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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"Other Wyandotte Cities, Places and People"


The oldest hospital in Kansas City is St. Margaret's.  Reverend Anton Kuhls, who came to Wyandotte in 1864, was the founder.  A miner from Nova Scotia, having gone to sleep under a freight car in Armstrong, had his back broken when the train moved.  The only place to take care of the man was at the jail, where he lay for four months on a stretcher.  As people here would not take him into their homes, a fund was collected and he was sent back to Canada.

Father Kuhls borrowed money in 1884 to buy three acres of land in Riverview for a hospital.  Father Kuhls said that he walked fourteen trips from St. Mary's Church to the hospital while it was being erected.  He then set the policy for the hospital that has been carried out in the years since.  No sick person would ever be turned away because he was too poor to pay for his care.

Bethany Hospital was established by the Methodist Church.  Douglass Hospital, operated by the Negro people of the city, is on the grounds of the old town of Quindaro.  Providence is another Catholic hospital.  The University of Kansas directs the work of the Medical Center in Rosedale.  Kansas Citians have many doctors and five hospitals to care for the sick.


Carrie Nation was a woman from Medicine Lodge, Kansas, who believed that it was wrong for saloons to sell liquor.  When she lectured in a town about the evils of drinking, she visited the saloons and destroyed mirrors and fixtures with a hatchet.  At times when Mrs. Nation needed money for lecture tours, she sold small pewter hatchets for souvenirs.

In Kansas City, Mrs. Nation founded a home for wives of husbands who drank.  It was known as the W.C.T.U. Carrie A. Nation Home.  Lecturing in New York one time, Mrs. nation created a sensation in Madison Square Garden by demanding  that occupants of the Vanderbilt box contribute to this home in Kansas.  She had already sold her own house to raise money. 

The Associated Charities took over the management after Mrs. Nation left.  Later the home was converted to the Broadview Convalescent Home.  It is located in the Riverview district.


Less than a year had passed after the Wyandots left the lowlands near the Kansas River, until the water rose fourteen feet over their camping ground of 1843.  Germs from decayed vegetation caused much illness in the fall of 1844.  During another great flood in 1866, the river current carried away the railroad and the Southern bridges.

Kansas City Levees

The Kansas River

Climate of Kansas

Kansas Climate Map

One of the most damaging floods in Kansas City's history came in 1903.  Every bridge but one was destroyed by the rushing waters.  The Missouri Pacific Railroad ran forth stream locomotives onto a bridge to weight it down.  The water failed to wash it away.  The Kansas River flooded from Topeka to Kansas City and ruined homes and buildings along the way.  [Annotation:  The 1951 flood became one of the most devastating in Kansas history.]

Rains caused overflowing in 1904 and 1908, while the people fought for protection against further losses.  In 1910 the Kaw Valley Drainage Board was established and almost $2 million spent in widening the channel and building dikes.

The protection against floods extended from Turner to Kansas City, a distance of eleven miles.  In the meantime, the railroads had repaired their tracks and built new bridges.  Factories had started operating again and homeowners had cleaned and repaired their houses.  It was almost fifty years before another great flood occurred in Kansas City.


Your older brothers or sisters may talk of their classes at Kansas City University, which is in Kansas City, Missouri.  Most people have forgotten that in the early 1900's almost 500 students were enrolled at another Kansas City University.  This school was at 34th and Parallel in our city, where a Catholic seminary is today.

[Annotation:  On January 13, 1935, the campus and buildings were acquired by the Order of Augustinian Recollects, a Catholic monastic order, and renamed the Monastery of St. Augustine.]

The old university was established at Lecompton in 1865.  The first building was erected on the foundation intended for a territorial capitol building.  It was named for General James H. Lane.  Later the school moved to Holton, and in 1913 to Kansas.  Wilson High School, a county school, was located at the college.  York College at York, Nebraska, is a successor to old Kansas City University.

