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Adoptee -- John J. DeBusk

REV. W. A. NICHOLAS SUPERINTENDENT

SHERIFF HENRY BURL WHEELER

Henry Burl Wheeler -- Sheriff of Taylor County, Texas from 1931 to 1937. Burl Wheeler was born in Ellis County on 19 May 1882 and died in Anson, Texas on 20 December 1967 at the age of 85 years. Burl Wheeler is buried beside his wife Carrie Wheeler at Elmwood Memorial Park, Abilene, Texas. No children were ever born to Sheriff and Mrs. Wheeler.

Abandoned Tot Found on Road Near Tye, Texas

Abilene Daily Reporter -- 13 February 1933

Who wants this baby? Its parents evidently do not --- for they abandoned it.

Name Burl Wheeler, bestowed Sunday night on the tot by the high sheriff of Taylor county. Age, three to five days. Sex, boy. Weight eight pounds 10 1/2 ounces. Hair brunette; eyes dark blue. Shape and physical condition, perfect. Layette, pitifully inadequate. Disposition, good and marked by unconcern --- you might say even indifference. Appetite, prodigious.

The little chap was found late Sunday afternoon, just off the concrete pavement on highway 1, three miles west of Tye, near the place where Bullwagon creek crosses the road.

Events of the day came in this order:
Raymond White, Abilenian, left Merkel at 6: pm in his truck. White is a former deputy sheriff of a West Texas county and trained in investigating things. So he pulled down when he saw a large pasteboard box on the right side of the pavement.

The box had been used as a container for bottles of vaseline. It was two feet wide by three feet long. The top was held down with twine. A three-inch circular air-hole was at one end.

White cautiously lifted the box --- heavy. A faint wailing startled him. He peeped inside --- a blue-eyed baby peeped back.

Well! well! said White. What do you think of that? It's a kid!

He hailed passing cars. The first four or five whizzed by without stopping. Then he took off his overcoat, wrapping the box in it; gathered fragments of wood along barbed wire fences, and made a fire.

The temperature was mild; at 6 pm, 62 degrees, at 7 pm, 59. But White wasn't taking a chance.

Finally two cars stopped. White sent one east bound with a message to Sheriff Burl Wheeler; the other westbound to Perry Dickinson, police chief at Merkel.

Dickinson reached the scene first, with N. A. Dowell, constable, and Mrs. Dowell. They took the baby back to Merkel, to Dowell's cafe.

Back to Abilene

Sheriff Burl Wheeler, click to enlarge


Sheriff Wheeler
A short time later Sheriff and Mrs. Wheeler were at the scene. White sent them on to Merkel. After a short conference at Dowell's, it was agreed the tot should be placed in the West Texas Baptist sanitarium here.

Said Wheeler: First we took the little fellow to jail, and my wife and Mrs. Dean Davis made a great fuss over it. Then we called Dr. Scott W. Hollis, the county-city health officer and all went out to the hospital.

One of the nurses said, What's this baby's name? Before I thought, I answered, Burl Wheeler is the name -- and that's the way he was registered in. It's not such a bad name at that, but of course whoever finally adopts it will give it another.

Responds to Food

Other doctors at the hospital examined the waif. All agreed its age was not more than four or five days and its condition excellent. Lung power was exceptionally good. Given the regular meal for babies of that age --- milk, and things --- it went straight to sleep; slept all night.

In fact, said E. M. Collier, hospital Superintendent, this young chap acts as if he owned this institution.

Collier, White, Wheeler and others --- including Dr. W. A. Nicholas, head of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare society --- will have a conference soon about the baby's future. Possibly it will be offered for adoption if the mother does not claim it in a stated period.

No Clues

Who she is --- who the father is --- why they boxed up their child, abandoning it alongside a crowded transcontinental highway --- why they did not leave a note, an appeal to some other mother somewhere to take it in --- these questions cannot be answered. The officers are investigating the case, but admit they are wholly without a clue.

Perhaps one, a very faint clue. For a diaper the babe was wearing a flour sack. The sack bore the brand name of a mill at Midlothian, Texas. There were no marks on the other garment, a white cotton flannel gown, much too large, and old, but spotlessly clean. Old and clean, too, were the two sections of quilt wrapped around the baby.

Size of the gown indicated there are other children in the family; that the gown was handed down to this newest (and probably unwelcome) little arrival. That is the story to date, tomorrow, however, may bring developments in the career of Burl Wheeler 11.

SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY

Abilene Morning News 14 February 1933

Infant left on highway west of Tye

Rollicking Boy Soon To Be On Way To New Home as Law Takes Up Case

A husky baby boy, found Sunday afternoon in a box just off the concrete pavement on highway 1, three miles west of Tye will be on the way to foster parents this afternoon.

Proceedings will be instituted this morning to have the infant about three to five days old declared legally abandoned . Grey Brown, county attorney will draw up the papers and the court has said it will commit the little fellow to the care of Rev. W. A. Nicholas of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association. Rev. Nicholas has a home in mind and will send his new protege there immediately.

Raymond White, Abilenian, discovered the infant. The man, who is a former deputy sheriff of a West Texas county became curious when he saw a large pasteboard box on the right side of the pavement. He was returning from Merkel at about 6:30 o'clock.

The box had been used as a container for bottles of vaseline and was two feet wide by three feet long. The top was held down with twine. A three-inch circular air-hole had been cut at one end.

Efforts to halt passing motorists were in vain, at first; so he took off his overcoat and wrapped it around the box. Then, he gathered fragments of wood and made a fire.. Finally two cars stopped, White sent one eastbound with Sheriff Burl Wheeler, the other, westbound, took the same message to Perry Dickinson, police chief at Merkel.

