Their Story

After graduating from college, June and a girlfriend made a pact. They took turns supporting one another for a year so each could explore her dreams. To support her friend, June worked in New York City as a staff writer for McCall’s Magazine for $15 a week. When it was her turn, June chose to live in a log cabin by an eastern hardwood forest near Washington D.C.

One day Ensign Farrar Burn was hiking in the woods and came upon the cabin where June lived. It was 1919. Farrar was still in his World War I uniform. He came every day for a month. Farrar wooed June with dreams of a life lived free of the “taint of money,” as he called it. Quickly, they were married and planning their life together.

After they were married, June and Farrar walked across the country and rode trains from Washington DC. to the Salish Sea in the State of Washington. As they travelled, June wrote letters to the Homestead Office in Seattle recounting their adventures. When they arrived in Seattle, the Homestead Office staff cheered, “The Burns are here!” June and Farrar homesteaded Gumdrop Island in the Salish Sea. Gumdrop was their name for the island. Farrar sold fish to workers at the nearby lime kiln.

After proving their claim to Gumdrop Island, June and Farrar went to Seattle, the main port for boats to Alaska. They were hired by Bureau of Education to live and work with Alaska Natives on St. Lawrence Island, north of the Arctic Circle. Living and working with the indigenous peoples profoundly influenced June and Farrar’s philosophy of life. 

Farrar was a minstrel. He mostly sang songs of his own composition. In the late 1920s, June and Farrar toured the U.S. in the Burn Ballad Bungalow, a remodeled Dodge equipped with a stage, camping gear, and a fold-down desk where June homeschooled their two sons.

The Ballad Bungalow tour ended in Bellingham, Washington. June and Farrar sold the touring car and purchased 2.5 acres south of Bellingham Normal School. Farrar built two tiny log cabins on a knoll, one for cooking, bathing and laundry and sleeping, the other for entertaining, reading, music and writing, with a tiny bunkroom where two could sleep. June wrote a daily column for The Bellingham Herald. Together June and Farrar published The Puget Sounder, one of the nation’s first environmentalist newspapers. The Study Cabin still exists and can be visited on Western Washington University’s campus.

When The Puget Sounder went bankrupt in the Great Depression. June and Farrar deeded their Bellingham property to the printing company to pay their bill. With $300, they purchased land on a mid-size island, which had a community and gave their sons a permanent home.

When June was in her fifties, they lived in a covered wagon near the University of Missouri, where June studied with Dr. William Albrecht, an expert on the relationship between soil fertility and health and pioneer in the science of organic farming. 

June then did a one-year internship in England with Lady Eve Balfour, another pioneer in organic farming.

In their old age, June and Farrar lived on a farm in Florida and then moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, near where Farrar was born. 

June died in 1969. Farrar died in 1974.

Images of “Interior, Covered Wagon” and “June And Farm Truck” were re-touched in Photoshop
from scans of originals housed at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies.

Photos used by permission.
June and Farrar Burn Papers
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
Western Libraries Heritage Resources
Western Washington University