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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"First House"

Four days before the purchase papers were signed by the Wyandots and Delawares, the family of J. M. Armstrong moved into the first house built by the Wyandots.  This was on December 10, 1843.  During summer Mr. Armstrong had rowed up the Missouri River to Jersey Creek.  There he found a location near a spring at what is now about Fifth and Freeman.  He named the area West Jersey.   Map of 500 Freeman Dr  

Years later, Mrs. Armstrong recalled the moving from Westport into the new home.  The Armstrongs had brought a fine two-seated buggy with them from Ohio.  It was considered a marvel by the old citizens of Westport.

They drove to the east bank of the Kaw, expecting to find the ferry awaiting them.  For some reason it was not there.  There was no bridge nor any place low enough to ford the river.

Mr. Armstrong unhitched the horses and left them until someone could take them up the river to a ford.  The new buggy had to be taken apart and carried piece by piece across the river in a skiff.  After putting the buggy together again, the Armstrongs borrowed a team of horses from some people camped on the west bank.  Then they drove to the new house.

You can imagine how bitterly the Wyandot women must have complained about the loss of their comfortable homes in Ohio, as they shivered in tents and saw their loves ones sicken and die.  Mrs. Armstrong remembered these complaints, but could recall years later only her own happiness at having a home again.  The cabin was small and crowded compared to the homes of today.  It was only sixteen feet square and had to serve the family for living room, bedroom, and kitchen.  The Armstrongs found everything clean that day, with shelves and cupboards made from boxes in which their goods had been shipped from Ohio.  Chintz curtains hung at the windows.

A curtain was strung across the room to screen a second bed in the cabin.  This arrangement made a "spare room" for the missionary and the Indian agent who otherwise would have had no place to stay on their visits to the Wyandots.

Besides chairs, bureau, table beds, and stove, the Armstrongs had a carpet.  The trouble was that the carpet had to be removed whenever the family needed potatoes.  The puncheon in the middle of the floor had to be lifted to get into the potato hole!  The Armstrongs added another room in April.  [Annotation:  Check Merriam-Webster Online for the meaning of puncheon.]

Other homes were soon built.  William Walker, a chief of the tribe, had a house located at what is now about Sixth and Virginia.  Some accounts say that his home was the old Delaware pay house where the agent had given the Delawares their annuity money.  Walker is supposed to have built additions to the house until he had twelve or more rooms.  He never changed the door with the hole in it, however, through which the Delawares had received their money.  [Annotation:  William Walker was appointed the first provisional governor of the Kansas Territory.]

[Annotation: From "The Kansas City, Kansas Public School System" by Nellie McGuinn, 1966 - "As Matthew Walker had found the sightly spot at Troup and old Walnut (Fourth St) an ideal location for his mansion, so more than twenty-five years later did George Fowler.  In 1880 $75,000 was a fabulous sum for a house, and that is what Fowler spent on his home.  He modeled it on the plan of a feudal castle of his native Ireland.  The large rooms were the scene of receptions and parties, probably the most elaborate ever seen in Wyandotte up to that time.  It is difficult to imagine a residence of such magnificence in the little city of mud streets, roving livestock, and modest homes.  Old engravings show the thirty-room house set in several acres of grounds.  The seven "inlaid" mantles that adorned the fireplaces, the basement swimming pool, and the beautiful circular staircase, curving at the back of the house from the basement to the top floor, were marvels of the 1880s.  The woodwork was of valuable, rare woods.  Different colors of wood made up the inlaid floors.  Near the front entrance "Welcome" was spelling out in large letters inlaid in oak.  The Edgerton Place residential district grew up around the Fowler mansion.  The Baptist Seminary occupied the building after the Fowlers sold to Swift and Company and left the city.  The Northeast Junior High School was built near the site in 1923." ]

The company store was moved from Westport to Wyandot as a spot near what is now Third and Minnesota.  A room in the back of the building was used as a meeting place for the council if the schoolhouse was not available.  A blacksmith had a shop near Third and Nebraska.

The Wyandot Ferry

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuinn

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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