Friday, March 13, 2009

Fathers, Part 3

(The house at 220 Madison St., Lynchburg, Va.)

The younger A.H. Burroughs started his practice in Lynchburg, not far from where he was born in 1859, in Leesville. He became the city’s solicitor, and eventually the Commonwealth’s Attorney. He and his wife, Florence, began raising children and in 1895 built a handsome Victorian-style home on Madison Street.

Meanwhile, another Lynchburg resident by the name of James Bonsack, just a few months younger than Burroughs, was making his way up in the world in another way. In 1881, Bonsack received a patent for his invention: a cigarette-rolling machine. Ever since the Civil War, cigarettes had become a popular way to smoke tobacco, but all were still rolled by hand. Bonsack’s machine could do the work of 48 human rollers.

The inventor retained A.H. Burroughs as his attorney and investor and formed the Bonsack Machine Co. It would take more than 10 years to improve the machine’s function and reliability, but once it was put into use by the American Tobacco Co., the number of cigarettes produced quickly passed the billion mark.

Burroughs quickly amassed a fortune, and in 1899 moved his growing family into a new home at 220 Madison more resembling a castle. The couple’s last of seven children was born in that house in 1904. They named him Alfred Parker Burroughs, in honor of two Episcopalian ministers, Dr. Alfred and Dr. Parker.

If the wealthy attorney, in choosing that name, had any hope that his son would follow his grandfather’s spiritual path, he was in for a disappointment.

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