Biography of Joel S. Burnell
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





JOEL SEVIER BURNELL. - With the coming of the vast army of immigrants into California during the gold mining era there arrived at the mines a young New Yorker, Joel Burnell by name, who had been allured to the west at the very beginning of American occupancy and had crossed the plains in 1849 with a large expedition through New Mexico and Arizona, entering California from Yuma. After having mined with little success for a few years, in 1852 he drifted into Humboldt county and bought a squatter's claim of one hundred and sixty acres (later government land), which he proved up on and proceeded to develop. In those days it was difficult to find a market for crops. Humboldt county was so sparsely settled that a home market was lacking. It became a regular custom for this pioneer to cross the mountains to Weaverville, Trinity county, and there sell to the miners the rolls of butter, the product of the skill of his wife as a butter maker. These trips would take two or three weeks, during which time the faithful wife was left at home alone in what was then a wilderness inhabited by Indians and wild animals. Being a man of deep religious temperament and excellent knowledge of the Bible, he often utilized these trips as an opportunity to preach the Gospel to miners. For one year he held services at Ferndale and in the '60s he preached in different parts of the Sacramento valley. The early establishment of the Methodist Episcopal denomination along this part of the coast was due in no small part to his self denying efforts in the cause and to the work done by him without expectation or desire for pay, but wholly for the good of the church. Around the farm in the southern part of the county where he settled in 1852 there grew up a small settlement of farmers and in his honor the railroad station was known as Burnell. This was the terminus of the railroad for many years.

The marriage of Joel Burnell united him with Nancy Jane Stringfield, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Sevier Stringfield, a Kentuckian for some years resident in Illinois, but after 1853 a farmer near Hydesville, Humboldt county. The family of Joel Burnell comprised the following children: Manfred C., now of Chico; Louis M., ex district attorney of Humboldt county and a resident of Eureka; Mrs. Electa J. Houck, of Oregon; Walter S., who resides in Escondido; William A., deceased Elizabeth, a teacher in this county, who became the wife of David Jenkins and died in Kansas City, Mo.; Fred C., who died when nineteen years old; Joel Sevier, who was born near Hydesville. Humboldt county, March 15, 1868, and is now a practicing attorney of Eureka; and Ida Burnell, a successful teacher in the Eureka schools.

After completing the studies of the old Eureka Academy the study of law was undertaken by Joel Sevier Burnell, who remained in the office of his older brother, Louis M., until he was admitted to the bar in August, 1897, and since then he has continued in practice at Eureka. In addition to the details of professional work he devotes considerable time to the supervision of an apple orchard which he is developing at Camp Grant. Fraternally he is a member of Fortuna Lodge No. 221, I. O. O. F., and is secretary of the Association of Veteran Odd Fellows and also has membership with Centennial Rebekah Lodge. His family consists of two children, Cummings J. and Elvie, and his wife, formerly Miss Elvie S. Cummings, who is a native and lifelong resident of Humboldt county, her father, L. J. Cummings, having crossed the plains in 1851 via the northern route through Oregon and as early as 1868 established himself permanently as a resident of Humboldt county.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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