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Kansas City

Administrative Offices for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS are located at 701 North 7th Street, Kansas City, KS 66101; phone: 913-573-5000.

Moses Ginter House (Ginter Place), ca. 1857, 1420 South 78th Street, Kansas City, KS, National Register

Photo: Moses Ginter House (Ginter Place), ca. 1857, 1420 South 78th Street, Kansas City, KS. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Photographed by User:J.D. Redding (own work), 2007, [cc-by-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed June, 2014.

Kansas City was first incorporated in 1886. In 1997 the governments of Kansas City and Wyandotte County were consolidated.

Beginnings [1]

Kansas City is located at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers at the eastern edge of the State, is the largest city in Kansas and the seat of Wyandotte County.

Its position is one of great natural advantages. Situated in the heart of the central plains region, Kansas City, with Kansas City, Missouri, forms the industrial center for this vast region. Kansas City, Missouri, joins it on the east, and so closely are they connected there is no apparent division. On the north, south, and west are undulating farm lands, checkered with fields of wheat and corn. Here, too, are stores of natural resources; small oil and gas wells, rich limestone deposits, and stream beds yielding sand valued at one million dollars annually. Near to the city are dairy farms, truck gardens, and suburban estates. Highways are lined with commercial signs, tourist camps, and wayside markets.

Within the city limits the undulating character of the terrain is intensified. The Kansas River, flowing from the southwest, approximately bisects the urban area, and on either side of the narrow valley is spread a series of hills and precipitous bluffs. Seventh Street Traffic Way, traversing the city from north to south, has as many "dips" as a roller-coaster railway, notwithstanding the three viaducts bridging the river and seven railway lines.

Due to the hills and to the manner of its growth, its streets are not regularly patterned for Kansas City has not grown around a single industrial unit; it is a consolidation of villages. Eight individual towns were merged to form the present corporate limits, resulting in many angling and broken thoroughfares, and in five "main" streets, each centered in its own business and residential district.

Although there is no apparent division between the two cities, Kansas City, Kansas, has jealously retained a definite identity. The city points with pride to the fact that a majority of the great industrial plants in the river bottoms are on the Kansas side of the line, although they are always included in an industrial survey of the Missouri city.

Greater Kansas City, which includes both cities and their suburbs, has spilled over a large area in four counties, two in each State. On the Kansas side it has grown steadily southward until it has crossed the Wyandotte County line into Johnson County, where there are many comfortable suburban homes. Paradoxically, Kansas City, Missouri's, most exclusive residential development, Indian Hills, is also well within the borders of Johnson County, Kansas.

On June 26, 1804, Lewis and Clark passed through the territory on their expedition to the Pacific Coast. They landed on the neck of land between the two rivers that is called "Kaw Point," a part of the present city, and rested for two days, making observations, and overhauling equipment. Two years later, after crossing the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, they stopped at this point on their return voyage. On Monday, August 15, 1806, Clark wrote in his diary: "The Kansas is very low at this time. About a mile below it we landed to view the situation of a high hill, which has many advantages for a trading house or fort; while on shore we gathered great quantities of pawpaws, and shot an elk. The low grounds are now delightful, and the whole country exhibits a rich appearance..." This was the first written description of the territory. Twelve years later it was made a part of the reservation granted to the Delaware Indians. Twenty-five years later 1843 it was purchased from the Delaware by the Wyandot, who laid the foundation for the present city.

The Wyandot, the last of the emigrant tribes, came from Sandusky, Ohio, as a band of 700 not savages, but an educated, and in many instances a cultured people. Intermarried with whites from generations back, they were more white than Indian; their leaders were men of influence and ability. They laid out the town, Wyandot City, in 1843, the first log cabin being completed and occupied on December 10. Within twelve months, despite flood and sickness and the delay of the Federal Government in paying them for their Ohio reservation improvements, they had built a school, the first free school in Kansas; a church, the organization of which they brought from Ohio; a store owned in common by the nation; and a council house in which they were to take far-reaching action. The Wyandot were farmers, devoted to rural pursuits rather than urban practices; and the little city grew very slowly until 1849, when the California gold rush placed it on the great highway to the Pacific an alarming situation to Wyandot leaders. From past experiences, they knew that the white men invading their precincts, sooner or later, would covet their lands and that what white men wanted they would obtain. All they could do was increase the value and obtain the best price possible. To accomplish this they must induce white men to settle among them; and to bring white men they must assume a Territorial status.

