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An incorporated town in western Osage County, Burbank is situated just north of U.S. Highway 60, twenty-two miles west of the Osage County seat of Pawhuska and 122 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. Burbank was established on the Eastern Oklahoma Railway in 1903 and was reportedly named for a cocklebur-covered area along nearby Salt Creek. The town's founder was Anthony "Gabe" Carlton, a mixed-blood Osage and a Chouteau family descendant, who owned the townsite. The Burbank post office opened inside the store of Ira McCorkle, the town's first postmaster, in December 1907.

Burbank evolved as a farming and ranching community. Early businesses included two grain elevators, a boarding house, several stores, and a bank. The town had approximately two hundred residents when oilman Ernest W. Marland discovered the Burbank Oil Field north and east of town on May 14, 1920. As a result, Burbank became a boom town and a center of oil-field activity. The Burbank Tribune, the town's lone newspaper, was published briefly starting in 1921.

The Burbank field produced more than thirty-one million barrels of oil in 1923. The Phillips Petroleum Company and the Sinclair Oil and Gas Company built large refineries near town. Hotels, grocery stores, lumberyards, and cafés served the legion of oil-field workers, many of whom earned as much as eighteen dollars a day. At the height of the boom Burbank's population was about three thousand. Among that number were bootleggers, gamblers, prostitutes, and other undesirables. Violence was commonplace.

Burbank declined with the oil boom during the Great Depression. Agriculture subsequently supported the local economy, with cattle and grain as principal commodities. The town had 372 residents in 1930 and 329 in 1940. That number continued to dwindle, however, and fell from 268 in 1950 to 188 in 1970. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, purchaser of the Eastern Oklahoma Railway in 1907, abandoned its line through Burbank in 1971.

Burbank was a community of 155 citizens in 2000. Three commercial enterprises operated there in 2002, including two construction firms and one real estate business. The town continued to maintain an elementary school and a post office. The Bank of Burbank is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 84000314).


BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Burbank," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Kenny A. Franks, The Osage Oil Boom (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1989). Osage County Profiles (Pawhuska, Okla.: Osage County Historical Society, 1978).

Jon D. May

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