Johnson County celebrates Kansas’ 162nd birthday on Kansas Day

Kansas Day

Happy birthday, Kansas! Sunday, Jan. 29 is Kansas Day, a celebration of our state’s birthday and the anniversary of Kansas’ admission to the Union.

In 2023, Kansas turns 162 years old. Kansas became the 34th state in the United States on Jan. 29, 1861.

Historically, Johnson County is older than the State of Kansas. The county turns 168 years old this year as one of the original 33 counties founded on August 25 by the Legislative Act of 1855 in the Territory of Kansas.

Kansas Day was first celebrated in 1877 by schoolchildren in Paola and is now an annual celebration throughout the state, including in Johnson County.

We encourage you to celebrate Kansas Day by exploring our state and local history and visiting some of the many historic landmarks in the area.

Johnson County’s contributions to Kansas history

Downtown Olathe street with cars in 1926

Kansas’ original 33 counties were formed six years before statehood was granted to Kansas on January 29, 1861, when President James Buchanan signed a bill allowing Kansas to enter the Union.

The first counties spanned the eastern portion of Kansas from just west of Council Grove. The state now has 105 counties.

By 1867, Johnson County had been around for a dozen years after being named in honor of the Reverend Thomas Johnson, a Methodist minister who established a mission in Fairway among the Shawnee Indians and other local tribes.

The State of Kansas acquired the approximately 12-acre Shawnee Indian Mission property in 1927. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1968. All 476 square miles of Johnson County were once part of the Shawnee Indian reservation.

There are 32 total landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places in Johnson County, which also include the Lanesfield School in Edgerton, the J.B. Mahaffie House in Olathe, and the Overland Theater in Downtown Overland Park.

Following World War II, the county’s population exploded, increasing to more than 60,000 in 1950 and more than 140,000 in 1960. Today, Johnson County is the most populous county in Kansas, with its population now exceeding 600,000.

Celebrating Kansas Day in Johnson County

Blue car from the 1950s in an indoor museum

There are a variety of ways you can take in the history of Kansas this Kansas Day. First, check out the Johnson County Library’s Kansas Day list of recommended books and films.

The library is also hosting a Kansas Day Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 1-5 p.m. at the Central Resource Library. The family-friendly event will include live music, games, trivia and birthday cake.

Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center is hosting a Sunday Family Series event on Sunday, Jan. 29 centered around Kansas Day. See some of Kansas' symbols live and in person, including live animals.

You can also make a trip to the Johnson County Museum to learn more about local history in Johnson County. The museum is closed on Kansas Day but is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

A new exhibit at the museum opens Feb. 1. Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories will explore the U.S. government’s attempt to “civilize” American Indians by placing children in boarding schools. It will be on display until March 18.

The Lanesfield Historic Site – included in the National Register of Historic Places – is open to the public the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Be sure to follow Johnson County Government on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more Kansas Day fun facts and trivia.

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