The Burry Name
Somewhere in the middle of the nineteenth century, Thomas Burry met and married Christina Sheirlaw in their home country of Scotland. Thomas provided for his wife as a journeyman mason. In 1872, the young couple, still in their 20’s, decided that they would take their growing brood and start fresh in the beautiful land of rain and ice; Toronto, Ontario. On their way to their destination, Christina gave birth to George (a person of particular interest to us) in Newark, New Jersey.
The years rolled on and everything froze, as all things do in Canada, yet Thomas and Christina established themselves and finally ceased their attempts at overpopulating the world when they had acquired seven children.
On October 12, 1899, the 27 year old George Burry married 23 year old Emma Ada Kilby in Toronto, Ontario. We know little of this couple. He was a “confectioner” by trade (according to their Marriage Certificate) and she had a charming accent from her childhood in England.
We know for certain that over the years, in addition to George, two of his brothers had established themselves in the confectionery industry, in some capacity. Edward James Burry was President of W.C. Burry Bakers Co. in Pittsburg at the time of his death(1935) and Albert Andrew Burry (who we’ll return to briefly) was, at the very least, in a management position at Bingham’s Soda Fountain and Candy Department at 146 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario.
As I have dug through the halting tidbits and hidden morsels of information on this important branch of The Fudge Shoppes history, I find it passing strange that at least 3 of this Scottish stonecutters offspring found their professional calling in the sweets and pastries industry. Perhaps, it was just the golden era for confectioners. Perhaps, it was something in their veins.
At the turn of the century, Emma and George celebrated the birth of their first son George Jr. and five years later, the birth of Allen Ralph Burry.
A note to the reader: Allen Ralph is the father of Thomas Allen Burry, who many of you had the pleasure of knowing as “Allen” who, along with his wife Anna, founded The Fudge Shoppe. In an attempt to restrict confusion as much as possible, I’ll refer to Allen Ralph as “Allen Ralph”(how clever I am). Although this is damnably tedious, I love thee, oh reader, and so, doth love the sacrifice. Let us continue.
Fortunately for us, the youthful Allen Ralph had a keen interest in photography. His photo album gives us a glimpse into a simple life of open smiles from friends, family gatherings, fishing trips and journey’s to far away places. The presence of odd angles, dramatic poses and faded landscapes force one to believe either that young Mr. Burry was ahead of his time or that youthful photography hasn’t changed much at all over the last hundred years.
Allen Ralph found employment in Barkers Bakery while George Jr. worked a stint with his uncle, Albert, at Bingham’s. According to Allen Ralph, it was while working at Bingham’s that George befriended a co-worker by the name of “Charlie Sees" and in 1921, “Charlie” and George both left Toronto, in order to form their own candy empires. “Charlie” went to California and George to his mother's homeland of England.
We’ll leave “Charlie” here. I can’t substantiate that our George Jr.’s friend was Charles Sees of Sees Chocolates, and all we have are the words of Allen Ralph, who passed away in 1994. I will say that, for me, it is completely believable that George and the great Mr. Sees could have known each other, given that, in the candy industry of the 20th century, everyone seemed to have known everyone else. Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners of my childhood, it was not uncommon to hear the names of great men and women, from all over the continent, who had overseen the founding of candy and chocolate empires, bandied about as if they were our next door neighbors.
In London, George Jr. opened a small shop that he named Polly-Anna, and in the 1920’s it was maybe not so surprising to find “wholesome sweets for children," written all in bold, capital letters below his window. Unfortunately for George Jr. (and fortunately for us), the early 1930’s were particularly difficult for those in the candy industry. A massive sugar shortage due to strikes and riots abroad only aggravated the situation brought about by the Great Depression, and Polly-Anna’s closed its doors around 1935. But George Jr. was already planning his next confectionary venture in the birthplace of his father, New Jersey. Burry’s Cookies would be founded the next year and before his brand had time to establish itself as the producer of such staples as The Scooter Pie, along with the Guacho, Fudge Town and Mr. Chips cookies, he acquired a small bankrupt fudge company in Plainfield, named after its owner, "Helen Elliott".
While George Jr. had been abroad, Allen Ralph had married Clarice Kathleen Higley in 1930, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Labadie) Higley.
