Olathe is located in Johnson County on the original route of the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. It is the second largest city among the 21 communities in the County -- one of the wealthiest counties in the nation -- and the fifth largest city in the state.
Olathe is also celebrating 150 years of existence. As the birthplace of the original cowboy boot, Olathe houses a number of historical and cultural attractions including the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm. The farm is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is the last remaining stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail open to the public.
Olathe hosts a variety of events and festivals in the community including the Hidden Glen Arts Festival, Bullwhacker Days, Old Settlers and a national sporting event. As the home of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), Olathe supports several other sports-related activities as well.
The beauty of Olathe allows for many outdoor recreational opportunities including golf, soccer, baseball, softball, trails for jogging, running and bicycling, fishing, boating, team sports or just sitting back and relaxing. Hot-air ballooning and sail boarding are also popular activities enjoyed in Olathe. With two public lakes located in the area, Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake, residents are provided with more than two hundred acres of pristine water to enjoy.
The city’s Recreation Division provides residents with a wide range of activities and programs including music, dance, swimming, sports, health and fitness programs for all ages. Olathe has baseball and softball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools, fitness trails and more than 1,000-acres of public parks offered throughout the city.
Students of the community are served by the Olathe School District that is comprised of 31 elementary schools, eight junior high schools and four senior high schools. The district is the recipient of 15 National Blue Ribbon School awards from the U.S. Department of Education and the 2002 Kansas Exemplary Reading Award from the Kansas Reading Association and the International Reading Association. The area is also home to the Kansas State School for the Deaf as well as Mid-America Nazarene University and Brown Mackie College for higher learning.
Olathe is the only city in Johnson County with an arts alliance and offers year-round arts and cultural events through a community theater, a performing arts center, an orchestra, a civic band, a chorus line and exhibits.
Olathe was incorporated in 1857, and later became a stop along the Santa Fe Trail. The birth of Olathe came at a turbulent time in American history. At issue was whether Kansas would be free like the Nebraska territory to the north, or a slave state like Missouri to the east. Many residents came to Olathe to make a new home while others, like John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame, came to battle.
The fighting started in Kansas four years before the start of the Civil War. Since Olathe was only 10 miles west of the Missouri border, William Quantrill and his raiders invaded Olathe in 1862, destroying much of the town and killing a half-dozen men. At one time more than 15,000 Union solders were camped along Mill Creek in central Olathe.
After the war, Olathe became a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail. As many as 600 wagons a week traveled through Olathe on the way toward the gold fields and farming settlements in the far west. James Beatty Mahaffie, a pioneer settler, built a house in 1863 and used it to operate as a stagecoach stop. The Mahaffie farm became the first stop for stagecoaches traveling from Westport, Missouri on the Santa Fe Trail. Today, visitors and residents can view the two-story native limestone house and several outbuildings, which have been restored.