A Brief History of Kansas City

By | September 9, 2011

The region of confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers drew the attention of settlers, as well as the U.S. government, from the early 1800’s. Because of the rich soil, profitable fur trade, and excellent geographical vantages for forts, the Kansas City area grew from a tiny trading post into one of the largest cities in the U.S.

Before Lewis and Clark reached the area in 1804, there had been a handful of French traders and trappers, who made war plans with their Indian allies against

Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia by Charl...

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the Spanish, but that activity was extremely limited. As well, no real, permanent settlements saw the light of day until after Lewis and Clark’s arrival.

When Louisiana became a state, Missouri spent another decade being cut up and surveyed, until it saw statehood for itself in 1821. The new district saw rapid growth with the relocation of Indian tribes and a large influx of French settlers, among others. The next few years witnessed the founding of Jackson County and the city of Independence, still major players in the political landscape of Kansas City. Chouteau, a French trader, and his settlers spoke French, which was the first language of most of the inhabitants of early Kansas City.

In 1833, Calvin McCoy opened trading posts near what is now the Westport area. His posts, as well as Chouteau’s, were integral to the establishment of Kansas City as a crossroads for travelers who were on their way further west, to California, Oregon, and points north. In 1850, the county incorporated the

Town of Kansas. One year later, the area got its first telegraph line and newspaper. Thus, between St. Louis and California, the Town of Kansas was one of the very few populated areas where travelers could buy provisions for the long trip ahead.

Looking north from the Liberty Memorial toward...

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Rapid growth and expansion through the Civil War, as well as World War I, saw Kansas City grow to something of a boom

town by the 1920’s, and it has since established itself as the heart of America, a crossroads for travelers and a home to many corporate communications giants.

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