History & Culture

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 1800’s additional cities would be forged literally from the steel of the ever growing 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 1840’s when it is reported that trade took place between John Mathews and the Indiana Chief called White Hair, whose village sat just on the border of the current city limits. Rich in pre-civil war and late 1800’s history the Oswego, Chetopa and Parsons areas of Labette County have several museums, which offer a porthole for visitors to explore the interesting history of Americas early frontier.


Forged 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 history. 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 citizens and visitors every year. For Museum hours or more information on the Katy Days celebration please call 1-800-280-6401.