Guide to the Mary K. Burk Papers
circa 1897-1983

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Burk, Mary K. (Mary Katherine)
Title: Mary K. Burk Papers
Dates: circa 1897-1983 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 1 linear ft. (3 boxes)
Collection Number: XOE_SC0004BurkMK
Summary: The Mary K. Burk Papers consist of personal and family papers, as well as newspaper articles and clippings documenting people and activities in northern Whatcom County, Washington.
Repository: Western Washington University, Heritage Resources
Contact Information: Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
Goltz-Murray Building
808 25th St
Bellingham, WA
Telephone: 360-650-7747
Languages: Collection materials are in English. 

Biographical Note

Mary K. (Mary Katherine) Burk was a rural school teacher and administrator, dairy farmer, neighborhood chronicler, and tireless supporter of the grange movement in northwestern Washington State. Her father, Martin Burk, immigrated to the U. S. from Germany in 1880 and, in 1886, established a homestead in the Sunrise area of Whatcom County near the town of Lynden. In 1894, Martin married Marie Annette Mayer, and the couple went on to have five children. Mary Katherine was the third, born on November 13, 1898 in the log house on her family’s pioneer farm.

Mary attended the one-room Sunrise Grade School, followed by Lynden High School where she graduated in 1916. In 1918, she received an elementary teaching diploma from the Washington State Normal School at Bellingham (now Western Washington University). Over the next 23 years, Mary taught and served as principal in several rural Whatcom County schools including the North Star, Haynie Grange, and Sunshine schools.

After teaching, Mary began a 40-year career as a dairy farmer, independently managing a herd of Jersey cows. In 1920, she began submitting columns to the Lynden Tribune concerning happenings in the Sunrise/Delta area, an activity she continued for the next 57 years. She also contributed articles to the Bellingham Herald, the Ferndale Record, and the Blaine Journal. Much of her reporting focused on the Delta Grange, organized in 1926, which she served as secretary from 1929 to 1972. She also wrote about weddings, anniversaries, and the various activities of her family, friends, and neighbors.

In 1973, Mary Burk received the Gold Sheaf pin recognizing 50 years of continuous service to the Delta Grange. She was also a 50-year member of the Rebekah Lodge of Custer, Washington, a participant in activities of the Clam Diggers Association of descendants of county pioneers and the Whatcom County Old Settlers' Association, and a supporter of agricultural cooperatives such as the Western Farmers Association and Northwest Dairymen's Association.

Mary K. Burk, known to her extended family as "Aunt May," died in Bellingham, Wash., on June 7, 1979, at the age of 80.

Content Description

The Mary K. Burk Papers date from around 1897 to 1983, and consist of Mary’s personal papers, family materials, and newspaper articles and clippings. The personal papers are comprised of correspondence, bank records, employment contracts, photographs, and memorabilia including World War II ration coupons and travel souvenirs. Burk family materials include census records, insurance and tax documents, estate materials, and stock certificates. The majority of the collection is comprised of newspaper clippings either written by or about Mary K. Burk, her family, their acquaintances, and other local interests including, in particular, the Delta Grange.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

The collection is open to the public.

Restrictions on Use :  

Material in the collection may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Preferred Citation :  

Mary K. Burk Papers, Western Libraries Special Collections, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The Mary K. Burk Papers are organized according to the following series arrangement:

  • Series I. Burk (Mary K.) personal papers, circa 1916-1977
  • Series II. Burk family papers, circa 1902-1978
  • Series III. Newspapers, circa 1960-1975
Acquisition Information :  

The collection was a gift of René Casebeer and Valla L. Burk Leide on behalf of the Burk family, October 2003.

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series I :  Burk (Mary K.) personal paperscirca 1916-1977
1/1 Bank records 1919-1977
1/2 Contracts 1932-1961
1/3 Correspondence circa 1935-1975
1/4 Memorabilia, including degrees, awards and certificates, travel souvenirs, and World War II ration coupons circa 1898-1974
1/5-1/7 Photographs (some identified) circa 1916-1972
OV/1 Photograph titled "Normal Class '97" with individual identified
NOTE: this is not Bellingham Normal

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Series II :  Burk family paperscirca 1902-1978
2/1 Census documents 1917
2/2 Income tax documents 1939-1979
2/3 Insurance documents 1927-1978
2/4 Martin and Marie A. Burk estate materials 1947
2/5 Property records circa 1902-1954
2/6 Real estate tax documents 1943-1983
2/7 Stock certificates circa 1926-1955

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Series III :  Newspaperscirca 1960-1975
2/8 Articles by Mary Burk re: Delta Grange circa 1960s-1970s
2/9 Articles about Mary Burk circa 1960s-1970s
2/10 Articles about Burk family members circa 1960s-1970s
2/11 Miscellaneous clippings circa 1960s-1970s
2/12 Obituaries circa 1960s-1970s
OV/2-OV/3 Scrapbooks of clippings by or about Mary Burk, local topics and individuals, and the Delta Grange circa 1960s-1970s

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This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Personal Names :
  • Burk, Mary K. (Mary Katherine)--Archives
  • Subject Terms :
  • Delta Grange (Whatcom County, Wash.)--History--Sources
  • Subject Terms :
  • Whatcom County (Wash.)--History--Sources

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