[Annotation:  Lane University , located at Lecompton, Kan., was founded by Rev. Solomon Weaver in Jan., 1865. A regular corps of instructors was organized under state laws and the establishment of the institution was approved by the United Brethren church, which owned and controlled the school during its entire history. It was named in honor of James H. Lane, United States senator from Kansas, who was to endow the college but did not live to carry out his promise. Mr. Weaver was the first president of the college, holding that position two years. The first property owned by the institution was the Rowena hotel, which was built during territorial days, when Lecompton was the capital of Kansas. The 13 acres of ground and the foundation of the old capitol building at Lecompton were donated to Lane University by the state in 1865, and in 1882 a college building was erected on the south half of the old foundation. During the early days of the college its support was meager but the fourth annual conference of the United Brethren church, in Kansas and Oklahoma, began to improve the institution. In 1891 Rev. Charles M. Brooke, A. M., was elected president and the school enlarged to embrace model preparatory, normal, commercial and college departments, a divinity school and special departments of music and elocution. The faculty consisted of eleven persons in 1900, with 178 students enrolled. In 1902 Lane University was united with Campbell University to form Campbell College (q. v.).   Pages 103-104 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. ]


After you leave the 7th Street Trafficway, driving south, you are on Rainbow Boulevard.  There is no pot of gold at the end, nor are there any rainbow colors along the way.  The street is named for the first men to leave for overseas duty in 1918, when World War I began.

The Kansas men joined the 117th Ammunition Train.  Three hundred seventy-five Kansans assembled one day on the top of Mount Marty in Rosedale to be sworn into the Army.  They were part of the Rainbow Division.  The division received its name when it assembled for overseas duty.  Secretary of War Baker remarked that there were as many states represented as there were colors in the rainbow.  The Rainbow division took part in both world wars.

When WWI ended, the people of Rosedale provided $25,000 for a memorial on Mount Marty.  The bought five acres overlooking Turkey Creek Valley and erected an arch to commerate the gathering of men on the summit a few years before.  On July 20, 1923, the memorial was dedicated.

A French officer, General Henri Gourand, who was touring the country, used a gold space to turn the ground.  Leading citizens made speeches at a breakfast and dinner and soldiers from Leavenworth paraded.  Today Mount Marty is used as a park and an athletic field.


Two memorials have been erected to honor our fighting men.  One is the arch on Mount Marty in Rosedale.  The other is the brick building on 7th Street south of Minnesota, commonly known as the Memorial Building.  Ground was broken on May 14, 1923.

Twelve Corinthian columns support the front.  Three floors and a basement provide space for an auditorium seating 3,500 and a chapel seating 800.  Smaller meeting places and a kitchen are available.

The Wyandotte County Historical Society has a museum in one room of the building.  In another is a collection of military trophies.  The auditorium and other meeting rooms are in demand for conventions, shows, and gatherings of every kind.


Every Wednesday is fishing day for boys and girls who live in the vicinity of Big Eleven Lake near State Avenue and Eleventh Street.  Before 1934, old residents used to frighten children with stories about Big Eleven.

They said the lake was haunted by unearthly figures that emerged from the water at night.  They told of fiendish murders that had taken place there and of bodies thrown into the water.  One day in 1934 a large crowd gathered to see the skeletons brought to the surface.

Workmen were draining the lake to sand the bottom and to decorate the banks with a scalloped rock design.  They searched the bottom and found just a gold watch, some old tires, tin cans, and fish!  Big Eleven is fed by springs.  Since the state hatchery has stocked it, fish have been plentiful for the young fishermen.

[Annotation:  Waterway Park and the Sunken Gardens are part of the Big Eleven Lake area - The history of the parks and recreation area of Kansas City, Kan., started in March 1907 when the Kansas Legislature authorized the city to organize a park board. The law also provided for special taxes for parks and boulevards. Dr. George M. Gray was mayor when the board was created.  The Park Board was replaced by the city commissioner of parks and public property when the commission form of government was adopted in 1910.  By 1911 the city had 20 parks and playgrounds containing 232 acres; of which 130 acres were improved, 25 acres were being improved and 80 acres unimproved.   Four and a half miles of boulevards had been constructed and 10 were under construction.  At that time work was begun on the extension of Washington Boulevard from 8th to 11th. The drive was to connect Waterway Park, 11th and Washington Boulevard with Grandview Boulevard between 11th and 12th.


Kansas City Levees

The Kansas River

Climate of Kansas

Kansas Climate Map

Residents in the lowlands in our city thought the Missouri and Kansas Rivers had been tamed.  When it rained for many days in June and July, people were not alarmed. 

"The dikes will hold," everyone said.  "We have nothing to fear."

The muddy water churned in the rivers and lapped at the dikes.  On Friday, July 13, 1951, Black Friday, the water broke over in Argentine and Armourdale and spread to the Central Industrial and Fairfax District.  Thousands of businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed.

