Burgess was originally surveyed as one square township in 1812. This township was likely named after Rev. Thomas Burgess, a prominent English theologian and Bishop of Salisbury. Like Elmsley Township to the east, the Rideau River and Rideau Lake formed a natural split of the municipality into two parts as well as serving as the boundary line between Leeds and Lanark Counties. In 1849, the two small wedges of land on the southerly shores of the Big Rideau and the many islands that constituted South Burgess were united with Bastard Township for municipal purposes and were administered as such until the formation of the Township of Rideau Lakes.