The Burnham Family

Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.

I will be upfront and let all of you lovely readers know that I chose this topic this week because the Burnham family is associated with one of my favorite pictures in the entire museum. I will of course let all of you know which one it is when I get to that point of the blog. Hint: Its adorable. 

Besides having a fantastic photo, the Burnhams are an important aspect of Folsom’s history because they were heavily involved in building up the town for many years. James Greenleaf Burnham came to Folsom in 1855 with his family and quickly purchased land from Joseph Libbey Folsom’s estate and built a store at 725 Sutter Street.


James H. Burnham at far right

James G. and his wife, Emma Parker Burnham, had five children, James Henry Burnham, Henrietta Burnham, Mary Emma Burnham, Charles Burnham, and Frederick Parker Burnham. Unfortunately, Mary passed away in 1856 and Emma passed away in 1859. The family remained in Folsom and James G.’s store thrived with the addition of a pharmacy. James H., following in his father’s footsteps, became a druggist and later took over the Assay office (our building went through many owners over the years) and worked as a banker for the Wells Fargo Company. James G. later moved to San Francisco and passed away there in 1878, however his body was moved back to Folsom for burial in what is now Lakeside Cemetery in the Burnham plot.

1874 prescription from J.H, Burnham

James H. continued to live and work in Folsom, marrying Mary Abigail Clark, daughter of Reuben Clark who was one of the first architects for the Sacramento Capitol and together they had four children, Henry C. Burnham, who died as a baby, Clark James Burnham (who became a doctor,), William Parker Burnham (also a doctor and amateur photographer), and Emma Mary “Nan” or “Nanno” Burnham (she was great friends with the Levy sisters from a previous blog). 


William Parker Burnham at their pharmacy

Nan Burnham

James H. purchased a Greek Revival home at 602 Figueroa and had it moved to 306 Scott street, he and his family lived here until a new, larger home could be built on Figueroa. The home was completed in 1891 with the help of his father-in-law and still stands today as one of the most beautiful homes in Folsom, despite a tragic fire in 1975 that almost completely consumed the structure. As promised, my favorite photo in our collection and the inspiration for this blog post is a photo below of the Burnham’s dog dressed up and sitting in a chair in the Burnham’s backyard. 

The Burnham's first home

The house J.H. Burnham built on Figueroa

Absolutely the best photo ever!

Burnham continued to run his businesses with the help of his sons and later in life was involved with selling insurance and working as a Census Marshall. Both of Burnham’s sons became doctors when they grew up, no doubt from spending their formative years in their father’s store. Clark was the first, graduating in San Francisco at the head of his class in 1891 and remained there to work at St. Luke’s Hospital. William moved to San Francisco in 1898 to pursue becoming a doctor as well and after graduation, remained there for the rest of his life. In 1909, the Burnham’s youngest and only daughter, Nan, married Admiral Samuel Murray Robinson, who later was a four-star general and pioneered electric drive propulsion in the U.S. Navy and was Chief of the Bureau of Engineering. 

With their children now gone from Folsom, the Burnhams decided to move to San Francisco to be closer to their sons and their respective families. In 1919, James H. Burnham sold his business to Charles Garrett and the name was changed to Garrett’s Pharmacy (the safe for this business can be found on display in our permanent exhibit!). They sold their house to John Russi, a local butcher and County Supervisor, however he lost it during the Great Depression. 

The Burnhams stayed in the Bay Area for the remainder of their lives. James passed away in 1920 and Mary followed in 1921. Like his father before them, the Burnhams’ remains were moved back to Folsom and are in the family plot at Lakeside. 

We use this photo of Ecklon Bridge was taken by William Parker Burnham!

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