Local city information for Olathe, KS
(, ) is a city in and the county seat of Johnson County, Kansas, United States. Located in northeastern Kansas, it is also the fifth most populous city in the state, with an estimated population of 118,034 in 2007. As a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, Olathe is the fourth-largest city in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. It is bordered by the cities of Lenexa to the north, Overland Park to the east, and Gardner to the southwest. In 2008, the US Census Bureau ranked Olathe the 24th fastest-growing city in the nation. The same year, CNN/Money and Money
magazine ranked Olathe #11 on its list of the "100 Best Cities to Live in the United States."
Olathe was founded by Dr. John T. Barton in the spring of 1857. He rode to the center of Johnson County, Kansas, and staked two quarter sections of land as the town site. He later described his ride to friends: "...the prairie was covered with verbena and other wild flowers. I kept thinking the land was beautiful and that I should name the town Beautiful." Purportedly, Barton asked a Shawnee interpreter how to say "Beautiful" in his native language. The interpreter responded, "Olathe."
Olathe was not the first city established in Johnson County, but it quickly became the largest and was named the county seat in October 1859 . The city's early days were filled with violence, as pro-slavery forces from nearby Missouri often clashed with local abolitionists. These conflicts were known on a large scale as Bleeding Kansas.
As the 1850s came to a close, and as Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861, the violence lessened. However, a year later Confederate guerillas from Missouri led by William Quantrill surprised the residents and raided the city on September 7, 1862, killing a half dozen men, robbing numerous businesses and private homes, and destroying most of the city. Quantrill launched the raid because the people of Olathe were known for their abolitionism.
Olathe served as a stop on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail. Catering to travelers was the main source of income for local stores and businesses. The Mahaffie House, a popular resupply point for wagons headed westward, is today a registered historical site maintained by the City of Olathe. The staff wears period costumes, and stagecoach rides and farm animals make the site a favorite among children. Visitors participate a Civil War re-enactment, Wild West Days, and other activities there.
After the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the trails to the west lost importance, and Olathe faded into obscurity and remained a small, sleepy prairie town.
In the 1950s, the construction of the Interstate Highway system and, more directly, I-35, linked Olathe directly to nearby Kansas City. The result was tremendous residential growth as Olathe became a part of the Kansas City Metro Area. In the 1980s, Olathe experienced tremendous commercial growth, which also drew more residents. It is estimated that Olathe's population surpassed 100,000 in 2001, and current projections show Olathe's growth continuing as the city expands into the farm fields south, west and north of town.
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