Burlingame, Kansas is located where the old Santa Fe Trail crosses the Santa Fe Railroad. This friendly town with a population of about 1,000 is in the center of a prosperous farming community. Burlingame strives to provide all the facilities for modern living, keeping pace with today’s progress, yet keeping it’s pioneer history alive.
The Kansas story began in 1541, when the Spanish explorer, Francisco de Coronado, accompanied by thirty horsemen and a Franciscan friar, marched to the land of the Indians and buffalo on his search for the fabled riches of Quivira. Coronado found no gold, but probably overlooked the most significant aspect of the area surveyed—the network of Indian trails leading East and West toward buffalo hunting grounds and rivers.
Spain’s claim to the area was undisputed for 160 years. Except for a brief French occupation in the early 1700’s, the region remained in possession of the Indians until 1803 when it was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
In the year 1827, the United States Government opened a mail route from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The route had been selected sometime before by the Overland Freighters and was known as the Santa Fe Trail. It entered what is now Osage County from the east, crossed One Hundred and Ten Mile Creek, and continued in a direct line through Burlingame, westward out of the county. Travel and settlement grew along this main trail, followed by the era of wagon trains, the stagecoach, military companies, the railroads and the homesteaders.
Kansas was made a territory May 30, 1854, following the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Shortly after that date John Frele came with his family to this area. The only person who lived anywhere nearby was a Shawnee Indian who owned a cabin by a spring located in the northern part of today’s modern Burlingame. Mr. Frele bought the claim and moved into this cabin. The next winter a son was born to the Freles, and was the first white child born in what is now called Osage County.
The beginnings of the town of Burlingame came about in the 1850’s when a group of Eastern promoters organized the “Emigrant Aid Society and Kansas League.” From their office a group of men were sent to select a site for a town which was to be known as Council City. Plans were made for wide, tree-lined streets and a park. Several settlers moved to the site of the town during 1854. The present museum bears his name.
One of the first things done by these early settlers was to dig a large well in the very center of the town-to-be. A fine stream of cool water was struck at a depth of thirty feet. The well was walled up and an old fashioned sweep pump erected. For over forty years it serviced those who lived near-by and was a blessing for the prairie schooners, the old-time freighters, stage drivers and their passengers who used to travel the Santa Fe Trail.
In 1855 an election precinct was established, the Council House—a large block house-was erected, and the site of the town was surveyed and staked out. This same year regular religious services were held in the vicinity. A minister, sent out by the American Missionary Society, held services during the summer in the cabins of the settlers or under the trees. These meetings were non-sectarian in character and were attended. The second pastor sent by the Society held church services in the Council House.
In 1856 many were ill with malaria and were so badly in need of necessary provisions that they were compelled to live on melons, squashes, pumpkins and green corn, or starve. As soon as the corn became hard enough, it was grated on the bottom of tin pans into which holes had been punched.