In our prehistory, the first inhabitants were the Indians who established communities throughout the area. They were followed by the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. The French Jesuit missionary explorers, Marquette and Joliet came in 1673. Next was the western expansion of the United States with settlers following the Santa Fe, the Oregon or the Mormon Trails.
Forced resettlement of the Confederate Indian Tribes: The Kaskaskia, Peoria, Wea and Piankishaw people came to the area between 1827 and 1832. Their chief here was Win-ris-cah (called Christmas Daganett by the white people). He was well-educated in Terre Haute, Indiana where he was born. He spoke three or four Indian dialects as well as English, French and Spanish. At 16 he was an interpreter for the U. S. Government. After him came Baptiste Peoria who spoke six or seven Indian languages as well as English and French.
Paola is the county seat for Miami County. At first the county was named after Dr. David Lykins, the first white settler and a member of the Territorial Council. Lykins came from Vigo County, Indiana in 1844. There was a large influx of settlers starting in 1854. Lykins, a Baptist missionary, started an Indian school one mile east of Paola in 1848. He continued the school until the onset of the Civil War. His sympathies were with the South, so he went to Colorado where he died in 1861. Before Lykins, other missionaries worked in the area. They were Fr. De la Crox and Fr. Hoecken followed by Fr. Paoli Ponsiglione. A consensus developed that Paola is named after a town in Italy on the western coast of Calabria. It is felt that Fr. Ponsiglioni named the area Paola. The Peoria Indians who greatly respected the priest, continued to call the area Paola and were doing so when the other White people came into the area. Fr. Ponziglioni was an Italian who came to this area in 1851.
The town plat for Paola was laid out early in 1855 and incorporated by the Legislature in regular session on March 20, 1855. The Paola Town Company was set up with Baptiste Peoria, Isaac Jacobs, A. M. Coffey and Dr. Lykins as the first members.
The Paola Park Square was given to the Town Company by Baptiste Peoria as he went into forced exile with his tribe to Oklahoma. The Town Company gave the Square to the City with the provision that no building be built upon it.
Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861. With admission the county was renamed Miami County. Part of the Civil War was played out here. William Quantrill was a guest of the local jail, charged with grand larceny in April 1861. After his infamous raid on Lawrence, Kansas, he came back by way of Paola to settle up for that earlier indignity. He bypassed the town when he heard of a force of Union soldiers waiting for him.
The first school was started in 1857 by Mrs. Cyrus Shaw. Also, a Kansas Normal School (a training school for teachers) was set up on the "third floor of the new (Paola) North School building." The Ursuline Sisters came next. They arrived from Louisville, Kentucky in 1895 to set up a boarding school for Indians. In 1924, the nuns added a junior college that was closed in 1958.
The first oil well west of the Mississippi River was discovered north of the Lykins Mission site in 1888. A small refinery was built to handle the oil in the early 1890's. The railroads changed Paola's way of life. The Kansas City-Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad was begun in 1870. It ran north and south connecting Hillsdale, Paola and Fontana with Kansas City, Fort Scott and points beyond.
In 1911, James Patterson and his wife came to Paola for their home and winter quarters for their circus. The circus traveled from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic seaboard and even went into Canada.
OTHER HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS