A Short Biography of John Burroughs

John Burroughs was born on April 3, 1837 on his family's farm in Roxbury. He spent his youth working on the farm and exploring Old Clump Mountain. His favorite place he called Boyhood Rock, where he would sit and study the ways of Nature around him.

He was a teacher, a journalist, a treasury clerk in Washington, DC (where he met and befriended Walt Whitman), and a bank examiner before returning to his beloved Catskills. In 1871, his first book Wake Robin was published. In 1874 he bought a small farm in Esopus, and devoted himself completely to his writing. Later, he would divide his time between "Slabsides", his summer retreat at West Park, near Esopus, and "Woodchuck Lodge" in Roxbury.

His essays ranged from studies of birds and nature to religion and literature. Burroughs was a staunch defender of Whitman and Thoreau, then unpopular beacause of their perceived literary excesses. But the writing he is best known for are his gentle observations of nature. Alf Evers in The Catskill: From Wilderness to Woodstock noted that the first verse of the poem Waiting expresses this "serene acceptance of life" by Burroughs:

Serene I fold my hands and wait
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

Over the years, Burroughs wrote 23 volumes of essays, 3 of which were published posthumously. In later years his guests at Woodchuck Lodge included John Muir, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.

He died on March 29, 1921 on a train returning from California. He was buried on his 84th birthday, by Boyhood Rock on Old Clump Mountain in Roxbury.


Back to the John Burroughs Page

"John Burroughs - Boy And Man" by Clara Barrus (1920)

Noon meditations at Slabsides

Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery