About This Place
Oswego is a city in and the county seat of Labette County, Kansas, United States,, and situated along the Neosho River. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 1,829.
Oswego is located on the site of an Osage village called No tse Wa spe, which means "Heart Stays" or more loosely translated, "Quiet Heart." Jesuit Missionaries from Osage Mission (now St. Paul, Kansas) who worked among the Osages called the village "Little Town," probably because the band of Osages who lived in the village were of the "Little Osage" division of the Osage People. More specifically, the Osage Village of Little Town was described as "Little Town Above" by the Jesuits, to distinguish it from another village, which was sometimes located just to the east of Little Town, called "Little Town Below." While Osage villages were moved quite often (according to weather, hunting conditions, and sanitary conditions) Little Town Above was generally located on the bluff overlooking the Neosho River, where Oswego sits today. Little Town Below often sat near Horseshoe Lake, in the Neosho River Valley about a mile due east of Oswego. During the 1850s, Little Town was often referred to as "White Hair's Town," in honor of a resident of the village named Iron Hawk. Iron Hawk was named Grand Tsi Shu Chief (or Peace Chief) of the Osage Nation (through the 19th Century, it was tradition for the Osage Chief to take the name "White Hair".
A study of the baptismal records of the Jesuits at Osage Mission reveals that several white or mixed white and Osage families lived in or near Little Town before the Civil War. Several mixed white and Cherokee families also lived in or near the present site of Little Town, likely just east of the village in the Cherokee Neutral Lands or to the south, near Chetopa. One family of mixed Osage blood that lived at Little Town before the Civil War was the John Mathews family, who operated a blacksmith/gunsmith shop on the site and ran a trading post. Mathews first purchased the trading post at Little Town from Augustus Chouteau in either 1838 or 1843, depending upon the source. Mathews was married to both Mary Ann Williams and Sarah Jane Williams, daughters of William Sherley Williams, better known as "Old Bill Williams" and his Osage wife, Wind Blossom.