Explore hands-on history in 19th-century Kansas

Sophisticated, suburban Olathe, Kan., may seem like the last place to find a  sanctuary for 19th-century living history, but look again. Tucked into miles of metropolis is the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site – purchased by the city to preserve its original character as a thriving 1850s family farm and stagecoach stop. The only stop along the Santa Fe Trail that’s preserved and open to the public, the grounds offer many opportunities for exploring the lives of early farm families, pioneers, soldiers and stagecoach travelers.

James Mahaffie bought the land in 1858 when he moved to Kansas with his family from Indiana. Conveniently located in the high-traffic trail area, he and his wife added to their farming income by opening their home as a rest stop for stagecoach travelers. Now, season-specific demonstrations, informative guides, exhibits, living-history activities and re-enactments at the Mahaffie home all combine to breathe new life into the historic era and location.

On the grounds, you’ll explore the Mahaffie family home, animal corrals and shelters, a blacksmith shop, barn, farm grounds and a Heritage Center complete with educational exhibits. Learn more about the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site.

As you plan your visit, be sure to schedule time to share in some of Mahaffie’s special activities:

  • Take a stagecoach ride around the historic site.
  • View informative videos on the history of the Mahaffie family and Kansas’ turbulent Border War-era.
  • Attend “Spring Plowin’ and Plantin’ ” in early April.
  • Help with an old-fashioned wheat harvest in late July.
  • See what’s cookin’ on the cellar cookstove as an interpreter prepares foods from grains and vegetables grown in the Mahaffie fields and garden.
  • Check in on summer Family Fun Nights for hands-on experience with 1850s animal care, blacksmithing, laundering and more.

Becky Blake is the Director of  Tourism Division of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, and has been involved in the Kansas tourism industry for the past 30 years. TravelKS Blog provides a brief update from Becky each week, featuring communities, events and attractions throughout the state.