Osawatomie’s early economic life was created by early business owners who risked their lives to open up a business during the Bleeding Kansas era of the state’s history.

Osawatomie’s first newspaper, the Southern Kansas Herald, reported in its April 24, 1858, issue that J.B. Sofield was the owner of a “Stove, Tin & Hardware Store” in Osawatomie in 1858.

The paper stated: “In order to meet the wants of the citizens of this great and growing country, and attracted by the beauty and flourishing town of Osawatomie, and the additional fact that no establishment of our kind was in existence here, we have opened out for the inspection of purchasers a large assortment of cook, box, and parlor stoves!”

The Southern Kansas Herald offered glorious descriptions of the vast selection that Sofield’s “Stove, Tin and Hardware Store” sold.

The paper stated: “The Charter Oak; Golden Era; Golden Harp; The True American (elevated oven); in fact, our stock of stoves can’t be beat this side of Saint Louis!” In addition to a full line of stoves, Sofield’s business sold hardware, “Such as nails, house trimmings, files, butts, axes, saws, chain pumps, glass, & etc.”

Sofield’s business also manufactured, sold and repaired housewares.

The Southern Kansas Herald wrote that the Sofield’s business sold “A good assortment of Japanned Ware, which cannot be beat for durability and cheapness. A good assortment of platte ware; knives and forks, and spoons of all kinds; castors, all from one of the best manufacturers in the United States. All kinds of tin ware made and repaired on short notice.”

Sofield also installed tin roofs and guttering for homeowners.

The Southern Kansas Herald reported, “We are prepared to do all kinds of jobbing, putting on tin roofs, making and putting up eave gutter, In short, we are prepared to do everything in our line of business. Our stocks are full and complete, well selected, and we are bound not to be undersold.”

Osawatomie was under constant threat of attack by proslavery guerillas from 1854 to 1865, and every business owner who opened a business in the community did so knowing that it was a real possibility that they might be burned out and or killed by proslavery forces.

Despite the risk, business owners like J.B. Sofield established businesses in the nascent community anyway. Their courageous decision to open up and operate businesses in Osawatomie built the foundation that today’s business owners still build on today.

Osawatomie’s current business owners do not have to deal with proslavery raiders, but they are willing to take the risks inherent with operating and opening businesses during hard economic times.

The pioneers who founded Osawatomie were a dedicated, hardworking lot, and had an enterprising spirit that modern business owners still possess today.

The pioneers and today’s business owners worked, and are currently working, to build up the town’s economy during tough times, and they are both willing to take risks to build up Osawatomie’s economy.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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