Some towns center around significant
historical events the townsfolk share. Burrton developed around the
quality and character of her people, our ancestors now largely forgotten
but whose daily lives centered on their relationships and their
commitments to build a strong community of family and friends alike.
The first settlers to the area south
of Burrton came in March of 1871 and included James McMurray, James
Patterson, & John Gorgas. Settling in what would become Burrton Township
was John Blades and others who came in April of 1871. During this time it
was said that, "everything west of Newton is savage territory, unfit for
civilized man." Indians and buffalo still roamed these prairies, little
more than a "wild sea of waving grasses" and only the hardiest pioneers
could survive the hardships of this frontier life. Yet they came.
It was more than a year later, in
June of 1872, that the Santa Fe Railroad’s 700 track layers arrived in the
area as they made the great push to the Colorado border. What is now town
was still prairie land along the tracks over a year later, with the
notable exception of a small store owned by Mr. J. H. Gresham on the east
side of the town site. In June of 1873 a small area south of the
tracks was selected as a town site by the Arkansas Valley Town Company. It
was named "Burrton" in honor of Mr. Isaac T. Burr, the "gentlemanly &
efficient railroad man" from Boston who was a stockholder and Vice
President of the Santa Fe Railway at the time. The following month, a Post
Office was established in Mr. Gresham’s store.
With this, Burrton was born. A. W.
Ballard built a blacksmith shop, which was the first building actually
inside the Burrton town site. The next building was a general store built
by John Hunt & Joel Moore. In October of 1873, Mr. Gresham moved his store
west into the town site. On April 14, 1873, the first school district
meeting was held in which David Hanselman was elected director, John
Goodwine, clerk, and I. H. Haney, treasurer. The board called for an
election to approve bonds for a school building. The election was held on
April 29 at Leicester Day’s house, and bonds were approved. The wooden
frame school building was built in the winter of 1873-74 for $1,200. J. G.
Lane was the first teacher, followed by Mrs. Morrison. Among the first
pupils were Estelle & Alva Haney, John & Birdie Gibson, Owen & Frank
Goodwine, Charles & Lizzie Hanselman, John Hunt, Martha & Mina Baker, Clem
& Laura Gibson, among others.
The post office, which was
established July 1, 1873 with J. J. Hunt as Postmaster, was first located
in the store of J. H. Gresham, and on the completion of Hunt & Moore's
store it was moved on the town site. Mr. Hunt officiated a Postmaster
until December 24, 1879, when John Goodwine received the appointment.
Money order No. 1, was purchased by C. P. Taylor, July 27, 1879.
Still, nobody actually lived in
Burrton proper until the spring of 1874, when Dr. J. L. McAtee built the
first residence, followed by G. A. Thompson and J. E. Howard. A hotel was
built by A. A. Woodruff in 1874 in the hotel later known as The Burrton
House. That same year, Mr. Woodruff’s son, Bert, was born, the first child
of Burrton. 1874 was the year of the great grasshopper plague and drought
that brought great hardship to the pioneers who remained. The first death
was R. Dunlap in the Spring of 1875. In 1877 the Burrton Mills were built.
The town pump was located in the
center of the intersection of Main & South Depot streets. This pump and
watering trough was essential as horses were the main method of travel
Soon two hardware stores were
opened, William F. Dunn & Company, and F. W. Cawkins & Company. J. H.
Miles and C. A. Dean came to town and opened general stores on the east
side of the street south of the tracks. Grocery stores were established by
M. L. Sawyer, Welch & Stone, and W.H. & A. Wilson. Drug stores were owned
by C. Rogers, C.H. Bates, and W.H. Wilson. Other early stores included
Lumber companies, Livery stables, Millinery stores, and the harness shop.
In the winter of 1877 the Burrton Mills, a three-story
frame, was erected by a stock company. Six months later the mills passed
into the hands of Kinney & Hubbard, who equipped the structure with three
runs of buhrs and a forty horse-power engine. The mills then grew to have
five run of buhrs, which gave it a capacity of 100 barrels daily.
