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Originally named “Osawkee” it is believed that this Indian Village was named in honor of the Chief of the Sak (Sauk) tribe. Perhaps, you have been told that the name means, “People of the Yellow Earth”, where “Wa-sae’, meaning yellow, plus ‘ah-Kee meaning earth”. However, contradicting statements argue that the name actually means, “People of the Outlet”, in reference of the Sauk Tribe’s Saginaw Bay, Michigan origin.
The area had been inhabited by several different Indian Tribes for thousands of years-until the “white man” discovered it. And through the years Osawkee has seen many changes; not only by the people who have lived here, but in the land itself. Once just a river named “Grasshopper”, then renamed “Delaware River”, it flowed through until a dam was built to create a lake. Even the spelling of the town has changed, and more than once: from Osawkee to Osawkie in 1883, when the railroad depot was built, and then 17 years later to Ozawkie.
The current City of Ozawkie is known as the “Oldest and Newest Town in Jefferson County”. Founded by William F. Dyer who, in fact, illegally settled on the land prior to the Treaty of 1854. Though nothing came of his “illegal” settlement, Mr. Dyer went on to build the first business in the area, a trading post, alongside the military freight road that ran between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley.
During the Delaware Trust Land sales, people immigrated from both the northern and southern states to Osawkee seeking trade along the Military Freight Road and fertile land to raise abundant crops. The southerner’s who had slaves brought them, hence “Pro-Slavery”. The northerner’s were anti-slave and fought to keep Kansas a free state, hence “Free-State”.
The pro-slave men took up residence in Osawkee, east of the Grasshopper river, where the free-state men made their homes west of the river, which is where the new City of Ozawkie is located, calling it “Pleasant Hill”.
In 1964, Ozawkie was rebuilt on higher land one mile west of the original town in order for Perry Dam Project to be constructed.
A brief time line:
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 flower 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 flower 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.
1862 – The German Baptist Brethren Church was organized.
1863 – The first church was built by the Catholics.
1882 – Leavenworth and Topeka Railroad was built. Osawkee was now spelled “Osawkie” on the train depot.
1885 – The “Osawkie Times” newspaper was first published. There were several businesses including a meat market, dry goods, lumber yard, restaurant, drug store, general merchandise, two doctors, a 200 room hotel (which burned shortly after), furniture store, flour mill, “Harness and Saddle” supplier, blacksmith, post office, lawyer, and “Express” station, “Steam Saw Mill”, auctioneer, stock dealer, Veterinarian, and a Justice of the Peace.
1908 – The first automobile, a Model T Ford, was purchased by resident A. O. Kendall.
1914 – Due to several floods, a drainage ditch was constructed causing the Delaware river to change its course due west one-half mile from the town of Ozawkie.
1915 – The Ozawkie High School was built and 26 students were enrolled. The school later burned in 1942 and rebuilt in 1943.
1930 – Rumors that the Army Corps of Engineers were talking about building a Dam, which would require the town to be relocated.
1948 – A few of the local citizens, headed by Claude Brey, represented the town’s opposition at a hearing set by the Engineering Department of Rivers and Harbors in Washington, D.C., but to no avail.
1954 – Perry Dam Project was approved and because the town of Ozawkie was an “unincorporated farming village”, the government would not relocate the town.
1964 – A non-profit organization was formed by the town’s folk in order to purchase land in the Green Hills area west of the old town. The arrangement was, “…if they could purchase the land before the Corps did, they could keep it.” The new town was plotted and lots were sold first to the people who would be affected by the reservoir. Home owner’s were being offered far less than the appraisal value for their homes, which prompted another trip to Washington.
1965 – The Kansas State Historical Society came into the area’s Indian dwelling site to try and find artifacts before the area was to be flooded. An earth lodge dating 700 to 800 years old was discovered, but the excavations were halted when graves of five white settlers were found.
1966 – The Ozawkie Water Tower, the school, and 26 new homes were built. The first home, belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Mell Metzger, was moved out of old Ozawkie.
1967 – The streets of new Ozawkie were named by the Pleasant Hill Unit: Two streets kept the same names as Old Ozawkie, “Delaware Drive” and Kansa, which were originally named in honor of the those Indian tribes who had inhabited the area over time. Some streets were named for Kansas symbols, such as “Buffalo Avenue”, “Sunflower”, and “Meadowlark”. Other streets were given names that represented landmarks, such as “Cottonwood Court” and “Pleasant Hill” nearby where the old Pleasant Hill School House was located. The next time you drive through town, the street names just take on a new meaning than they had before. The new City of Ozawkie became incorporated and the first Mayor, W. A. Kramer, was elected.
Links to Information on the History of Ozawkie/Osawkee/Osawkie.
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Links to Maps of Ozawkie and County:
If you have information about Ozawkie’s history, we would be happy to review it, and if appropriate, add it to this page. Please email your information to us with your resources and/or references in the following form: