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.
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.
Material in the collection may be subject to copyright restrictions.
Mary K. Burk Papers, Western Libraries Special Collections, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Memorabilia, including degrees, awards and certificates, travel souvenirs, and World War II ration coupons
Photographs (some identified)
Photograph titled "Normal Class '97" with individual identified
NOTE: this is not Bellingham Normal
Income tax documents
Martin and Marie A. Burk estate materials
Real estate tax documents
Articles by Mary Burk re: Delta Grange
Articles about Mary Burk
Articles about Burk family members
Scrapbooks of clippings by or about Mary Burk, local topics and individuals, and the Delta Grange