THE FIRST MOVEMENTS - KANSAS CITY TOWN COMPANY - CITY INCORPORATED - WHEN ARMOURDALE GOT A START - PLATTING OF ARGENTINE - PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS - KANSAS PATRIOTISM AROUSED - CALL FOR A STATE MASS MEETING - A GREAT CIVIC DEMONSTRATION - COLONEL COBB'S LOGICAL ADDRESS - GOVERNOR'S CONSOLIDATION PROCLAMATION - FIRST CITY OFFICERS - ESTABLISHED WARD BOUNDARIES - FIRST REGULAR MUNICIPAL ELECTION - THE METROPOLITAN POLICE - OFFICIALS OF THE CITY - GOVERNMENT BY COMMISSION.
The border strife and the Civil war that followed brought paralysis to Wyandotte and Quindaro, as it did to the rival cities of Kansas City and Westport in Missouri. The rush of white settlers to the land that formerly was occupied by the Indians that commenced in 1854 suddenly ceased. Everything was at a standstill. Those who came this way came to fight on one side or the other - not to build cities or till the soil. But after it was over and peace was restored, there came another rush of settlers to the new state, and then followed an era of development such as was never witnessed before in the history of the world. And in the next ten years, before the ambitious cities of Leavenworth and Atchison were aware of it, those things occurred that laid the foundation for the great city that has been builded here at the junction of these two rivers as the permanent gateway whose doors swing both ways, from east to west and from west to east.
While Wyandotte was taking on a new growth and gave promise of fulfilling the expectations of its founders, it was also observed that new cities and towns were starting up in the Kansas river valley as rivals to Wyandotte and right under the eyes of her citizens. But instead of extending the limits the men of Wyandotte merely let them grow and in later years when they were big enough and strong enough, they were all gathered into one great big city.
It was fitting, also, that the new impetus to the building of a great city came through the utilization of the lands along the Kansas river valley which now is the greatest center of industrial, commercial and railroad activity on the Missouri river. David E. James, one of the early pioneers, had erected a two story house in 1857 on the strip of land lying between the state line and the Kansas river near its mouth, and thus a settlement had been started. This was United States land at that time, being claimed by Silas Armstrong under the treaty between the Wyandots and the United States, as his "float." Certain leading Wyandots had been granted a section of land, each to be located in any spot they might choose; hence the term "float." The float comprised a narrow strip of land lying between the state line and the Kansas river, running south from the Missouri river about one mile. Many acres of it were washed away by the shifting channels of the rivers, but in after years most of this land was reclaimed.
Much might be written of the early history of the Armstrong float. Several families resided on the point from 1856 to 1860, who were regarded only as squatters. They obtained a living by various means. There was a family named Johnson there then, having a habitation where for many years the Missouri river ran, a few hundred yards northeast of the Anglo-American packing (Fowler's) house. This family was known to the early settlers as fishermen. The family of Edward Olivet was recognized by Armstrong as having a squatter's interest in the land, and while the towns of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte were being built, Mr. Olivet was the agent of Armstrong for the sale of sand and wood to the people of either town. Mr. Henry Williams also resided out in land now claimed by the "Big Muddy." There was also a house full of negro people in that now an imaginary place on the point. The house heretofore mentioned as the "land office" building was a structure of twelve rooms, and had its history. Settlers of early date now reside in Kansas City who remember this old house as having had the reputation of being haunted. It was said that the ghost of a Willis Wills would, on certain occasions, appear in the house and make claims to the ground on which the building in which he once resided stood, as the property of his heirs. The claims of the Missouri river were pressed with such irresistible force that when the land became water, the ghost departed. Business is now too lively in this neighborhood to permit the existence of ghosts, and that old idea is rapidly fading away. Near the state line on Central avenue, the widow of Edward Olivet - Mrs. Sophia Olivet - lived for many years, the only one of the original squatters on the Armstrong "float" claiming a home on this tract.