The private banking enterprise of G. A. Vanderveer was established July 8,
1881, and continued under his management until May 19, 1882, when J. E.
Howard assumed its management, under the name of the Bank of Burrton.
The first Newspaper was called The Burrton Telephone, established November
2, 1878, by J. A. Collister. Mr. Collister transferred his interest to A.
C. Bowman, who in turn sold his interest to G. F. White, who run it until
the spring of 1881, when Mr. White moved it to Halstead. The Burrton
Monitor was established and the first number issued May 20, 1881, by a
stock company, G. Vanderveer, editor. For some time thereafter, there was
quite a feud on the front pages of the Burrton Monitor and the (now)
Halstead Telephone, each extolling why it was the best town with the
brightest future and why the "other" town would never survive. In
January of 1882, Miles Taylor assumed the editorial chair of the Monitor,
and remained as editor in that capacity until January 1, 1883, when he
purchased the paper. The Monitor was a seven column folio, was Independent
in politics, and had an extensive circulation in Harvey, Sedgwick and Reno
counties. The Monitor finally ceased publication some years later, run out
by the Burrton Graphic, which was published in Burrton until the 1990's.
Burrton was incorporated as a city on September 12, 1878 following the
election of Mayor W. H. Kinney and Councilmen J. A. Moore, Joseph Jarret,
H. C. Palmer, W. H. Riggs, and Thomas Praster. J. J. Hunt was elected as
Police Judge, John Goodwine, Clerk, R. W. Weymouth, Treasurer, and J. L.
McAtee, Marshall. The officers for 1882 were J. A. Moore, Mayor; W.
L. Dailey, James Cross, Thomas Collins, A. G. Provine, and W. H. Wilson,
Councilmen; A. Perry, Police Judge; Miles Taylor, Clerk; H. Emerson,
Treasurer; and Charles Horn, Marshall.
It wasn't until 1887 when some
businesses started up on the north side of the tracks, the area that
eventually became the main business district. These included harness
shops, furniture stores, general merchandise stores, dry goods,
confectionary, variety stores, jewelry store, bakeries, meat markets, and
the creamery and produce.
Several hotels were established. The
Harvey House was located north of the depot, and burned down about 1895.
Henry & Maggie Holzrichter owned a depot restaurant. The Hotel Baltimore
was operated by Mrs. Hugh Mynett until 1925. The Radix house was near the
railroad roundhouse, owned by Travis Brown. The City Hotel was first owned
by Hanston Osborne.
Doctors included Dr. J. L. McAtee,
Dr. Burris, J. W. Hempstid, Irl Hempstid, Newton Seehom, Joseph Myers, &
E. W. Kappers.
Bakeries were owned by Mrs. Mattie
Paine and C.M. Childs. Mr. Childs baked large amounts of bread in the oven
in the back of the bake shop.
On March 2, 1910, a skating rink was
opened "under the management of R.A. Mahoney and W. W. Jerome, with free
skating matinee for ladies, which was largely attended and greatly enjoyed
by the young ladies of Burrton. Mitch Brown is the instructor and does
some fancy skating."
The Burrton Opera House was known
all over the country for the excellent stage plays presented. Large crowds
climbed the long flight of wooden steps to see Grace George, The Georgia
Troubadours, Monara Minstrels, and others, and to see see plays such as
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and East Lynn. Graduation exercises were held here, as
well as Election Night Results gatherings where updates were received by
telegraph and then announced to the eager crowds.
For many years Burrton had a city
band and concerts on the city square were a Saturday night event that
people came in rigs and wagons from miles around to attend. Main street
was crowded and rigs were tied everywhere. The Burrton Cornet Band was
organized in October of 1882, with 16 members. W.H. Sheppard was the band
leader, J.D. Sweeney was President, J.E. Gay, Treasurer, and Miles Taylor,
Tea parties were popular among the ladies in the
early days of Burrton’s history. For younger folks, the big event of the
week was going down to the train depot on Sunday afternoons to watch the
trains come in and the people shuffle about. The Beau Mond Dancing Club
was organized, and elaborate balls were held. Chautauqua programs were
held under a large tent for a week at a time.