Origins of Lenexa - Indian Territory
In 1854 the site which was to become Lenexa, Kansas, was owned by members of the Shawnee Tribe. Each man, woman and child in the local tribe had been allotted 200 acres, and those lands could not be sold without the permission of the President of the United States. In that same year, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, creating the Kansas Territory and opening the area to settlers. None of the land that would become Lenexa was available for settlement, however, for the above mentioned reason. Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, long years of political strife began.
According to legend, Lenexa is derived from the name of Shawnee Chief Thomas Blackhoof's wife, who was variously recorded on census records as Na-Nex-Se and Len-Ag-See. The chief and his wife had been educated in Ohio before they traveled to the Shawnee lands in present-day Johnson County. She is reported to have been a respected Christian woman. By 1870 Na-Nex-Se, was no longer listed on any Johnson County census and is presumed to have died by that date.
Lenexa finally found its genesis after the Civil War, during a period of land speculation and railroad construction that followed the final census of the Shawnee and their lands. By 1867, Charles A. Bradshaw had purchased 160 acres of former Shawnee lands because many Shawnee were anxious to sell their lands and move to the Oklahoma Indian Territories. Agents for the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad negotiated with Bradshaw for railroad right-of-way. The squire agreed on condition that the railroad would maintain a depot on the land. In 1869, Bradshaw sold 41.5 acres near the railroad right-of-way to Octave Chanute, a civil engineer, who platted the town of Lenexa. On August 26, 1869, Chanute sold the property to three men from Jackson County, Missouri. Thus, Lenexa was born in 1869 and the post office established at Sherman in 1865, was moved to a site near the railroad depot and was called the Lenexa post office. It was not incorporated, however, until May 8, 1907.
Many German, Swiss and Belgian families came to the area from the East and from Europe. They purchased lands from the Shawnee and grew bumper crops in the fertile soil. In the 1930's, Lenexa became famous for its superior quality spinach. Over 150 truck farmers contributed to the train-loads of produce, spinach included, which was shipped to Chicago and other eastern markets.
The original town site, or "Old Town," is still a vital part of the community. The city boasts three large churches which can witness to more than 100 years of Lenexa history. The city holds several festivals throughout the year that helps maintain a "small town community atmosphere."
To the Lenexan of today, the rich heritage of Lenexa's past is important and a renewed interest in preserving the oldest and most viable buildings and residences is evident. Today's Lenexa is a well-rounded community, where over 100,000 people are employed in manufacturing, distribution, retail and professional occupations. Kansas City's rising star has become one of the brightest stars on the Kansas City horizon.