Bill's Run

PBS Premiere: June 29, 2004Check the broadcast schedule »

Welcome to Burdick, Pop. 60

Burdick, Kansas

As late as 1870, present-day Burdick, located three miles south of the Old Santa Fe Trail, was a pasture where antelope grazed, prairie chickens fed, and jack rabbits multiplied. Late in the '70s a few Russian families, mostly Mennonites, moved into the vicinity and tried wheat farming. Disgusted with their harvests, they decided to move farther west.

In 1880 Burdick became a Swedish settlement called Linsdale. John P. Setterstrom of Moline, Illinois, a born promoter, presented such a beautiful picture of the fertile valley and lush grass of southwest Morris County to the Swedish immigrants living in Henry and Mercer counties in Illinois that they moved. The name was changed to Burdick in 1887, in honor of Ms. Burdick, the sweetheart of a railroad official of the Santa Fe Railroad, which had just built a branch through Burdick from Strong City to Superior, Nebraska. Since so much pasture land surrounded Burdick and Diamond Springs, the neighboring town to the east, they soon became two of the principal points for cattle in the state.

In the fall of 1889, Edwin Perrson, Burdick's first postmaster, came from Leonardville and opened a store where Gary Hageburg now has his meat market. Many businesses were established during the next 35 years including two mercantile stores, a drug store, a hat shop and a millinery store, doctor and dentist offices, restaurants and a harness store.

Burdick Town Sign

During the first two decades of the 20th century, Burdick attracted large crowds for rodeos, fairs, baseball games, displays of farm products and other entertainment. It has been said that Burdick hosted the first rodeos in the state of Kansas. The population of Burdick around this time was about 200 people. Usually the fairs and rodeos were followed by political speeches. In 1916 Governor Capper spoke to an estimated crowd of 3,000. These fairs eventually faded and the last one was held in 1923.

Since the 20s, Burdick has experienced a 70 year decline in population. With the farm situation as it is one can compare young farmers to the previous pioneers -- these are the pioneers of the late 20th century. Nowadays, practically all farm wives have supplemental jobs outside the home and the farmers themselves have supplemental jobs to enable them to continue their farming operations.

Burdick reached its heights in the first 35 or 40 years and since then, like many other small communities in the Great Plains states, suffering the loss of schools and transportation to larger places, there has been a gradual loss of population and business activity.

Still, the community of Burdick moves into the future with faith and hope. In 1973, the townspeople of Burdick revived the town fair celebration on Labor Day weekend. Each year, the parade gets longer and better, with attendance at the celebration averaging around 3,000 people, a testament to the fact that no matter where people have moved, many still maintain a connection to this small town, returning year after year to honor it.

Next: The New Frontier: Further Reading ยป