The Kaw Mission 1854-1951
In addition to the school for the Kaws, Thomas and Eliza Huffaker operated a school for white children in the Kaw Mission in the early and mid-1850s. The burgeoning Huffaker family lived in the Kaw Mission until 1863, when Thomas, Eliza, and their five children moved one-quarter mile northeast to a new fourteen-room house. Here the Huffakers had six more children; the youngest boy, Carl, was born in 1880.
During the Huffakers’ occupancy of the Kaw Mission, the building served as a church and Sunday School for the Methodist Episcopal Church South and as a meeting place for the community. During the "Indian scares" of 1859 and 1868 the Kaw Mission was a safe refuge for Council Grove women and children.

Huffaker Reunion
For a short time in 1866 the Kaw Mission was a hotel called the "Neosho House." In an advertisement in the April 20, 1866 edition of the Council Grove Democrat, proprietor John F. Schmidt promised the very best accommodations:
"The undersigned has just fitted up the Mission House for a first-class Hotel. The table will be furnished with the best the market affords. The rooms are large and comfortably furnished. The utmost attention will be shown to guests and strangers who may favor the Neosho House, to make their stay as pleasant as possible."

From the late 1870s until 1903 the Kaw Mission was the residence of one of Council Grove’s most educated and prominent citizens, Oliver S. Munsell. This versatile Illinois native was an attorney, Doctor of Divinity, author of a college psychology textbook, president of Illinois Wesleyan Seminary, banker, Kansas state legislator, publisher and editor of the Council Grove Republican, and judge.

From 1903 until 1907 Thomas and Anna Johnson and their two teen-age children lived in the Kaw Mission. Johnson, who was the probate judge of Morris County during this time, paid fifteen dollars a month rent.  He conducted court in the Kaw Mission and performed many marriage services here. 

Later, the Johnson’s granddaughter, Helen Torgeson Jaecke, described a dramatic incident in the Kaw Mission:

"During the 1903 flood the water was three feet and four inches deep in the house. Grandma had baked bread the day before the water came up. She had put it in a wash boiler with the lid on top. They had moved to the upstairs rooms and when the boiler came floating by the stairway, they were able to catch the boiler and so had fresh bread."

The 1903 flood was the first of five floods that inundated the Kaw Mission, which also flooded in 1928, 1938, 1941, and 1951. Since the Council Grove Reservoir was completed one mile upstream in 1964, flooding has not been a problem at the mission.

In 1907 Thomas and Eliza Huffaker moved back into the Kaw Mission. There the elderly couple resided with the new owners of the historic building, their daughter Anna Huffaker Carpenter and her husband Homer. Thomas died in his old mission in 1910. In 1920 Eliza died in the same room in which she and Thomas had been married sixty-eight years before. One year later Anna, who was then a widow, passed away.

Anna Huffaker

Marjorie Huffaker
In 1926 Carl Huffaker, his wife Bertha, and their three-year-old daughter, Marjorie, moved to Council Grove from Oklahoma and took up residence in the Kaw Mission. 

In that same year the Huffakers spent thirty-seven thousand dollars to remodel the building. Today visitors to the Kaw Mission can view many of these 1926 alterations including the oak floors, luxurious rosewood woodwork, steam heat system, light fixtures, and porches. In the mid-1930s the Huffakers constructed a large stone garage to the north of the mission building.

Marjorie graduated from Council Grove High School in 1941 and moved away. Bertha died in the mission in 1949. In 1951, a century after his father Thomas started to teach at the Kaw Mission, Carl Huffaker sold the property to the Kansas Historical Society for $23,500.

Collision - Kaw Mission
The Huffakers
School Years 1851-54
The Mission 1854-1951

What's the Kaw Mission like today?