The people who settled at Burke and environs came primarily from the Deep South, especially Mississippi and Lousisiana. A few came from the Middle South, primarily Tennessee. Almost all were of European or European-Indian ancestry. Only a few people of African ancestry ever lived at Burke, and slavery was almost non-existent in the Burke area before the Civil War.
The earliest residents of the Burke area arrived between 1830 and 1850. The earliest resident of Angelina Couunty, Samuel Burris, and ancestor of the Burrouses of Burke, may have arrived at Burris Prairie northeast of Burke as early as 1820. Indian trader Tom Bradley, for whom the area was originally named Bradley Prairie, arrived from San Augustine in 1836. The cattlemen of Pine Valley, including the Ashworths and Johnsons arrived in the late 1840s from Southwest Louisiana.
The second wave of settlers were the farmers who arrived from about 1955 to 1880 to farm the fertile land at Bradley Prairie. A few, such as the Fairchilds, Guinns and Smiths, arrived before the Civil War. Most, however, including the Ryans, Weeks, McCalls, McCartys, Cragers and Arringtons arrived after the Civil War, most to escape the post-war economic devasation of the Deep South.
The arrival of the Houston East and West Texas Railway brought the third wave of settlers to Burke from 1881 to 1900. One of the founders, Harvey Belote, had already been at Bradley Prairie for several years and had the good fortune of owning the land where the town of Burke was built. Those such as the Treadwells and Weisingers moved from other areas in Angelina or surroundng counties to take advantage of the economic benefits brought by the railroad. These families built the commmercial insfrastructure of the town of Burke.
The last group to arrive in the Burke area came primarily from other East Texas counties to work in the sawmills in the area. The author's own Murrah family arrived from Walker County around 1900 after following the sawmill camps in Trinity County for a number of years.