In 1891 Kansas farmer Isaac Bingham moved his family south into Ottawa County. The family established a community and opened several businesses. Quapaw Chief John Quapaw donated land for a community school. The Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis Railroad established a railroad stop and siding at the community location. This established access to markets for hay and agricultural products of the area. A post office was opened in the community grocery store in 1897.
The community leaders platted "New Town Quapaw," on land to the east purchased from native Harry Whitebird. This "new" town was incorporated in 1917 as Quapaw. Discovery of lead and zinc ores in the area resulted in this area being part of the Tri-State mining district, and resulted in a population boom as thousands of miners moved into the larger area. Native Americans were generally excluded from mining, although the county had a significant proportion from several federally recognized tribes. With the population and economic boom, new businesses were developed. The 1920 census listed 1,394 residents. In the 1920s U. S. Route 66 was developed through Quapaw and was paved through Ottawa County by 1933. This event was celebrated with Quapaw Chief Victor Griffin laying a zinc tablet in the center of Main Street.
Quapaw began to lose residents as the local mining operations began to decline. The population declined to 1,054 by 1940 and as mining activity in the area declined, the population dropped to 850 in 1960.