Lt. Col. Silas Burke

Every generation produces those individuals, man and woman, that make a significant impact in their private or professional lives that influence others in their community and even beyond. Silas Burke was just such a man, Fairfax County was just such a place, and the antebellum period was just such a time. In a course of 56 years, from 1796 when he was born in Prince William County, Virginia, to 1854 when he suddenly died from apoplexy, Silas served as a farmer and planter of a large plantation, a director of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad Company, the President of the Fairfax Agricultural Society, the President of the Fairfax Turnpike Company, the owner and operator of a local grist mill and lumber mill, a county judge and sheriff, a superintendent of Primary School System for Educating the Indigent Children of Fairfax County, a Lieutenant Colonel in the State Militia, and an owner and operator of a home of public entertainment. At the time of his untimely death, he was considered one of the most important men in the county. In fact, not one to sit on his laurels, just four months before his death, he had applied for, and received approval from the county, a license to operate a “house of entertainment,” known in modern vernacular as a tavern.

Hannah Coffer Burke

Hannah Coffer, one of the famous Fairfax Coffer’s, Hannah Coffer married Silas Burke on September 2, 1824.Hannah traces her roots back to Thomas Withers Coffer, born in 1713, and a well-known vestryman of Truro Parish. Other well-known vestrymen of Truro Parish include George Mason, Thomas Wren, the Fairfax’s, and His Excellency George Washington. Thomas Coffer, Thomas Withers Coffer’s grandson, was born in 1773 and served as captain of the 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment, Virginia Militia, an infantry company from Fairfax in the War of 1812.1. He married Ann Simpson and has eight children, one of which is my wife, Hannah. Hannah has a sister, Jane, who also married another Burke, Levi Burke, he’s my brother. (Source: The History of Truro Parish)

Capt. John T. Burke

Son of Lt. Col. Silas and Hannah Burke, Capt. John T. Burke was born on August 29, 1827 and was trained as an engineer. After his father’s untimely death in 1854, he returned to the home in Fairfax County to assist his mother, Hannah, in running the farm. He married Virginia Skinner on December 16, 1856 in Washington City. As tensions between the North and the South built, John Burke voted in support of succession at Sangster’s on April 23, 1861. Two days later, he enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Virginia, Co. D., Fairfax Rifles, and after the unfortunately, but serious wounding of Capt. William Dulany at Blackburn’s Ford during the early stages of the Battle of 1st Manassas, Capt. Burke was elected the Captain of the 17th VA, Co. D. He was wounded at Seven Pines on May 31, 1862 and cited for gallantry at Boonsborough, Maryland. Unfortunately, his luck ran out on September 17, 1862, at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on the bloodiest day in US military history, with about 23,000 casualties, on both the North and the South.

Ann Burke

Six years the younger of John, her brother, Ann is the daughter of Silas and Hannah.  She was born in 1834 in Fairfax County, Virginia. At the age of 16, she traveled to Staunton, to the Virginia Female Institute, where she learned mathematics, moral philosophy, language, music, drawing and painting, and elocution and physical culture.