It must be said that Clarice was a rather severe character and indeed a terrifying one to your narrator. Those who recall her as a grandmother remember plastic covered sofas that were never to be sat upon and having their movements restricted to a blanket in the middle of the floor, where they could be watched thoroughly.
I, your courageous guide, remember her mostly from my nightmares. In these barely fictitious visions, she could be found leaping from the shrubbery to ensnare me with gangly, decrepit bones or chasing me through dark, labyrinthine basements that never led to freedom.
We are certain she had many wonderful traits but it was around the time of his marriage that Allen Ralph discontinued his love of photography and so we have very few pictures of the early life of their two children; George(Budsy) and our beloved Thomas Allen.
Our Man Blackford
Now, let us journey back and trace another groove in the pathway of time.
At the time Thomas Burry and Christina Sheirlaw were married in Scotland, Alexander S. Blackford was a blacksmith outside Bound Brook, New Jersey. His ancestors had been on New Jersey soil since before 1700 and his great grandfather served as a private in the New Jersey militia alongside two brothers during the Revolutionary War.
During the Civil War, Alexander the blacksmith served his country in the 3rd Regiment of New Jersey Volunteer Cavalry, Company E, within the Army of the Potomac. After Union General Sheridan had successfully carried out the Shenandoah Campaign in 1864, the ensnared Confederate General Jubal Early continued to sporadically harass Union troops and on November 22, 1864 on Mount Jackson, Alexander Blackford went missing and was accounted as dead.
His wife; Mary Eliza (Richardson) was left to care for their six children, including the second youngest, Clarkson Giles Blackford. Clarkson worked for the Central Railroad of New Jersey in Hampton, New Jersey, where he met and married Anna Jane Rodenbaugh in 1881. In 1887, their third child, Emery Cleveland Blackford, was born and two years later they moved to Somerville.
In 1900, the same year that George Burry Jr. was born, Clarkson Giles passed away and Emery, at 13, was forced by the needs of his family, to find employment. Emery, from all we can read about him and all we hear from those who knew him, seemed to be the type of individual who found success readily at hand and had a sort of addiction to being involved. He worked in publishing, real estate, insurance, and as a reporter for the Courier News throughout his life, while holding positions in a plethora of societies and groups including the Somerville Fire Department, the YMCA and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
In 1913, while the young Emery was conquering all that came before him, a 6 year old Mary Cima was leaving Bologna, Italy on the S.S. La Lorraine, with her two older brothers to follow their parents to the land of obvious promise, New Jersey. Mary and Emery were married after her first marriage fell apart because of this unnamed husband's keen desire not to have children.
Not long after they were married, the Great Depression drove Emery and his growing family to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in hopes of finding work. It was here that on November 12, 1935, their third daughter, Anna Jane Blackford, was born.
And here for now, we leave off the tale of family, love, and chocolate. Allen and Anna Jane have entered the scene of history. Uncle George has founded Burry Cookies and acquired Helen Elliotts but he’s in desperate need of help managing his booming businesses. Who would ever want to leave the frozen North to live in the seasonally dynamic New Jersey and perhaps meet the love of their life?
Fifth generation candy maker.
Production and Marketing Manager at The Fudge Shoppe.
Honeyman, A. VanDoren (1927) Northwestern New Jersey; A History of Somerset, Morris, Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties Volume 3 New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company Inc.
Honeyman, A. VanDoren (1916) Somerset County Historical Quarterly Volume 5 Somerville, NJ: Somerset County Historical Society
I am a chocolate producer. How can I obtain Helen Elliot’s candy
Thank you ever so much,
I remember Helen Elliott’s candy shop in Westfield, NJ in the 1970’s. I’m not sure when it closed, but I do remember running there when I got my allowance (a quarter back then) and I could buy a whole bagful of candy and chocolates. It is still a charming memory! Also, right next door was Hill’s ice cream…simply the best!
I grew up in Edison, NJ. Every single Easter, my mother would go to the Helen Elliot store in North Plainfield and buy the peanut butter eggs, the coconut eggs and white chocolate for my father and I.
What I’m wondering, is if there is a store that still makes these things using the same recipes and methods of that store in North Plainfield. That particular store went out of business sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I miss those eggs and white chocolate so much. I’ve never again tasted anything that was even close to what they tasted like. I now live in Palm Bay, Florida and would love to know of a store who makes those exact eggs and white chocolate.
