Both the city and the county were named for David Gouverneur Burnet, the first (provisional) president of the Republic of Texas. He also served as Vice President during the administration of Mirabeau B. Lamar. The name is pronounced as "BURN-it" rather than "bur-NET" because that is the way David Burnet pronounced his name. In fact, there is an expression known pretty much throughout the hill country of Texas that goes "It's Burnet, durn it, can't you learn it?", where "Burnet", "durn it", and "learn it" all rhyme.
A town was founded by Fort Croghan in 1852, when Burnet County was established. The town was originally named Hamilton after John Hamilton, who owned a league and labor of land nearby. In August 1852 a post office was established in Hamilton and named Burnet Courthouse. In 1857 thirty-five residents of the town petitioned the state legislature to change the name of the town to Burnet since there was another town in Texas named Hamilton. The name was changed in 1858. Major growth occurred with the arrival of the Austin and Northwestern Railroad in April 1882, when Burnet then became the railhead for the area to the west. After the railroad was extended to Llano in 1892, Burnet declined as a supply point and became a farming and livestock center. The City of Burnet was incorporated in 1933.
There were 1,661 households out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.3% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.9% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,093, and the median income for a family was $37,604. Males had a median income of $25,663 versus $17,163 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,749. About 11.8% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.1% of those under age 18 and 15.2% of those age 65 or over.
Located outside of Burnet is a summer camp called Camp Longhorn that has two branches.
Rail service is provided by the Hill Country Flyer steam train from Cedar Park. The Hill Country Flyer is operated every Saturday in January and February, most Saturdays and Sundays March-May, and most Saturdays in October and November
Burnet Municipal Airport, Kate Craddock Field (ICAO Code KBMQ) is a general aviation airport located approximately one mile south of State Highway 29 on U.S. Highway 281. It has a 5,000 foot lighted runway with a full length taxiway, which can accommodate aircraft with up to 34,000 pounds per wheel. The airport is home to the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force
The Historic Square features buildings from as early as the 1880s and offers a variety of unique shops and eateries.
Logan Vandeveer was early Texas soldier, ranger, cattleman and civic leader. Vandeveer was a leader in presenting the petition to the legislature in 1852 to establish Burnet County and was instrumental in having the town of Burnet named the county seat.