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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

"Other Wyandotte Cities, Places and People"

OLD KANSAS CITY

People were living in what is now the Central Industrial District (Bottoms where Kemper Arena is and the stockyards were years ago) when Wyandotte became a city in 1859.  Since then the Missouri River has changed its course and covered the site of these early houses.  Some families settled in what was called the "Bottoms" because the government owned the land.  Such people were called squatters.  [Annotation:   The Bottoms or French Bottoms is the land to the east of the Kansas River, to the south of the Missouri River, and to the west of the Missouri State Line - the original Kansas City, Kansas before the Consolidation Act of 1886.  It is considered the "Central Industrial District" in the 1960's.]

Then the railroads laid tracks on the level ground.  A packing house was built in 1868 from Junction City, and streets were laid out by a town company.  One of them, James Street, is named after a founder, David James.

The first stockyards market in old Kansas City was only five acres of pens.  There were 11 pens in all and farmers who brought their cattle to market would rent a pen so the buyers could look at the cattle.  This was in 1870.  In 1871 Plankington and Armour came to Kansas City.  They were followed by six or seven other companies.  Workers moved in to live near their work.  In 1872 the town became a city.  There was no fire department and the firemen came from Kansas City, Missouri to put out the fires.  By 1886, it was ready to join Wyandott and Armourdale to became part of a larger city.

ARMOURDALE

The little city of Armourdale was only six years old when it became part of the new city of Kansas City, Kansas.  In 1880 a group of men from Boston formed a company called the Kaw Valley Town Site and Bridge Company.  Among the Boston men were Charles F. and John Quincy Adams.  One of our early presidents was John Quincy Adams, and these men probably were descendants.  The company brought the land north of the Kaw River and south of Armstrong for a town site.

[Annotation:  John Quincy Adams was the 6th President of the United States.  His father, John Adams, had been our 2nd President.  On one of his long trips to Europe, John Quincy Adams met Louisa Catherine Johnson, his future bride. Louisa Catherine was the only foreign born first lady. Louisa was considered a polite, pleasant, and delightful woman. She was a stark contrast to John Quincy's cold manner, however, the two found love in each other. They were married for over 50 years. They had four children: George Washington Adams, John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, and Louisa Catherine Adams. All of their children were named after family or close friends. Their first son was named after the first president of the United States and close friend of the family, the second after John Quincy's father, the third after John Quincy's brother, and their daughter was named after her mother, Louisa Catherine.]

By 1882 enough people were living in Armourdale to make it a city.  A street railway in 1883 connected it with Kansas City, Missouri.  At first it was known as Armourdale, later Armourdale.  It was named in honor of the man who established the Armour Packing Company here.

RIVERVIEW and ARMSTRONG

Riverview School pupils may not know that once their district was a town in its own right.  Now it is a part of the city around it.  Once it was made up of 24 large blocks and had a lake and a park.  This was many years ago, in 1879.

Riverview wanted to be a part of old Kansas.  If you look to the east from the school, you can see that you are on a hill overlooking the old town in the bottoms.  You will see too why the residents chose the name Riverview.  Before factories were built there was a fine view of the Kaw River from this hill.  The mayor and the council in Kansas City disagreed about taking Riverview in.  Wyandotte got busy and in 1880 Riverview became a part of our city.  The town of Armstrong overlooked the Union Pacific Railroad yards and stood between Armourdale and Riverview.  People who worked in the railroad shops settled there in the 1870's.  The name Armstrong was chosen in honor of one of the founders.  There was a post office and a school in Armstrong.

[Annotation:  Did you know that an iron works existed in the Riverview area of Kansas in 1889 - Keystone Iron Works Company]

ONE CITY

The Civil War lasted four years.  During that period, and for a long time afterward, few new residents came to Wyandotte.  Nearby were old Kansas City, Armstrong, Riverview, and Armourdale.  There was not enough business for all.

The leaders discussed combining the five districts into one city.  It took seven years to carry out the plans.  By a special act of the legislature in 1886, Kansas City was incorporated.

Wyandotte was the oldest and largest of the cities.  Its population was twelve thousand, while Kansas City's was about three thousand.  Wyandotte residents were angry and disappointed when the name of their city was not chosen.  Even today people complain that we should be living, not in Kansas City, but in Wyandotte.

The city needed to issue bonds to obtain money for services in the different communities.  Wealthy Easterners would buy the bonds if they were familiar with the city's name.  Because the Kansas City in Missouri was better known, that name was adopted.

FROM KANSAS TO MANILA

When the Spanish-American War broke out in the Philippines in 1898, a group of young men in Kansas City formed Company B of the famous 20th Kansas Regiment.  The last member of Company B, Peter Sorenson, died in January 1960, but the story of these men will always be remembered.

The boys had been issued no uniforms.  As you may imagine, by the time they reached San Francisco and camped there for awhile, they resembled scarecrows more than soldiers.  The other men called them "Coxey's Army" or the "Cowboys."  One name Company B especially liked was the "Raggedy Pops."

The boys of Company B, however, earned their fame in a way not connected with their appearance or their nicknames.  They spent months under fire in the Philippines jungles.  Two of their number, Edward White and William B. Trembley, saved the lives of the other men of the company.  They swam a river under fire and made a pontoon bridge for the rest of the company to cross.  These two men received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

When someone asked why these Kansans were so brave, the reply was, "Kansans are full of patriotism.  They venerate their country's flag.  The heroism of our men has set a standard for the country."

ARGENTINE, THE SILVER CITY

Until recent years Argentine boys and girls had in their neighborhood a smokestack, the tallest in the United States when it was built in 1900.  IN 1958 the old landmark was torn down to make way for a new sewer.

