Born in 1833 in Ireland, he came to Fort Smith in 1865 when the federal court was established in western Arkansas. He was appointed jailer for the court and served for 14 years until the election of President Grover Cleveland. He "superintended the first hangings that took place here under the court's orders" and the execution of a large number of the Indian Territory outlaws. His last job was as an elevator operator in the federal building on Sixth Street.
Burns left Ireland with his mother and brother in 1845. After first settling in Canada they moved to America and Burns apprenticed as a saddler until he entered the Army where he served for 23 years. He engaged in war with Native American tribes in the West and traveled extensively in the western United States before arriving in Fort Smith. He also was in the saloon business and invested in real estate before suffering from a reversal in fortune.
Burns died in his home at 722 S. 13th St. in August 1912 at the age of 82. For two years before his death, he was bedridden nearly two years, following a fall which fractured his hip. Burns was the father of 13 children, seven of whom survived him. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery.
|Source: "'Uncle Charley' Burns, An Old Citizen, Is Dead," Fort Smith Times Record, Aug. 14, 1912, p. 8.|