Chouteau, Kansas, once a hamlet of Johnson County, got its start as a trading post along the Kansas River. An extinct town today, it was located on the south bank of the Kansas River, about 12 miles southwest of Kansas City, Kansas between Holliday and Wilder.
This place got its start as a trading post when Frederick Chouteau, settled here in about 1842. Frederick was the youngest of three brothers who established trading posts along the Kansas River for the famous Chouteau family’s fur trading company headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
Frederick came to the Shawnee Indian Reservation with a group of Shawnee from Missouri in 1828. For the next few years Francois, Cyprian, and Frederick worked together to establish trading posts from the mouth of the Kansas River west. Trading with the Shawnee and Delaware tribes, they first established a trading post about five miles above Wyandotte (Kansas City) on the south side of the Kansas River.
Several years later, Frederick Chouteau went up the river to the mouth of Mission Creek, about ten miles above the present city of Topeka, and opened a trading house, taking his goods up the Kansas River in keelboats. This post was maintained until about 1842 when it was abandoned, and he established a new post on Mill Creek in Johnson County. Here, he established his home base for trading trips all along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.
In 1844, flooding destroyed practically everything he had, forcing him to move to higher ground. The new site was located on the south bank of the river approximately one mile west of the mouth of Mill Creek. Here, Frederick continued to trade with the Indians and also operated a ferry.
He returned to Johnson County in about 1854 and purchased a log house on the Fort Leavenworth–Fort Scott Military Road in present-day Shawnee, Kansas. William Quantrill’s raiders burned him out in 1862, but he rebuilt his home and remained in Johnson County for the rest of his life.
In the meantime, three of his sons continued to reside on farms near the Chouteau Trading Post and operated the ferry until 1870 when the Shawnee were removed from Kansas to the Cherokee Nation in present-day Oklahoma.
In January 1865 Frederick Chouteau’s son Francis sold 80 acres of land to William Bradley and Peter Keroher. In 1875, Bradley and Keroher divided the 80 acres, with Peter Keroher taking the west half which included the site of the two-story frame former house of Frederick Chouteau.
In 1877, Chouteau Station, a stop on the Kansas City, Topeka, and Western Railroad, was established on the property. The original Chouteau home was then enlarged and a store was added. A post office opened in the store on March 15, 1881. A two-story frame structure was built at the station in 1887.
Chouteau never developed as a town as it served only as a stop for mail and passengers. By the 1900s, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was operating the tracks through the area. The post office was discontinued on March 31, 1903, at which time the email was received from Holliday, Kansas. Afterward, Chouteau became a flag stop for passengers and a spur was added where cars were left for loading of produce. Cattle pens were also built next to the spur for loading cattle for shipment to the Kansas City market.
The property remained in the Keroher name until 1943. Unfortunately, the original Chouteau home burned in 1978 and was not rebuilt. Today, there is nothing left of Chouteau Station.
The site was located on Lakecrest Drive between W. 45 Terrace and the railroad tracks. The ferry was on the south bank of the Kansas River across from Edwardsville and the trading post was on land just south of the ferry. This site is on private property today.
The Monticello Community Historical Society operates a museum that is dedicated to the history and heritage of the Monticello Township community in Johnson County. The history includes information on the old towns of Monticello, Wilder, Holliday, Zarah, and Craig and the historic sites of Chouteau Trading Post, the Virginia School, and the Union Cemetery. The museum, located at 23860 W 83rd Street in Lenexa, Kansas is open by appointment (913-667-3706) only.