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Johnson County, KS

Johnson CountyTraders and settlers heading west would have been just one day out of Independence or Westport, Missouri, when they came into this area. From the pages of their diaries they speak to us today about their first night on the prairie at Lone Elm campground, the point where the trails divided, the dangerous crossing at the "Narrows," and the beauty of the Kansas prairie as seen for their first time. One, Thomas Johnson, who established the Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission, is the county's namesake.

The story of the Santa Fe and Oregon-California trails is closely tied to the history of Kansas. Trade with the Spanish Southwest began in 1821 as William Becknell established the route leading to Santa Fe. For more than fifty years the Santa Fe Trail was traveled by traders, military units and fortune seekers. Between 1840 and 1870, a quarter of a million Americans crossed the continent on the Oregon-California Trail. These pioneers followed the Santa Fe Trail out of Independence or Westport, Missouri, and then turned north just outside of Gardner, Kansas. With the arrival of the railroad in 1872, came a rush of European immigrants and the county (especially Olathe, described then as the "Eden of Kansas") boomed.

We invite you to share our area's rich history. Visit two authentically restored museums. Experience the beauty of the tallgrass prairie. Walk in the ruts created by thousands of wagon wheels. Friendly folks in each community will accommodate you on your modern-day overland trail adventure.

Explore Johnson County

Gardner Historical Museum

The Herman B. Foster house was built in the Spring of 1893. A classic example of Folk Victorian architecture, the house was the residence of one of Gardner's early storekeepers, a partner in the Bigelow-Foster Mercantile Company. In 1902

Gardner, KS Museums

Prairie Wetland

The 55-acre KCPL Prairie Wetland includes 23.6

Gardner, KS Conservation Areas


Shawnee Town 1929

Shawnee Town 1929 is a living history museum that tells the story of life in a small farm town that was Shawnee in the 1920s. From March through October visitors can stroll through buildings and grounds featuring a farmstead, barber shop, typewriter repair shop, grocery store and funeral home &

Shawnee, KS Museums

Turner Barn

Gardner's Turner Barn is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1898 for W.T. Turner by Arthur J. Clinton of Spring Hill, Kansas. Clinton's trademark on the many barns he built was the "double-diamond"

Gardner, KS Historic Barns

Harkey House

The Harkey House was built in 1902 and was the former home and practice of frontier doctor, Dr. William C. Harkey. Listed on the State Register of Historic Places, the house was restored in the 1980

Gardner, KS Historic Homes

NASCART Indoor Racing

At NASCART indoor racing, you are behind the wheel of high performance karts! Since opening our facility in 2002

Olathe, KS Sports

Wonderscope Children's Museum

Wonderscope Children's Museum is committed to sparking a life-long love of learning in children through the power of play. Wonderscope provides fun, inter-disciplinary arts and sciences exhibits and programs for children 10

Shawnee, KS Discovery Centers

Frisco Train Depot

The 1912-1913 Frisco Train Depot was relocated to the Legler Barn Museum Complex in 1987, from its long time home in old town Lenexa at the intersection of Santa Fe Trail Drive and Pflumm. The Depot features the exhibit By Way of Lenexa:

Lenexa, KS Railroad History

Lanesfield School Historic Site

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lanesfield School Historic Site is a tribute to rural schooling. It consists of a restored one-room schoolhouse, outbuildings and a visitor's center featuring an exhibit on Kansas'one-room schools called "Just Plain Simple:

Gardner, KS Historic Schoolhouses

Buddy Rogers & Family's Playhouse

The Olathe Community Theatre Association presents six live theatrical productions a season, ranging from progressive, first-run fare to standard classics, including one musical and a children's theater production in June. Our building was established by the Covenant Church in 1870

Olathe, KS Theatres

Merriam Historic Plaza

Merriam Historic Plaza & Visitors Bureau is located along I-35 at Exit 228B in Merriam. This site enhances the entrance to Merriam and provides visitors and residents with an outdoor preview of Merriam’

Merriam, KS Visitors Centers

Explore Johnson County