A small agricultural center in northwestern Alfalfa County, until 1907 statehood Burlington was situated in Woods County. State Highways 8 and 11 pass through the community on one road. Cherokee, the county seat, lies at a distance of twelve highway miles. Burlington, Iowa, may have been the Oklahoma town's namesake. A dispersed rural community existed in Sections 18-19 of Township 28 North, Range 11 West, as early as 1898, when the Apostolic Christian Church Cemetery was established there. A Burlington post office was designated in January 1900 and continued through November 1902, after which mail went to Driftwood.
In February 1906 a company located a townsite called Burlington (or Drumm) on the railroad about a mile southeast of the present town as the Denver, Enid and Gulf Railroad (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) constructed a new line from Garfield County, northwest through Woods (Alfalfa) County to Kansas. According to observers, by April Burlington/Drumm had graded streets and a lumberyard, but little else. In May the Frisco Townsite Company and railroad opened a new townsite that had been laid out in March or April at the present site of Burlington. A bank soon moved from the old town, and other businesses appeared. By September "New Burlington" was growing and had the bank and various businesses. By 1907 the settlement also had a hotel, two mercantile stores, and a half-dozen retail establishments. A postal designation of Burlington (changed from a June 1906 designation as Drumm) was made in August 1907.
Wheat, alfalfa, fruit, and livestock grown in the surrounding region ensured Burlington's future. The population remained fairly stable during the twentieth century because of continued rail access. In 1910 the incorporated town of 135 inhabitants supported three general stores and operated three grain elevators. After the World War I the population continued to rise, reaching 169 in 1920 and holding steady between 160 and 180 for the next thirty years. In the 1930s two elevators still functioned, and the community had a school, a church, and two hotels. During the 1940s and 1950s the Burlington Co-Operative Association ran the sole elevator and an oil company, and two groceries and two hardware stores operated along with a half-dozen other retail establishments.
Due to declining enrollment in the rural schools of that section of Alfalfa County, Burlington's consolidated with those of Byron and Driftwood in the 1960s. At the end of the twentieth century the Burlington School District, one of three remaining in the county, enrolled 153 in grades prekindergarten through twelve. During the 1970s three churches and two elevators functioned along with ten other businesses, and the town's population peaked in 1980 at 206. The 1990 census recorded 169. By the year 2000, when the town claimed 156 residents, approximately 37 percent of those who were employed commuted to work in nearby towns.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Burlington," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Our Alfalfa County Heritage: 1893-1976 (N.p.: Alfalfa County Historical Society, 1976). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publications, 2003).
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