Burke County Genealogical Society
30th Anniversary Celebration


The Burke County Genealogical Society met at the Ervin Community Room at Grace Ridge Retirement Center on Monday, November 12 to celebrate its 30th Anniversary.  Slightly more than 100 people enjoyed a delicious meal.

The speaker for the evening was Dr. Gordon McKinney, who is the author of Zeb Vance:  North Carolina’s Civil War Governor.  Dr. McKinney presented a program on how Governor Vance who had family ties to Burke County addressed the economy during the Civil War era.


The BCGS recognized several special honorees during the evening and are purchasing books for the NC Room at the Burke County Public Library in their honor or memory. Betsy D. Pittman, was honored as being an expert genealogist.  She has been an active member of the society for almost 30 years.  In 2005, she was selected by the NC Society of Historians as NC Historian of the Year (West). In October 2012 the North Carolina Genealogical Society honored Mrs. Pittman with the award for Outstanding Contribution to North Carolina Genealogy.  She was commended as a respected professional genealogist with exacting standards.    She is a true expect and has been the major contributor to the society’s journal.  Elizabeth “Lib” Michaels was honored as having the distinction of being the only charter member who is still active.  She has served the society in many capacities and has written seven family history books.  Mary Jane Michaels Simmons served as president and secretary for the society. Along with her late husband, Howard, she edited the society’s journal and assisted in producing several publications.  Elsie Clements has served as Historian of the Society and was instrumental in reading over 96 Burke county cemeteries that eventually resulted in the publication of  five cemetery books.  Derick Hartshorn III has indexed many of our publications and maintains the Burke County Gen Web Page.  He is a dedicated society supporter. Dr. Robert McNeely is best known for plotting over 2,000 of the original Burke County land grants and for providing this information at the North Carolina Room.  He is a retired chemistry professor from UT – Chattanooga. He has provided interesting programs for the society.   The Rev. Randy Gibson (1952—2011) was honored in memoriam for having been a true friend of the Society.  He has been involved with genealogy since the age of twelve.  He has taught genealogy classes, given programs, and conducted tours of historic places.  Dr. Emmett White (1929—2008) was honored in memoriam for being one of the original founders of the society and a charter member.  The publishing of a three volume set of Revolutionary War Soldiers of Burke and Western NC is one of his major contributions.

Front row, L to R: Elizabeth "Lib" H. Michaels, Mary Jane Michaels Simmons, Elsie Clements.
 Back row, L to R: Betsy D. Pittman, Wanda Gibson, Martha White, Derick Hartshorn III. (Not pictured, Dr. Robert McNeely)

Other society members were recognized for receiving awards at the North Carolina Society of Historians Awards banquet held in October.  

The society also presented a President’s Special Award to Gale Benfield, the curator of the NC Room of the Morganton Library.  The activities of the Society are centered around that room and Gale is our advocate for obtaining and maintaining a quality genealogical research center.  A book will be placed in the library in honor of Gale.


Burke County Genealogical Society Members Receive Awards

Burke County Genealogical Society members received awards at the North Carolina Society of Historians Awards banquet held in October.   The NCHS was formed in 1941 for the purpose of collecting and preserving North Carolina history and genealogy. The Society’s purpose is primarily to reward those persons who fulfill the society’s objectives.

  Burke County Genealogical Society members who received awards for newspaper or magazine articles are: Mary Lou Furr, “The Soldier’s Choice – A Story.”   Judges’ comments, “The article records a family story about a time when a Confederate soldier was faced with a difficult decision in the line of duty. This article was extremely well-written as it jarred many feelings in the minds and hearts of our panel. This article gets an A+ from our entire panel!”  Betsy Dodd Pittman (four awards), “Why Is It Called ‘Quaker Meadows?’, “Which John Brown Are You?”, “ Check the Road Records!”, and “Loose Burke County Court Papers in the North Carolina State Archives.”  Judges’ collective comments, “All four of these articles are evidence of a generous amount of research, meticulous attention to detail, and a text that is reader-friendly.”  Margaret Richards and Helen Norman, “The Rutherford- Conley African American Cemetery.”  The article details efforts to discover the cemetery’s origins and to determine who is buried there.  Family interviews, census records, marriage certificates, birth and death certificates, other cemetery records, and newspaper events were conducted.”  Helen Norman and Pat Page, “Rock Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church Burials in Rock Hill Cemetery.” Research for this article is important because it supplies information about cemeteries and genealogical information for African American families.  A history of the church and cemetery is given and burial listings were obtained from searching death certificates.

  Three book awards were received:  Helen Norman and Patricia Page, Glimpses of Fonta Flora. Judges’ collective comments,  “We loved this book that has something for everybody in it.  Interested in local history…here it is.  Interested in humor…this book has it. Interested in excellent documentation…here we have it. “…we can definitely tell that nobody connected with this most worthwhile effort is a “stick in the mud!”  In order to gain full understanding of that comment, one must purchase a copy of the book, sit down with a cup of coffee, relax and enjoy!” Anne Swann,  The Other Side of the River:  The Struggle for the McDowell County Frontier.  Judges’ collective comments,  “It is difficult to put into words how this book affected our panel as we entered an era that is not usually elaborated upon in our history books.  Other than an exceptional text, the author has included some tremendously valuable footnotes, numerous appendices, a thorough bibliography section that includes an alphabetized listing of those persons having Revolutionary War Pension Application in the area, and a phenomenal index that not only includes a person’s full name, but place names, Latin terms, the names of buildings.. in fact, the author indexed any subject matter she deemed would be helpful as a search engine for the reader/ researcher.   The book chronicles events of an overlooked era in American history, local history, in an exciting way.   Bo Cash, Water Under the Bridge – A Journey Through Life Outdoors. This book is easily read, beautifully written and illustrated from actual photographs.  Each chapter is a story unto itself, but is woven together in a tapestry of history, science, genealogy, a passion for outdoor experiences and an understanding of the importance of preserving human relationships.   

Front row, L to R: Phillip Heavner, Helen Norman, Pat Page.
 Back row, L to R: Betsy Pittman, Margaret Richards, Mary Lou Furr. Not pictured, Anne Swann and Bo Cash

The Burke County Genealogical Society won an award for outstanding achievements by a society. Judges’ collective  comments,  “There is no doubt that this group of dedicated historians and genealogists are fulfilling NCSH’s goals and objectives… to research, record and perpetuate NC’s rich history.  The genealogical society also won an award for excellence in publishing a genealogical journal, “Journal of Burke County Genealogical Society” Phillip Heavner, editor.  Judges’ collective comments, “In the words of one of our ‘younger’ members of the panel, ‘this journal is a class act!’  Every year it continues to be recognized for its continued meticulous attention to detail, for supplying its membership with wide range and scope of useful articles and compelling stories, for its eminently readable style; and, for its magnificent layout and design from issue to issue.   “Journal of Burke County Genealogical Society” Phillip Heavner, editor.


2012 By accessing this site, you hereby agree that any data posted is copyrighted by the Burke County Genealogical Society. Nothing contained herein is
 to be used for other than personal research and is not to be reposted, captured or cached on another server without the express written consent of the contributor.

Derick S. Hartshorn - 2012-present
Last Modified: