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by Richard Brooks
used in 1976bCommunity History

William Byrne immigrated from County Kilkerry, Ireland, to Hamil­ton, Ontario, Canada about 1840. He moved his family to the northwest cor­ ner of what is now our city limits about 1855. Upon arrival, he named what we now call Savage "Hamilton" after the city he left in Canada. This community was the focal point for new settlers. Trade, school, religion and social events were centered there. Byrne donated land for a church, school, and a cemetery, later named Mount Calvary. It has been assumed by some that BYRNESVILLE township was named after him.

On April 3, 1860 a Thos. Burn signed the minutes of the Town Board meeting. One record states that Tho­ mas Burn was Byrne's son. There is evidence, according to Neill's His­ tory of Dakota County, 1881 that a family whose name was Burn settled here before Byrne. W as Thos. Burn Thomas Byrne? Supposedly Burn is Scotch, and Byrne Irish. Regardless, in 1860 Michael Connelly, the town clerk who wrote the minutes, signed the records BURNSVILLE, Minnesota. So began the basis for the much de­ bated enigma of the spelling of the town's name.

At study of the original Town Board minutes, beginning in 1860, shows that the spelling was BURNSVILLE in every written record until 1876. The town clerk spelled it BU at the March meeting and BY at the December meeting. It appears as BY on March 16, 1881, and as BYRNESVILLE for the last time March 6, 1882. (The records, on microfilm, are at the library; the originals are in the vault at City Hall).

Records show that William Byrne had several sons. Many early sett­lers had large families. For sheer identity from one another, some changed the spelling of the last name to make mailing purposes easier. "Kennelly" is spelled three different ways, for example. Was there so much mail in the 1850's that "son" Thos. had to go from Byrne to Burn? It is doubtful. Long time residents in the community say they simply do not know when or how the spelling changed, IF IT DID AT ALL. Not one can offer an historical fact to pin­ point the change.

Dorothy Byrne Benson, a great granddaughter of William Byrne , in a speech given at the dedication of Byrne School, made much ado about the misspelling of the town's name. She thought, "the least we could do was to correct it". She said she had "called the village manager a- bout it" . In a taped interview dated February 1, 1975, she admitted she had been south of the Minnesota Ri­ ver twice, once to a funeral in Sa­vage at the age of six and again at the school dedication. The fact is not one of the original Byrne family has lived in town for many decades. So why the fuss?

Burnsville is not such a bad name. It's better than Ballclub, or Embar­rass, or Fertile, or Dent, or Climax, Minnesota, to name a few. Per­haps William Byrne, who is buried
in his own cemetery, would care more about Hamilton being renamed Savage than a misspelling. . . if there ever was one. . .of our town's name.

byrnesinfant.jpg byrnesjulia.jpg Byrnesville_Q2017_01_18_11_55_48.pdf Byrnes_1892.jpg Byrnes_at_Byrnesville_The_Saint_Paul_Globe_Sat__Dec_3__1904_.jpg
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