The smokestack stood over one hundred and eighty-five feet high and belonged to a building that in a way gave the city its name.  This building was a smelter, a mill which extracts metal from ore.  The word Argentine means silver.  When a town sprang up around the smelter it was named Argentine, because of the large amount of silver obtained at the plant.

In 1880 the Santa Fe established a transfer depot and railroad shops in Argentine.  Streets were laid out and houses built for the smelter and railroad workers.  If you live on Sterling or Silver Avenue, you know that the smelter had a part in the naming of those streets.

This mill produced a ton of silver every day from ore mined in Colorado and as far away as Mexico.  Twelve hundred men worked at the plant, and at one time it operated 24 hours a day.  Sometimes workers became ill from the sickening fumes of the melting ore.  [Annotation:  Work at the smelter was an extremely hazardous occupation. Workers became ill from the sickening fumes of the melting ore. Some workers became paralyzed and died from lead poisoning. Winds blew the toxic fumes directly over Argentine. Because of fog and high humidity, smelter fumes covered the little city for much of the year. Vegetation and grass could not grow in many areas. Occasionally fumes were so bad that dogs and cats suffocated on the streets.]

Once a head official had a wedding in his family.  The fires were let die down while everyone celebrated.  It took two weeks to get the furnaces hot enough to melt the ore again.

The smelter closed in 1901.  The workers thought it would open in a short time, but it remained idle.  Companies had built plants near the mines in Colorado.  Mexico found it cheaper to ship ore by boat to eastern cities.  The Argentine smelter was left without enough ore shipments to keep it operating.  In 1908 the Kansas City Structural Steel converted the smelter to steel manufacturing.  Argentine remained a separate city until 1909, when it became a part of Kansas City.

[Annotation:  For a more thorough look at Argentine and its' history, please visit our online transcription of SILVER CITY," A History of the Argentine Community of Kansas City, Kansas by Edwin Dale Shutt, II]

AUGUST H. MEYER

Fountain at Meyer CircleAs you drive to Swope Park, you have probably followed a wide street called Meyer Boulevard.  Long ago, before he moved to Missouri, August H. Meyer lived in Argentine.  He was a mining engineer who had gone to school in Germany.  After helping to found the town of Leadville, Colorado, he built the smelter in Argentine.  It was supposed at one time to have been the largest in the world.

Mr. Meyer erected a fine home at 22nd and Ruby.  It later became the first hotel in Argentine and was known as the Bleaker House.  The owner of the hotel used to send his children to the smelter gate with hot lunches for his boarders.

August Meyer moved to Missouri when he closed his smelter.  There he became interested in fine streets and boulevards.  He worked with William R. Nelson, founder of the Kansas City Star, to plan Cliff Drive, the Paseo and Armour Boulevard.  His mansion of 35 rooms became an art school after his death.

SAUER'S CASTLE

Our city of the present seems a long way from feudal times, but it does have a castle.  No lords and ladies, though, have ever lived in this castle, built in Argentine in 1872.

Anthony P. Sauer was born in Germany in a city on the Rhine River.  He emigrated to New York where he ran a leather business.  When his health failed, he moved to Kansas.  Mr. Sauer must have used his father's home in Germany as a pattern for the castle he built.

Sauer's Castle occupied a large tract of land on Shawnee Drive, above the Kansas River.  Two stone lions, sculptured in Italy, guarded the entrance.  Fish swam in the pool of cut stone.  The house had twenty rooms.

Three fire places were carved from Italian marble and a glass chandelier was imported from Austria.  At the windows hung curtains of Brussels lace.  Mirrors came from Florence, Italy.  A famous French artist, Madame Le Brun, painted a vase for one of the castle rooms.  Leading to the second floor was a stairway of solid walnut.

Mr. Sauer enjoyed his home for only six years before he died in 1878.  Mr. Paul Berry and his family now occupy the castle.

ROSEDALE

Then and Now - Margaret Landis Articles Online

"The Winding Valley and The Craggy Hillside" - an online history of Rosedale by Margaret Landis, Kansas City Historian

Shawnee Indians once lived in a valley south of the Kansas River.  Trees covered the hills nearby, and from every rock and crevice below grew wild roses.

After the Indians left this valley, a rolling mill was built.  Here old and worn rails belonging to the railroad were heated to red-hot temperatures and "rolled" into shape again.  Mill workers brought their families and built a settlement close by.  Because of the flowers all around, the town was named Rosedale.

When Rosedale became a city in 1877, there were miles of farms between it and the city of Wyandotte.  From Rosedale to Westport was a long, uphill drive.  Citizens stayed in their own city most of the time.

When the rolling mill closed in 1883, the new city failed for a time to prosper.  With the consolidation of the towns that made up Kansas City, business improved in Rosedale also.  A waterworks plant and a telephone exchange were established.  New street lights and mail delivery followed.  By 1897 Rosedale was a city of the second class.

Many years passed.  In 1922 Rosedale voted to join Kansas City, after having been a city in its own right for almost fifty years.

DR. SIMEON BELL

One Rosedale man, Dr. Simeon Bell, knew the value of good roads to a community.  In making calls on his patients, he had traveled by horse and buggy over country roads.  They were dusty in dry weather and muddy during the rainy season.  He gave the land for Southwest Boulevard to the city and helped to locate the road from the Shawnee Mission buildings to Argentine.

The Eleanor Bell Memorial Hospital which stood for years on a hill in Rosedale was the gift of Dr. Bell to his city.  The big Medical Center is the outgrowth of that hospital.

Medical Center's Parking Lot once Site of Merry-G-Round

Huron Place and Huron Cemetery

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

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

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