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Burnett County, Wisconsin

Burnett County Education, Geography, and History

County Seat: Siren
Year Organized: 1856
Square Miles: 822
Court House:

7410 County Road K
County Courthouse
Siren, WI 54872-0000

Etymology - Origin of County Name

Burnett County was named for Thomas P. Burnett, an early Wisconsin legislator (Wis. Hist. Colls., ii, p. 325; Gannett, Place Names, p. 55). Although of Virginia birth, Burnett (1800-46) emigrated to Kentucky when a child, and was there educated, practicing law at Paris in that state. In 1829 he was appointed sub-Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, and thereafter made that place his home until 1837, when he removed to Cassville. After five years service in the Indian department he again took up the practice of law, and was influential in Wisconsin Territorial legislation.

[Source: Kellogg, Louise Phelps. "Derivation of County Names" in Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1909, pages 219-231.]


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

County History

Burnett County lies in the St. Croix River Valley.

The first Indians in Burnett County were the Sioux, who were later driven out by the Chippewas. One of the well-known fur-trading centers was at Trade Lake with Trader Carlson who could speak the language of the Chippewas. Ten cents was a good price for a muskrat pelt and a quarter was the usual price for a skunk, beaver or mink pelt.

Early white settlers were mostly Norwegian and Swedish immigrants.

  • 1833 A mission was established at the outlet of Yellow Lake. The first school in Burnett County was opened on September 16, 1833
  • July 29, 1837 The United States purchased the St. Croix River valley from the Indians.
  • 1854 Canute Anderson, the "Father of Burnett County," arrived and settled about four miles south of Grantsburg. For several years he was the lone resident in that area. The Anderson home was the center of most of the social activity in the early days.
  • 1856 The state of Wisconsin passed a law creating the county of Burnett. There were nine more changes in territory before Burnett acquired its present shape.
  • 1856 to December 31, 1864 Because the population of Burnett County was not large enough to support a separate government, it was attached to Polk County.
  • 1860 First census showed only 12 white people living in Burnett County.
  • March 1, 1865 This county was separated from Polk County of which it was originally a part. The newly-established Burnett county included the area that is now Washburn County.
  • 1865 - 1875 All of Burnett County was organized as one town.
  • 1869 First Baptist Church
  • 1883 Washburn County was separated from Burnett County.
  • Jan. 22, 1884 First train into Grantsburg
  • 1910 First Catholic Church
  • 1911 First Sioux Line Railroad

Above facts were taken from PIONEER TALES OF BURNETT COUNTY, compiled by the Burnett County Homemakers Club, and BURNETT COUNTY THROUGH THE YEARS.


According to the US Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 880 square miles (2,280 km2), of which, 822 square miles (2,128 km2) of it is land and 59 square miles (152 km2) of it (6.69%) is water.

Neighboring Counties:

  • Douglas County – northeast
  • Washburn County – east
  • Barron County – southeast
  • Polk County – south
  • Chisago County, Minnesota – southwest
  • Pine County, Minnesota – west
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