The Intercity Viaduct and the Seventh Street Bridge were all that kept the city from being hemmed in by the water on the east and south.  Thousands were inoculated against typhoid fever.  All through one terrible night residents of the city fought to save the water and light plant by erecting embankments of sand and dirt.  By morning the fight against the flood had been won.  Our city was one of the few along the two rivers where the water and light supply never failed.

The Tuttle Creek Dam on the Blue River is almost completed.  The other two dams will be built on rivers flowing into the Kansas.  Some days all fear of high water may be removed from our city.


One of the finest things to happen to Kansas City was having the constitution of our state written in old Wyandotte.  A hundred years later the city received another great honor.  It was chosen on February 27,1959, from a group of forty cities to be the site of the Agricultural Hall of Fame.  Over five hundred acres have been set aside for a park near the Bonner Springs exchange on the turnpike west of the city.

A large monument will be erected in honor of the part agriculture has played in the growth of the United States.  Every state in the union will give money to help in the building of the Hall of Fame.  In the hall there will be a museum, library, offices, and an auditorium.  Model farms, showing old and new farming methods, will be on the grounds around the main building.

The founders expect many visitors to the city when the Hall of Fame is ready.  They say it will be a "World's Fair of Agriculture," and that people from anywhere in the world should find something of interest there.


When you read more about the history of our country, you will learn that communities founded by church people were most successful.  Two hundred Wyandots were Methodists.  They established the first Protestant church here in 1843.  The Delaware mission at White Church had been founded by the Baptists a few years before.

Until the city of Wyandotte was incorporated, there were no other churches here.  In 1857 English settlers organized St. Paul's, the first Episcopal church in Kansas Territory.  The town company deeded to the new church a corner of Huron Square.  The Grund Hotel stands on that corner today.  A group of Congregationalists from New England established a church in 1858.

In that same year of 1848 Hiram Northrup deeded a plot of ground at Ninth and Ann for the first Catholic church, St. Mary's.  One hundred years ago this location was considered so far out in the country that the church bought a part of the land belonging to Matthias Splitlog.  This was close to the main part of the city.  For a long time St. Mary's was the only Catholic church in Wyandotte.  Seven families made up the congregation.

Other people follow the first settlers.  Those from Germany and the countries of northern Europe established Lutheran and Catholic churches.  There were several Jewish families here in the 1850's, but it was 1877 before they started holding services in a room in what is now known as the Central Industrial District.  When the flood of 1903 washed away the small synagogue they had built, the members moved the church to higher ground.  The present building stands at Seventh and Sandusky and houses a group of about 1200 members.

Other churches followed as the city grew.  Today there are 258 Protestant, one Jewish, 18 Catholic, nd three Eastern Orthodox congregations in Kansas City.


If you were living in a European city, you would find that most of the people were of one nationality and possibly of one religion.  In America there are people, or descendants of people from many nations.  This is true in Kansas City.

As you may remember, many of the Wyandots remained here after the city of Wyandotte was established.  Most of the early settlers were related to inhabitants of the British Isles; that is, they were of English, Scotch, Irish, or Welsh descent.  Later the Germans, Russians, Serbians, and other came to make homes here.

After the years of the Exodusters, 1878-1882, the Negro population increased.  A few Bohemians settled in Wyandotte County.  Belgian gardners started to raise vegetables in the lowlands on the south bank of the Kaw River.  The railroads needed workers to keep the roadbeds in repair.  Mexicans came here to do that work and made homes near the tracks.

These people brought their music and customs with them.  Although they are now part of the everyday life of Kansas City, they continue to give others pleasure by signing the beautiful spirituals of the South and keeping alive the tuneful songs and dances of the old countries.


On the hills that rise above the Kaw River on the west bank, great clusters of wild strawberry once grew.  Today the strawberries are gone, but the name remains for the district that overlooks the river.  You see many church spires on the hill as you cross the Intercity Viaduct coming west.

Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association

These churches were built by some of the different groups of people in our city.  Many of those on the hill belong to nationalities from southeastern Europe, known as Slavs.  Lithuanians, Croatians, and Slovenes are part of this group.  Polish and Russian settlers have also built churches on the hill.

When the first of these immigrants came to America, they settled near the packing houses in Omaha, Chicago, and Kansas City.  There they worked for wages as low as ten cents an hour.  They were thrifty and soon had enough money saved to buy comfortable homes.  In 1903, after the great flood destroyed these homes in the lowlands, most of them moved to Strawberry Hill.

