Bright green trees bristle in the breeze. A historic two-story farmhouse stands serenely under a bright blue sky. A big brown dairy cow lazily grazes in its pen.
By JENNIFER BHARGAVA
Special to The Star
Nestled in the heart of Olathe, the sprawling Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm serves as a cozy portal to the past.
And from Memorial Day to Labor Day, living history activities transport visitors straight to the 1860s, when the farm was in its heyday. There will be stagecoach rides, house tours, cooking demonstrations and farm activities.
“So many people have moved to Olathe in the past 20 years and many of them have no idea of the rich history behind this city,” said Alexis Woodall, the gift shop manager. “We’re offering them a taste of what Johnson County was like 150 years ago.”
Just like any home, the Mahaffie farmhouse is a work in progress, offering a few changes this season.
In the foyer, new exhibit panels will feature in-depth details about the Mahaffie family during the 1860s.
“It has been a challenge to piece together the entire story because the Mahaffie family didn’t leave behind any journals or diaries from their time spent here,” Woodall said. “We’ve been using old records, newspaper archives and family genealogy to show what life was like back then.”
One recently discovered document, however, created another change for the house.
Ella Mahaffie, one of the youngest in the family, left behind a diary she wrote in later years, which was filled with her childhood memories of the farmstead.
It was from her diary that staff learned one of the upstairs bedrooms had actually been divided with a wall, to create separate living quarters for the boys and girls.
They shut off the upstairs from the public a year ago and using grants from the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund, started reconstruction. They took out closets and built the wall. They’re in the process of furnishing the new rooms before the Memorial Day opening.
Another change is that each room in the house will feature exhibit panels explaining what the room was used for and other interesting details.
A couple rooms in the house will offer a more hands-on experience. The sitting room will feature sewing machine demonstrations and 19th century children’s games. The cellar, which was where hungry stagecoach passengers ate stew and biscuits after a long journey, will feature cooking demonstrations.
The changes to the house aren’t the only new arrivals to the Mahaffie site.
In April, two female lambs were born on the farm.
The sleepy, docile creatures spend most of their time snuggled with their mother in the barn. This summer, children will be welcome to pet the fuzzy little lambs and admire the other animals, including the sheep, cow, chickens, horses and tabby cat.
In addition to the animals, the farm boasts a variety of crops authentic to the period.
This spring, staff and volunteers planted corn and wheat. Soon, they will be planting vegetables and sorghum. At some point in July, visitors will be invited to harvest the wheat.
Woodall hopes the educational element, mixed in with the fun, will entice a large crowd to visit the farmstead this summer and see history through the eyes of one of Olathe’s most prominent families.
After all, she pointed out, it’s important for residents to take an interest in local history.