With this object in view, they met on October 12, 1852, in their council house and elected Abelard Guthrie, a white man married into the tribe, as a delegate to the Thirty-second Congress. Guthrie was not admitted to Congress, but his presence in Washington forced the Territorial question a fact of which Wyandot leaders were fully cognizant. On July 26, 1853, they met to take the more compelling action of organizing Kansas- Nebraska into a provisional Territory, electing William Walker as Governor, and re-electing Guthrie to the Thirty-third Congress.

Although this action also failed of recognition, it did serve to project the little city of Wyandot into the national limelight. Kansas, by the Missouri Compromise, was neutral territory. If it came into the Union as a Free State, the balance of power would be thrown to the North; and it was known that a majority of the Wyandot were with the North. (In 1848 when their church was divided, 135 of the 200 members had espoused the Northern cause.) Thus, in this little Indian Settlement was staged a preliminary to the national conflict.

In the meantime, in 1855, the Wyandot petitioned for and received the rights of citizens with their lands in severalty. This enabled them to dispose of their property, which they did promptly; within a short time Wyandot City passed into the hands of white men, and the Wyandot as a nation disappeared from Kansas. Although advanced in civilization, they were not equal to the white man's often unscrupulous shrewdness; and in 1868, having dissipated the proceeds of the sale of their property, they petitioned to be reinstated as wards of the Government. The petition was granted. Those who chose were restored to the nation and given a home with the Cherokee in Oklahoma. The few families who preferred to retain citizenship, remained in the city, where some of their descendants still reside. The white settlers who succeeded them established a post office in the spring of 1857, opened two banks the same year, and transformed the quiet village into a booming town, which they called "Wyandotte." Other towns sprang up nearby. Quindaro, on the bank of the Missouri a little to the north and west, was founded in 1856 by Abelard Guthrie, Charles Robinson, and others, and was named for Guthrie's Wyandot wife, Quindaro Brown Guthrie. Intended as a Free State port to compete with the pro-slavery towns of Westport, Missouri, and Leavenworth, it was widely advertised and grew rapidly, for two years rivaling Wyandotte. Ambitious for the trade of the Southwest, Wyandotte built a road to the Kansas River and established a free ferry. Quindaro retaliated with a similar road and ferry. Wyandotte then after effecting incorporation January 29, 1859, and electing its first mayor, James B. Parr, in February shifted its business section from Nebraska Avenue to the levee, where a block of business buildings was erected and Quindaro had no answer. One of those buildings was "Constitutional Hall," wherein, July 1859, the constitution of Kansas was written; and by that constitution the county of Wyandotte was erected with Wyandotte as the county seat. Quindaro's prosperity declined and came to an end during the Civil War.

In 1860, James McGrew established a slaughter house in the bottoms now occupied by the stockyards; in 1866 the railroad connecting Wyandotte with Topeka was completed; and in 1868, Edward Patterson and J. W. Slavens began the first packing house with an annual kill of 4,000 animals. However, it was due to Charles F. Adams, descendant of Presidents John and John Quincy Adams, that Kansas City became a meat packing center. Adams acquired several large tracts of land in the Kansas River Valley, now occupied by Armourdale and the central industrial district, and built the first of the stockyards. He then persuaded Plankington and Armour to remove the packing house they had set up in Missouri to Kansas that it might be convenient to his stockyards. This they did in 1871, beginning the present Armour plant and the first of the major packing units. Today Kansas City has eleven packing houses, including those of the "Big Four" Armour, Swift, Cudahy, and Wilson requiring the services of seven trunkline railroads.

Around the railroad and packing houses other towns grew up. Old Kansas City, Kansas, on the strip of ground between the Kansas River and the Missouri line, was platted in 1868 and incorporated October 22, 1872; Armstrong, on the hill to the south, was established in 1871. Armourdale, named for the packers, in the low ground south of Armstrong, was founded in 1871 and incorporated in 1882; while Riverview, built on the hill between Armstrong and Wyandotte, came into being in 1879.

