City of Shawnee

Community History

From the first settlers who made their way over the horizon, to the individuals who have found their lives, fun and fortunes here, people have long recognized Shawnee, Kansas as a place of new beginnings.

Although her history runs deep, everything about this thriving community continues to point forward. Opportunity is at every turn . . . for a better life, a better job, and a better education. And because Shawnee embraces and nurtures new ideas, she attracts modern pioneers looking to start big things. Wherever you are in life. Whatever your dreams. Whether you’re starting a family or raising a business, hitting your first home run or running off to your next adventure, everything you need is right here - in a place where life takes off and great things begin.

Historical MuralHistorical Mural

Historical Mural

Timeline of Historical Highlights from the Shawnee, Kansas Community
Captain M. Etienne Venyard DeBourqemont, a French explorer, discovers a Kansas Indian Village near present day Shawnee.

France loses the territory of Kansas to Spain.

The first white hunter known to enter Indian Territory (Jacob "Joe" Pursely).

The Shawnee area and hundreds of thousands of acres to the east, north, south and west are acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

1804 - 1806
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the Louisiana Purchase by order of President Thomas Jefferson.

Francis Chouteau establishes a trading post near the current site of Kansas City, Kansas.

The Chouteau brothers establish trading posts along the Kaw River.

The house which later served as the Wells Fargo station on the government trail from Ft. Leavenworth to Ft. Scott and Ft. Gibson, Arkansas is built by Chris Fangro. Part of the building remains today as the front of the Calkins Electric building, 5707 Nieman Rd., in Shawnee.

The Shawnee Indian treaties are signed removing the Shawnee from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Missouri to Kansas. Johnson County becomes their headquarters although the Shawnee Reservation extends to Topeka. Over the next ten years, Shawnee from different parts of the country come to the reservation. The treaties give 1,600,000 acres of land in the Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas county area to the Shawnee Indians. 1,600 Shawnee Indians eventually relocate to Kansas from Missouri, eastern Ohio, Indiana and Western Pennsylvania, having originally occupied Georgia and later Tennessee.

The United States government signs a treaty with the Osage Indians, giving them right-of-way for a public highway to be known as the Santa Fe Trail.

Ft. Leavenworth is established by Col. Henry Leavenworth on May 8, 1827, to keep peace in the Indian territory and to protect the travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

The first band of Shawnee arrive in Kansas, after wintering at Cape Girardeau. They decide on the area of present day Shawnee as their headquarters, although their territory includes all lands from the Missouri border to present day Topeka.

Farming begins in the area; the first wheat is grown in Kansas. Three missions are established. The Shawnee Methodist Mission and Manual Labor School is established in Turner, Wyandotte County, in 1830 by Reverend Thomas Johnson and moves to its current location, at 6125 W. 61st Street, in 1839. The Methodist Mission contains 2,000 acres and 16 buildings, including mills, shops and factories where several thousand Indians are taught agriculture, manual trades and domestic arts until 1862. A mill is established at Mill Creek in 1837. Churches are built and Rev. Charles Bluejacket becomes tribal leader.

A log council house is constructed on a farm which is now part of McAnany Estates, near 53rd and Nieman Rd.

A smallpox epidemic kills most of the Shawnee Tribe as well as members of other tribes. Other tribes which have arrived are the Kickapoo, Delaware, Munsee, and Wyandotte.

The remainder of the Shawnee tribes arrive from Ohio. The population of the Shawnee is about 1,000 persons.

On July 11, 1832, Alexander S. Johnson is born at the Methodist Mission, the first white child born in Kansas Territory. He is later to be one of Shawnee's city founders.

Jotham Meeker arrives in Westport from Michigan, bringing the first printing press to Kansas.

Jotham Meeker starts the first newspaper in the state of Kansas, the Shawnee Sun, also the first newspaper in the Shawnee language.

A Military Road is built from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas to Ft. Gibson, Arkansas.

The Santa Fe Trail is established between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico passing through Overland Park, Lenexa, and Olathe. Six hundred wagon trains per week pass through Johnson County on their way to Mexico.

Devastating flooding of the Kaw River destroys mill and farm lands of the Shawnee Indians.

