Title: Undertaker, part-time clergyman
Birthdate: October 1, 1823
Death Date: October 26, 1873
Plot Location: Section 130 Lot B1

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The genealogy of the Kollock family goes back to the late 1600s in Sussex County, Delaware, but it appears Burton’s father, David, made the move to Philadelphia before Burton and his sisters were born. The phrase, “like father, like son” applies to this man’s vocation; David was a cabinet maker who became an undertaker, and was also titled “Reverend” on occasion because he was a part-time Methodist preacher, but not a pastor of a particular church..

His son was the same. In fact, they were partners, as David’s will of 1855 said they were in business together as “cabinet makers and furnishing undertakers.” Because their product was used at funerals, perhaps they also served as graveside speakers, in addition to “pulpit supply” when a church was in between pastors. One other fact they shared in common was that David had one son and three daughters, and so did Burton.

Two days after Valentine’s Day in 1845 Burton married a girl named Margaret with the unusual last name of Evill. Their children were born in 1846, 1849, 1851, and 1857, and grew up in the Southwark neighborhood of South Philadelphia, just as both parents did. They attended the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church at 3rd and Wharton Street. This “daughter church” birthed by the Ebenezer M.E. Church was co-founded by his father and the well-known industrialist and fellow clergyman, Thomas T. Tasker.

Burton was what the church called “a licensed exhorter and class leader,” and the church historian wrote: “he was pre-eminently a sub-pastor, not only to his own class and church, but to the community at large. With his multitude of church duties, as well as the engrossing cares of a large business as undertaker, he was one of the most untiring workers of his day.”

In 1857 he began helping at an informal Sunday School that started as a outreach of his church’s Sunday classes. It became known as the Hazel Street Mission School, and he conducted a series of meetings there that eventually organized as a church of its own at 3rd and Morris Streets.

Copied here is a classified ad for his business from 1855 and a city directory ad in 1873. Burton was nominated for a seat on the city’s Common Council in 1861 but wasn’t elected. After the war he was often called on to pray or speak at meetings of various groups where he served, and joined Thomas Tasker as a delegate to the national convention of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

By 1870 the two oldest children were married. Then Burton’s son, David, born in 1851 and named after his grandfather, joined Burton in his business. In fact, David would have a son named David Jr. in 1883 who continued the family business for a fourth generation until his death in 1939. He also had a son, David III, but he became an appliance salesman.

Burton went on a hunting trip in Chester County in the fall of 1873, and these news clippings tell the story of his accident. The official cause of death that occurred four days later was septicemia, or blood poisoning, after his arm was amputated. 

The funeral at the Wharton Street church naturally drew an overflowing crowd of sympathizers. No less than 15 fellow clergymen spoke about his life, including his friend Thomas Tasker, whose own Notable story is described here. Organizations where Burton was active were also in attendance: the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, United American Mechanics and the Shiffler Hose Company (fire station).

The church relocated and the burial grounds had to be removed, so the church bought Section 130 at Mount Moriah. (The Methodist Episcopal Conference of Philadelphia bought Section 131.) Burton’s angel-topped monument stands at the end of row B in tribute to him and his wife, who followed him in 1908. David was his mother’s undertaker, as David Jr was for him.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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