Dickinson reached the scene first with N. A. Dowell, constable. They took the baby to Merkel to Dowell's shop.

A short time later Sheriff and Mrs. Wheeler went to the spot; then on to Merkel where they got the tot and returned it here, going to the jail where Mrs. Wheeler and Mrs. Dean Davis, wife of a deputy sheriff, played with the baby until arrival of Dr. Scott W. Hollis, the county-city health officer. All proceeded to the West Texas Baptist sanitarium.

That the little boy might not go on hospital records nameless, Burl Wheeler suggested it should be registered Burl Wheeler 11. He said, It's not such a bad name, but of course whoever finally adopts it will give it another.

Doctors who examined the baby agreed it's age was no more than four or five days and it's excellent. Physically perfect, it weighs eight pounds and ten and one-half ounces. He sleeps most of the time, hospital attendants said, and cries only when hungry.

Faint Clues

Officers had only the faintest of clues upon which to base an investigation. For a diaper, the babe was wearing a sack which bore the brand of an oil and gin company at Midlothian, Texas. There were no marks on the other garment, a white cotton flannel gown, much too large and old, but spotlessly clean. Old and clean, too were the two sections of quilt wrapped around the baby. The pasteboard box bore a serial number, which might have proved useful had the investigation been continued.

But the question of it's real parents is a closed book so far as the law is concerned.

Abilene Morning News -- Wednesday, 15 February 1933

Burl Wheeler 11, is a fast worker, gets his name changed, a custodian and a new Layette all in one day.

Young John Doe appeared before Judge M. S. Long of 42nd district court Tuesday afternoon to be declared legally abandoned and to have the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare association designated as it's custodian.

The infant boy, better known as Burl Wheeler 11, was brought by Rev. W. A. Nicholas, association superintendent, before Judge Long, who approved a petition submitted by Gray Brown, county attorney, and entered the following ceremonious order:

...that John Doe, a boy six days of age, is a dependent and neglected child, and that the best interests of said child require that his care, custody and control be given and awarded to the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association, with power to make proper distribution of said child in a suitable home where he will be well educated and cared for ... and it is accordingly so ordered.

In law John Doe is a fictitious name for a party, real or fictitious, to any action or proceeding.

In addition to his new custodian received Tuesday, little John Doe Burl Wheeler 11, also got a donation of baby clothes from Minter Dry Goods company. The outfit was complete from cap to shoes, and a different looking layette from that in which the tot was found swathed Sunday afternoon on highway 1 near Tye.

Rev. Nicholas is going to place the infant in a good home at a distance of 100 to 200 miles away from Abilene. Scores of offers of adoption are coming in daily, said Rev. Nicholas.

Abilene Reporter News Clipping, 02 March 1933

Abandoned tot taken into home of East Texas couple

Foster parents well able to care for boy and will give him third and permanent name.

Little Burl Wheeler John Doe, one-time abandoned baby, this weekend will have three things happen in his life:

He will take a trip of 300 miles, more or less, to somewhere in East Texas.

He will be formally adopted into a home of refinement heretofore unblessed by a baby.

He will get another name -- his third in three weeks. It will be John J. ______ Jr., after his foster father.

The foster mother already is here to take the child. The event, she said Wednesday, is, I firmly believe, an answer to my prayers. She is a woman still this side of middle life, a former resident of this section, trained in business life, the wife of an oil man abundantly able to rear children.

Dr. W. A. Nicholas, superintendent of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare association, who took custody of Burl Wheeler John Doe on an order issued by Judge M. S. Long, would not reveal identity of the new foster parents, or the place to which the child will be taken, but he told this story: "This lady has a relative living in Abilene. When the Reporter and News printed the stories of the abandoned child found February 12 near Tye, this relative got busy on the telephone. After the association was given custody of the baby the lady got in touch with me, then came to Abilene. She and her husband are in comfortable circumstances, he is gainfully employed, they have a nice home, but they are childless and it has made them unhappy."

Everything has been arranged. The baby is ready to go to his new home. He has entirely recovered from sore eyes, has increased in weight from eight pounds 10 ounces to ten pounds, and is a perfect specimen of a healthy, happy and hungry infant. The mother told me that as soon as she gets home she and her husband will take out life insurance for their baby -- one of those endowment educational policies which begin to mature when the child is about to enter college.

Dr. Nicholas said the child's natural parents have made no attempt to communicate with him. Dr. Nicholas thinks that the natural parents of the child were transients and long gone from this section.

Article sent in by Mike Ziegenhagen, Abilene, Tx


Abilene Morning News Clipping, 02 March, 1933

Abandoned tot to be adopted in East Texas home

Photo: John J. DeBusk and his adoptive Mom, Elba DeBusk


Click To Enlarge
Burl Wheeler John Doe, abandoned baby boy found near Tye on February 12, is to get another name -- his third in three weeks -- and along with it a home with foster parents in an East Texas town.

The foster mother, a wife of an oil man, was in Abilene yesterday completing arrangements to take the baby home. The new name will be John J.------ Jr., after the baby's foster father.

Rev. W. A. Nicholas, superintendent of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association, who took custody of Burl Wheeler John Doe on an order issued by Judge M. S. Long, would not reveal the identity of the new foster parents, or the place to which the child will be taken.

He said, however, that the couple are abundantly able to rear children, and that the mother said she believes finding the baby is an "answer to my Prayers."

Rev. Mr. Nicholas left last night for the plains to bring a two-weeks old baby boy to Abilene.


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