From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Burley, James M.

(born: 1854  -  died: 1911) 

James M. Burley was probably one of the first African American jewelers and watchmakers in Georgetown, Louisville, Paris, and Lexington, KY. His business opened in 1872 in Georgetown. Burley was listed in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census as an unmarried watchmaker; he did marry at some point after 1880. Burley moved his business to Louisville in 1885, then to Paris, KY, sometime after 1897. He is listed in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census as divorced and living on 8th Street in Paris, KY. His specialty was gold and silver plating. By 1904, he had moved his business to Lexington and he was married again, his wife's name was Annie [source: Lexington City Directory, 1904-1905, v.II, p.198]. They were the parents of Dan Burley.

James M. Burley's watchmaking business was located at 320 Vine Street in Lexington in 1909, and he, his wife, Annie Seymour Burley, and their son lived at 762 N. Broadway [source: Lexington City Directory, 1909, p.720 & p.194]. James M. Burley did very good work in the watchmaking business and some of his items were exhibited at the New Orleans World's Exposition in 1884 [source: Scott County Kentucky: a history edited by L. Apple, F. A. Johnston, and B. Bevins, p. 220]. Burley was a Kentucky-native, he was born in Frankfort, KY. He was an 1890 valedictorian graduate of the Normal Class at State University [later Simmons College]. He lived most of his life in Kentucky and worked as a watchmaker, and James M. Burley was also a Baptist Evangelist.

In 1909, his calling led him and his family to Seguin, Texas, where James M. Burley became a clergyman with the Guadalupe College [source: 1910 U.S. Census]. The college was also referred to as the Negro Baptist College, and Danville, KY-native William Baton Ball had helped to establish the school. James M. Burley died around 1911 in Texas. His widow, Annie, married Reece Wilson and in 1915 the family moved from Texas to Chicago, IL. Five years later they were living with the David Chatman family on South-Park Street in Chicago, according to the 1920 U.S. Census. For more see the "James M. Burley" entry in Weeden's History of The Colored People of Louisville, by H. C. Weeden.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Scott County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Georgetown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Paris, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Burley, Daniel Gardner
NKAA Entry: Simmons College (Louisville, KY)
NKAA Entry: Ball, William Baton
NKAA Source: Lexington city directory
NKAA Source: Scott County, Kentucky : a history
NKAA Source: Weeden's history of the colored people of Louisville

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Burley, James M.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed August 9, 2020,

Last modified: 2018-06-20 14:22:26