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.
In the mid 1850’s the Congregationalists, the Baptists, and the Methodists organized churches. The Methodists were first to construct a church building in Burlingame. It was replaced by a stone building that was completed in 1868. Fifteen years after the founding of the Baptist church, a small building was erected for services. Historical interest attaches to this building in the fact that the foundation of it and of the new church constructed in 1907, were laid from stones taken from the old fort erected in the center of town during the Civil War.
Two miles south of Council City a rival town called Superior existed. Some of the people from that area withdrew from the newly established Congregational group to organize the Free Presbyterian Church. In 1860 the First Presbyterian of Burlingame united. They adopted the name First Presbyterian and used the building that had been constructed in 1862 by the Congregational Society. In 1886 the building was rebuilt using the old foundation for the new church.
In 1857 Council City was renamed Burlingame. Prior to that year a tent provided the only classroom, but in June a small building was built by subscription to be used as a school house. The first stone building was erected that year, and on Santa Fe Avenue a new store was built. By this time a hand mill of limestones existed and many came from miles away to do their grinding of grain. One of the early settlers built a toll bridge across Switzler Creek and charged 25 cents for each wagon passing over it. Early records indicate this was a profitable enterprise “owing to the immense freighting business on the Santa Fe Trail.”
There are two known communities in the United States using the name of Burlingame,Kansas and also in Burlingame, California. The Kansas Burlingame is far the older community, as the namesake, Anson Burlingame, was in his prime as the Kansas community took form on the old Santa Fe Trail.
After a political battle to determine whether the area would enter the Union slave or free, Kansas joined the United States of America in 1861 as a free state. The Civil War began that year and many of the Burlingame townsmen enlisted in the Union Army.
The next year a stone fort was built around the town well as protection from the notorious Quantrill Raiders. Bill Anderson, one of the Quantrill’s men stirred the ire of Union soldiers when he stole a saddle and escaped arrest. His threat to burn the town and spoil the well was taken so seriously that the young woman whom he had been courting was driven from the county. There would be a call to arms and the people would gather up their rifles and other weapons and run for the fort. An attack was never made.
By 1878 the county seat had been moved to Lyndon which is more centrally located within Osage County, but Burlingame was the original county seat. The first Court House, built in 1865, was located where Schuyler Museum now stands. The only legal execution in this county took place in front of that court house in 1867. A man who killed the Justice of Peace escaped, was captured, and escaped again. In his second escape he killed the son of the Justice, but was recaptured, tried, convicted and hanged.
The Atchison Santa Fe rail line was laid from Topeka to Burlingame in 1868. The arrival of this railroad brought great celebration and a feeling of permanency for the town. The next year the rail line was extended southwest to Emporia. In 1880 the Manhattan, Alma and Burlingame Railway Company constructed a railroad between those towns. When it was purchased by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, it was called Alma Branch. The line from Eskridge to Alma was abandoned in 1970 and the remainder of the line was closed in 1972.