The Kansas City, Kansas, Town Company was formed in 1868, by Silas Armstrong, David E. James, Dr, George B. Wood, Luther H. Wood, William Weir, Thomas Ewing Jr., T. H. Swope and N. McAlpine. The town site was situated upon parts of fractional sections Nos. 10, 11 and 14, town 11, south of range 25 east, lying north of the old bed of Turkey creek, east of the Kansas river, south of the Missouri river, and bounded on the east by the state line between Missouri and Kansas, and comprised the following named tracts, viz: Two tracts of land belonging to George B. Wood; two tracts of land belonging to D. E. James; one tract belonging jointly to George B. Wood and N. McAlpine, and one piece of land lying between the lands of Thomas Ewing on the south and lands of D. E. James on the north, between Armstrong street and Kansas river. The site was surveyed by John McGee, civil engineer, April 24, 1869, and recorded with the register of deeds of Wyandotte county May 3, 1869.
The streets were named after the original proprietors of the town. Mr. James erected the first dwelling house of any prominence in 1870, at the south end of James street near the railroad tracks. Soon followed the establishment of the large packing houses and stock yards, whose business forms the bulk of the city's trade. Some of the streets were made eighty and some sixty feet wide. James street, and all thoroughfares running parallel with it, have a direction bearing north 280 and 10' west - the variation of the needle being 11° east when the survey was made. The streets, excepting the one under a portion of the elevated railroad, cross at right angles. The original plat of the city was acknowledged by the proprietors, George B. Wood, Anna B. Wood, D. E. James, Nicholas McAlpine and Maria McAlpine.
In the fall of 1869 the estate of Silas Armstrong, lying within the corporate limits of the former Kansas City, Kansas, was surveyed, and laid out into blocks, lots, streets and alleys, so as to conform to the survey of the former city, by A. B. Bartlett and Silas Armstrong, Jr., administrators of the estate of the decedent. Some other additions have also been made to the former city of Kansas City.
In October, 1872, the city of Kansas City, Kansas, was incorporated, and the first city election was held October 22, 1872, by order of Judge Hiram Stevens of the Tenth judicial district, and resulted in the election of the following city officers:
Mayor, James Boyle; councilmen, S. W. Day, Charles H. Jones, John McKnight, George Forschler and James Lundell; police judge, James Kennedy; city clerk, Cornelius Cushin; treasurer, Samuel McConnell; city attorney, H. L. Alden. The mayors of the city from its incorporation up to April, 1881, were James Boyle, C. A. Eidemiller, A. S. Orbison and Eli Teed.
In June, 1881, the governor of Kansas proclaimed the City of Kansas a municipality of the second class. The mayors serving were: Samuel McConnell, from April, 1881, to April, 1883; R. W. Hilliker, from April, 1883, to April, 1885; James Phillips, from April, 1885, to April, 1886.
Armourdale, embracing a part of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 15, and part of the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 22, all in township 11 south, range 25 east, and being on the north bank of Kansas river about one and a half miles above its mouth, was laid out in June, 1880, by the Kaw Valley Town Site and Bridge Company. The company was composed of Boston capitalists, and of which Charles Francis Adams, Jr., was president, and John Quincy Adams, Charles Merriam, Nathaniel Thayer, H. H. Hunnewell and John A. Burnham were members. At this time the company owned a large amount of land adjoining the original town site, some of which has since been laid out in additions and some occupied for manufacturing purposes. The first addition to Armourdale, extending from Fourth to Tenth streets, was platted in June, 1881, by the same town company.
The city was incorporated in the spring of 1882, and the first election was held on May 5th. The officers were: Mayor, Frank W. Patterson; councilmen, Nehemiah Sherrick, Daniel Herbert, E. W. Anderson, S. Snyder and Joseph Bradley; police judge, John C. Foore; marshal, William Ross; city clerk, Granville Patterson. The list of mayors of Armourdale were Frank W. Patterson, from May, 1882, to April, 1884; George W. Parson, from April, 1884, to April, 1885; and Jacob Barney, from April, 1885, to April, 1886.
Early in the spring of 1882 the old school district, in which a school had been maintained for over twenty years, was divided, and that portion of the district containing the school house was set over to South Wyandotte. In May the Armourdale District No. 9 voted bonds for a $9,000 school house, which was completed an October 5th. The officers of the school board were N. Sherrick, president; E. Sheldon, secretary, and F. W. Dryer, treasurer. A colored school was opened in the old wooden school building in the west end of the town. In the six years of the existence of Armourdale, it had acquired a population of 1,582.
Meanwhile Armstrong had been platted. It was a small community resting on the hill above the Union Pacific Railway shops that had been builded south of Wyandotte in the sixties and seventies, before Armourdale had been thought of. In later years, as will be seen, Armstrong formed a connecting link between Wyandotte and Armourdale by growing in between the two.
