History of Kansas City

The founding of present-day Kansas City, Missouri, begins in the early 1700’s as French fur traders begin traveling up the Missouri river from St. Louis. These traders are in search of new opportunities, and a new market.

In 1804, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark travel to the meeting point of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. They camp for three days and map the area that will eventually become Kansas City calling it “a fine place for a fort.”

In 1821, Missouri becomes a state. That same year, 24-year-old François Gesseau Chouteau sets up the first permanent fort in what is now the northern industrial district. He refers to the fort as “the Village Kansa,” after the natives who inhabit the area. Soon trappers, scouts, traders, and farmers begin to populate the surrounding area.

In 1833, the Westport Landing is established by John Calvin McCoy, who many consider the “father of Kansas City.” Westport serves as the head point of the California, Santa Fe, and Oregon Trails.

In 1838, McCoy and Chouteau along with other merchants purchase the 271 acres surrounding the Westport Landing for $4,220. This group calls themselves the “Town of Kansas Company.” Other names for the town such as Port Fonda, Rabbitville and Possum Trot are all rejected. Following Chouteau’s death in 1839, the area outside of Westport is renamed the Town of Kansas.

On March 28, 1853, Missouri officially incorporates the “City of Kansas.” During the first municipal election there are 67 voters from an estimated population of 2,500. William S. Gregory becomes the first mayor but resigns within 10 months when it is discovered that the mayor must live in the city.

In 1865, the Missouri Pacific railroad reaches the City of Kansas.  Soon after, the City of Kansas wins a bid over Leavenworth, Kansas, for the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad bridge over the Missouri River. The bridge opens in 1869, and the city’s population will quadruple over the next fifty years.9.  

In 1889 the population is approximately 130,000. The city adopts a new charter  changing its name to Kansas City. Although the city will continue to grow, Kansas City is officially born.

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