Burke Routes

Although Burke, unlike Lufkin, is not located where it might have developed into a transportation hub, it has always had good connections to the outside world

Early Routes

The earliest travel route in East Texas, the Camino Real, or Old San Antonio Road, bypassed Angelina County altogether, passing through Alto in Cherokee County on the way to Nacogdoches and connecting to roads to San Augustine, and eventually Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Most of the travel routes in what became Angelina County were concentrated in the southeast end of the county. In 1831 the Mexican government established an outpost on the Neches River named Fort Teran located at what is now the intersection of Angelina, Polk and Tyler Counties to control illegal entry of Anglos into Texas.

The site of Fort Teran was chosen because of its strategic location at the intersection of several key routes through the area. The Alabama Trace used by Alabama Indians in the 1780s after their move from the East began near San Augustine and passed through Fort Teran on its way to an Alabama village on the Trinity in River in what is now San Jacinto County. The Coushatta Trace also passed through Fort Teran, although it followed a different route from the Sabine River. The location of the trails was influenced by the Kisatchie Wold, a limestone ridge that ran in a long arc from the Mississippi River to the Rio Grande. The Coushatta Trace followed the Wold, and the other roads converged near Fort Teran because the Neches River provided a gap, known to the Spanish as the "pass to the south," that permitted easy North-South travel. The early stage coach route from Houston through Livingston to San Augustine also passed through Fort Teran.

European Roadbuilding Begins

The arrival of Europeans to Texas brought a new era of roadbuilding to Angelina County. The first such route that passed through the area was the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road build by the Spaniards in the late 1700s to connect Nacogdoches to a coastal mission near the mouth of the Trinity River. The Road crossed the Angelina River at what later became Marion Ferry and crossed the Neches near Fort Teran. Here is how the Handbook of Texas describes the part of the route passing through Angelina County:

From Nacogdoches the trail went southeast to the crossing of the Angelina River later designated the Marion Ferry crossing, and from there southward through eastern Angelina County. It passed to the east of the site of present Huntington, continued south on the high ground east of Shawnee Creek, and crossed the Neches River near the mouth of that creek at what the Spanish called the "pass to the south." This crossing provided easy access to the continuation of the road across the Kisatchie Wold in northern Tyler County and was the location chosen for the construction of Fort Teran in 1831.

When the first Anglo settlers, such as Samuel Burris, arrived in Angelina County as early as 1820, they undoubtedly followed the Coushatta Trace from Louisiana to lower Angelina County. From there the way west into Angelina County was uncharted, and the settlers probably followed primitive Indian trails that led through a string of prairies (Shawnee, Renfro, Burriss) in central Angelina County. Burris settled at Burris Prairie, which lies southwest of Homer and northeast of the community of Fairview.

When Tom Bradley arrived from San Augustine in 1835 to found his Indian trading post, he undoubtedly followed the Alabama Trace south into lower Angelina County. Like Samuel Burriss he then embarked west through the central prairies before arriving in what came to be known as Bradley Prairie. The exact route he followed is unknown, but there are two old roads that might have grown from the trail he blazed. The first is a road that runs from Renfrow Prairie and Beulah into southeastern Bradley Prairie where the Fairchilds settled southeast of Angelina County Airport.

When cattle raising began to take off in East Texas after 1850, a series of cattle trails were established to drive the cattle to market in New Orleans. One of these, the Opelousas cattle trail passed across southern Angelina County and through Pine Valley on the way to Crockett. When the cattle business shifted to South Texas after the Civil War, the direction of the trail was reversed, and cattle were driven to Corsicana and Fort Worth to intersect the Chisholm and other trails to the northern railheads.

Arrival of Modern Transportation

The arrival of the Houston East & West Texas Railroad in 1881, obsoleted the Opelousas cattle trail and converted Bradley Prairie into Burke. The railroad held sway as the main transportation vehicle for the cotton, livestock, and timber raised near Burke until the automobile lead to the development of the highway system represented first by Texas Highway 35 and later U. S. Highway 59, both of which generally paralleled the railroad route.

Finally, shortly after World War II aviation came to Burke with the building of the Angelina County Airport.