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Osage County, Kansas

Osage County was created as Weller County as one of the first 33 counties created by the Territorial Legislature. The county was named for Senator John Weller of California, a pro slave supporter. Because of his political leanings the county name was changed to Osage for the Indian tribe when the county was organized on February 11, 1859. The county contains the cities of Quenemo, Burlingame, Overbrook, Melvern, Olivet, Osage, Carbondale, Scranton and Lyndon.

The crossing of the Santa Fe Trail through the county near the 110 Mile Creek Crossing, and the coming of the railroads all contributed to the settlement of the county. The arrival of reserved Indians in the county, and their ultimate removal in the 1870s were major events in the county and the state. The construction of two federal lakes, Pamona and Melvern, in the county were major factors in the development of tourism and manufacturing, made possible by the fresh water supply and the flood control protection.

The first county fair was held in 1866 at Burlingame. There is currently a fair at Osage City and Overbrook, and a 4-H fair at Melvern. The first church was the Congregational Church of Council City (Burlingame) organized in 1856. The first school district was in Burlingame in 1855.

Interesting public figures in the county include James W. Winchell, agent for the American Settlement Company, arrived in the county in 1855. He founded Superior, a rival for the county seat with Burlingame. He served as president of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention. Mrs. Ida M. Farris organized the first Federated Business Woman's Club in the United States in Osage City. Dr. Earl Sutherland, a native of Burlingame, was a 1971 Nobel Prize winner for scientific research.

Pistol Pete, written by Eve Gillhouse and Frank Eaton, is the autobiography of Eaton and his tales of the early days in Kansas on the Santa Fe Trail. Part of the television movie based on William Allen White's life was filmed in the Osage City newspaper office.

Interesting sites of the county include the Mission Covenant Church, the Opera Houses, the Arvonia School, the Quenemo Opera House, the Melvern Stone School, the Methodist Mission Building and the Osage City Santa Fe Railroad Depot.

For more information see the Osage County website. The Lyndon Library has a collection of town histories, the C. R. Green series about the county cemetery records, and the Works Progress Administration county inventory. The Osage County Historical Society has county archival records.

Entry: Osage County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: September 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.