Hugh Burns, identified with much of the railroad construction in Texas, was born in 1846 in County Roscommon, Ireland. He immigrated to the United States about 1850 with his parents and settled first at Nashville, Tennessee, then at Madison, Illinois. Burns, along with his four brothers, attended the Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, but, seeking adventure, he left school when he was sixteen to drive a freight wagon of sugar from Fort Smith, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado. He spent some time mining but lost his stake. His first railroad construction work was on the Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad in Missouri. Burns moved to Texas in the early 1870s and went into partnership with a railroad builder, a Mr. Peters, who was working on the Southern Pacific in West Texas. Later Burns went into the railroad construction business for himself and accepted a contract with the Houston and Texas Central in East Texas. During the early 1880s he formed a partnership with George W. Burkett and P. Murphy, and they contracted to build the International-Great Northern from Laredo to Palestine. While construction was progressing in Williamson County, Burns bought a 3,000-acre ranch on the San Gabriel River seven miles from Taylor. Several other contracts followed; his last was for construction of a railway for the Jay Gould interests through the cotton lowlands of the Brazos valley. Burns married Mary Clifford in 1881 in San Antonio. They lived for a while in Taylor after Burns retired, then moved to San Antonio, where he died on March 11, 1911.
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Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Texas Development Bureau, 1925?; 4 vols. 1929?).
Scientists and Researchers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mary Burns Mendel,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994