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George Edwin Burnell was born in Connecticut on July 9, 1863. He was educated in Minneapolis and Chicago, graduated from High School and went to the University of Minnesota; from there he entered Morgan Park Theological Seminary, with the intention of studying for the ministry. Mr. Burnell also studied at the Union Theological Seminary of Chicago, and while there devoted much time to the study of the so-called dead languages, such as Hebrew and Sanscrit. He moved to California, where he became known as a religious educator and authority on sacred literature. Transcripts of his lectures sold well enough to go into multiple editions and are still available through the Burnell Foundation. The collection of George Edwin Burnell, his wife Mary Lamoreaux Burnell and daughter Genevieve Burnell Forgey consists of several thousand lectures and private lessons and are still being published. They met regularly for classes at their home on Foothill Blvd., Arcadia, California. The Foundation is still located on a portion of the land.
He was also the president and director of the California Irrigated Farms Company and San Joaquin Farms Company, and a member of the Jonathan Club.
Mr. Burnell died in 1948. His wife and daughter continued teaching at the same address. The Burnell Foundation, a non-profit organization, was instituted in May 1951.