These towns, all within a figurative stone's throw and animated with boom times, soon were crowding each other; the need for consolidation became apparent. Agitation was begun in 1876, but it was not until 1880 that Riverview petitioned and became a part of Wyandotte. In 1886 old Kansas City and Armourdale were annexed by legislative enactment, and Armstrong was included as intervening territory. Much discussion arose over the proper name for the consolidated city. Wyandotte held out for its name, but as it was argued that municipal bonds would sell better under the title of Kansas City, Kansas, that was finally adopted. Still the city was not complete. Across the Kansas River to the south were Rosedale and Argentine. Rosedale took its name from the wild rose covering the bluffs when it was a wayside stop on the Santa Fe Trail. It was platted in 1872 and received impetus from the rolling mill opened in 1875. Argentine grew up around the Santa Fe Railway shops and yards, established in 1880, and the plant of the Consolidated Kansas City Smelting and Refining Company, which drew raw materials from all over the country and sent its smelted gold and silver to the mints of the world. Argentine, so named from the Spanish word for silver, became a part of the city by petition in 1909; Rosedale was forced in by legislative enactment in 1922. Meanwhile, Quindaro, having rescinded its incorporation and reverted to Quindaro Township, was absorbed by natural expansion. And so the present city was formed.

The "Exodusters," freed Negroes from the South, and European peasants Germans, Russians, Poles, Croats, Czechs, Slovakians lured by the prospects of freedom in a new land, increased the city's population in the late 1800s.

The coming of the Negroes spread over a period of twenty years following the Civil War, but the peak was reached between 1878 and 1882. In that four-year period twenty thousand are said to have landed on the city's levee. Large numbers were sent on to Atchison, Topeka, and other towns in the State; others were returned to the South. The majority, however, remained in Kansas City and were absorbed by its growing industries. Homes were found along Jersey Creek in a settlement called "Rattlebone Hollow," and in old Quindaro; while literally hundreds squatted on the levee, putting up shanties of scrapwood to form what was known as "Jumper," or "Mississippi Town."

"Mississippi Town" went out of existence in 1924, when it was condemned as an unsightly nuisance, and that part of the levee was transformed into the Woodswether industrial district. "Rattlebone Hollow" is still extant, although the Negroes are not confined to that area. As their economic conditions improved and numbers increased, they have spread over virtually the entire city, forming a substantial civic group. Negro institutions include a university, a hospital, and a high school. There are also two Negro weekly newspapers.

The European immigrants first settled around the packing houses, but have since moved to other parts of the city. "Strawberry Hill," a part of old Riverview, is a Slavic settlement which retains many native customs, although this racial group is fast being assimilated.

Kansas City's industries, except for odors from stockyards and packing houses, are not obtrusive. Yet they are present to an astonishing extent. Hay market and grain storage facilities are the largest in the world. Stockyards and meat-packing houses are second only to Chicago; and not even Chicago has all of the "Big Four," with complete processing plants, as Kansas City has. Serum plants, manufacturing serum for the protection of animal health, rank first in the United States. Soap factories draw raw materials from various parts of the world and distribute their manufactured products throughout North America. Fabricating steel mills are the largest west of the Mississippi; and flour mills, oil refineries, railway shops and yards, and innumerable other activities contribute importantly to its economic stability.

In the early days of Kansas City's industries, the bulk of traffic was carried by steamboats on the Missouri River. Today (1938) this river traffic is being revived. The city owns 90-1/2 acres of levee land and, in conjunction with the Public Works Administration, is engaged in an immense levee development project. Aiding this work, Congress, by an act of July 3, 1930, provided for a survey to determine the possibility of reestablishing barges not only on the Missouri River, but on the Kansas as well. Navigation of the Missouri is now a reality, and barges of 1,000-ton capacity are planned to operate on the Kansas to a distance of 9.5 miles above its mouth.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Kansas, Kansas: A Guide to the Sunflower State, Kansas State Department of Education, The Viking Press, New York, 1939.
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