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Johnson County, Kansas

Johnson County was one of the original 33 counties organized by the Territorial Legislature in 1855. It was not until September 17, 1857, that the county was officially organized by Reverends Thomas Johnson and William Johnson; Johnston Lykins; Isaac McCoy; Jonathan Meeker; Thomas E. Mulvane; William Williams; Rynear Morgan; William Holmes; J. D. Allen; J. C. Forest; and L. F. Bancroft. Named for Reverend Thomas Johnson, it contains the cities of Countryside, DeSoto, Edgerton, Gardner, Lake Quivira (part), Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Olathe, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Shawnee, Spring Hill (part), Westwood and Westwood Hills.

The founding of Shawnee Methodist Mission and Indian Manual Labor School in 1839 was one of the most important events in the early county history. The Shawnee Methodist Mission was used as the basis for the novel, Seven Trees, by Janice Young Brooks.

The first church, other than the Mission, was established in Shawnee in 1840 and was known as the "Old Log Church." The first county fair was held in Edgerton/Gardner (date unknown), and the first school districts were all formed at the same time through a state law.

The outwitting of Missourians at the Battle of Bull Creek has become legendary in the county. The battle occurred on September 1, 1856.

Interesting public figures in the county are James Butler Hickok, who was a constable in Monticello Township before going on to fame as a scout and frontiersman. W. B. Strang, owner of the Strand Line, built the first self-propelled railroad motor car in the world. Three Territorial Governors served from the area including: Andrew Reeder (1855); Daniel Woodson (1855, 1856, 1857) and Wilson Shannon (1855-1856). Five governors of Kansas were from Johnson County: John Anderson, Jr.(1961-1965); Frank L. Hagaman (1950-1951); Robert F. Bennett (1973-1977); George Hodges (1913-1915); and John P. St. John (1879-1883). Serving as Congressmen from the county were Chauncey Little (1922-1927) and Larry Winn (1967- ). Earl E. O'Connor served as a Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court (1965-1971) and Robert H. Miller (1975- ) currently is a Justice.

Interesting sites in the county include the Mahaffie House, the Ensor Historic Site and Museum, the Lanesfield School, the Legler Barn, Old Shawnee Town, the Shawnee Methodist Mission, the Chris Fangro Building and the Strang Line Barn

For more information see the Johnson County website. The Johnson County Museum has an archives of county records, manuscripts, photographs, and other source materials. The 1915 History of Johnson County, by Ed Blair, was reprinted by the Johnson County Genealogical Society in 1976.

Entry: Johnson 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: October 2015

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