The Land

Burke is located on the western edge of a "prairie" originally known as Bradley Prairie. A "prairie" in the language of East Texas is a large naturally open area in the midst of a forest. East Texas is covered with thick pine and hardwood forests, and much of it is hilly; but Bradley Prairie is especially large and flat and contains excellent farmland. This provided early settlers plenty of open land for cattle grazing and farming without the necessity of time consuming timber clearing. This made Bradley Prairie an expecially attractive area for settlement. An early history of Angelina County observed that:

The district of which Burke is the center, is noted as being composed of some of the most fertile and valuable farming land in Angelina County and the farmers settled throughout that section are uniformly prosperous and successful.

The location of the Angelina County Airport at Burke is also a testament to the level ground and sparseness of trees. Unfortunately the very characteristics that made the land valuable also doomed its future, and Burke was eclipsed as a commercial center by Lufkin by 1900. Reportedly the HE&WT Railroad wanted to build a rail yard at Burke, but the farm land was too expensive. As a result the yard was established at Lufkin where less expensive land was available.

Sources:

  1. Handbook of Texas Online, "Burke, Texas"
  2. M. Lee Murrah, Personal Recollections and Observations