First Kansas Territorial election held, with half the votes cast in Gum Springs.

In May, a new treaty with the Shawnee Indians is signed. The Shawnee Indians surrender 1,600,000 acres in exchange for $829,000 (less than $1.00/acre) and 200,000 acres to be distributed in individual allotments. The Shawnee may stay in Kansas, taking 200 acres, or take land allotments in Oklahoma. Some stay while many leave to be uprooted again.

On May 30, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act is passed and signed by President Franklin Pierce. Kansas becomes a territory which extends into eastern Colorado. The Kansas Territory opens up for white settlement.

From November 24, 1854 - June 27, 1855 and from July 1855 - Spring 1856, the Shawnee Methodist Mission serves as the capital of the Kansas Territory. In July 1855, a territorial capitol built of natural stone is completed. Andrew H. Reeder is appointed the first territorial governor of Kansas and the first territorial legislature meets in 1855. Counties are organized and a census is taken later in the year. Pioneers flock to Kansas to establish homes and farms. Towns spring up overnight. A territorial road is established. Border wars heat up.

Shawneetown is incorporated on August 10, 1856.

Gum Springs (later Shawnee) is designated the first county seat of Johnson County and the first District Court is held here in the fall. Mr. J. D. Allen becomes the first white settler in the Shawnee area.

Deed to Shawneetown dated October 23, 1858. Territory begins to attract multitude of settlers. Among them James Butler ("Wild Bill Hickok") who is elected constable of Monticello Township at the age of 18.

In July, the first post office is established in Shawnee, with M. P. Randall as postmaster.

The fourth and last constitutional convention meets at Wyandotte; they draft a document banning slavery and fixing the present boundaries of the state. The document is accepted by a vote of the people in October and in December, a provisional state government is elected.

The Pony Express operates in Kansas, with 11 stations along the Kansas section of the route.

The eastern portion of the Kansas territory becomes the 34th state on January 29, 1861, joining as a free state after many years of turmoil. Upsets balance of free-state, slave-state balance and ignites spark to start the Civil War. Kansas women are given the right to vote in school elections.

Shawneetown is affected by the Civil War. On October 17, 1862, Shawnee is raided by William Clarke Quantrill, a frustrated school teacher in his twenties, and his band of guerillas. Many of the town's homes and businesses are burned and two are killed. Civil War continues until 1864. Many settlers leave the area to find tranquility elsewhere.

Horse thieves are hung by rope from a tall hickory tree in a little pioneer cemetery at 55th and Goddard, which comes to be known as "Horse Thief Cemetery".

Charles Bluejacket is elected Shawnee chief. Bluejacket was the grandson of Marmaduke Van Swerangen, a white man born in Virginia who had been captured by the Shawnee Indians and given the new name Bluejacket because he was wearing a blue hunting shirt at the time of his capture. Van Swerangen had been out hunting with a younger brother when he was captured by the Shawnee Indians, and had agreed to go willingly to live with the Shawnee provided they release his brother.

Shawnee's St. Joseph's Catholic Church organized.

Most of the Shawnee Indians again pushed West, this time to the Shawnee Reservation in Oklahoma. Some Shawnee Indians remain in Shawnee.

Women gain the right to vote in Kansas.

Re-incorporated as Shawnee, a city of the 3rd class, on June 10, 1922.

Post war era, Johnson County begins to develop with houses and highways.

Incorporated as a city of the 2nd class on January 29, 1957.

On April 5, 1960, Shawnee passes a $65,000 bond issue (418 - 208) to build its first City Hall in the city square, bounded by Johnson Drive, 58th St., Nieman Rd., and Barton Avenue. Prior to this, offices had been at fire headquarters.

Shawnee's first City Hall built.

The Shawnee Historical society begins development of Old Shawnee Town to preserve local 19th century buildings.

Shawnee annexes to Woodland Drive south of Johnson Drive. City now covers 20 square miles. This includes the site of the town of Zarah.

Incorporated as a city of the 1st class on October 22, 1971. Shawnee annexes area to K-7, south of 55th, and north of 55th between the railroad and Locust. These areas included the former towns of Monticello and Holliday.

