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Ottawa is the seat of Franklin County, is named for the Ottawa Indians whose reservation once occupied the surrounding area. Designated a "city of religion and education" by its townsmen a claim bolstered by 6 public schools, a university, and 23 churches Ottawa is also the trade center of a prosperous farming and stock-raising region.

The city lies in a saucer like valley around the Marais des Cygnes River (pronounced merry deseen locally). Its residential section is composed largely of frame houses, set behind broad lawns, and shaded by mature elms. Main Street binds the community together physically, by spanning the river, and economically, by reason of the shops packed tightly along its south extent.

Ottawa manufactures flour, ice cream, farm machinery, and electric refrigerators. There are several hatcheries, two mail order printing houses, a stone crushing plant, and a foundry and woodwork factory. Car shops and a division headquarters are maintained by the Santa Fe Railway. Water and light facilities are municipally owned.

Ottawa had its origin in 1832 when the Ottawa Indians ceded their Ohio lands to the United States in return for 34,000 acres of what is now Franklin County. The Government appointed John Tecumseh Jones to assist the tribe in establishing itself on the new reservation. Jones was a half-breed Potawatomi who had been graduated by the Baptist Education Society, from which grew Colgate University, N. Y.

Arriving in Kansas the Ottawa found abundant game, grass, and water, but the hot dry air the antithesis of the humid climate at their Ohio reservation caused many to sicken and die. The Reverend Jotham Meeker of the Shawnee Mission, 60 miles to the northeast, traveled frequently to the ailing Indians, doctoring them as best he could. Finally, in the summer of 1837 he and his wife moved to the Ottawa reservation and established the Ottawa Indian Baptist Mission. As described by Meeker, they made their home in "a rough small cabin, intended for a stable and without a chimney, floor, or window." Among the missionary's meager possessions was an old Seth Adams press with which, at Shawnee Mission in 1835, he had printed the Shawnee Sun in the Shawnee language (see History of Kansas Journalism and Journalists).

The Ottawa were a peaceful, intelligent people. Meeker taught them simple agricultural methods while his wife nursed the sick; together they instructed the tribe in spelling, reading, and the gospel. On his press Meeker printed the Laws Governing the Ottawa Indians, which many of the younger members of the tribe were soon able to read. Word of Meeker's work reached neighboring Indians and aroused their curiosity. Sac and Fox braves, clad in their finest regalia, would creep close to the mission, listen to the music or the voice of the preacher, and then silently depart.

John Tecumseh Jones, or, as he was better known, Tauy Jones, was of great help to the Meekers, and in time he became associated with them in their missionary work. In 1845 he married Jane Kelly, a white missionary. He was subsequently adopted into the Ottawa tribe, largely, it is said, because of the affection the Indians held for his wife.

When border warfare broke out the Ottawa Indian Baptist Mission became a headquarters for Free State adherents. Tauy Jones and the Reverend Meeker were staunch abolitionists. A two-story hotel that Jones built near the mission in the 1850'$ was burned by proslave sympathizers in 1856. John Brown, warm friend of Jones, told the Massachusetts Legislature of this event in 1857: "I saw it while it was still standing, and afterwards saw the ruins of the most valuable house and property of a highly civilized, intelligent, and exemplary Indian, which was burned to the ground by the ruffians. ..."

Incoming settlers found the site of Ottawa highly desirable because of a natural ford at that point across the Marais des Cygnes River. The land belonged to the Indians, however, and a settlement was not at once established. In the spring of 1864 I. S. Kalloch, a Baptist preacher, C. C. Hutchinson, Ottawa Indian Agent, James Wing, Ottawa Chieftain, and Tauy Jones obtained the desired tract through their positions as members of the recently formed Ottawa University board of trustees. A town company was promptly organized and the site was surveyed in March 1864. Five months later the nascent town was designated the seat of Franklin County. A toll bridge was built above the ford, which, with a sawmill, Tauy Jones' store, and a hostelry known as the Ottawa House, supplied the economic nucleus of the settlement.

Shortly after its establishment Ottawa was damaged by a cyclone. Describing it, an early settler, A. F. Richmond stated, "I could see the cyclone coming. It looked like a ball of fire and it roared like thunder. It would go up in the sky and come down again. Whenever it hit the ground it made explosions like a cannon. There was a long tail on that cyclone that revolved. It came down and hit the front of our house; took off all the doors and windows in the front, and destroyed all the furniture in the front room and filled the room with old pieces of bottles, old tin cans, old worn out shoes and boots, bric-a-brac, pieces of iron, dead cats and dogs."

A treaty to move the Ottawas to Indian Territory in Oklahoma was signed on February 23, 1867. As the Indians vacated the region white settlers flocked in and Ottawa consequently prospered. In 1871 the community voted $60,000 and donated a site valued at $70,000 to assure the establishment of the machine shops of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad. The shops, built in 1872, employ 200 workers.

Electricity was generated in Ottawa in 1888, less than four years after New York City's Pearl Street Station first plant in the country to produce electricity for public use had been put in operation. Following a year of experimentation, the Ottawa plant began supplying power for public use in 1889. A field of natural gas was discovered near the city in the opening decade of the present century and harnessed for commercial use. Several industries were thereafter established ; false frame fronts on Main Street were replaced by brick structures; and by 1910 the population stood at 7,500.