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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

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

Catch the Maze Craze

You can grow it, shuck it, pop it, cook it and increasingly over the last few years even play in it. With more than 3,500 reported uses, corn may just be the world'

Overland Park, KS Corn Mazes

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

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


Santa Fe/Oregon Trail Junction

In a 1924 dedication of a State Historical Marker at the edge of Gardner, Senator Rolla W. Coleman called the place where the trails divide "the grand-daddy of all highway junctions." From its beginnings in 1857

Gardner, KS Landmarks

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


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

Carlsen Center of Johnson County Community College

Enjoy some of the country's finest concerts, theatrical performances, and other fine arts performed at one of the most innovative theaters in the area. The celebrated performing arts center The Kansas City Star calls “the crown jewel of the Johnson County cultural scene,” hosts or presents over 250

Overland Park, KS Theatres

Antioch Pioneer Cemetery

Antioch Pioneer Cemetery is the resting place of some of the Quakers who were associated with the Mission. The Cemetery dates back to before 1850 and a replica of the original church (Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian, formed in 1850)

Merriam, KS Cemeteries

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