Biographical Sketch of Dr. Eli Taylor Burney

January 19, 1874–January 9, 1956

Dr. Eli Taylor Burney was born January 19, 1874 in St. George,
Wright County, Missouri and died at age 81, just 10 days shy of
his 82nd birthday, at his home in the Line community, north of
Snyder in Drew County, Arkansas. Dr. Burney was a practicing
physician for nearly 50 years in Ashley, Drew, and Chicot

He was the son of John Josiah Burney, a farmer, and Laura
Avalon Pridgen Burney. Eli was born the second of five children.
His father died when Eli was seven years of age. Later, his
mother remarried and to the Gourley marriage was born two
half-brothers and one half-sister.

From Ireland, the Scottish-Irish immigrant McBurney family
arrived in the United States prior to the 1800’s. Once in America,
their name was shortened to Burney. Upon settling in South
Carolina for a few years, the Eli Caruthers Burney family moved
to St. George, Missouri in 1830.

As young Eli grew up in Wright County, Missouri, he attended
public schools, then enrolled in Central Medical College in St.
Joseph, Missouri in 1897.

When the Cuban War broke out, he left medical school and
enlisted in the United States Army, and was sent to Cuba for
about a year. Upon his return, he re-enlisted for duty in the Army

Medical Corps of the US Army for service in the Philippines during
the Philippine Insurrection. When discharged from the Army, he
returned to Central Medical College and graduated in 1903.

Seeking a warmer climate, this young graduate, still a single man,
came to Calico Rock, Arkansas in 1903 and entered practice for
two years with an established older doctor. Upon the death of a
Dr. Sykes in Line, Arkansas, Eli moved further south to Line,
riding a horse, swimming the White River, and other streams with
no bridges and took over the practice of Dr. Sykes in the Fall of

During this time, he had continued a court-ship with Emma
Caroline Garrett of Turley, Missouri. Emma’s immigrant ancestors
came to the United States from Scotland prior to the 1800’s and
settled in Virginia and South Carolina respectively. Later moving
to Turley, Missouri where her father, James N. Garrett, farmed
and sold organs and pianos during off seasons.

Emma grew up studying music. She taught school in Texas
County for six years before packing two big trucks and her Crown
Reed organ, and boarding a train for Pine Bluff, Arkansas to wed
Eli T. Burney, M.D. in April 1906. He was 32 and she was 26
years old.

After their marriage, they traveled by train to Morrell (Boydell) and
finally by buggy the remaining six miles to Line, which was a
thriving sawmill town and farming community.


Dr. Burney practiced for about 50 years, although in later years
his practice was limited because of failing health. During his
practice, there were battles with typhoid, smallpox, malaria, and
“swamp fever”. He was known for success in treating “swamp
fever”, an almost fatal disease. Night after night there were times
when he would scarcely sleep except as he curled up in the
buggy seat while his faithful horse, “Old Charge” took him home
where another call awaited.

He owned his first automobile, an Argo, in 1916. Later he ordered
a Woods Mobilette that came in by railroad. One day, while
driving his car in a hurry on a rain-slick (Butcher Hill); it turned
over on him. He was pinned beneath until some people lifted it off.
He traded the car for a horse, which he rode in his practice for a
time, but later went back to the car.

This faithful doctor, whose registration card at age 44 recorded his
eyes as blue and his hair as red in color, served as a family
counselor, legal adviser, and in many other ways.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Burney loved people and received their
greatest joy in serving. They had four children, held strict moral
values, and were strong disciplinarians.

Mrs. Burney assumed the role of wife, mother, doctor’s
receptionist, and nurse. She would fill gallons of hot water to be
wrapped in newspapers or rags in cold weather to provide heat in
the buggy to keep her husband warm when making house calls.
After cars came into use, the hot water was needed to get the car
started on cold days.

Mrs. Burney was known for her hospitality as she would prepare a
meal for unexpected guests. She later became Postmaster at
Line and operated a small grocery store till both closed by 1930.

Not only was their household a place of healing, it was also an
entertainment center for the community. Mrs Burney’s organ
music charmed all who heard her. Dr. Burney accompanied the
singing when home, while cradling his small children on his
knees, patting his foot, and humming off key.

Eli T. Burney, M.D. died on January 9, 1956 and Emma Burney
died September 11, 1964. Burial is in Old Troy Cemetery in Drew
County, Arkansas. Dr. Burney was buried with Masonic Rites
since he had served as a faithful Mason, too.

Aundra S. Spears

March 18,2023