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Miami County, Kansas

During the territorial years of Kansas, the border could be a dangerous place. In Miami, then called Lykins County, it was no different. John Brown had his headquarters in Osawatomie, and in 1856, the Battle of Osawatomie took place.

Miami County, originally organized as Lykins County in 1855, was established in 1861. Miami County gets its name from the Indian tribe. Miami, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and several federated tribes, Wea, Piankashaw, Peoria, and Kaskaskia, owned lands in this area. The Potawatomi Trail of Death ended here in 1838 after a long journey by foot from Indiana. The treacherous journey was devastating to the Potawatomi people.

Kansas territorial years, have rightly earned the name “Bleeding Kansas.” Those early years, especially 1856, were violent and dangerous times especially along the border. Miami, or Lykins as it was called at the time, was not shielded from this instability. John Brown, well-known abolitionist, stayed at Osawatomie. His half-sister Florella, was married to Reverend Samuel Adair, who had a cabin in Osawatomie. Brown’s free-state headquarters was located in the area.

A series of retaliations caused much bloodshed and destruction in the summer of 1856. Proslavery forces had attacked the Free-State town of Lawrence, and then John Brown and his men committed murders on proslavery men in what is coined as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Osawatomie was attacked twice that summer, once in June and most notably on August 30. General Reid and his forces fought John Brown and his severely outnumbered free-state followers. Not only was destruction caused to the town of Osawatomie, the free-state men had lost and earlier in the day, John Brown’s son Frederick had been killed. Life along the border had its risks especially if you were brave enough to stand up for your cause. Samuel Greer of Osawatomie, had property destroyed, unsurprisingly as he had drawn attention to himself by allowing his house to be a poll place. 

Osawatomie was also the “birthplace” of the Republican party in the state as it was organized at the Osawatomie convention in May of 1859.

As the Territorial years came to an end and Kansas earned its statehood in 1861, the border still experienced instability. The Civil War had broken out shortly after Kansas was admitted to the Union. While, other places experienced more action during the Civil War, it was still an important place. Miami County men served in the war for the Union, and Paola was a military post. After Quantrill’s infamous attack on Lawrence in 1863, he passed through Miami County and nearby to Paola.

Natural Gas was discovered in 1882 and became important to the area. A pipeline into Paola was even built a few years later. Farming continues to be important in the county, which is among the top winter wheat producers.

In 1926, the Jefferson Highway, a road going from Winnipeg, Manitoba and New Orleans, ran not only through the county, but also Paola. When the country’s highways were numbered it was known as U.S. 90 and Louisiana 48 among other names.

Miami County possesses properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The John Brown Cabin, was the home of Reverend Samuel Adair. The cabin has since been moved to the battlefield of the Battle of Osawatomie to be part of John Brown Memorial Park. The Congregational Church is also on the National Register and was founded by Adair. The Miami County Courthouse was an acclaimed project of architect George W. Washburn and finished in 1899. The New Lancaster General Store in New Lancaster was established in the 1870’s.

There are several interesting figures with connections to Miami County. Reverend Samuel Adair came to Kansa sin 1854 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association and organized the Osawatomie Congregational Church, and Kansas’s first insane asylum, now known as the Osawatomie State Hospital. He was a well-known free-state supporter and was married to John Brown’s half-sister. Judge Thomas Roberts, a free-state supporter, participated in many of the territorial debates, was often threatened, and had his home attacked on at least one occasion. In 1861 he was elected to the state Senate. In 1863, he was elected Clerk of the district Court and later served as county attorney.

Quick Facts

Date Established: June 3, 1861
Date Organized: April 2, 1857
County Seat: Paola
Kansas Region: Northeast
Physiographic Region: Osage Cuestas
Scenic Byways: Frontier Military Historic Byway
State Parks: Hills dale State Park
Courthouse: July 27, 1898


1855 - Lykins County is established and organized.
1856 - Osawatomie is attacked twice in the summer. The most notable of which was the Battle of Osawatomie on August 30, where General Reid’s men fought John Brown and his Free-state forces.
1859 - The Kansas Republican Party is established at the Osawatomie Convention.
1861 - Lykins County’s name is changed to Miami County
1926 - Jefferson Highway is finished and extends from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans. It runs through the county, including Paola. 

More on Miami County


Entry: Miami County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: August 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.