William  Burkher


The Shelbyville Republican
 
Monday August 25, 1947
Page 3 column 3
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REV. W. E. BURKHER
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            Listening to Rev. William E. Burkher reminisce about the early days of the furniture business here is interesting and entertaining even when youíre sitting on a pile of boards on the floor of a building that smells like baby chickens-with the temperatures around 100.
            In going to Rev. Burkherís home at 601 North Pike Street his wife told me Iíd find him at the Carney Hatchery. I did, with his sleeves rolled up and face dripping.  He was repairing equipment, which will house future egg producers.  Work, which he says, he shouldnít take time to do but, "itís hard to turn any one down when they need something done." 
Although heís very much interested in ministerial work, Rev. Burkher has been a furniture man almost all of his life, for 61 years to be exact, and his gospel work didnít begin until about 30 years ago.  He went to work in 1886 to learn wood carving at the Conrey-Davis  factory and his weekly salary was $1.50.  The factory, located in the old woolen mills on the Franklin Pike, was in its infancy and because it was such a small, one-horse, ill-equipped establishment, it soon was dubbed "The Dinkey."  The name stuck as long as the factory was in operation.  Unions et cetera didnít seem to bother labor and management much in those days from the tales Rev. Burkher brings out of his "memory box."  He recalls that since the plant was along side the river, some of the men now and then took time out in the midst of production to go fishing in the side-and that it wasnít above the "bosses" to filch the catch they brought in.  He also recalls that it was a pretty poor grade of furniture that was made in those days.  The oak used often was so worm eaten that it "looked like it has been shot with a gun."  But old fashioned shoe pegs pounded into the holes and sanded over took care of that and the unfinished pieces, tables mostly, soon were on their way, via dray horse and wagon, to a room down town where they were finished for market.
            Rev. Burkherís immediate boss during those days was the late Charles Birely - who incidentally, as foreman, earned a weekly stipend of $12.00.  He chuckles as he remembers that he had to act as "interpreter" between Mr. Birely and a Swedish worker in the factory.  His German heritage helped him understand the man from the cold country while the boss "couldnít make heads nor tails of what the Swede said."
            After the Dinkey was enlarged and moved into the city Mr. Burkher served as a cabinet maker and inspector and then was foreman for 35 years-until the plant was closed.  Since that time he has kept up his wood working in a completely equipped shop immediately behind his home.  Over its door is a sign announcing the place as the "Little Dinky."  He could have enough work to keep several men busy he says but he prefers to maintain an independent shop.  However, for a while he did have another man working for him - the man, no longer living, was his superintendent at The Dinkey.  Restoring antique furniture is one of his specialties and according to him, that field is almost endless.
            And now for the "the side" of this man who in looks and manner belies his more than three score and 10 years.  He became especially interested in ministerial work when a mission was established by the late  J. Fran Orebaugh  and  Sam Kinsley,  with the aid of Mr. Birely, where the present Salvation Army citadel is located, Rev. Burkher preached at the mission for four years and during this time he was asked by the Methodist district superintendent to serve as a supply minister at the Winchester, Geneva and Ray churches.  He has had no formal training in the ministry but through the years has presented innumerable sermons at many churches throughout the city and county.
            During his time at the mission he remembers taking home scraps of leather from the factory to resole and repair the shoes of children attending services at the little building.  And it was with quite a bit of personal satisfaction that recently while filling the pulpit of a downtown church a woman came to him and introduced herself as "one of the children whom you used to help at the old mission on South Noble street."  A gleam of the quality which makes him a "personality worth mentioning" is visible in his eyes too as he speaks of the services which he conducts on alternate Sunday afternoons at the Shelby County Home.  For several years he had made frequent visits to the Home, talking with and presenting Christian messages to the residents in their rooms.  Bur five years ago, largely through his influence, a chapel was established in the institution and now he holds sermons for the residents in a church-like atmosphere.
            Rev. Burkher married  Miss Emma C. Clemenz,  of Batesville community on April 7, 1890, and they have one daughter,  Mrs. Hazel Hamblen.  In the Burkher home are several tables, a buffet and other articles, which he has made and they, the home and the "Little Dinky," bear evidence that a man who appreciates good furniture live there.  Rev. Burkher was born just two blocks from his present residence.  He hasnít "traveled much," he says
Contributed by Barb Huff

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