Railroad Tracks

Edmond: A Town founded by the Railroad

Courtesy: UCO Archives, Lucille Warrick, Dr. James L. Crowder, Nina Hager

The Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks from the Red River to Arkansas City in 1887 going from Indian Territory on the South, through the Unassigned Lands and into Kansas, thus completing a railroad from Chicago to Galveston. A coal and water station was placed on the prairie to supply the steam engines with fuel. The town that would later be called Edmond was located between the Canadian and Cimarron Rivers. The surveyors originally designated the town “Mile Marker 103,” which eventually became Edmond Station.

John Steen, a young Santa Fe worker was brought to the area from New Mexico in 1887 to complete the construction of  the water well. The water well was enormous: 30 feet across and 120 feet deep and lined with 20 carloads of rock. After the well was completed, a water tower, pump house and coal house were erected on a side track. The pump house was the first house in Edmond. John and Cordelia Steen and their two-year old son, Charles, were the first family, sleeping and making a home in the railroad pump house. In 1888 the site saw only one passenger train and one freight train a day, stopping for water and coal. Some engineers would wire ahead for Cordelia Steen to “have some grub ready” for them.

The following is a brief notice in the August 14, 1891 issue of the Edmond SUN newspaper and is the only known reference to identify the railroad official Edmond Burdick, a traveling freight agent for whom the city of Edmond was named. Formerly known as Mile Marker 103, the town began with the addition of a water well and coaling station built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Santa Fe officials re-named Edmond Station for railroad attorney and traveling freight agent Edmond Burdick on March 28, 1887.

After two years of research in 2011, Nina Hager, Exhibit Director for the Edmond Historical Society & Museum, discovered the lost history of Edmond Burdick. Her dedicated and systematic research uncovered the first ever seen photograph of the town’s namesake since the town began. A booklet entitled Edmond Burdick: Railroad Agent, containing more information about Burdick and his family, researched and written by Hager, is now available in the Museum’s Welcome Center & Gift Shop.

Click here to link to our material: “Edmond’s Namesake” to see Burdick’s portrait.