“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Olathe in Johnson County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

“Indian Jim” and the Building of Kansas City Road


—World's Champion Lays 46,664 Bricks in Under Eight Hours —

"Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker image. Click for full size.
By Thomas Onions, June 26, 2009
1. "Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker
Closeup of "Indian Jim" marker
- Main Marker: -
Founded in 1857, Olathe was strategically located on the Santa Fe Trail. In the era of horsepower, the new town was a day's journey from Independence, Missouri. As time passed, Olathe's population and commerce grew, and a faster connection with Kansas City was needed. By 1925, automobiles had reduced travel time, but would often get stuck on muddy roads. The paving of Kansas City Road - lying on top of the Westport route of the old Santa Fe Trail - was received with great fanfare.

Much of the excitement centered upon a bricklaying competition between James Garfield "Indian Jim" Brown and Frank Hoffman of El Dorado. On the morning of September 12, 1925, Brown laid 218 tons of brick - 46,664 bricks in seven hours and forty-eight minutes in a drizzling rain and won the contest. He received a $200 prize along with his regular wages of $2 per hour.

Many prominent Olathe Citizens laid ceremonial bricks that day. alongside Senator Charles Curtis and Governor Ben Paulen. In the afternoon, more than 10,000 people enjoyed a parade of sixty floats celebrating the progress of transportation. J. C. Nichols, native son and developer of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, spoke to the crowd about the importance of paved roads for economic development of the region; the trip to Kansas
"Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker image. Click for full size.
By Thomas Onions, June 26, 2009
2. "Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker
Closeup photo of adoption marker.
City was now possible in forty minutes.
- Photo Captions -

Upper Right - Photo is of James Brown laying bricks.
"Turned Drudgery to Art"
James Garfield Brown was born in upstate New York in 1880. As a member of the Oneida Indian Nation, he attended the infamous Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a boarding school where Native American children were uprooted from their families and forced to assimilate and abandon their cultural traditions. As an avid football player, Brown's strength proved useful in setting the eight-pound bricks used at the time.
Photo Courtesy of Johnson County Museums

Lower Left - Photo is of an approaching steam roller
A steam roller leveling the bricks on Kansas City Road in 1926. The Cook and Stucker Brick Company of Ottawa, Kansas built the new road.
Photo Courtesy of Johnson County Museums

Lower Center - Photo is of men working next to piles of bricks
"Tong Men" using metal clamps to stack bricks for "Indian Jim" work on a street in Pampa, Texas. Brown went on to lay brick for roads in Baldwin, Liberal, and Goodland, Kansas as well as Pampa.
Photo courtesy of White Deer Land Museum, Pampa, Texas

Lower Right - Photo is of a stagecoach in front of a station
Discover more
"Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker image. Click for full size.
By Thomas Onions, June 26, 2009
3. "Indian Jim" and the Building of Kansas City Road Marker
Area view of the marker and the pocket park.
of Olathe's local history at Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm. Located on the old Santa Fe Trail, you will find this unique historic site a little more than half a mile to the northeast at 1200 Kansas City Road.

- Stone Adoption Marker - See Photo #2
Indian Jim Monument
adopted by
Olathe North
21st Century Program
Landscape Science

Erected by City of Olathe, Original Town Neighborhood Committee, Olathe Historical Society, & Olathe North High School.
Location. 38° 54.917′ N, 94° 58.817′ W. Marker is in Olathe, Kansas, in Johnson County. Marker is at the intersection of East Poplar Street and North Kansas City Road, on the right when traveling west on East Poplar Street. Touch for map. These markers are in the middle of a small pocket park formed at the junction of the two streets. Marker is in this post office area: Olathe KS 66061, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. To Our Hero Dead in World War II (approx. 3.8 miles away); Veterans of Foreign Wars War Memorial (approx. 4.2 miles away); 806 Main Street (approx. 6.7 miles away); Shawnee Tribal Leader Paschal Fish and his Daughter, Eudora (approx. 6.7 miles away); City of Eudora - The Early Years (approx. 6.7 miles away); 800 Main Street (approx. 6.7 miles away); 736 Main Street (approx. 6.7 miles away); 726 Main Street (approx. 6.7 miles away).
Also see . . .
1. Olathe Kansas History. This is the Official City History website with a small blurb about Indian Jim. (Submitted on June 26, 2009, by Thomas Onions of Olathe, Kansas.) 

2. Olathe North Landscape Science 21st Century Program. This link describes the Olathe North program for the study of landscape science. A special endorsement on the diploma can be earned for completion of the program. (Submitted on June 26, 2009, by Thomas Onions of Olathe, Kansas.) 
Additional comments.
1. Indian Jim paver bricks from Kansas City Road in Olathe
My father Carol "Kayo" Thomas was Superintendent for the road construction company that repaved and made the change to Kansas City Road ultimately allowing it to intersect Santa Fe Street at right angles as it does now, rather than at a forty five degree angle as it previously did. The First National Bank of Olathe's main bank sits on the general area of the grade where KC Road previously proceeded straight and intersected Santa Fe Street at an angle.

During all of the construction work on the road all of the original paver bricks were saved and loaded onto trucks and sent to a storage area and many were sold at a high price due to their historical significance known even then. However, since there were many thousands of them and my father had been with the company for (at that time) nearly 30 years he was given as many bricks as he wanted. The bricks were tar covered to some degree having been laid on a bed of hot tar and it took lots of time to clean. However, over time my dad ended up with thousands of bricks for a long historic driveway, with many extra bricks.

And I, too, still have many of these historic bricks. Some I have used and some I haven't.

I am currently restoring a 1912 Model T Ford Touring car and a 1931 Model A Ford Town Sedan that I hope to be running around the streets of Olathe in the spring.

I am 61 years old and a lifelong resident of Olathe. I hope a few people find these comments interesting.

Editor's Note:Thank you for sharing your historical information about Indian Jim paver bricks. If you care to share it, please submit a picture of the brick driveway.
    — Submitted September 8, 2009, by James Thomas of Olathe, Kansas.

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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 26, 2009, by Thomas Onions of Olathe, Kansas. This page has been viewed 1,871 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 26, 2009, by Thomas Onions of Olathe, Kansas. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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