Historical and Genealogy Society
preserving and recording the ongoing history of
Jefferson County, Kansas
The Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS) and Jefferson County Genealogy Society (JCGS) have worked hand in hand for the past 50 years preserving and recording the history of Jefferson County, Kansas. The two societies share the responsibilities in maintaining Old Jefferson Town.
Old Jefferson Town consists of 10 buildings and a prairie grassland that preserve and exhibit donated artifacts (objects, documents, photos, books, maps, etc.) It has an extensive genealogy library open to the community on weekends throughout the year and by appointment. You will find family histories from all ten of the Jefferson County communities.
A variety of volunteers keep the museum up and running. Recently the Genealogy and Historical society merged to better meet the needs of Old Jefferson Town. JCHGS meets monthly to hold a business meeting to discuss events and the needs of the facilities. Community members are encouraged to be a part of the meetings.
Volunteers work on accessioning and displaying objects, clipping and filing paperwork (obituaries, maps, family histories, photos etc.), planning events and connecting to the community through the local newspapers and social media. Local school groups and 4H groups help with projects outside keeping the grounds picked up and landscaping maintained.
The following from Kansas Collection Books. History of the State of Kansas:
This attractive little city is the county seat of Jefferson County, is pleasantly located on the gently sloping hills extending back from the left bank of Big Slough Creek, and is on the line of the Leavenworth, Topeka and Southwestern Railroad.
It is one of the oldest towns in the county. At an early day the large business and residence lots were planted to forest and orchard trees, which have during the last quarter of a century, grown to a remarkably large size, and afford the most perfect shade and an abundant yield of fruit. There hardly a residence lot but that will in itself form an orchard and a sort of a park.
The town has a population of about 1,000. It has five churches, two schoolhouses, two banks, twenty-one stores, three hotels, two livery stables, one elevator, one saw-mill, two printing offices, and shops of various kinds.
The site of the present town of Oskaloosa was settled as a land claim in February, 1855, by Dr. James Noble.
In August, 1855, Jesse Newell, Joseph Fitsimons, with several others, came from Iowa to select a place for settlement somewhere in the State of Kansas. The neighborhood around Dr. Noble's place was chosen as the most desirable. Newell then conceived the idea of laying out a town there, but not having the money to buy the land, he kept his own counsel, not mentioning it even to his own party. But returning to Iowa he sold his farm the following winter, and then he and Joseph Fitsimons with their families, again returned to Kansas, arriving at the farm of Dr. James Noble on May 16, 1856. Jesse Newell bought the claim of Dr. Nobel and moved into the cabin occupied by him. Fitsimons camped near where the public square now is, and soon after purchased a claim joining Newell's.
During the summer of 1856 Newell built and started a steam saw-mill on the west side of his claim, near a spring which he had found the year before.
In July, 1856, Newell and Fitsimons laid out a town of forty acres, with blocks, streets and alleys, after the plat of Oskaloosa, Iowa, and the town was so named from the Iowa city.
The following from Kansas Collection Books. History of the State of Kansas:
This is a pleasant and thriving little village, situated on the line of the Leavenworth, Topeka & Southwestern Railroad, and not far from the eastern boundary of the county. Its location is an excellent one, being in the midst of a thickly settled and wealthy farming region.
The town was founded in 1881, and was so named from the original owner of the land, and who still owns a portion of the town site. Though so new, it already has a large country trade. Nearly all branches of trade are represented by the business houses, and there are already good grain shipping facilities. The population numbers about one hundred.
The town has a good school, which is liberally kept up by the public-spirited citizens.
