|Terminal railroad accident at the Municipal cemetery 1929|
Driving of the Golden Spike - The Road is Dedicated
Burnett Railway Station
Two miles out of downtown Long Beach, farmers south of Signal Hill decided they needed their own rail depot. The area was known for its beautiful flower fields, and taking their daily pickings into Long Beach meant that many of the fragile blooms would be damaged before making it to the Los Angeles market. They petitioned the Terminal Railroad for their own station. Thomas Burnett, general manager of the Terminal Railroad, complied and a depot was built (northwest corner of California and Burnett). Originally called the Signal Hill Station, it took on a new name in February 1897 (Los Angeles Herald 2/28/1897). It seemed the post office didn't like compound or hyphenated names for their post office stations. Many remembered Thomas Burnett, who had suffered a stroke the previous year, and wanted the new station named for him, to honor his achievements. Signal Hill station became Burnett. Within a few months the area around the depot began to be referred to as Burnett. Burnett, was on high ground overlooking the entire city of Long Beach, the harbor and Catalina Island, lay just south of what is now the intersection of Willow and California. A school, the third in the Long Beach district was established in 1888. Known as the Signal Hill School, the name was changed to Burnett Elementary in the late 1890s.
In July 1903, the Evening Tribune reported a building boom
in Burnett with land selling for $1000 an acre.
A number of families had recently arrived from “Indian Territory” (as
Oklahoma was known then). This influx of
new immigrants meant that two new rooms had to be added to the school house.
The fact the area had its own rail station proved a boon to the area. What was home to truck gardeners gradually gave way to housing.
In August 1913, Los Angeles businessman C. Dean Mc-Phail, bought a large section of what became known as the Burnett Villa Tract for development. Gradually the area known as Burnett would be absorbed into Long Beach, with only the name Burnett Street, Burnett school, and Burnett library remaining to mark the history of the district.
On March 22, 1920 (Long Beach Press 2/23/1920), residents of the Burnett district decided they were satisfied with "Burnett" as the name of their school. While other schools in the district were changing their names from the area of the city where they were located to names of historical personages, Burnett decided to remain Burnett.
Over the years Thomas B. Burnett was forgotten. He had only been involved with the Terminal railway for 6 years when in 1896 he suffered a stroke and remained bedridden until his death on August 15, 1901. If he had lived his name may have been as well known as Henry Huntington. It was his ambition to see the Terminal railway become a link in a transcontinental system, which it did become when it was absorbed the the Salt Lake railway which later became the Union Pacific. He was a mover and shaker who died at the too young age of 57.
History can become confused, which is the case of Burnett school and library. The Long Beach School District in looking for a famous Burnett to keep the name of the school the same, found Peter Burnett, California's first governor. Thomas Burnett's short history with the railroad and Long Beach was forgotten. It's too late to change the name of Burnett school back to the "real" Burnett behind the name, but fortunately the City of Long Beach is keeping its Burnett Branch Library name, despite an article which appeared in the Press-Telegram in October 1957 saying the library was also named for Peter Burnett. History can also become embellished, such as the story told by a Burnett resident to reporter Walter Case in the 1930s. Case was told that the Burnett station had always been named Burnett and that the only reason it was constructed was because area farmers said if built they would name the station after the Terminal Railroad's general manger. Let's remedy the errors today, remembering the real history of the Burnett area and railroad man Thomas Burr Burnett.
In case you're wondering...I'm not related to either Peter or Thomas Burnett...nor is my husband. And if you're curious about the Get-Out-And-Push railroad, the first into Long Beach---that's another blog!