn't imagine a person having this many grandchildren!!
Thanks. We'll be awaiting the photo anxiously. Right now, all I can say is "Wow"! What a fantastically wonderful story. --Ed Waggener

This story was posted on 2005-12-30 06:10:19
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Ambrose Burton family photo

2005-12-31 - Adair County, KY - Photo courtesy Jason Harmon collection. AMBROSE BURTON family: Seated, Ambrose Burton and Serena Goodin Burton. The children are, from left: Louetter Burton Cowan, Clem Burton, Sidney Burton and Alvin Burton. "The photo was given to me by George Arnold Burton. He is a great-grandson of Ambrose Burton and grandson of Clem Burton," Jason Harmon says.
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