Thanks for your article. It was great.
We used to go to Helen Elliot candy on Route 17 southbound, on the stretch between Paramus and Ramsey (Ho-Ho-Kus?). Loved their chocolates.
Great story. My aunt was a manager of a Helen Elliott store in Newark in the 1960’s. While indulging in our Christmas treat of a box of California’s best (See’s, coincidentally) I had a memory of my Aunt Gertie. Thank you for this trip down memory lane!
Loved the story! Our families were friends. My dad, Franklin (Frank) Dentz, helped remodel The Fudge Shoppe – it had been the state police barracks.
I’ve known this family for about 50 years. Nice read. Grew up with Allen, Leslie, Susan, and Stephen
I grew up in Hillside and when the wind blew just right, I could smell the sweet scents from Burry Biscuit bakery a few miles away. Since moving to Bridgewater when I was a teenager, and living here in Flemington for the past 15 years, I have loved the Fudge Shoppe and its connection to my childhood brings a smile to me. Can’t wait to share w/ my family!
I knew this fudge shop had a special place in my heart 🥰
I truly enjoyed your story and look forward to the continuation; very interesting!
I first was introduced to Flemingtons famous “Fudge Shoppe” in 1972 upon moving to Flemington. It became the only place to buy delicious chocolate candy! I have since moved from the area but, continue to come the the shop for my chocolates and candies; no other chocolates compare to the Fudge Shoppe. As a family business it continues the famous items everyone enjoys.
I have a wonderful memory of visiting the shoppe and Allen giving me a tour; that memory along with him working making the chocolates with his hands covered in the chocolate and always having a smile to acknowledge customers.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful family story!
So enjoyed reading this, some I knew and also learned alot. Of course I recall Leslie remarks about the blanket,5 kids were supposed to be quiet because a football game was on. Cannot wait for the next edition. Merry Christmas all.
Thanks for this look back in time! I grew up in North Plainfield and visited Helen Elliott’s regularly. Now living in Hunterdon County for 20 years, it’s fascinating to read about the related histories of Burry cookies, Helen Elliott’s and The Fudge
I have lived in Hunterdon County 47 years. There were not many houses back when I built I raised my 3 children here and not a holiday went by we didn’t go to “ The Fudge Shop” , actually we want every week. My daughters moved away after they went to college. But they never forget to say “ mom , please mail me candy from The Fudge Shop , and I mail it to them , now my grandchildren ask for “ only the fudge shop candy. My son is 39 years old and I still fill a Christmas stocking for him and he Always looks for the chocolate cars from The Fudge Shop. To this day I can’t pass The Fudge Shop without going in and buying candy for myself too because it’s not only chocolate or candy , it’s Tradition , it’s the smell of fresh chocolate, it’s The Good Memories that stay in my mind and heart and the mind and hearts of my children. ❤️
Wow this is so cool! My grandfather (George (Bud)) is uncle Allen’s brother, so reading about all this Burry family history is so neat! And my dad (Curt) told me the same stories of his grandmother making them sit still on a blanket. I do remember being scared of her when I was little. Haha! Thanks for this article, I find it so interesting to learn more about the family history!
I remember Helen Elliott’s very well. It was a lovely store, and the candy was delicious! It was literally a ‘treat’ to be there. To me, that was back in the good old days!
I love The Fudge Shoppe! I love fudge! And, chocolate, in general! The store is in a pretty house that is very inviting. Love the little white lights, white curtains, and candles in the windows during the holidays. The staff is very pleasant and accommodating.
Adam, you are a gifted writer. I enjoy your stories with facts about the history of your ancestors, and your fond memories of growing up! Don’t stop writing!
Been trying to confirm this myself, but have heard that the Blackford family farm in NJ was at one time a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Adam, you should write more often. Loved the story. :-) See you guys soon!
Loved this history lesson especially since I grew up in Somerset County and Helen Elliott’s was a mainstay for our family at the holidays.Receiving the tallest chocolate bunny at Easter and the eggs that were windows into everyones imagination with beautiful scenes to view.
Loved this store as it represented tradition, extreme customer service, delicious candies and a very special place to visit. Reminds me of family and a wonderful time in my life.