Serving as Chickasaw Nation Governor for one term, from 1878-80, Benjamin Crooks Burney was a proponent of education.
He shared his vision of improvement of the public schools in his message to the Chickasaw Legislature Sept. 1, 1879.
“Education is the lever by which our people are to be raised to a mental level with our surroundings and I desire to impress seriously upon you how important it is that you use your influence in getting our people to see to the education of the young.”
Benjamin Burney began his political career by serving as Chickasaw Nation treasurer during his brother-in-law Gov. B.F. Overton’s first term, from 1876-1878, according to a 1938 volume of “Chronicles of Oklahoma” by John Barletta Meserve.
Born to David C. Burney and Lucy James Burney, Jan. 19, 1844, on a steamboat bound for Indian Territory, Burney was named after the ship’s captain, Capt. Benjamin Crooks.
The Burney family settled in an area now known as Bourneville in Love County, Okla., where they worked as farmers.
His mother died in 1845 and his father died in 1871.
Prior to his death, the Chickasaw Nation honored David Burney by naming the girls’ school Burney Academy, which opened in 1859.
In 1879, the Bourneville post office opened, posthumously honoring the elder Burney. It is still in operation.
Benjamin Burney attended Chickasaw Orphans School, Tishomingo.
He later returned home to Bourneville, working as a farmer and rancher before moving east and establishing a comfortable farm at Ayleswoth, land that is now the banks of Lake Texoma in Marshall County, Okla.
Nominated for governor by the Pullback party, 34-year-old Burney entered the race for Chickasaw governorship in the fall of 1878, when Gov. B.F. Overton was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term.
He was one of the youngest candidates to be elected as Chickasaw Governor.
It is believed Burney took the office of governor in reserve for B.F. Overton until the former governor would be eligible to run for office again.
The one term of Governor Burney was uneventful.
Governor Burney was known as a Christian gentleman, as noted in a 1938 writing from Rev. J.H. Dickerson, Wynnewood, who said the first donation he received when coming to the Chickasaw Nation was a bale of cotton from Gov. Burney.
Governor Burney also had a small congregation on his farm, where he served as elder.
“He worked much for the welfare of the Chickasaws. I have often said that Ben Burney was my best friend among the Indians in my missionary efforts,” Rev. Dickerson said.
In the fall of 1880, Gov. Burney retired from office. He was succeeded by Gov. B.F. Overton.
He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and Odd Fellows Society.
Governor Burney married Louisa Gaines, a daughter of James Gaines at Tishomingo in the early 1870s. She died June 25, 1904.
When he died Nov. 28, 1892, he was buried in the Burney Cemetery near his farm in the community of Aylesworth.
The cemetery was relocated in 1942 for construction of Lake Texoma and combined with Moore Indian Cemetery to form the New Burney Cemetery, according to rootsweb.com.
New Burney Cemetery is located about 3 miles west and one-half mile north of Aylesworth, in Marshall County, Okla.