Ottawa, county seat of Franklin county, is situated on the Marais des Cygnes river, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and the Missouri Pacific railroads, a little northeast of the geographical center of the county. One of the first permanent white settlements of the state was made 5 miles northeast of the present town, by Jotham Meeker and his wife, who located among the Ottawa Indians in July, 1837. A mission farm was opened, mission buildings erected, and this became the center of Indian civilization for the locality. In the spring of 1864 title was obtained to the present town site by treaty and purchase. After securing the land, a town company was formed with C. C. Hutchinson, Indian agent, and I. S. Kalloch as the prime movers of the enterprise. Among the members were James Wind, the Ottawa chief; Asa S. Lathrop, the surveyor and attorney of the company; John T. Jones, a minister; and a few non-resident members, mostly politicians and capitalists who had gone into it as a business venture. The first arrivals on the site lived in tents. The first house was started on March 31, 1864, by J. C. Richmond, on the corner of Walnut and First streets, and it stood as a landmark until late in the '80s. A postoffice was established within a few months, with C. T. Evans as the first postmaster. A sawmill was erected by J. H. Whetstone and was in operation within a short time. Here lumber was cut for the first dwellings and business houses. The first hotel was the Ottawa House, a fine structure for those days, which as years passed was in turn postoffice, stable and station. The old capitol building was torn down at Minneola, removed to Ottawa, and located on the corner of Second and Main streets, where the first dry goods store was opened by G. S. Holt. A part of the first floor was used for office purposes and the second floor was finished as a large hall, known as Lathrop's, where public meetings, entertainments, Baptist church services and courts were all held. The building was later converted into a hotel known as the Wilkerson House. On Aug. 1, 1864, Ottawa became the seat of justice of the county by popular vote.
The first newspaper in the town was the Western Home Journal, which made its appearance in June, 1865, owned and edited by I. S. Kalloch. It was widely circulated and by judicious advertising was instrumental in attracting settlers to the town. In 1866 Ottawa was incorporated and the control of municipal affairs passed from the town company to a board of trustees. The school house on Walnut street was completed in the fall of 1866 and the following winter a company was organized for the purpose of constructing a bridge across the Marais des Cygnes at the foot of Main street. It was conducted as a toll bridge until the city purchased it in 1875 and opened it to the public.
In Oct., 1867, Ottawa was incorporated as a city of the second class and the first city election was held on Nov. 30, of that year, when Asa S. Lathrop was elected the first mayor of the city. In Jan., 1868, the first train ran into the town over the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad, and a period of development and activity ensued. The Kansas City & Santa Fe reached Ottawa in 1870, and other roads followed. A number of fine business blocks were erected; machine shops and a fire department were established; and a larger and better equipped public school building was completed at a cost of $30,000.
Three parks are located within the city limits. Forest Park, which lies north of the river, contains forty acres; College Park is situated in the southern part, and in it are located the central school and the public library; and the court-house park occupies the block between Third and Fourth streets, the building facing Main street.
With the development of the natural gas fields, gas was piped to Ottawa and has led to the increase in the number of factories. Today Ottawa is one of the most prosperous cities of the eastern part of the state with electric lighting, waterworks and telephone systems, several grain elevators, flour mills, furniture factories, a large creamery, brick and tile factories, several machine shops and a soap factory, and in 1910 it had a population of 7,650.Pages 423-424 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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