Visitors to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe are instantly transported back to life in the 1860s with every visit. But during the summer, the historic site opens its doors one night a week so that families can get a firsthand look at what life was like in Olathe during this time.
Mahaffie holds free family fun nights each Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. from the beginning of June through the end of July. Each family fun night has a theme such as food on the farm, cowboys and cattle or the Civil War.
Alexis Woodall, event coordinator at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, said the goal of each family night is to give people a window into what it was like to live during this time period.
“We have activities offered for people who can’t visit during normal business hours,” Woodall said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn more about us.”
On one recent Thursday night, visitors were treated to hands-on activities that centered on the night’s theme, which was “Construction -1860s style.”
Children had a chance to try their hand at cutting limestone and practice old-fashioned nailing techniques. They also learned about decorative painting and woodworking.
By participating in activities and demonstrations, they were able to experience what it was like to transport limestone using a pulley system, much as people did when building homes in the 1860s.
Young visitors even got to see how families used inexpensive painting techniques like combing, where you run a comb over fresh paint to create a design that made the woodwork in their home look more expensive.
“I like to call it HGTV — 1860s style,” Woodall said.
Alexandra Terrill of Mission is a frequent visitor to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, along with her two children, Finnegan, 10 and Tatiana, 8. She thinks the free family fun nights are an excellent way for people to learn more about the place she calls one of Johnson County’s hidden gems.
“We like to bring the kids and their friends that have never been here,” Terrill said. “There’s so much to do here that you can spend an entire evening. And the volunteers are so engaging and welcoming.”
Terrill said she and her family have been frequent visitors to Mahaffie for the past five years. Terrill’s daughter, Tatiana, has favorite activities.
“I like riding on the stagecoach and panning for gold,” Tatiana said.
The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm is the only working stagecoach stop left on the Santa Fe Trail. The historic site sits on the farm formerly owned by James B. and Lucinda Mahaffie who moved to Olathe in 1857.
In addition to the family’s former home, the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm also includes the Heritage Center, which was built in 2008. The property also includes the Agricultural Heritage Barn built in 2014, which is home to the horses that pull the stagecoach.
But it’s through walking the grounds during family fun nights that visitors can really get a feel for what it was like to live in Olathe in the 1860s.
“People come here and realize that history isn’t static,” Woodall said. “This place is able to connect families today to another family that just happened to live here 150 years ago.”