The History Continues....
The John Burnside Era (1858-1881)
John Burnside was born in Ireland and came to this
country as a mere boy with 1 dollar and 25 cents in his
pocket. He found employment with Andrew Beirne who made Burnside a partner with his son Colonel Oliver Berne. A businessman and a character, Burnside was an avid sportsman who wagered heavily in horse races -- Burnside once secretly purchased a champion thoroughbred back East with the intent of defeating the steeds of fellow local businessmen in a big race. He quietly slipped the racehorse into the billiard room of the Mansion where it was "stabled" until Burnside's surprise was unveiled at the starting line and hailed in the winner's circle. His NY Times obituary
states he was taciturn, reserved and morose, with no social feeling, no sympathy and no public spirit. In addition to building a railway to carry his products to market -"The Sugar Cane Train (1862)" - Burnside, a bachelor, is also said to have offered payment to any parents in the parish who would name their sons "John."
Burnside bought the Houmas House plantation in 1857 for $1 million. For the next two decades as sugar cane fueled his fortune and sweetened his lifestyle; he was the largest producer of sugar in the country, and Houmas House with its 98,000 acres is apply dubbed the "Sugar Palace." During the Civil War Burnside saves Houmas House from Union Forces with a bluff, claiming British citizenship and immunity from occupation. This successful merchant also spends a large portion of time at Burnside place, his villa in the fashionable garden district of New Orleans.
Houmas House flourished under Burnside's ownership. The plantation survived the Great Depression, levee setbacks, floods, and a new river road and modern industrial complexes.
John Burnside died on July 5, 1881. At the time of his death he owned 10 of the most valuable plantations in Louisiana, making his properties and estate worth 5 million dollars. In his will he leaves all but $312,000 of his large estate to his business partner and friend, Oliver Beirne.