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JOEL WAKEMAN BURDICK
AN Albanian well known in railroad circles and by the traveling public is J. W. Burdick, the genial general passenger agent of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company railroad. He comes from the sturdy, enterprising race of New Englanders who have done so much to advance the material interests of our country in the development of its vast resources. Born on the 20th of June, 1853, in the rural village of Almond, Allegany County, N. Y., he is a son of R. M. Burdick and Sarah E, Farnsworth, his wife. His father, now retired from the more active duties of life, is still living on the old homestead at Almond, while a few years ago the grave closed over his mother. One of his original ancestors was Samuel Hubbard Burdick, a follower of Roger Williams, and who, with the daring old pioneer and founder of the first Baptist church in America, left the shores of England – driven away by the storm of persecution – and came to this country in 1631, settling a few years later in the new but hospitable region of Providence, R. I. There Mr. Burdick purchased six hundred acres of land, on a portion of which now stands the beautiful city of Providence. He was perfectly willing to endure the hardships incident to pioneer life in the wilds of America for the sake of enjoying freedom of conscience in religious matters, and for the greater opportunity of laboring in broader fields in the rising cause of civilization and good government.
J. W. Burdick, the subject of this sketch, received his early education at the village school of his native place, where he was noted for his studious habits and his fondness for literature and art. He would gladly have continued to cultivate his literary tastes through the higher schools of learning, but more speedily remunerative work demanded his attention. Wishing to do something for himself in the way of earning a living, and cultivating a feeling of self-reliance, he left the paternal roof when scarcely fifteen years of age and started out to learn the telegraph business. He soon found employment as an operator for the old Erie Railroad Company. Easily mastering the art, he shortly afterward became a ready, expert and successful operator. Reliable and trustworthy in every respect, he filled successively the positions of operator and train dispatcher.
His abilities and superior qualifications for general railroad work in its more particular and difficult departments becoming more widely known and fully recognized, he accepted a position in 1879 as clerk in the general office of the passenger department of the D. & H. railroad. For faithfulness and efficiency in his duties he was promoted in 1880 to the chief clerkship in the same company. In 1881 he was placed in charge of the entire telegraph system, in addition to his other duties, and for four years he filled this position most acceptably. In 1883 he was made assistant general passenger agent of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company’s railroad, and in 1885 succeeded Mr. D. M. Kendrick as general passenger agent, having in charge all the passenger interests of the company – an office which he still occupies with commendable ability, reflecting no little credit upon himself and honor on the large and prosperous company by which he is employed.
Thus by industry, perseverance, strict integrity and a full knowledge of his business, Mr. Burdick has steadily risen to more responsible positions until he has gained an enviable reputation though scarcely in the prime of life.
During the summer of 1889 Mr. Burdick, with a view to witnessing the workings of foreign railroad systems, and seeing places famous in history, literature and art, crossed the Atlantic, visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Switzerland, etc. He was greatly interested in the great picture galleries of Europe, and made frequent visits to them. He was much pleased with the richness and beauty of English landscapes, and loved to visit the more retired places and study the rural life, the manners and customs of the people. On the whole, his taste for the beautiful and the sublime in nature and art was highly gratified by his two months tour in foreign lands, and he returned home with pleasant memories of his visit, and with enlarged knowledge of men and things in the old world.
In 1872 Mr. Burdick married a daughter of W. W. Bartlett, of Corning, N. Y., a retired farmer. They have four children, two boys and two girls, and their home life is both cheerful and happy.
Mr. Burdick is a member of the Albany club, and of the New England society of New York City. Unassuming in his manners, gentle in his disposition, always attentive to his line of business, with an eye on the welfare of the company he represents, he has worked his way up, as we have already seen, to places of usefulness and responsibility, by his own unaided efforts, and has clearly demonstrated his admirable fitness for the work to which he has been called.