Southborough Historical Society

                            Southborough, MA

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The Life and Legacy of Joseph Burnett

A Summary of his life and accomplishments by the Southborough Historical Society

(Revised February 27, 2010)


1820 Born on November 11, in Southborough


1835 Began attending the Worcester Technical College and the Worcester College of Pharmacy.


1837 Graduates as a Doctor of Chemistry and enters the employ of Theodore Metcalf, Boston Apothecary.


1845 Becomes a full partner in Theodore Metcalf Company, manufacturing drug chemists of Boston.


1846 October 16th, manufactures and supplies the anesthetic used by Dr. W.T.G. Morton to perform the first painless surgical operation in the United States at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Morton insists on using his anesthetic exclusively.


1847 Creates the first liquid Vanilla extract commercially produced and sold in the U.S. He decides to concentrate on flavoring extracts and subsequently forms the Joseph Burnett Company of Boston.


1847 Buys up acreage of two farms in Southborough to form Deerfoot Farms Company.


1847-1848 Meets and marries Josephine Cutter of Boston at the Church of the Advent in that city.


1849 Edward Burnett, first child of Joseph and Josephine is born in Boston. The Joseph Burnett Company is thriving and they decide to build a stone mansion in Southborough (which still stands today).


1850 Moves into the completed stone mansion with a growing family. Deerfoot Farms Company is doing very well and expanding.


1854 Begins acquiring one of the earliest herds of Jersey cattle in the country from the Taintor Importation.


1855 Joseph Burnett extracts is know from “coast to coast” and is a best seller nationwide.

Joseph Burnett (~1850's)

1858 Moves premises of Joseph Burnett Co. to larger facilities on 27 Central Street, Boston.

Introduces his best known medical product, Cocoaine for the hair, he had developed in 1857.


1859 Proposes building an Episcopal Church in Southborough. Up to this time, the old Stone Shop on his estate has been used for worship services.


1860 St. Mark’s Church in Southborough is formally chartered.


1862 The cornerstone is laid for St. Mark’s Church.


1863 St. Mark’s Church is consecrated.  Joseph Burnett Company extracts are sold overseas.


1865 Founds St. Mark’s School in Southborough and is a trustee of the school until 1894.


1865-1866 President of the South Middlesex Agricultural Society.


1870-1890 Deerfoot Farms Company becomes Southborough’s leading employer.


1860-1894 Joseph Burnett is Senior Warden at St. Mark’s Church.


1870 Joseph Burnett’s recipe for sausages causes a demand among those who have sampled it.  Deerfoot Farms begins producing this sausage which will gradually become world famous.  Edward Burnett becomes President of Deerfoot Farms Company.


1872 Deerfoot Farms begins selling its products to the Boston market.


1878-1879 President of the Boston Druggist Association.


C.1880 Deerfoot becomes one of the earliest dairies to bottle milk products in glass.


1881 Deerfoot opens its first store/office in Boston.


1883 Guernsey cows are imported.


1886/1887 (possibly as late as 1892) Robert Burnett becomes president of Deerfoot Farms Company. Edward has been a politician and will go on to help establish several dairy farms including the famous Biltmore Estates Dairy owned by the Vanderbilt family.


1889-1890 Guides construction of the new St. Mark’s School on a hill north of the original sight.

Joseph Burnett (~1891)


1893 Deerfoot Farms begins acquiring acreage that will eventually become “Little Deerfoot”, where heifers are raised until they become milkers.


1894 The State begins takeover of prime Deerfoot farm land for the creation of a reservoir. New farm buildings will be relocated further south on Deerfoot Road in 1897.


1894 Joseph dies as a result of a carriage accident.

For additional information please see:

Burnett Family History

History of Deerfoot Farms

History of Joseph Burnett Company


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