In 1900, at the turn of the century and almost 40 years after Olathe’s incorporation, the population stood at 3,451. This kept relatively stagnant over the decades that followed due to the town’s relative obscurity and insignificance.
By the end of the 1940s, Olathe had seen a 6% increase in the population, bringing it up to just shy of 11,000 in 1960. This continued to rise further, seeing an increase of almost 7,000 people by 1970, and an additional 19,000 people by the end of the decade.
These numbers have continued to steadily rise each year by year, and this growth can be mainly attributed to the construction of the Interstate Highway, bringing Olathe’s proximity and access to and from nearby Kansas City ever closer, and making it more accessible for surrounding towns and cities.
While Olathe's population is just over 137,000 in 2019, some estimates peg its population at 300,000 within 20 years (https://fox4kc.com/2018/09/17/olathe-police-finding-officer-recruitment-a-struggle-as-city-grows/)."
The town of Olathe was founded in 1857, getting its name from the Shawnee word for "beautiful.” It was incorporated later in the same year, and despite not being the first city in the county, it was named county seat in October of 1859, due in no small part to its rapid growth.
After being the site of much activity during the American Civil War, Olathe went on to become a major stop on the California Trail, the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. Catering to travelers moving along these paths became the primary income source for local businesses. Once the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad saw completion, however, these westward trails lost significance, and Olathe withered into obscurity.
The construction of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s saw Olathe linked to neighboring Kansas City, resulting in tremendous residential growth and Olathe becoming part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The 1980s saw even more of a boom in population growth due to tremendous commercial development.
By 2001, Olathe’s population surpassed 100,000, and in 2008 Olathe was ranked the 24th fastest growing city in the United States. Olathe was voted in the same year by CNN and Money and Money magazine as the 11th best city in which to live in the United States.