Have you ever wondered where some of the names in our County come from? One that stuck out recently with the Johnson County Library was the name Lackman, which refers to William Lackman. A librarian recently wrote about the County’s street names and mentioned Lackman briefly. Here’s a look further into the family and their importance to Johnson County History.
William and Margaretha Lackman were German immigrants who settled in the Kansas City area around 1880. He was a farmer and financier and bought a large piece of land – approximately 210 acres – in present-day Lenexa. Lackman is best known for two things in Johnson County history: 1. his estate; and 2. an interurban electric rail line.
Lackman began building his house in 1881 and spared no expense. He brought in European artisans to work on the house – Italian artisans to produce the ornate plasterwork and German workers to produce the furniture, embellish ceilings and a walnut staircase in the house.
His house was admired by citizens of the County and these admirations were noted in the Olathe Mirror. One citizen said, “W.M. Lackman has the finest dwelling house and nicest barn in this county any where, we are glad that some of our citizens have got some taste about them.”
Lackman was also known for an interurban rail project which he began in 1901. He and David B. Johnson were granted a charter to run a rail line from Kansas City to Olathe, which was appropriately named K.C. – Olathe Electric Line. At this time, Kansas City had an established railroad system and Olathe was quickly growing as the County seat. The rail line would run from K.C. touching on Rosedale, Merriam, Shawnee, Lenexa, Pleasant View and Olathe. Lackman Station, seen in the picture below, was on the east of the Lackman property.
Lackman and Johnson raised money for this venture by selling stocks. They surveyed the land, purchased the right of way and grading was in progress by the spring of 1904.
Unfortunately, everything did not go as expected for this endeavor when two of Lackman’s employees ran off with the $40,000 company bankroll, leaving him bankrupt. He sold the business to William Strang who completed the project and ran the Strang Line from 1906 to 1938.
In 1908, Lackman sold the farmhouse, all its furnishings and surrounding property to Frank Thompson for $32,000 (today’s equivalent approximately $3million). His family disappeared from Johnson County history and the Thompson family lived on the estate until 1991 when it was given to the Johnson County Community College. The Johnson County Museum was able to successfully register the estate on the Kansas Historic Register and it is the only Lenexa structure on the register. It now belongs to the city of Lenexa and houses the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
To summarize, William Lackman was a valuable figure to Johnson County history. The Lackman-Thompson Estate still stands as a “reminder of Kansas history and the role its first occupants played in the shaping of the state, the region and the nation.” His interurban rail provided the beginning of innovative transportation from Kansas City to the suburbs of Johnson County, helping “make this area of Kansas the suburban mecca it is today by making it easy to sell, trade and transport goods in Kansas City”.
-Katie Stramel, Johnson County Library