History

The community of Merriam dates back to between 1826 and 1833 when Shawnee Indians were moved into this region from Ohio and Missouri. Quakers, who had worked among the Shawnee in Ohio, followed them and built a mission in 1836, located near 61st and Hemlock in Merriam.

The first community that would become what is today Merriam is traced to when a Tennessean, David Gee Campbell, bought acreage from Mary Parks, an Indian. In 1864, he moved his home to the south side of Johnson drive near Turkey Creek. This early town was aptly named Campbellton and was made up of approximately 20 homes and a few businesses. Just a few years later in 1870, with the addition of the first railroad station, the name of the town was changed to Merriam, in honor of Charles Merriam.

Fast forward to 1950 and the residents of Merriam were anxious to become an incorporated city. They petitioned the governor and Carl Engle Sr. served as the first mayor of the newly incorporated city of the third class, Merriam. Just few short years later in 1957, Merriam become a city of the second class.

Today, Merriam is a vibrant community, nestled just eight miles south of downtown Kansas City and minutes from anywhere in the metro. Although our transportation methods have progressed from trolley lines and railroads to automobiles, our area continues to grow and develop within the region.

Download a detailed History of Merriam.

Historic Sites


MERRIAM HISTORIC PLAZA

6304 EAST FRONTAGE ROAD
Merriam Historic Plaza & Visitors Bureau is a beautification project along Interstate 35 and Shawnee Mission Parkway. This project enhances the entrance to Merriam and provides visitors and residents with an outdoor preview of Merriam’s history from pre-settlement to current day. A paved walking path, historic signage, beautiful fountains and custom-designed sculpture are a few of the features of this new site. Merriam Historic Plaza also houses Campbellton to Merriam…150 years of community. This historic collection depicts our town’s founding by David Gee Campbell and traces the development of the railroad, housing, mercantile, education, recreation and much more, including the original lectern where President Ulysses Grant dedicated Merriam Park in 1880. Housed permanently at the Merriam Historic Plaza, stop by 6304 E. Frontage Road to take a peek into Merriam’s heritage and pivotal moments in history.

 ** the Merriam Hisroric Plaza & Visitors Bureau also includes meeting space for up to 50 people, available by rental agreement. Click here for rental information.

9725 WEST 47TH STREET


Former residence of Shawnee Indian, John Silverheels built in 1830. Silverheels was given 800 acres in Northeast Johnson County in a treaty by President Buchanan. The 2-story log cabin is now covered by siding with an additional porch. Original fireplaces have been removed. This home is now owned by the VanNeuvenhouyse family. (no visitors please, but you may drive by.


6125 WEST 61ST STREET 

HISTORICAL MARKER
Site of the Shawnee Friends Mission, a school established by the Quaker Church to educate children of the Shawnee Indian tribe. The site was comprised of 320 acres with a main building that was 24 x 70 feet and three stories high. The building was built of walnut cut from the area and milled on the Kaw River. Built in 1845, the Mission existed until 1871 and the building was torn down in 1917 with scrap lumber being used to build various homes in the area.

8325 JOHNSON DRIVE


Home of Dr. Loomis who bought most of the land and buildings located at the Quaker Mission. This home was built in 1886 and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on May 17, 2006.

75TH STREET & ANTIOCH


Antioch Pioneer Cemetery is the resting place of some of the Quakers who were associated with the Mission. The cemetery dates back to before 1850 and a replica of the original church (Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian, formed in 1850) is now located in the cemetery.

9503 JOHNSON DRIVE


Home of David Gee Campbell, the founder of Campbelltown. The original house was moved from Shawnee in 1864 and placed on an 18” rock foundation and basement, made from stone and sand hauled from Turkey Creek. The house burned down in 1890 and was later rebuilt on the original foundation. The house stands today with some changes and is owned by the Merriam Christian Church and currently serves as the office of the Johnson County Christmas Bureau.

5701 MERRIAM DRIVE

HISTORICAL MARKER
The second school building built in Merriam, originally housing elementary grades through high school. The original building was constructed in 1911 of native Kansas limestone. The brick additions were added in 1938 and 1952. A new Merriam Elementary School was constructed in 1968 and in 1969, the building became the first home to Johnson County Community College. The college operated for two years and then the building was purchased by Kansas City Christian School. In 1988 the building was purchased and renovated by the City of Merriam and opened as the Merriam Community Center in 1990. The community center has been continually operating since 1990 and was renamed the Irene B. French Community Center, named in honor of Irene French, former mayor of Merriam for 20 years.

DOWNTOWN MERRIAM MURAL

LOCATED AT THE IRENE B. FRENCH COMMUNITY CENTER
Located in the main lobby of Irene B. French Community Center, this 4'x9' mural by Merriam artist Michael Young depicts downtown Merriam circa 1940.


HISTORIC MERRIAM MURAL

LOCATED IN THE COMMUNITY TRAINING ROOM AT MERRIAM CITY HALL
Located in the Community Training Room at Merriam City Hall, this historic mural by Charles Goslin depicts much of Merriam's history including: Merriam Park, David Gee Campbell, Quaker Mission, Indians, a covered wagon and troll car, the first permanent school building, and many other Merriam homes and businesses from the 1860's to the 1930's.

5820 MERRIAM DRIVE


Merriam School, built in 1872, is the oldest building still standing in Merriam today. Originally constructed of bricks fired and made on site, this two-story building served all eight grades until 1911. Over the years, the building has been occupied by the Merriam Sunday School, two car dealers, gas service company, a garage, music company and Pittman Moving Company.

51ST & GRANDVIEW

HISTORICAL MARKER
Esther Brown Memorial Park. In memory of Esther E. Brown, a local resident who organized citizen support in the South Park area for litigation leading to the 1949 Webb vs. School District #90 case and ultimately the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision to admit black children to the schools.

PHILADELPHIA BAPTIST CHURCH

HISTORICAL MARKER
Commemorates Walker School, the site of “Walker’s Walkouts.” Originally built in 1888 to house both black and white students, the school district began separating blacks from whites in 1900. New structures were built to serve the white students while the black students continued to attend school in this one-room building with poor conditions. In 1947, a new South Park Elementary School opened for white students and black students were not allowed to attend. With the aid of Esther Brown, black parents organized a boycott of Walker School and children attended school in private homes, taught by Corinthian Nutter.


SOUTH PARK EXHIBIT: MERRIAM PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

6100 MASTIN
In 2002, the Johnson County Museum, in partnership with South Park Elementary, unveiled an exhibit recounting the struggle for equal education in South Park. This exhibit originally hung in the central hallway at South Park Elementary. It has been permanently moved to the Merriam Park Elementary School (this school is a merger between the former South Park and Merriam elementary schools, which both closed in 2007). In May, 2004, this exhibit was dedicated to the memory of Corinthian Clay Nutter (1906-2004), an inspiring educator and civil rights leader in Johnson County, Kansas.

SANTA FE & OREGON TRAILS


These trails, along with the Military Road went through Merriam and there are markers throughout the city depicting these locations.