City Hall remodeled, increasing in size from 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.

Shawnee adopts City Manager form of government with Charter Ordinance 12. Dennis Kallsen is appointed the City's first City Manager in August 1974, when Shawnee has a population of approximately 25,000. Kallsen resigns in January, 1976, after 16 months as City Manager, to become City Manager of Tinley Park, Illinois.

Shawnee Public Safety Center built at 65th and Quivira.

City Sister Program implemented (Listowel, Ireland; Pittem, Belgium; and Erfurt, Germany)

Shawnee annexes land north of 55th, west of K-7. This includes the town site of Wilder and location of the Chouteau settlement.

Shawnee annexes land south of 55th to 83rd/79th west to Kansas River. City size increases to 42 square miles and ultimate boundaries are defined. This includes the the location of the settlement of Frisbie.

City Hall remodeled, in a $2.8 million expansion, tripling in size, from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet. Dedication and open house held January 13, 1990. Kansas Governor Mike Hayden participates in ribbon cutting ceremony. Time capsule is buried, including letters from local families to their children, Royals baseball cards, a bottle of homemade wine, a McDonald's Happy Meal (minus the food) and many other items brought by local residents. Also buried in the vault is a 2-hour documentary, "Shawnee, 1990," which no one will be allowed to view for 25 years, until the vault is opened on January 17, 2015.

Civic Centre at Johnson Drive and Pflumm built.

At the July 26, 1993 City Council meeting new parkland adjacent to Monticello Trails Middle School was named. Gamblin Park was named in honor of Police Officer Donald B. Gamblin, Jr. who was killed in the line of duty on July 13, 1991,

Shawnee named Tree City USA

Public Works Service Center, 18690 Johnson Drive, completed. Dedication held March 28, 1998.

A third fire station is added in western Shawnee to improve quicker response times 2000
Population hits 50,000

Charles J. Stump Park is dedicated March 24, 2001 and named after the first full-time police chief in Shawnee.

Mill Valley High School and Mize Elementary School 

An antique-looking clock tower was added to the streetscape in front of City Hall.

The West Pool extensive renovation is completed and was rededicated as the Thomas A Soetaert Aquatic Center

Charles Bluejacket statue dedication.

Garrett Park is completed with Parks and Pipes funds.

Johnson County Landfill property is annexed. This includes the last remaining portion of Monticello Township inside the City limits.

City takes over ownership and operation of Pleasant View Cemetery

Jeff Meyers elected as Mayor

Monticello Springs Park is built with Parks and Pipes funds

Shawnee celebrates its 150th birthday

Shawnee’s Municipal Court receives a 5 star rating in the Kansas City Star

Splash Cove is dedicated

Shawnee is named one of the Top 25 Most Affordable Suburbs in the Country

City takes over ownership and operation of Shawnee Cemetery

Shawnee is named as one of two communities in the State of Kansas and one of 89 communities in the United States to be designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the American League of Bicyclists

Shawnee is in Money Magazine’s Top 100 Places to Live

New city brand introduced: “Good Starts Here”

Justice Center and Fire Station 72 is dedicated

Water Tower Park is built with Parks and Pipes funds

Shawnee’s population hits 60,000

City of Shawnee starts using social media (Facebook and Twitter) to interact with its citizens

Clear Creek Trail Phase I & II opened

Public Works Service Center, 18690 Johnson Drive renamed Frank C. Goode Public Works Service Center in honor of longtime Council member.

The Farmstead is added to Shawnee Town

Ground breaking begins at Erfurt Park

Clear Creek Trail Phase III is completed

Michelle Distler becomes the first female mayor of Shawnee

Third Thursdays with the Mayor begins

Erfurt Park is completed and dedicated to our Sister City, Erfurt, Germany

Fire Station 71 at 6501 Quivira Road renamed John B. Glaser Fire Station in honor of fallen Firefighter Glaser (1976 -2010)

City named as recipient of the 2015 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in recognition of effort to support employees in the National Guard and Reserves

Public Works earns National Accreditation from American Public Works Association

Time capsule buried in 1990 is excavated and opened. New time capsule is buried and will be opened in 2065.

Old Shawnee Days celebrates its 50th anniversary