Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

The Burger Family

Contributed by Julie Burger Counterman | November 2013

The story passed down through the family generations is that three brothers emigrated from Germany in 1754. They were Jacob, David and Dewalt Burger. Two settled in Northampton County and the third in either upper Carbon County or the lower part of Monroe County.

At this time, we are unsure which of them is the direct ancestor of our Burger family. The spelling variations are Burger, Berger and Borger.

The Burger family living in Blakeslee, Tobyhanna Township, began with John Burger. John was born on May 6, 1841 in Chestnut Hill, Pa. His parents were Thomas Burger Sr. and Elizabeth (Kresge) Burger.

Elizabeth was a descendant of Conrad Kresge of Chestnut Hill/Effort/Kresgeville of the West End area of Monroe County. Conrad’s great-great grandson was S.S. Kresge, who owned the “five and dime” stores called McCrory’s and then founded Kmart.

According to his service record on file with the state of Pennsylvania, John enrolled into the service of the U.S. Army, Company I, 81st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, at Easton on September 25, 1861. He was mustered into service on October 27, 1861. He fought in the Battle of Stevensburg and re-enlisted there on December 23, 1863.

John saw action in many battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg. John was promoted to sergeant on December 16, 1864. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant on June 29, 1865 near Washington, D.C. See Civil War Veterans of Tobyhanna Township

It is not known at what point or why John actually moved to Blakeslee, but he is shown as a resident of Tobyhanna Township in the 1860 census. John married Amanda Prutzman of Blakeslee on July 1, 1867 in Merwinsburg by the Justice of Peace George W. Merwine. Some old maps indicate that he rented from
J. Stein of Blakeslee around 1870.

John and Amanda built the Burger homestead on the 52 acres of property they purchased in 1884. It is located on Burger Road east of today’s Route 115, approximately 1.5 miles north of Blakeslee Corners.

Their first son died two days after birth. Their following children were Emma, Mellie (married Michael Argot of Pocono Lake), Steward, Herbert Lee, (both moved to Conyngham Valley) Howard, Edgar, and Mary I. Della. All of John and Amanda’s children moved from the Blakeslee area, except for Howard.

Amanda died at 44 years. There is a stained glass window in the Blakeslee United Methodist Church with Amanda’s name on it.

Howard Burger married Vinnie Wildrick of Blakeslee on September 19, 1900 in Conklin, N.Y. They moved into the Burger homestead in 1901 and the deed to the property states that they had to take care of Howard’s father, John, until his death by providing for his medical care, food, clothing and a proper burial. They also agreed to raise his sister Mary until she turned age 18.

Civil War veteran John Burger died on May 23, 1912 at the age of 71. He was buried in the Stoddartsville Cemetery where his grave is clearly marked today.

Howard and Vinnie had a working farm, which supplied the basic needs of their family. Around 1911 their barn burned down during the winter; the fire was started by straw and wet corn stalks. They rebuilt it in 1912. They purchased the lumber from P.G. Henning in Fern Ridge for $329.

Howard’s main occupation was a foreman for the state highway department for 30 years. He worked until his health became too bad. He was diabetic and had to have his leg amputated in 1945.

Howard and Vinnie had five children: Ethel May, Emma Elizabeth, Harry, John Henry Sr. and Della Ruth. Della married Jerome Blakeslee of Tobyhanna Township and they had a dairy farm in Cherry Valley.

Howard and Vinnie also raised a niece Millicent (Lucy), daughter of Herbert Burger, from 2 years of age. All of Howard’s children moved from the area except John. Lucy stayed and cooked for Howard in his later years until his death in 1949.

John Burger Sr. married Jennie Henning on September 1, 1932. They had one son, John Jr. During World War II, John Sr. served from August 1943 until October 1945. He was 37 years old when he went into the service of his country. He was stationed in New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific for almost a year and half.

In 1945, while serving overseas, he received word that his father Howard was sick. He tried very hard to be sent home to help take care of his family since he was the only living son. They gathered three letters, one from Howard’s doctor, one from his boss and one from a justice of the peace. Then the Red Cross sent the letters along with a letter requesting a dependency discharge. But by the time this was all done, the war was over.

John worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Highways for 25 years until the Democratic Party took over the governing of the state. His job was then terminated. He then worked for H.R. Imbt as a roller/grader operator from 1957 until his retirement in 1980.

John was also a committeeman for the Republican Party in Tobyhanna Township. He and Jennie were members of the Blakeslee United Methodist Church. Jennie’s grandfather was P.G. Henning from Fern Ridge. Her sister Helen and her husband John Kolnik owned and operated The Two Sisters Inn on Route 115 in Blakeslee for many years.

Jennie, Helen, and their sisters Rita (Henning) Kauffman and Pearl (Henning) Shultz all worked in the restaurant doing the cooking, baking and serving lunches and dinners. They cleaned the rooms and cabins that were rented out to hunters and fishermen.

John Henry Burger Jr. married Phyllis Possinger on July 4, 1963 in Scotrun, Pa. They have two children: John H. III and Julie A. John and Phyllis have lived on Burger Road since they were married. John has worked for various oil companies until his retirement in 2012. They also have been in business for 34 years with Fern Ridge Ski Rental in Fern Ridge.

John is a lifetime member of the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company. Phyllis is a lifetime member the fire company’s Ladies Auxiliary. She is also a member of the Women’s Club. They are both members of the Blakeslee United Methodist Church.

John Burger III lives in Blakeslee and has three children: Matthew, Alex and Thomas. He is a member of the Blakeslee United Methodist Church and a lifetime member of the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company.

Julie married Troy Counterman at the Blakeslee United Methodist Church on June 3, 1989. They have two children: Sarah and Alison. They currently reside in the Burger Homestead. Julie is a member of the Blakeslee United Methodist Church and a lifetime member of the Tobyhanna Township Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary. Troy has been an active member of the fire company since 1989 and has served as Fire Chief for the past 13 years.

The Burger Family has lived in Tobyhanna Township for about 143 years and in Monroe County for over 200 years. Generations have been born and raised in their home in Blakeslee and the road named after them.

The Homestead and farm have been maintained for all these years. For many years the Burger Family has participated in various events in Tobyhanna Township such as the Blakeslee Community Center, going to dances and Halloween parties.

They have belonged to the Blakeslee United Methodist Church. They have supported many local businesses by shopping at the grocery stores, general stores and other shops that have come and gone over the years. They have taken their cars to garages such as Blakeslee Garage and Central Garage for service.

Their largest contribution has mainly been to the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Department. Beginning with John Jr., they have been involved in this for 43 years. They helped with the fire company carnival when it started at the firehouse in Pocono Pines, today’s site of the Clymer Library, It then moved to Blakeslee Corners at the site preceding Jamesway and then on to the Pinecrest location. It is now back at the shopping center location at Blakeslee Corners. They have helped put out many fires, gone to many accidents, rescued lost hunters and hikers and assisted with numerous other emergency and non-emergency situations.

The Burger Family has, and will continue, to play an important role in the community of Tobyhanna Township.