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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

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

The 300-acre Overland Park Arboretum Botanical Garden offers a natural setting with walking trails, waterfalls, colorful flowers and a variety of gardens including a children's discovery garden and a legacy garden.

Overland Park, KS Arboretums

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

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

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm

J.B. Mahaffie purchased a 160-acre tract of ground 1-mile north of the town of Olathe, Kansas along the Santa Fe Trail in 1857. In 1863, J.B. and his wife, Lucinda Mahaffie, contracted to run a stagecoach stop. Serving meals in their cellar, the Mahaffies operated their business until around 1870

Olathe, KS Museums

Loomis Home

This home was built in 1882

Merriam, KS Historic Homes

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

Old Town Lenexa

This is the site of the old town, as it appears today, where the Santa Fe Trail passed through Lenexa. The buildings still stand as a reminder of the beginning, the coming of the railroad, and the establishment of commerce that has brought prosperity to the descendants of these pioneers.

Lenexa, KS Historic Downtowns


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


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

Theatre in the Park

The Theatre in the Park is the largest outdoor community theatre in the country with Broadway style musicals and a variety of special events. The outdoor amphitheatre is tucked into 10 beautiful acres in Shawnee Mission Park with its own entrance. Located just north of I-435 Highway and 87

Shawnee, KS Theatres

Explore Johnson County