The Grange Store of McLouth, I. Pearson, manager, was originally at Dimon, the store being moved when McLouth was laid out. The range was organized, November 16, 1878, and at once was incorporated. Commenced business February 6, 1879. Charter members, thirteen. Among of business done in 1882 was over $10,000. Present membership, forty.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of McLouth was organized December 13, 1882, with the following members: Larkin Rice, chairman; Phillip Cresse, secretary; T. P. Getchel, treasurer. The names enrolled were LArking Rice, Phillip Cresse, T. P. Getchel, C. E. Landon, Rollie Taylor, Dr. J. F. Wetzel, D. N. Daniel and J. W. McFarlane. Several of these were members of the first Methodist Episcopal society of this part, which was organized in September, 1857, in Alexandria Township, Leavenworth County. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Lovejoy. Services were afterwards held for a number of years in Round Grove schoolhouse. Larkin Rice was one of the leading members of this pioneer church society.
The Methodist Episcopal Church South, or what is known as the Plumb Grove Church, was built in 1871, at a cost of $2,000. the Methodist Episcopal society was organized in that locality in 1857, Rev. Mr. Jones being the first pastor. Among the original members were N. B. Hopewell, Jane C. Hopewell, Margaret Faubian, W. Merideth, Nancy Merideth, J. H. Hopewell and Mary J. Hopewell. The first enrollment numbered thirty-five members. It increased steadily until divided, and a portion merged into the Leverton class. Rev. A. J. Lawless is the present pastor (1883).
McLouth Threshing Bee
A new exhibit is on display at the Perry, KS pocket history museum. The exhibit features the personal collection of Georgie Petrie Stebbins. The artifacts are from the multiple businesses she and her husband, Merrill ("Bood") owned and operated in Perry for more than 50 years, starting with Stebbins Grocery in the mid-1940's.
The pocket museum is located at First State Bank & Trust and is managed by the Perry Pride History Committee.
For more information about the Perry Community, click on the link below.
Valley Falls, Kansas
The Valley Falls Historical Society is continuing to preserve history in Jefferson County, Kansas by housing artifacts in a beautifully arranged building on the main street of Valley Falls. The volunteers hold a monthly meeting on the third Thursday of the month.
For more information about the Valley Falls, Kansas Museum, click on the link below.
Valley Fall Calendars are hot off the press!
You can purchase a calendar at:
Aahh Some Blossom
301 Broadway, Valley Falls.
The calendars are $10 each.
Nortonville History Links
City of Nortonville
The City of Ozawkie
History Timeline of Ozawkie
A brief time line borrowed from the City of Ozawkie webpage:
1819 – U.S. Government Exploring Expedition under Major Long was said to be first white men to have visited the area.
1825 – After the Indian Treaty of June, 3 1825, Major Daniel Morgan Boone, son and 7th of 10 children of famed “Kentucky Pioneer” Daniel Boone, arrived to this area after being appointed “Kansa Indian Agent” where he was to advise the area Indians on agriculture matters.
1828 – On August 22nd the first white child born in Kansas Territory, Napoleon Boone, was the 12 child of Maj. Daniel Morgan Boone.
1831 – Delaware Indians, originally from the Lenape People from the Delaware Region, complete their move to Kansas from Missouri.
1854 – Kansas becomes a Territory. The Delaware Nation lands were surveyed and each tribe member received compensation for all but a small portion of their land by the United States, which was dispersed in the “Delaware Trust Land” sale. Both Pro-Slavery and Free-State Settlers came to Kansas to set claim on land. The first election was held in the district and a rivalry broke out between the two groups.
1855 – Osawkee boundaries were surveyed and town becomes county seat, the first post office, and first school house were also built. A bill was introduced in Legislature to change the town’s name to Wabash, which failed to pass.
1856 – Under the order of Colonel Whipple, many pro-slavery homes of Osawkee were raided with the aid of Captain Ephrain Bainter, a free-state man who was later elected free-state sheriff of Jefferson County.
1857 – Federal Lands sales take place and the area population rises to 3,500 due to an influx of immigrants. Unmarried men were said to be obliged to pay 25¢ per acre more than a married man.
