Osawatomie, Kansas

City: Osawatomie

County: Miami

State: Kansas

Lat/Long: 38.4833, -94.9500

Osawatomie, Kansas is a city in Miami County, Kansas. Situated on the Marais des Cygnes River, forty-five miles south-southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, Osawatomie is one of the principle cities of Miami County and among the most historic towns in Kansas. Agents of the Emigrant Aid Society selected the site for the town, and the proprietors surveyed and laid out the town in February 1855. Settlers derived the name by combining Osa for the Osage Indian Nation with watomie from Pottawatomie Creek--the site selected sitting one mile from the mouth of the creek. The first settlers to the town were from the eastern portion of the United States. By June 1856, there were some thirty buildings in the town, and it boasted a population of 500. Osawatomie became an important station on the Underground Railroad, and it was the site of a cabin occupied by John Brown. It also became a flashpoint of conflict between anti-slavery and pro-slavery adherents during Bleeding Kansas. In June 1856, the first clash between anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces occurred, with some property damage, but no bloodshed. A second, more serious clash occurred in August 1856, when pro-slavery forces pillaged and burned half the town. Despite this setback, Osawatomie grew, reaching 800 inhabitants by 1857. It became the center of the free-state party in Eastern Kansas.

Frank W. Blackmar, ed., Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History Chicago: Standard, 1912), 2:400-401; Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1988), 902.