Burnham
1817-1886

Mills O. Burnham was born on September 8, 1817 in Thetford, Orange County, Vermont.  He attended common schools in New York and served an apprenticeship in the Watervliet Government Arsenal thus learning the trade of gunsmith.  At the age of 18, he married Mary McCuen, who was 16 at the time.  Mary had been born in northern Ireland and had immigrated with her parents at a young age.  His health was not good and he was advised to go to the south to recover in 1837.  After spending a winter in Florida, he moved his wife and two children, Mills and Frances to the state in August of 1839.  They lived in Jacksonville and Burnham became the first Sheriff there.

By 1911 the Binney family was spending time in St. Lucie County. Edwin at one time owned 1,000 acres of citrus groves in the area, which was then called Fort Pierce Farms. Today we call the area Indrio, another of Alice’s creations. Mr. Binney was an avid sportsman and fisherman. He was a community activist, and had a dramatic impact on our county, as well as in the community of his northern home in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

Burnham’s land claim from the Armed Occupation Act was just north of Doctor Holbrook’s place in Ankona bluff.  Next to the south was the Philip Herman place.  It was reported that Mills was the first man to raise pineapples on his claim.  Captain Burnham was considered a man of great strength and he was admired and respected by the other settlers and by the Indian population.  Mrs. Burnham was said to be afraid of the Indians, and when the captain was going away on business, he would warn the local Indians to stay away, which they did.

Finding it difficult here to provide for his family, he purchased a schooner, which he called “The Josephine.”  He loaded her with green turtles, taking care to tie their flippers and sailed them up to Charleston.  Others did not take such good care of the green turtles when shipping, many died or were damaged.  He made wooden pillows to support their heads and cleaned their eyes with salt water each morning.  His turtles were sent on to England and fetched a good price.

Burnham also raised  long haired West Indian sheep.  This gave the family a little change in diet.  The family grew many vegetables including corn.  Wildlife including the bounty from the ocean, deer and bear.  Live was good, but there was very little to do here.  After the killing of John Barker in August of 1849, the Burnham’s and all the other settlers left the colony.  He and his family which now included three more daughters, moved to Cape Canaveral in 1853.  Mills died on April 17, 1886, at age 68, at Cape Canaveral, where he had been lighthouse keeper.

References:

  • Canaveral Light, by Don David Argo, 2001 (fiction)
  • A Portrait of St. Lucie County, Florida, by Lucille Rieley Rights 1994