Bicentennial Biographies No. 81 – 85

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Albion Tourgee (Mayville), James H. McGraw (Harmony), Frank Burns (Westfield), Everett Burmaster (Hanover), Irv Noren (Jamestown). Originally broadcast on local radio stations May 2 – May 6, 2011.

No. 81 – Albion Tourgée



Albion Tourgée was born May 2, 1838 in Williamsfield, Ohio. He was the son of a Methodist farm family that had migrated to Ohio from Massachusetts. At the age of 21 Tourgee enrolled at Rochester University and attended school until the Civil War, when he enlisted in the Union Army.

During the Civil War Tourgee participated in the Battles of Manassas, Perryville and  Chickamauga. He was initially injured in July 1861 only to reenlist the following year, but finally left service in December 1863. For the remainder of the war he served as a journalist, studied law, earned his M.A. at Rochester University, and taught school.

Following the war Tourgee moved to North Carolina to take advantage of opportunities provided by Reconstruction. He became a vigorous promoter of political, legal, and economic reform, including civil rights. Despite strong opposition because of his “northern roots”, Tourgee served as one of three commissioners charged with rewriting North Carolina’s law and in 1868 he was elected a state superior court judge. Following his judgeship Tourgee ran for congress on the Republican ticket but lost. He then moved to Colorado to work as an editor for the Denver Evening Times. While out west he also wrote several books on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Two of his books – “A Fool’s Errand. By One of the Fools” and “Bricks Without Straw” – remain historical classics.

In 1881 Tourgée purchased a home in Mayville. From 1881 to 1884 he published and edited a weekly literary magazine and wrote a variety of additional novels, including “Button’s Inn” which was based on this historic Inn located in Westfield. Tourgee also set his sites on a variety of social reform issues, including civil rights. He founded his own civil rights association in 1891 and was appointed chief counsel by Louisiana black leaders in a legal struggle that culminated with the Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision of 1896.

Tourgée spend his final years as a diplomat and was appointed consul to Bordeaux, France. He died in France May 21, 1905 and his body was returned to Mayville. Most of his possessions, including his writings, are now in possession of the Chautauqua County Historical Society.

Ref: Documenting the American South (DocSouth)

No. 82 – James H. McGraw



James Herbert McGraw was born in 1860 in the Town of Harmony. In his early years as an adult he worked as a teacher. To help bring in additional income, he would also sell subscriptions and advertising for a trade periodical, American Journal of Railway Appliance. In 1885 at the age of 25, McGraw spent his life savings of $2,500 to become part-owner of the publication, and three years later he bought the business outright.

After making a quick success in the trade journal business, he formed The McGraw Publishing Company in 1889 as a holding company for his magazines. The firm soon expanded into book publishing, and in 1909 McGraw’s book division was merged with the book-publishing arm of John A. Hill’s Hill Publishing Company, while both companies remained competitors in periodicals publishing.

The combined business, McGraw-Hill Book Company, absorbed the original companies’ periodicals division in 1917. In 1929, McGraw-Hill bought a struggling business-themed monthly called The Magazine of Business and re-launched it as a weekly, publishing its first issue (called The Business Week) six weeks before the stock market crash that began the Great Depression.

He died February 21, 1948 at the age of 87 in San Francisco, but was buried in Morristown, New Jersey. Despite his great success in publishing, McGraw frequently said that he had enjoyed his time as a teacher more than anything in his business career.

Ref: NNDB – James H. McGraw

No. 83 – Frank Burns

Frank Buns was born about 1863 in Westfield and spent most of his life in the area. An avid inventor, Burns is credited with developing several different devices, most notably, a typewriter, although it would never actually go into mass production.

Burns first received a patent for his typewriter in 1889. In 1894 he started the Burns Typewriting Company in Buffalo, but only several pre-production typewriters were ever manufactured. However, the company was successful in producing metal type for other typewriters as well as metal stamps, dies and other light machinery and tool specialties. The company lasted at least into the 1940s.

Beside his typewriter, Burns had many other inventions, including a steam automobile, which he drove around the streets of Westfield when he was a teenager. He also developed a vaporizer for allergy sufferers, and a device to prevent clogging of cartridges as they were fed into the rapid-fire aircraft machine guns of WWI.

After his death at the age of 74 in 1937, The Westfield Republican said Burns “was a remarkable genius as an inventor.”

Ref: ETCetera: Newsletter of the Early Typewriter Collectors Association, January 1988 (No. 2)

No. 84 – Everett R. Burmaster


Everett Burmaster

Everett Burmaster (Photo courtesy of Hanover Historical Society)

Everett R. Burmasterwas born in 1891, the son of Henry and Mary Baird Burmaster. Burmaster was born in the Town of Hanover in a house beside the Cattaraugus Creek across from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. He played with Native American children, attended school with them, and in later life was adopted by the Seneca Nation.

When he was 14 years old, Burmaster worked with Dr. Arthur C. Parker in the excavation of the “Silver Heel” site on the Irving-Gowands Road. Dr. Parker at the time was associated with the Peabody Museum and Institute of Archeology of Boston. When Parker became associated with New York State, Burmaster worked with him in uncovering the Erie Indian village at Ripley for the New York State Museum in Albany. After that Burmaster became assistant state archeologist and later joined the staff at Rochester Musuem.

In the 1930s he was an archaeologist at the Buffalo Museum of Science and helped excavate the Richmond Mastadon in Indiana. This now stands in the Buffalo museum. He also built the reproduction of the Indian Village in the museum and also constructed reproductions of Iroquois Indian dwellings for the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

Burmaster was an avid student of history and had devoted much of his time to research and collecting historical material. He was responsible for locating a “horse-head fiddle” that had been made by the county’s first settler, Amos Sottle. In addition, he preserved three pieces of the historic “Hanover Elm” – the largest tree of its kind ever found east of the Mississippi [a cross section of which will be available for viewing during the County’s Bicentennial Fair, Aug 13 and 14, 2011 at the Chautauqua Suites]. He died January 19, 1965.

Ref: Hanover Town Historian Vincent Martonis

No. 85 – Irv Noren



Irv Noren was born in Jamestown in 1924 and his family operated a bakery on Newland Avenue. In 1935 his family moved west. It was during his teenage years in California that Noren began to hone and sharpen his skills as a baseball player. He became such a good player that following World War II, he began his professional career.

In 1946 Noren made a name for himself playing for Santa Barbera of the California. He batted .363 with a league-leading 518 at bats, 188 hits, 129 RBI and 27 assists. He advanced to Fort Worth of the Texas League and played outfield and first base while batting .271. The following season he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player after batting .323 with 10 home runs and 71 RBI.

In 1949 Noren played for Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League where he batted .330 with 29 home runs and 130 RBI. He also led the league in outfield putouts and assists and was named league MVP.

On April 18, 1950, Noren made his Major League Baseball Debut, playing for the Washington Senators.  In a career that stretched ten years, e also played for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Kansas City Athletics, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in three World Series (1952, 1953, and 1955) while a Yankee and was on the American League All-Star team in 1954. He batted .300 in the 1952 World Series.

After his big league career, Noren managed the Hawaii Islanders in 1962-1963. He was a scout for the Washington Senators in 1964. He managed the Niagara Falls Pirates in 1970, then turned to coaching. He was on the Oakland A’s staff from 1971 to 1974 and the Chicago Cubs staff in 1975.

Irv Noren lives in California. inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

Ref: Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit or contact your local historical society.

View Complete List of Bicentennial Biographies and Audio

– J. Sample

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