Born: February 3, 1845
Died: March 18, 1878
Henry Searles Burroughs was born February 3, 1845 in Newark. He was the fifth of six children born to Joseph, a hatmaker, and Hannah Burroughs, who moved to New Jersey from New York around 1840. As a teenager during the 1850s, Henry was swept up in Newark’s baseball craze and by his 20s he was recognized as an exceptional all-around player. He was quick, sure-handed and hit with power. He played the infield for the Eureka Club in Newark in 1862 and 1864.
Prior to 1871, before the formation of the National Association, top teams compensated their best players, sometimes openly and sometimes under the table. It was not unusual for a team to ensure the loyalty of a player by securing employment for him. Henry found a job as a “professor” at a gymnasium in Detroit as a 20-year-old while acting as captain of the amateur Detroit Baseball Club in 1865—likely making him the state’s first paid player. He returned to Newark after the Civil War and suited up for the city’s Eureka club in 1868, then returned to Detroit for the 1869 season. In 1870, Henry was employed as a government clerk while playing for the Olympic Club of Washington, DC. He had some experience working in the Newark tax office, but he headed south so he could play ball.
In 1871, the Olympics joined the nascent National Association. They scooped up several players who had been part of the famous 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, including several ballplaying acquaintances of Henry’s from Newark—Andy Leonard, Charlie Sweasy and Everett Mills. The team was owned and managed by Nick Young, who had been a player on the club in 1870. Henry appeared in about half the team’s games and drove in 14 runs with 15 hits in 63 at bats. The following year, Henry played in two games before settling into the government auditor job that had drawn him to DC.
Henry returned to Newark in 1876 and married Leila van Husen, and may have gone back to work in the hat business. He contracted tuberculosis and passed away two years later at the age of 33. Leila never remarried and died in 1939.