The church of St. John the Baptist, that you see standing high on the hill above the turnpike, was designed by a famous Croatian painter.  It cost the people over $35,000 to build in the early 1900's.  Now the homes around the church are being destroyed to make way for the turnpike.  The residents of Strawberry Hill, after many years, have been scattered through other sections of the city.


Do you know that as a resident of Kansas City and a user of water and electricity, you are a partner in a big corporation?  You are one of the thousands of owners of the water works and the electrical plant that serve this city.  When you are old enough to vote, you will help to select the five businessmen of the city who manage these plants.

Before 1909, private companies supplied the people with water and electricity.  In that year the citizens voted to buy the water works from the owners and sell the water to residents here.  Even by furnishing water at a lower rate, the managers made money for the city during the first year of operation.  Two later the city issued bonds to build a plant to manufacture electricity.

In 1929 the Kansas Legislature passed an act creating a Board of Public Utilities for the city.  Members serve for four years of at a salary of only $100 a year.  The Fairfax Municipal Airport was placed under the management of the board by a legislative act of 1941.  Over $5 million was saved in 1951 by the people of this city in the payment of their water and light bills.


Every group has some form of government to make laws and to see that they are obeyed.  In a city the people may set up their own rules, with the approval of the state legislature.  When the town of Kansas City was incorporated in 1886, a mayor and council members were elected

Twenty-four years later at a special election, the citizens of Kansas voted to change to the commission form of government.  The legislature approved a charter that provided for a mayor and four commissioners to attend to the affairs of the city.  The number of commissioners has since been reduced to three.

Some cities prefer to have one man, a city manager, take the responsibility for running a city.  A few years ago, Kansas City held an election to find out if the people wished to change to having a manager.  They voted to retain the mayor and commissioners.


Visit some day the beautiful building that faces 7th Street between Ann and Barnett, and they try to picture to yourself our first courthouse.  It will help you to realize that progress has been made in the past 100 years.

When Wyandotte was named the county seat in 1859, it had no courthouse.  Isaiah Walker owned a weathered two story frame house, built on a high hill, which he sold to the new county for $1800.  Later the house was moved from the back to the front of the lot and a jail built to house the county prisoners.  Old accounts say that it was not unusual to see the body of a condemned man hanging by a rope tied to the courthouse steps.  There was a good deal of crime in the new town, and judges lost little time in seeing that criminals were put out of the way of other citizens.

Kansas City, KS Courthouse - circa 1885 - 7th & MinnesotaWhen after many years the business district moved from the levee nd the area around Third and Minnesota, a brick building was erected at 7th and Minnesota in 1882.  It is said that a certain Judge Pettit was holding court one day in the old building when a high wind was blowing.  Observing that the courtroom seemed unsafe, the judge suggested the occupants move to a nearby church.  The building had scarcely been emptied when it was blown down by the force of the wind.


For forty years after 1882 the brick courthouse served the county.  As in other small cities, the low wall around the grounds provided a meeting place for the townspeople to gather ad talk.  Today Montgomery Ward's store occupies the grounds.  The old jail that stood for as many years on 7th and State was later town down and Town House Hotelthe new Town House Hotel erected on the site.  [Annotation:  For 120 years - 1883-2002 - only 3 organizations occupied the land on the northwest corner of 7th and Minnesota - the courthouse, Montgomery Ward, the Board of Public Utilities.  In November of 2003, the building is now vacant with BPU moving down to the Reardon Center between 4th and 5th on Minnesota.  Hopefully, another business will occupy the building and continue for years in the future.]

Views of Kansas City

In 1923 people of the city voted to build a new courthouse.  Central School was torn down and a new building was constructed at Eighth and Barnett.  [Annotation:  Central School was formerly the Palmer Academy, and later Central School a.k.a. Kansas City High School or Wyandotte High School.]    The county commissioners chose five men to help Courthouse - 8th & Barnett  - circa 1928them in the selection of an architect to design a new courthouse building.  Architects were allowed a year to get their plans ready.  On January 17, 1925, the firm of Wight and Wight received the honor of having their design accepted.  It was estimated the building would cost nearly $1 million.  The contractors built it for $31,000 less, so we are stretching the story just a little when we call it our "Million-dollar Courthouse."

The courthouse is built of limestone and has what is called a Greek portico.  Boys and girls who have studied about Greece will be interested in the entrance and also in the columns.  These columns are seven feet across and stand 48 feet high.  The build was completed in 1927.

Other places, persons and sites in Wyandotte County, KS

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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