Skip to main content

Genevieve Burke Gulch papers

Identifier: RHC-101

Scope and Contents

The collection contains 258 letters written to Genevieve Gulch, the vast majority of which are from her sister, Martha Burke Bahan (1900-1984). There are also bank books and cancelled checks showing deposits and withdrawals for Genevieve and her husband Walter Gulch, financial and income tax information, miscellaneous receipts, life and health insurance documents, receipts for medical procedures, and apartment rental receipts. In addition there are banking and insurance documents relating to Walter Gulch and his war disability as well as correspondence to him from various Veterans organizations.

The contents of the letters from Martha Bahan to Genevieve Gulch, dating from 1950 to 1979 (with a gap from 1964 through 1966), generally discuss family matters, and are often filled with gossip and real or imagined slights. A significant portion and are quite critical of her other siblings, mostly relating to the care of their elderly and failing father, Peter Burke, was receiving from their sister, Isabelle V. Burke Peterson (born 1908). After the death of Peter Burke in 1959 the subjects of the letters were travel, health, and the perceived inconsiderateness of her son and his wife.

From the bank books, cancelled checks, receipts, and correspondence relating to Genevieve and Walter Gulch it is possible to ascertain parts of their lives together before 1948 and to some extent what Genevieve's life was like after the death of Walter in the Buffalo, New York area. The copious correspondence from Martha Bahan reflects the rather fragile family dynamic among the Burke siblings.

Smaller numbers of letters in the collection sent to Genevieve Burke Gulch are from her brother, Alexander E. Burke (born 1897) sent from Pontiac, Michigan, and her nephew and his wife, Frank and Janis Dickerson Bahan. There are three letters relating to Walter Gulch's nieces, Johanna Punk (born 1916) and Eva Catherine Punk (1918-2011) who were orphaned when their parents Andrew [Punk?] Czyshanowski (1895-1918) and Catherine Gulch (1895-1918) died during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919; Walter was apparently appointed the guardian of Johanna and Eva.


  • 1925 - 1979


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

In copyright.

Biographical Notes

Genevieve Burke Gulch was born on 1 December 1901 in Olean, New York. Her parents were Peter J. Burke (1873-1959) and Sophia Krampf Burke (born 1878), both of whom immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1880s and were divorced between 1920 and 1930. Genevieve had ten siblings: Sophia (1894-1915), Alexander Edgar (1897-1974), Edward William (1898-1965), Martha Statia (1900-1984), Henry (1904-1904), Edmund (1905-1907), Otto Joseph (1907-1991), Isabelle Veronica (born 1908), and Frederick Ferdinand (1912-2003).

She married Walter John Gulch about 1925 and they lived in Jamestown, New; by 1930 they were living in Olean, New York; in 1942 they resided in Buffalo, New York. Upon Walter's death in 1948, Genevieve moved to Blasdell, New York where she remained until she moved to Lackawanna, New York in 1955. Genevieve Burke Gulch died in Buffalo in January 1983 and is buried in St. Bonaventure Cemetery in Allegany, New York which is adjacent to Olean.

Walter (Waddick?) John Gulch, the spouse of Genevieve Burke Gulch, was born on 17 May 1894 in Clarendon, Pennsylvania. His parents were Peter Gulch (1862-1940) Mary Adamkiewicz Gulch (1870-1933); the former emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1889, and the latter from Germany in 1891. The original form of the family's surname Gulch may have been Gulczynski. Walter had six siblings: Frances (born 1893), Catherine (1896-1918), Stephen Anthony (1897-1953), Sophia J. (born ca. 1899), Ida (1901-1972), and Victoria (1904-1989).

From at least 1910 to 1917 Walter worked as a laborer in a Clarendon, Pennsylvania tannery, probably the same one that employed his father; however the 1915 New York state census locates Walter in Jamestown, living with his parents and siblings, and employed as a baggage clerk. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 9 July 1917 and was assigned to Company G, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division. He was wounded in action for which he received the Purple Heart medal. He was discharged on 14 March 1919. In the mid-1920s he worked as a vulcanizer for tire companies in Jamestown, and in 1930 he was employed as a salesman of automobile accessories in Olean, New York. In 1940 he was a patient at the Veterans Medical Facility in Bath, New York, possibly because of his wound received in World War I. In 1942 he was employed at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Mount Vernon, New York. He died on 17 November 1948 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Jamestown, New York.

Martha Statia Burke Bahan was born in Olean, New York on 15 April 1900. She was an elder sister of Genevieve Burke Gulch and married Frank Bahan in 1921. Aside from a short time living in Hornell, New York in 1930, Martha and Frank lived in Olean until they relocated to Paulsboro, New Jersey around 1953, and to Gibbstown, New Jersey by January 1960. Widowed in September 1960, Martha moved back to Olean in May 1962 where she seems to have remained until her death in August 1984. It is not known where she is buried.

Her husband, Frank Michael Bahan was born in Mt. Alton, Pennsylvania on 12 December 1896. By 1915 he was living in Olean, New York with this parents and in 1918 was working as a boilermaker's assistant for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 3 September 1918 and assigned to Company G, 147th Engineers. He was discharged on 12 December 1918. He married Martha Burke on 26 July 1921, and they had one son, Francis (Frank) Martin Bahan (1922-1993) who was born seven months later.

Other family members mentioned in the letters and other materials:

Edward William Burke (1898-1965) married Laura H. Sykes (1900-1976); they had four children, two of which were twins. He died in Buffalo, New York.

Otto Joseph Burke (1907-1991) married Agnes Harrington (born ca. 1909) in 1927; they had three children. He died in Los Angeles, California.

Isabelle Veronica Burke Peterson (born 1908) and her husband Henry E. Peterson (born 1905); they were married in 1927 and had one child, Vernon E. Peterson (b. 1940).

Frederick Ferdinand Burke (1912-2003) married Frances Tierman (1918-2005) in Detroit, Michigan in 1944. He died in Macomb County, Michigan.

Victoria M. Gulch (1904-1989) was the youngest sister of Walter Gulch. From an undated newspaper clipping (1920s?), her two-year-old daughter, Leona Gulch died at home. It appears that Leona did not have an acknowledged father. In 1940 Victoria is listed as a patient at the Newark State School for Mentally Defectives in Newark, New York.


1.25 Linear feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Genevieve Burke Gulch papers, RHC-101
Special Collections & University Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States