Miami County is rich in pre- and post-Civil War history. The six historic sites bring the past alive and make an ideal weekend road trip.
Start your trip at the Miami County Historical Museum, which will give you a solid background in the history of the region. The 6,000 square feet of displays include Native American and early pioneer history, with a stunning collection of original artifacts, including clothing, furniture, toys, fishing and military items. For genealogical fans, the Hunt-Russell Genealogy Library is one of the finest research libraries in the Midwest and contains records on everything from barns to the county census to marriage licenses.
Osawatomie is steeped in history and has a large number of historic sites. The exhibits at the Osawatomie History and Missouri Pacific Depot Museum explore this rich background, with information on railroads, pre-Civil War life and the Osawatomie State Hospital (see below). For train enthusiasts, there is also an exact replica of the original Missouri Railroad Depot.
The Osawatomie State Hospital was the first “insane asylum” in the state of Kansas. After admitting its first mentally ill patient in 1866, it hosted a variety of noteworthy residents, including artist D.O. Bacon, who was admitted in 1900 after being driven mad by the Kansas sun. This institution has been modernized and still operates today.
The First Land Office, also in Osawatomie, was built in 1854 by the town’s first mayor, H.B. Smith, and his brother. The two brothers were the first land patent agents in Kansas Territory. Today, it is a tourist center (operated by the Osawatomie Historical Society) and a memorial to the Pottawatomie Indians and the Trail of Death. It is an excellent example of pioneer architecture.
For Civil War buffs, the John Brown Memorial Park and John Brown Museum State Historic Site offer a glimpse into the reality of “Bleeding Kansas.” The 23-acre park features exhibits that teach visitors about the violent struggle over slavery and the role of eastern Kansas as the “Cradle of the Civil War.” It was here where John Brown and 30 of his men defended the town of Osawatomie against 250 proslavery militia. It is interesting to note that this park was dedicated in 1910 by President Theodore Roosevelt and is where he delivered his famous New Nationalism speech.