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Following the path laid across the frontier by pioneer settlers, Labette County cities were developed along the Neosho River basin many growing from early 1800 trading posts. In the later 1800s additional cities were founded because of the the railroad. The county was officially organized in 1867 as an independent area, which broke away from its now neighbor to the north Neosho County. The county seat of Oswego, founded in 1870, maintains a history dating back to the early 1840s when it is reported that trade took place between John Mathews and the Indian Chief called White Hair, whose village sat just on the border of the current city limits. Rich in pre-Civil War and late 1800s history the Oswego, Chetopa and Parsons areas of Labette County have several museums, offering a portal for visitors to explore the interesting history of America's early frontier.

katyForged from the steel of the early railroad and welded by the sweat of the first frontier pioneers, the city of Parsons was born on the open Kansas prairie in 1871. Named for the president of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, otherwise known as the "Katy," Railroad, Judge Levi Parsons. The city depended on the rail for much of its early growth. In fact, Parsons was a planned railroad community specifically settled to meet the Nation’s growing need due to rail expansion into the west. 

The railroad culture is still very alive in modern day Parsons as is the recognition of the significance it played in the town’s early days. The Iron Horse Museum provides displays and memorabilia from this early era of the city and the annual Katy Days Festival, held each Memorial Day weekend, brings a taste of the early rail days to thousands of  visitors every year. For Museum hours or more information on the Katy Days celebration please call 1-800-280-6401.

Parsons Historical Museum

401 S. 18th Street
Parsons KS 67357
Phone: 620-421-9441
Map: Google | Yahoo! | MapQuest
Hours of Operation:
Open Fri, Sat, & Sun, from 1-4 p.m. beginning the first weekend in May and closing after the last weekend in October. Tours by appointment.
Come in and see the past come to life as you explore the variety of items on display.  From the moment you walk through the door, you literally step on a piece of area history.  The Parsons Historical Museum maintains a fine collection that is open to the public six months of the year, and by appointment.
Exhibits trace the development of Parsons from its beginnings through the present day. The museum records every day life in different eras, in addition to showing how world events affected the City.
Museum highlights include:
  • A large stone embedded in the entranceway taken from the home of the infamous Bender family;
  • A complete old-time dentist office;
  • Several rooms complete with furniture from the late 1800's and early 1900's;
  • A mint condition horse-drawn hearse;
  • The first piano in Pasons; and
  • A large photographic collection of people, places, the MKT Railroad and events from Parsons' great past.
Admission is free.  Donations are accepted. 

Oakwood Cemetery

200 S. Leawood
Parsons KS 67357
Map: Google | Yahoo! | MapQuest

Hours of Operation:
7:00 a.m. to Dusk
History of Oakwood Cemetery
Oakwood Cemetery opened on June 1,1872. The original tract of 20 acres was given to the City by the Parsons Town Company, which was set up by Robert Stevens, superintendent of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad. Mr. Stevens had bought 2,560 acres of land from the settlers to form the City of Parsons. The city was officially founded on March 8,1871.

The first person to be buried at Oakwood was Hilda Aliza Holmes, nine month old daughter of Dr. William Court Holmes and Aliza Holmes. Hilda Aliza was born on August 29,1871 and died on June 10,1872 of small pox. She was buried at Oakwood the same day.

The G.A.R. Circles
The Grand Army of the Republic (or G.A.R.) was a national organization created after the Civil War for the benefit of veterans of that war. Its purpose was to aid veterans and their wives in time of need and to help the veterans in obtaining government benefits to which they were entitled, including pension and burial benefits.

The Grand Army of the Republic, Antietam Post No. 64 was organized on June 2, 1882 by Civil War Veterans living in Parsons. Over 500 names were on the rolls.

They selected Antietam for the name of their post in memory of the Battle of Antietam fought on September 17, 1862 on the banks of the Potomac River. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Although the South won the battle, the tribute in naming the post Antietam was in memory of their lost comrades.

In May of 1886 the Antietam Post bought a portion of block 37, including lots 13 through 18 for circle number one. The original flag staff was placed in circle number one in 1887. It had stood at the intersection of 18th and Broadway in Parsons.

Circle number two was created in 1889 with the purchase of Lots 7 through 21 of Block 38.

Prior to 1905 nearly $3,000 had been spent on circle number one and two. They were both enclosed with cut sandstone, coping and cap-stones. The two 8-inch Columbiad Cannons were a gift from the war department in 1898 and were placed in circle number one the same year. They weigh 9,250 pounds each.

On March 1, 1905, a half-mill tax was levied on all taxable property in Labette County for the years 1905 and 1906. The proceeds were to be applied to improvements of the G.A.R. burial grounds.

The concrete rotunda in circle number one was constructed in 1905 and stands twenty-eight feet in height. It is surrounded by a pyramid of cannon balls and an eagle.

In 1907 the concrete abutments were added to circle number two. The flagstaff was moved to the circle at that time. In 1911 the bronze statues were placed in circle number two. They were made by the W.H. Mullens Company of Salem, Ohio. The cast iron archway at circle number two was erected in 1913 and donated by the Ladies of the G.A.R. In 1921 the Sons of Veterans donated the memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

On November 11,1911 the gateway to Oakwood was dedicated. The cast iron gateway was a donation of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) The Parsons chapter was also responsible for starting the movement for perpetual care at Oakwood

Oakwood Cemetery Main Gate