Argentine, on the south side of the Kansas river, was platted in November, 1880, and originally contained sixty acres. James M. Coburn was the proprietor of the first town site. The location of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe transfer depot there was rendered necessary, in order to find room for side tracks, round-house, coal chute and sheds. A town sprung up at once, and, as the different business interests continued to select this as a location for manufacturing, the town grew accordingly.
In the original plat, the city extended from the Santa Fe railroad near a line parallel with Wyandotte street and from First to Fifth street. Attached to the original map of the city is the following:
"I hereby dedicate for public use the following described streets and alleys, as marked and described on the plat of the town of Argentine, Wyandotte county, Kansas, herewith attached, to-wit: Sterling avenue (60 feet wide), running east and west between blocks 5 and 6; also Euclid avenue (60 feet wide), running east and west between blocks 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9; also Bullion avenue (60 feet wide), running east and west between blocks 7, 8, 15 and 16 - 60 feet along the south side of block 9, being 30 feet off the north side of the Smelting company's land; also Metropolitan avenue (60 feet wide), being 30 feet off the south side of southeast quarter of section 20, township 11, range 25, and 30 feet off the north side of northeast quarter of section 29, township 11, range 25; also Silver avenue (60 feet wide), running east and west between blocks 18, 19, 21, 22, 13 and 23; also Ruby avenue (60 feet wide), running east and west between blocks 21, 22, 23, 25, 26 and 27; also First street (60 feet wide), running north and south between blocks 11, 12, 13, 23, 24 and 26; also Second street (60 feet wide), running north and south between blocks 9, 13, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26 and 27, except all of said street south of lot 46, block 27; also Third street (60 feet wide), running north and south between blocks 3, 4, 8, 9, 18, 19, 21 and 22; also a street (50 feet wide), running south between blocks 25 and 27; also Fourth street, running north and south between blacks 4, 6, 7, 8, 15, 16, 18 and 28; also Fifth street (30 feet wide), on the west side of blocks 5, 6, 7, 16 and 28, and also all the alleys marked on the plat of Argentine of the width shown.
JAMES M. COBURN, Trustee."
The growth of the city was gradual. As the working capacity of the Consolidated Kansas City and Refining company, which was the first great industrial plant erected there, and that of the Santa Fe Railroad increased, the city grew. It suffered a slight setback a few years ago when the smelter closed. But this was offset by the Kansas City Structural Steel Company, which purchased the abandoned smelter plant in the spring of 1908 and installed the largest structural steel plant west of Pittsburg.
Argentine became the home of an industrious prosperous people. Its streets, both in the valley and on the hill, were lined with neat cottages and well kept homes, and many substantial business buildings were erected.
The principal streets of the city were paved, and through the entire limits, from west to east, runs the Turner boulevard, one of the most beautiful drives in and around Kansas City. Metropolitan avenue, over which is operated the Metropolitan street railway line, was paved recently and new rails laid. The sewer system had been greatly enlarged in recent years and the lower portion of the city was protected from overflow of the Kansas river by a great levee faced with concrete and stone. This enabled the authorities to install a system of sanitary drainage such as few cities have.
Nearly all of the religious denominations were represented in Argentine. The churches were well organized and well attended. A wholesome religious spirit prevailed in the city. The citizens early provided those facilities for the education of the children. Three grade schools and a large high school, all well equipped and employing capable teachers, supplied the means of education.
The following served as mayors of Argentine : G. W. Gulley, 1882-3; E. G. Bliss, 1883-4; J. A. Healy 1884 W. F. Noyes 1884-5; G. W. Gulley 1885-6; T. J. Enright, 1886-8; G. W. Gulley, 1888-9; Steve March, 1889; Wm. McGeorge, 1889-91; J. O. Gaskill, 1891-3; F. O. Willard, 1893-7; C. W. Marston, 1897-9; C. W. Green, 1899-1903; Dr. D. E. Clopper, 1903-5; A. P. Jasper, 1905-6; H. R. Rossetter, 1906-7; C. W. Green, 1907-9.
