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The Diary of George Burgess

1829 – 1905

June 12th 1899

George Burgess aged 60Today, I am 70 years of age – therefore I may as well write a few facts. I am the son of John and Jane Burgess. My mother was a daughter of John Willis, Farmer, the “Batch”, Hanham; 3 miles from Bristol, and my father was also from the Kingswood locality. Father died, aged 55, when I was 15. Mother died aged 72, when I was about 30. I was born at Staple Hill, 4 miles from Bristol, the old house right on the Tunnel, on Friday June 12th 1829, at 1 O’clock in the morning; when father was 40, and mother 42 years of age.

I went to a Church School – and then a “British School” – and finally left off schooling about age 14, a poor scholar. After father died I went to learn stone cutting at Frenchay – with George Sperring – my eldest sister’s husband. Soon – he persuaded me to go to America with him. I went in about one year; he died there, in Baltimore! There is a white marble headstone over his grave in Baltimore Cemetery. His wife never saw him again, after he left England. I finished my apprenticeship in a marble works, in Philadelphia. I found good friends. I visited England three times to see my mother. The last time was Christmas 1857, when I intended not returning to America while mother was alive. I never returned, and I have ever regretted it.

On March 8th 1858 – I was married to Mary Crouch. Up to this time my life had been all happiness. But now my sorrows began. I was happy enough with my wife – but her mother and another daughter, Annie, brought only sorrow into our home, and they were cruel to my dear aged Mother. In December 1859, in Manchester we buried our little boy – George William Burgess – aged 10 months. His mother died July 21st 1862. Since January 1861 I have been practising Phrenology in the Arcades, Bristol. But my deafness since 1871 has greatly interfered with my pleasure, and my profits, in my work.

Liza Knight - 2nd wife of George BurgessI was nine years a Widower. Then, on June 28th 1870 I was married to Eliza Knight of Weston-Super-Mare. She was the Mother of my four daughters.

1st – Eliza Caroline Burgess, born April 3rd 1871.

2nd – Catherine Middleton Burgess, born June 4th 1872 – both at Elicar Villas, Berkeley Road, Horfield, Bristol.

3rd – Gertrude Rosa Burgess, born May 23rd 1874, at Hillborough House, 106 Egerton Road, Horfiled, Bristol.

4th – Maud Lilly Burgess, born December 11th 1875, at Latteridge, Iron Acton – Gloucester.

About the year 1850 – in America – I examined, and then adopted, the principles of Total Abstinence from all intoxicating drinks. Now – all the years in its experience since that time prove that I did well. My wife Eliza died at Yatton, Somerset on December 2nd 1878. Since I was aged 65 I have felt my physical powers declining. Of late my deafness is often accompanied by pains in and about my ears. But otherwise I have never been ill. I have never had any doctors – nor their medicines, so far. During my long life I have enjoyed numberless blessings, and I have also had a few real sorrows. But over and above my sorrows I can keep cheerful and happy along the way. I love my profession as much as ever. It is fairly profitable, and it is a real good and useful profession. Therefore it has secured me numberless real and pleasant friends. I have aimed to preserve my health during my long life. Of course I have avoided all alcoholic drinks. I drink plenty of good water – and also, very freely of tea. I like it fairly strong – with plenty of good milk and sugar in it.

I eat heartily of all kinds of foods, but of course, I eat to live – I don’t live to eat. And I am always at work – in the Garden – or in my office. And – I sleep well – being able to sit down and enjoy a sweet sleep several times through the day. But I set very high value on the Water drinking. Water is as necessary for cleansing the inside of a man, as the outside of a man. It reaches every vital organ – and streams through every avenue of his system – and refreshes, his whole being up with newness of life. I ought to think that these simple and natural rules for taking care of my health have preserved me – and have much helped me to have and enjoy good health and happiness on this my 70th birthday.


Tuesday June 12 - 1900

I am 71 years of age today – Time moves on. I rose as usual, rather early – drank my glass of cold water; walked around, received some nice presents from my girls – ate a hearty breakfast, and enjoyed a happy birthday. My health during the past year has been in the main good as usual. But I had a weakening cold at Easter, which soon passed away, and I am now, on my 71st birthday - not so strong – but apparently, as sound in my constitution as ever, and all through my life I have never employed any medical men, nor used their medicines. I am still pursuing Phrenology in the Arcade Bristol. But I am trying to arrange my general affairs so that I may leave it. When I do leave it my extreme deafness will be the real cause of my doing so – for I am as thoroughly fond of my profession as ever.


June 12 – 1901

I am to day, 72 years of age. The year just ended, has not been very eventful to our household. I have enjoyed good health all through – and it is my deafness alone that has interfered with my daily and general enjoyment. It has now compelled me to give up my Arcade profession of Phrenology – and so has taken away my chief pleasure; and also my chief profit. My Phrenology in the Arcade, had fed and clothed me for over forty years – and all along has supplied the `means’ for bringing up my family. And it has given me numerous friends and numberless joys; I should prefer to have ended my days at Phrenology in the Arcade. But that could not be. So, I have left it forever. We have been living at 106 Egerton Road, Horfield, for more than a year now, and I have used and amused myself by working in the garden; by visiting Public Libraries; and by pleasant walks; and pleasant social visits.


June 12 – 1902

This is my 73rd birthday. So, I may be nearing my end. I have however, enjoyed good health all through the year – and can still say that I have never yet used any medical men, or their medicines. I am now, for a time, living at Latteridge, Glos. several miles from Bristol – quite in the country. And I work much in the garden, and the air and sun do me good. I can eat and sleep well. And I still drink freely of good tea, coffee, cocoa, and cold water – but no alcohol. I wish to die some day – but I want to die of old age, and natural decay.


June 12 – 1903

This day I am 74. I have been quite in good health all the past year. I have worked real hard all through the year in the garden, and in the field. I am still at Latteridge, but hope to be nearer Bristol some time this season. My deafness is my special ailment. People now, have to write down all they wish me to know, because of my extreme deafness, which puts me into Universal Silence!


June 12- 1904

Today, I am 75 years of age. Considering the varied and universal experiences of all lives, my present birthday is fairly happy. My daughters and friends show towards me affectionate and true hearts. When I was 60 I said to my youngest daughter, Carrie – who was then in Newport – that I think I should live on until I was 75. I had good physiological reasons for the prediction. And so I have lived along through those 15 years enjoying my usual health. Now of course, with increasing age, I naturally feel the gradual, and distinct, diminishing of general bodily strength; and special exertions have to be avoided!


June 12 – 1905

76 years to day. I have been travelling the highways and byways of this earthly life. And in looking back I can not fairly complain of my experiences for I believe that the majority of my set met with more sorrows, and less joys, than I have met with during my long life’s journey. My general health during the past year has been fairly good, as usual. But I find that my general bodily organs have much more weakened than in former years – and in exertions, I soon feel worn and tired. Also, under condition helping it, I have felt some brain-dizziness. Of course, all these signs of declines come with old age. They mean natural, and gradual, organic decay; with bodily death, providentially, not far behind. Soon, then, the real man – the immortal Spirit, will pass over to the Spirit land - `the better country’, to progress, and improve, and live forever. But the Body will `return to the earth’ and perish forever – it will never rise again!