1858 – An election was held after the Legislature of 1857-58, which gave the people of Jefferson County the ability to vote for the county seat. With 177 votes, Oskaloosa became the new county seat of Jefferson County. In the middle of the night a short time after the election, the court records were seized and transported to Oskaloosa via an oxen drawn wagon.
1860 – The remaining “Delaware Trust Land” was given to the Leavenworth and Pawnee Railroad to make way for the railroad, of which had never been built. A great drought plagued the area.
1865 – A water powered flour and grist mill was constructed by William Dail and J. M. Funk just south of Osawkee. It was used by the government to grind grain where they supplied flour to the remaining Delaware Indians occupying a small area of land south of Osawkee.
1867 – Due to their tiring of the “white man’s antics”, the remaining Delaware Indians moved out of the Osawkee area where they eventually settled in Oklahoma. 1870 – Drought and depression hit hard for the area forcing some to move; decreasing the population to 1,600.
1872 – Flooding of Osawkee.
1874 – Massive invasion of the grasshopper wiped out entire crops and anything else in their way.
1875 – Due to the frequent invasions by grasshopper, the town’s folk changed the river’s name from Grasshopper to Delaware.
The first post office in Grantville was established in October 1866.
Josh Billings, a notable baseball player was born in Grantville, Kansas.
Norman Zinn grew up in Grantville. In his book "Half n Half", one can gain insight into what it was like growing up and living as an adult in Grantville.
Norman Zinn's book can be viewed at the Genealogy library.
Parts of the book can also be seen on the public access site: https://oldjeffersontown.catalogaccess.com/
This photograph is located at the genealogy library in OJT in the
Curry House collection.
Inscription on the back identifies the building as Winchester High School.
Capture the Beauty
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The present site of Meriden (SW ¼, section7, township 10, range 17 east) was located and finally sold legitimately. In 1869 Albert Owen bought it from the former owners. In October 1872, after planning the railroad, he conceived the idea that this would be an excellent location for a town, assisted by N. Colby, surveyed and platted the west half of his farm into town lots and sold the remaining 80 acres to W. W. Peebler. Colby named the town after his boyhood home of Meriden, Conneticut. It has been said that Mr. Colby later moved west and the city of Colby, Kansas was named after him.
The first building built in Meriden was a railroad station section foreman's house built in 1872 by W. F. Cunningham. The section house was located on the west side of the tracks, across the tracks from where the depot was later built. Carvin McDermed, Bill McDermed's grandfather, was section foreman for a number of years where Bill McDermed spent a number of summers in the section house. Bill McDermed said “the section house was built before the tracks were laid because a man could sit on the front porch and place his feet on the tracks. The house did not need to have been built that close to the tracks.”
Become a Member!
Help Preserve Jefferson County History
Membership in the Jefferson County Historical and Genealogy Society is available by printing out the membership form and mailing it in or contacting:
Winchester, KS 66097
Annual dues are $25.
The Jefferson County Historical Museum and Genealogy Society is a non-profit organization that maintains Old Jefferson Town. Your dues are used to help with the continuing upkeep of the buildings and grounds at Old Jefferson Town. Your membership will help to maintain and preserve the rich history of Jefferson County and its communities.
As a member, you will receive a digital copy of the quarterly newsletter and the Yesteryears that comes out twice a year. Yesteryears are filled with historical stories and information about the citizens and communities in Jefferson County. (older issues are on this website - go to the Newsletters/Yesteryears tab)
Monthly meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm at Old Jefferson Town. Members and non-members are encouraged to attend the meetings.
Become a volunteer!
Old Jefferson Town would not be here if it weren't for its volunteers. For over 50 years, history keepers have helped to preserve Jefferson County history. Come and be a part!
Jefferson County Historical Society
P.O. Box 146
Oskaloosa, KS 66066
Old Jefferson Town
705 Walnut Street
Oskaloosa, Kansas 66066
October 1 - May 1
OJT buildings closed
Saturday 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Arrangements can be made to open at other times. Please contact us at our email address.
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