According to land records
of Montgomery County (Note that in 1841 Stanly County was formed from
Montgomery County), by 1841 Joseph and Nancy had acquired a farm of 173
acres, and one year later increased their land holdings to 515 acres. With
substantial acreage and a blossoming family, Joseph and Nancy were
However, tragedy soon struck. Joseph Burleson died when John Wesley Burleson
was only four years old, sometime between January and November of 1843. Only
33 years old at the time of his death, Joseph Burleson left behind Nancy and
four young sons. A record of Joseph's death appears in the Montgomery
(Stanly) County records in 1843, but it only states that Nancy was to
receive his estate. Apparently, Joseph did not leave a will because none was
filed into probate.
the cause of Joseph Burleson’s death will never be known, 1842 was the
beginning of what was became known as the Great Epidemic. This epidemic
caused deaths from chills and fevers, and culminated in 1846-48 with the
death of hundreds of Stanly County residents. In October of 1842, the
Mecklenburg Jeffersonian reported on the devastating plague:
"Never within the recollection of our oldest citizens has our village and
county been so
sickly as in the past two months".
Because Joseph Burleson died without a will, a neighbor named John M. Rogers
was appointed administrator of Joseph’s estate by the court. It was common
practice at that time to appoint a relative to be the executor of an estate,
and it is unclear why he was appointed instead of Nancy. A court case in
1849 was found in which a judgment was made concerning the estate of John M.
Rogers paying a share to Nancy Burleson’s estate as her legal dower.
records show that small amounts were reported by the administrator as being
due the estate. In 1845 the court appointed a committee to untangle some
affairs of the estate, and it found that the administrator owed $56.66 to
the estate. John Rogers died prior to October 1846, and by 1847 the land was
transferred back in Nancy's name.
with Thomas Roland, Nancy Burleson also witnessed the signing of William
Hatley's will in April 1847. Hatley died shortly thereafter, and Nancy
Burleson appeared in court in May of 1847 to attest to the validity of
Hatley’s will. The witnessing of Hatley’s Will should have served to remind
Nancy Burleyson of the necessity of preparing a last will and testament, but
the possibility of her imminent death must have seemed remote to her because
she died intestate.
Wesley had another tragedy when he lost his mother in 1848, at the age of
nine only years old. An entry in the Book of Wills for Stanly County in 1848
records the death of Nancy Burleyson. This document appointed Isaac
Burleson, John Wesley’s Uncle, as his legal guardian, and he apparently
lived with Isaac for two years, until 1850.
Another entry for Stanly County dated July 15th, 1850, shows Uncle Isaac
Burleson returning assets of $181.14 to the three youngest orphans. The
oldest son of Joseph and Nancy, Isaac Burleson, was already 23 years old in
1850, and probably did not go to live with Uncle Isaac at the time of his
Isaac went out on his own, David Derrick, John Wesley, and Joseph Benjamin
Burleyson were sent to adoptive families in 1850. David Derrick (age 15)
went to live with Davidson Lowder, Joseph Benjamin (age 8) went to live with
Adam Richy, and John Wesley Burleson (age 11), went to live with Alexander
Derrick Burleyson and Joseph Benjamin Burleyson went on to become prominent
farmers and businessmen, and their homes are featured in a book of homes in
Cabarrus County. It is interesting to note that all four of Joseph
Burleyson's sons fought in the Civil War as Confederate infantrymen.
John Wesley Burleyson; The military years
Following the tragic death of his parents, Wesley went to live with Alex
McLester, a neighboring farmer. John Wesley Burleyson apparently endeared
himself to his adopted family, for upon the death of Alex McLester in 1892,
his will gives Wesley 56 acres of land and forgave a $200 loan that Alex had
made to Wesley (see appendix).
considering the state of North Carolina during the 1850s, we must remember
that while the railroads and public schools had come to North Carolina, most
people seldom traveled more than 50 miles from their place of birth.
the outbreak on the War of Northern Aggression, John Wesley enlisted in the
Confederate Army on July 29th, 1861 joining the Stanly Yankee Hunters as a
Private in Company D, 28th North Carolina Infantry (see appendix).
Company D of the 28th NC also contained cousins Ebin and Adam Burleson.
Wesley’s brother, Joseph Benjamin Burleyson served in Company C of the 37th
NC of Lane's Brigade, also known as the Mecklenburg Wide Awakes". On July 3,
1863, Gen. Lane led his brigade all the way to the rock wall at Gettysburg,
but had to fall back. On the wall the 28th NC lost their regimental flag to
the 126th NY Infantry. Ebin Burleson and John Wesley were among the lucky
ones to return alive to the Confederate cannons to take up a defensive
position. Joseph Benjamin was left on the field wounded for the third time
and captured by the Yankees.
This is the flag
of the 28th N. C., Infantry.
