Local author Joe Vaughan traces history of Fairway, Shawnee Indian Mission in latest book

Author Joe Vaughan at the Shawnee Indian Mission with his new book that traces the history of the Mission and Fairway.
Author Joe Vaughan at the Shawnee Indian Mission with his new book that traces the history of the Mission and Fairway.

The Shawnee Indian Mission, Rev. Thomas Johnson and the history of Fairway are all interwoven into a new book by local author Joe Vaughan.

Vaughan, whose last book focused on Kansas City, Kan., puts the history of the mission and the city of Fairway in the context of the larger events of the country. Moving from the Indian Relocation Act of 1830 that set the stage for the arrival of the tribes in Kansas and the eventual establishment of the Mission, Vaughan completes the story with accounts of Johnson and his family, including the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s 1865 murder, three years after the Mission closed.

The Shawnee Indian Mission, covered more than 2,200 acres and included 16 buildings, much larger than the 12 acres that remain as the historic site today. Between 1839 and 1862, the Mission, which was moved to its present site to be closer to the Santa Fe Trail, taught members of 23 tribes and had an average enrollment of 200 children.

An advertisement for homes in Fairway.
An advertisement for homes in Fairway.

Much of the story is told through photographs which fill the book, both from the Mission and from the early days of Fairway. One ad from the J.C.Nichols after the war advertises lots at $20 per foot and homes starting at $3,500. The advertisement’s tagline for Fairway: “Between Three Golf Courses” which was the source for the city name. The Nichols story is a subtext that runs through the history of Fairway, Vaughan says.

Among the historic Fairway photos Vaughan collected for the book are the old Fairway movie theater, built in 1942 where Houlihan’s now stands, the Reinhardt farm and home, and plenty of lifestyle shots from Fairway’s first residents. “The gem that’s overlooked because of the Shawnee Indian Mission,” Vaughan says, “is Fairway.

Growing up, the family table talk was about issues in the community and how to make things better, he says. That left him with a strong interest in history, politics and community events. “I start by thinking why is something there and how did it get there. I try to make history come alive.”

Also peppered through the book are interesting historical facts: the brief location of the territorial capital at the mission, the burial spot of Thomas Johnson, the integration of northeast Johnson County, which happened in Fairway.

The book is available now at Rainy Day Books and at the Johnson County and Wyandotte County historical museums.