Kansas City, MO Fun Facts
The first documented European visitor to Kansas City was Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, who was also the first European to explore the lower Missouri River. Criticized for his response to the Native American attack on Fort Détroit, he had deserted his post as fort commander and was avoiding French authorities. Bourgmont lived with a Native American wife in a village about 90 miles (140 km) east near Brunswick, Missouri, where he illegally traded furs.
To clear his name, he wrote Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony in 1713 followed in 1714 by The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River. In the documents, he describes the junction of the “Grande Riv[ière] des Cansez” and Missouri River, making him the first to adopt those names. French cartographer Guillaume Delisle used the descriptions to make the area’s first reasonably accurate map.
The Spanish took over the region in the Treaty of Paris in 1763, but were not to play a major role other than taxing and licensing Missouri River ship traffic. The French continued their fur trade under Spanish license. The Chouteau family operated under Spanish license at St. Louis in the lower Missouri Valley as early as 1765 and in 1821 the Chouteaus reached Kansas City, where François Chouteau established Chouteau’s Landing.
After the 1804 Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark visited the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, noting it was a good place to build a fort. In 1831, a group of Mormons from New York settled in what would become the city. They built the first school within Kansas City’s current boundaries, but were forced out by mob violence in 1833 and their settlement remained vacant.
In 1833 John McCoy, son of missionary Isaac McCoy, established West Port along the Santa Fe Trail, 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away from the river. In 1834 McCoy established Westport Landing on a bend in the Missouri to serve as a landing point for West Port. Soon after, the Kansas Town Company, a group of investors, began to settle the area, taking their name from an English spelling of “Cansez.” In 1850, the landing area was incorporated as the Town of Kansas.
By that time, the Town of Kansas, Westport and nearby Independence, had become critical points in the United States’ westward expansion. Three major trails – the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon – all passed through Jackson County.
On February 22, 1853, the City of Kansas was created with a newly elected mayor. It had an area of 0.70 square miles (1.8 km2) and a population of 2,500. The boundary lines at that time extended from the middle of the Missouri River south to what is now Ninth Street, and from Bluff Street on the west to a point between Holmes Road and Charlotte Street on the east.