A movement of the citizens of Kansas for the building in their own state of a great city, or an "emporium of commerce and industry," was inaugurated in the year 1875, eleven years before the present municipal corporation known to the world as Kansas City, Kansas, was formed by the consolidation of the cities, towns and villages that had been builded at and along the state line on the Kansas side. In pursuance of a notice published in the newspapers, a mass meeting of the citizens of Wyandotte county was held at Dunning's Hall, in Wyandotte City, on September 4, 1875, for the purpose of discussing the subject and devising ways and means to assist in building up the commercial metropolis of the state, of Kansas at the mouth of Kansas river. V. J. Lane was appointed chairman, and Nicholas McAlpine secretary.
After the chairman had stated the object of the meeting, Colonel Stephen A. Cobb introduced the following resolution, which passed unanimously: "Resolved, That a meeting of citizens of the state of Kansas be held at Dunning's Hall on Thursday, the 23rd of September, in the afternoon and evening, and that prominent citizens of the state be invited to address the meeting and become our guests."
On motion the following five persons were appointed as an invitation committee: H. W. Cook, John B. Scroggs, R. B. Taylor, V. J. Lane and Sanford Haff.
On motion a committee on arrangements and finance was appointed, consisting of S. A. Cobb; Mayor Charles Hains of Wyandotte; Mayor Eli Teed of Kansas City, Kansas; E. L. Bartlett, Dr. Thorne, Thomas Vickroy, L. H. Wood, J. S. Stockton and W. J. Buchan. A committee of five on assessment and taxation was then appointed as follows: L. H. Wood, Mayor Hains, H. M. Northrup, J. J. Keplinger and N. McAlpine.
The following is a copy of the call published in the papers for a meeting to be held September 23, 1875.
"To the People of Kansas: The citizens of Wyandotte county, mindful of the fact that the increasing commerce of the Missouri valley must concentrate somewhere on the bank of our river for general exchange, and build up a great emporium at the point where such general exchange shall be made, believe that the necessities of trade and the laws of nature, facts not to be denied, have fixed that point at the mouth of the Kansas river. This commerce, for the most part, is the product of the industry, the intelligence and the resources of Kansas; the city which is its offspring, they believe should be on Kansas soil, subject to her laws and tributary to her wealth. They believe that city may be planted by wise and judicious action on the part of the people within the borders of their state. They believe a generous interchange of sentiment on the spot by citizens of Kansas, with their fellow-citizens who reside at the mouth of the Kansas river, will convince the most skeptical and win him to their belief as to where that great mart shall be seated. Therefore, in no spirit of rivalry, as citizens of Kansas, solicitous of her welfare, they cordially invite as many of the people of their state as can attend a public meeting, to be held at Wyandotte on Thursday, September 23, 1875, in the evening, to consider the subject. To such as come they pledge a hearty welcome to their homes."
This invitation met with a very liberal response, there being 300 of the representative men of the state in attendance at the meeting on September 23rd. These guests were met at the depot by the citizens and escorted through the principal streets of the city in carriages. The following counties were represented by delegates in person: Douglas, Riley and Davis on the west; Leavenworth on the north; Johnson, Miami and Bourbon on the south; Franklin, Anderson and Allen on the southwest; and Jefferson on the northwest. The following counties sent words of encouragement by letter: Shawnee, Crawford, Coffey, Linn, Osage, Pottawatomie, Saline, Ellis, Republic, Ellsworth and Atchison. The press was represented by W. H. Miller, of the Kansas City Journal; S. M. Ford, of the Kansas City Times; H. Wilcox, of the Kansas City News and Chronicle; R. B. Taylor, of the Wyandotte Gazette, and V. J. Lane, of the Wyandotte Herald.
The ladies had decorated Dunning's Hall where the meetings were held. Colonel S. A. Cobb was elected president, and the following gentlemen vice presidents: General W. H. M. Fishback, of Johnson county; Theodore C. Bowles, of Franklin county; Hon. John T. Lanter, of Anderson county; Hon. L. J. Worden, of Douglas county; Dr. George B. Wood, of Wyandotte county; Judge Williams, of Jefferson county; Gen. John A. Halderman, of Leavenworth; Hon. George A. Crawford, of Bourbon county; Judge Hiram Stevens, of Miami county; Judge N. F. Acres, of Allen county; and Hon. John K. Wright, of Davis county. Speeches were made by Colonel Cobb, Senator Harvey, Gov. J. P. St. John, Gov. George A. Crawford, Gen. J. A. Halderman, Hon. T. C. Bowles, Hon. John K. Wright, Hon. L. J. Worden, Judge Williams, Hon. W. J. Buchan and others. Letters and telegrams, all giving encouragement to the movement, were read from other parties, among whom were Hon. J. J. Ingalls, J. R. Goodin, Byron Sherry, Gov. Osborn, George W. Veale, Chancellor Marvin, John Frazer, P. I. B. Ping and H. P. Dow.
