Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society

A Tale of Love Tokens
By Brandon Frei, WINS#868

In a time of great historical change-the end of the Civil War, United States Western Expansion, and amidst the Gold Rush-one Colorado man loved his wife so much that he took 7 gold $2.5 US coins and 10kt scrap metal, and created this beautiful love token bracelet for her. Over 120 years later, a colleague handed me that same gold bracelet and asked me if I could tell her anything about it. I gladly offered not only to find out everything I could about the bracelet, but share it with anyone and everyone who cared to listen. This is everything I was able to find about the man behind the "Burnside Bracelet."

William Oscar Burnside was born to Patrick and Lucinda Burnside on 7 September, 1861, in Belleville, Illinois. Some time thereafter, he and his family moved to Colorado. Mr. Burnside married Rosanna (Rose) T. Runyan on 15 December, 1881 in Boulder, Colorado. Just a few years later, their daughter, Edna Blanch, was born on 15 April 1885 in Lions, Colorado.

Mr. Burnside settled into Cripple Creek, Colorado in the late 1800s. He was the owner of The Burnside Mercantile Company, located on 221 Bennett Avenue. In those days, The Burnside Mercantile Co. was a brewery, and only one of two breweries that had saloons attached. Mr. Burnside was well known in that era and is referenced as Oscar Burnside in the Elmira NY Star Gazette in 1895, as well as in modern books like Cripple Creek Days by Mabel Barbee Lee. To this day, you can still see the Burnside sign, on the same building and street, resting above Bronco Billy's Casino.

While the value of Mr. Burnside's estate is unclear, he had enough money to purchase the rights to the Lonaconing claim on 21 November, 1904. The Weekly Gazette reported it to be "one of the best pieces of ground in the district" as there was a huge gold strike on the property just three months earlier. Accounting for inflation, the $15,000 Mr. Burnside paid in 1904, is worth approximately $400,000 today. Mr. Burnside had two very lucrative businesses that brought him and his family a lot of gold.

Mr. Burnside passed away on 23 December 1943 in Fort Worth, Texas, survived by his only granddaughter, Patricia Blanche Hoggins. Since his passing, the bracelet has been passed from generation to generation; Patricia passed the Burnside Bracelet to her daughter Jerrolyn (Jerri) Hillyer, who passed the bracelet to her daughter, Cynthia Stephenson. Each owner of the Burnside Bracelet has had their own unique history, and now their family has asked me to ensure this bracelet is passed on to someone who values it as much as Rosa did. What a charge!

More images . . .

Burnside Bracelet reverse

Burnside Mercantile early B/W

Burnside Mercantile today

WOB Bottle

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