This flag was one
of the 33 Confederate colors captured with the repulse of Pickett's
Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Of the 349 men, 104 fell
during Pickett’s charge.
Wesley fought with
a battle-hardened unit of Confederate infantrymen in the Branch Lane
Brigade serving at bloody first Manassas (Bull Run) and in the
Petersburg Virginia siege lines.
During that period
the 28th N.C. Reg. was badly outnumbered and short on food, clothing
and medical supplies.
Wesley Burleyson was captured by the Union in July of 1863 following his
participation in the legendary Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg PA, on July
3rd 1863. Upon capture, Wesley Burleson was then sent to the Old Capital
Prison in Washington DC.
The Old Capitol Prison in Washington DC
- Today, this is the
site of the US Supreme court building
both the North and South, Civil War POW camps were horrible places. Food was
scarce, sanitation was non-existent, and wounded soldiers were often left to
Disease killed more soldiers in the Civil War than bullets, and any major
wound was regarded as a death sentence. Fortunately, Wesley Burleyson was
not wounded and he was released from the POW camp after he signed an Oath of
Allegiance to the United States on September 26th, 1863.
Although there are no known photographs of Wesley Burleyson during his
younger years, his military records describe him as standing five feet seven
inches tall, with light hair, light complexion, and blue eyes.
signing the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, Wesley was sent to
Philadelphia to bide his time until the end of the Civil War. Wesley's
Confederate Army record lists him as missing and a possible rebel deserter,
but we know that this entry was made because the Confederates did not know
that he had been captured in battle.
Wesley would tell stories of his journey from Pennsylvania back to North
Carolina following the Civil War. Wesley traveled on foot for more than 500
miles without food or provisions. Wesley mentioned that he relied on eating
wild honey from beehives and other foraging to survive his journey home.
Upon Wesley's return from the Civil War in 1865, he married Sarah L. Page,
daughter of Dempsey Page. Sarah and Wesley were married on the 14th of
November, 1865, the same day that they applied for a marriage license.
built a home on land owned by Alex McLester (later bequeathed to John
Wesley) and this home survived for over 100 years before being destroyed by
fire in 1995.
J. W. and Sarah Burleson - front left
THE WILL OF ALEX MCLESTER
Sixth-, I give and bequeath to Joseph Wesly Burleyson a
fifty acre track of land lying on Big Bear creek known as the Laban Smith
track of Land to have and to hold to his own forever. I will and bequeath to
Joseph Wesley Burleyson another track of land containing about sixteen
between and adjoining the above named track of fifty acres and J.W. Burleson
and Allen Barbee lands to have and to hold to the said Joseph Wesley
Burleyson his heirs and assignees forever. Except the life estate of my wife
in said land devised in a former item of this my will in the meadows in the
fifty acre track that I have bequeathed to the said Joseph Wesley Burleyson.
will and bequeath to Joseph Wesley Burleyson one certain note I hold of
against him to the amount of two hundred dollars. If not collected during my
life time to have and to hold to the said Joseph Wesley Burleyson on his
heirs and assignees forever.
Obituary of John
Tuesday, August 24th, 1926
ANOTHER OLD VETERAN GOES TO HIS REWARD
J. W. Burleson, 88 years of age, and a Confederate war veteran, died at his
home near St. Martin’s Church Sunday morning at 7 o’clock. He was one of the
leading farmers of the county and it is said of him before he became
decrepit with age, that he could do as much work as two ordinary men.
Funeral services were held Monday at 2 o’clock at Pleasant Grove Church,
where the deceased was faithful member. The funeral was largely attended by
people from all over the county and Albemarle.
survived by six children; three sons and three daughters. They are –
Mrs. J. A, Huneycutt, of Albemarle;
Misses Belle and Delphia, of home; J.V. Burleson, of near New London;
Branton (Brantley), who lives at the old home place, and Cornelius, near
St. Martin’s Church.
Burleson was one of the remaining few of those venerable old Confederate
veterans who came back to Stanly County after the war and by their hard work
and thrift, helped to rebuild a poverty stricken country that had been
devastated by four years of war. With the passing of Mr. Burleson, Stanly
County has lost one of its older and substantial citizens. He fought through
the entire Civil War.
of Wesley's children are buried next to him and Sarah at the Pleasant Grove
cemetery in Frogpond, North Carolina. John Wesley was a dedicated Baptist,
at Pleasant Grove church where he is buried alongside many of his children.
Wesley’s barn still stands and is used to house livestock. Upon his death,
John Wesley left this house to his son Brantley, who lived in it until his
death in 1944.
Located in Big Lick Township, John Wesley Burleson’s home was located on the
first left road off of Bridgeport Mill Road, outside of Albemarle, North
Carolina. The house rested about .3 miles from Big Bear Creek in Stanly