House Types

Burke houses, whether the best and largest home in town or a farmhouse were built to suit the hot climate. Before the advent of air conditioning, heat dissipation was the primary design consideration. Most early houses had the following features:



The Yard

Before the era of lawn mowers and pampered lawns, yards were simple affairs. Residents, especially those on the farm, had more critical things to do than work in the yard. As a result yards and flowers had to be both easy to care for and attractive.

Grass was not usually part of a yard. SInce lawn mowers were not available, or in later years too expensive, most early Burkians removed weeds and grass from their yadrs with a hoe and rake, leaving a bare dirt surface.

On the farm, yards were usually fenced to prevent chickens, cows, hogs and other farm animals from entering. Chickens left their droppings everywhere, which as particularly unpleasant to barefoot children who made a wrong step. Chicken manure between the toes is not a pleasant experience.



Fruit Trees

House Plants

Water Sources

Since Burke did not have a public water system until the 1960s, water came either from cisterns or wells. Most cisterns were underground and consisted of a short shaft above an enlarged, lined cavern, Aboveground cisterns were tanks made of sheet metal. Both types of cisterns collected rain water from the house's roof via a system of gutters.

Most wells were hand dug and lined with bricks. A few were hand bored with a device that look like a post hold digger with a T-bar handle at the top for manual rotation..

Both below ground cisterns and wells used a bucket on a rope over a pulley to draw water. One would lower the bucket and jiggle it to cause it to sink and then pull it to the surface with the rope. There was nothing as refreshing as drinking cold water directly from the bucket. With cisterns one had to be careful to avoid "wiggletails", the larval stage of mosquitos. Some would pour a spoonful of kerosene into their cisterns to seal the water surface and block oxygen and kill the wiggletails. Bored wells used a bucket with a trap door on the botton to let in and then trap water for the trip to the surface.

Old wells and cisterns could be dangerous, and parents cautioned children to say away from them. The webmaster's mother lost her first child due to the exertion of pulling her grandmother from an old cistern that she fell into when it caved in. Even when dug wells were not dangerous, they could still be a hazard. One time the webmaster's childhood buddy Johnny Rose lost his glasses when he looked into a well on the Murrah place,

A very few people still depended upon springs for some of their water. Springs dried up as residents began to drill modern wells and lowered the water table.


  1. M. Lee Murrah, Personal Recollections