The following is an extract from the speech of Colonel Cobb, which vividly portrays the natural advantages of the location at the mouth of Kansas river for the commercial metropolis of the state: "The terminus of one great line of railroad, the Kansas Pacific, whose trade extends westward beyond our limits to the mining camps of Colorado, and the grazing fields of New Mexico - on the north of this line of railroad, her supplies and goods minister to the wants of the settlers in the counties of our state, lying west of the district drained by the Central Branch Union Pacific and the St. Joseph & Denver Railroads, until she reaches the neighborhood of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad of Nebraska. Then extending westward, under the advantage of the pro rata bill passed at a recent session of congress, by way of Denver and Cheyenne, her influences are felt, as the competitor of Omaha, on the plains of Wyoming and in the valleys of Utah. On the south side of the Kansas Pacific Railroad she has practically no competitor in the field of trade, and her business men solicit exchange over the whole expanse of country southward to the northern boundary of Texas, and westward to the limits of settlement this side of the Rocky mountains. Confining the question to our own state, the railroads which extend westwardly from the mouth of the Kansas river drain every section of Kansas, except the counties of Leavenworth, Atchison, Doniphan, Nemaha, Brown, Marshall, Jackson and portions of Jefferson, Pottawatomie and Washington. The Republican branch of the Kansas Pacific, which extends northward up the valley of the Republican river to Clay Center, Clay county, takes the trade of the northwestern counties, which would otherwise go to the Central Branch or St. Joseph & Denver roads to the line of the Kansas Pacific. The Kansas Midland road between this point and Topeka, and the line between here and Ottawa, are lines over which the trade of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston roads will respectively pass with the same facility with which it will to Atchison or Leavenworth.
"The people of Wyandotte county contend that the mass of trade carried on by these roads will follow the valley of the Kansas river to its junction with the Missouri. They contend, other things being equal, that the companies owning these roads can afford to deliver freights cheaper at the mouth of the Kansas river than at any other point on the Missouri, because the grades of the roads are uniform and descending after they touch the valley of that river, while, to carry their freight to the original terminus, requires them to pass over elevated tracts of country with heavy gradients. But things are not equal. Any great city in the Missouri valley will be tributary either to the greater cities of St. Louis or Chicago. The state of Kansas is by nature, tributary to St. Louis. To re-distribute passengers and freight bound to St. Louis from the principal portion of Kansas northward of this point, is to take them out of a direct line for re-distribution. But the mass of the producers of Kansas will not engage in the business of re-distribution. They will dispose of their products where they can find the buyers and seldom go farther from home in quest of them than to the Missouri valley. The people of this county contend that they will go there where the greatest competition may be had, and that today no man can question that the grain elevators, the packing-houses and the stock-yards at this point all demonstrate that the buyers of the staple products - grain and cattle - are far more numerous than anywhere else on the Missouri river. They contend that the mouth of the Kansas river is the natural site for the metropolis of the Missouri valley, and that all efforts to build it elsewhere will be futile. They believe that the failure of other places to become the metropolis is owing to no mistake on the part of the citizens of those places, but they simply lacked the thousand and one natural advantages that this spot so happily possesses. It is said 'facts are born, not made.' So of those great marts that spring up in the march of civilization across the continent. The people of Kansas would gladly have made their metropolis elsewhere, but this spot was born to be it, and they must accept the fact.
"In all I have said I have not spoken of the eastern connections of railroads with this point. To name them is sufficient. The Missouri Pacific and St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern furnish rival lines and some competition to St. Louis. The Hannibal & St. Joseph, and the Kansas City & Northern to Moberly, and then the Missouri, Kansas and Texas supply like facilities to Chicago. Keeping in view these competative lines alone, no other place in the valley of the Missouri approaches this advantage."
This agitation was continued persistently throughout Kansas for eleven years before the agitators could begin to see that their hopes were to be realized.
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