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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"

THE POST OFFICE

The village of Wyandot never had a post office.  Boats traveling on the Missouri River Carried the mail to the foot of Grand Avenue, now a part of Kansas City, Missouri.  The Wyandots crossed on the ferry and rode through the woods to pick up letters and papers.  The little post office in Kansas, as that spot was then known, depended mainly on the Wyandot villagers for its support.

When the city of Wyandotte was plotted in 1857, William Chick, a banker, paid from his own money the cost of the new city's mail service.  Thomas Barker and Isaiah Walker ran a store at 326 Nebraska.  For one year Mr. Chick paid Thomas Barker to go for the mail and bring it to the store.  There the people could get their mail along with their other supplies.

1902 Post Office - southwest corner 7th and Minnesota AveThe post office was changed later to several different locations.  It moved from Third and Nebraska up Minnesota Avenue until a fine new building was provided for it in 1902.  You may have stopped to visit Santaland in the limestone and granite building on the corner of Seventh and Minnesota during the Christmas holidays of 1960.  A new post office and a new Federal building have replaced it.

The old structure was considered quite an improvement of our city when it was completed in 1902.  The limestone came from Indiana and the granite from Vermont.  Maple, oak, and yellow pine woods were used on the inside.  The United States had government offices and courtrooms in the new post office.  By 1910 an addition to the south and a third floor were needed.

During the next forty or fifty years the city outgrew the post office.  Handling mail downtown became more difficult, so the new office was erected on Pacific Avenue near Tenth Street.  It was first occupied in August, 1958.

Courthouse and government offices are now located on Seventh Street between Ann and Armstrong.  Senator Andrew F. Schoeppel made the speech dedicating the new Federal Building on February 12, 1960.  The old post office has been sold and probably will be replaced by a store or office building.

MEAT PACKING

People of our city should have plenty of food to eat and enough soap to keep themselves and everything around them clean.  The main industry here has to do with a supplying meat to the country.  We rank third in the nation in grain storage and flour production.  Also we are third in the manufacture of soap and soap products.

The early settlers had no way to keep meat unless they dried or cured it.  The first packing houses built along the Kansas River grew fast after the first refrigerator cars were built.  Then the meat could be shipping long distances across the country by railroad.

The first packing company in Kansas City was Pattison and Slavens, established shortly after the Civil War.  The first large firm to come here was Armour's.  For ninety years, since 1870, they have been in business here.

At first the bi-products of the animals were given away or sold very cheaply by the packing houses.  In 1872 a laundry soap plant was founded by the Peet brothers.  This factory used many of the products formerly discarded by the packers.  Soon the company enlarged, and other soap plants were opened.

You know how the buffalo once found good grazing on the prairies west of us.  Early settlers discovered that the prairies made fine pastures for their cattle.  By feeding the cattle the corn grown on farms, the farmers made more money than if they sold the corn.

In 1870 farmers began shipping their corn-fed cattle to Kansas City to sell.  They bought thin animals to take home with them to fatten.  A farmer would rent a pen at the first stockyards, which covered five acres and had only eleven pens.  He kept his cattle there until he sold them.

Livestock Exchange Bldg - West BottomsFrom this small beginning, the Kansas City stockyards have grown until now they are second only to Chicago's.  One-half or more of the yards are in Kansas; the rest are in Missouri.  A large building called the Livestock Exchange has offices for the men who buy and sell cattle, horses, pigs and other farm animals.

Possibly you have seen the parade held each October in Kansas City, Missouri.  Or maybe you have visited the animals and watched the horse show at the American Royal.  Thousands of visitors come every year to Kansas City to take part in these events.  Men who raise Hereford cattle have headquarters for their association in Missouri.  You can see the big steer on top of the building when you drive over the Twelfth Street Viaduct.

Many firms make serum for hogs.  This business ranks first in the nation.

KANSAS "CASTLES" AND FLOUR MILLS

In early Wyandot days farmers took their grain to the mill to have it ground into flour.  Milling as a business started in Kansas City in 1852 when Matthias Splitlog set up a mill and operated it by horsepower.  Later on mills were operating in Quindaro and Rosedale.  By 1900 the city needed many elevators to hold the grain that was shipped into Kansas City. 

Now we are fifth in the country in elevator space and third in flour production.  One of the huge elevators here, a Kansas "castle" [or "prairie castle"], can hold over 11 million bushels of grain.  A milling company plant is the largest west of the Mississippi River.

In spite of our many mills and elevators, we have no Board of Trade.  Men who buy and sell grain must go to Kansas City, Missouri, to transact their business.

URBAN RENEWAL

The Wyandots planted four saplings, you remember, to mark the boundaries of their farms.  When the streets and the lots for the new city were plotted, it was difficult to keep them straight.  Somebody's farm always seemed to be getting in the way.

About 1940 a committee was appointed to try to look ahead and to make plans for the city's growth.  Since that time new highways have been built and projects for tearing down old sections and erecting new homes have been started.

The first urban renewal project is the Gateway, the area downtown where the oldest buildings have stood.  Juniper Gardens will be the residents section of the Gateway project.  Armourdale will have an Industrial Park section.  Another will be known as the Argentine Neighborhood Redevelopment.  News article on Juniper.

OUR CITY, THEN and NOW

If the Wyandots who settled here in 1842 could see how their little village has grown, how surprised they would be.  They would find it difficult to understand the changes that have taken place.  Instead of the old mud road that wound among the farms to the store and the cemetery, there are the trafficways crossing the city and leading to places far beyond it.

The ferry, once the only entrance into a vast unsettled territory, has been replaced by the bridges that cross the rivers, giving Kansas City the name of "City of Bridges."  Stores and office buildings line the wide avenues that were the mud streets of years ago.  Factories, packing houses and elevators fill the lowlands, where once the Indians hunted.  A great automobile assembly plant stands on ground made by the changing course of the Missouri River.

Freight and passenger trains, trucks and cars, speed over highways that follow trails used by the Indians and frontiersmen.  On ground where early Frenchmen set their traps for fur-bearing animals, giant airplanes land today.  The little sawmill of Matthias Splitlog has given way to one of the largest walnut wood finishing mills in the country.

The Wyandots planted saplings to mark the four corners of their farms.  They had lived here thirteen years before a surveyor measured their land.  In 1960 it cost amount $1 million for a group of men to prepare a report for the Johnson-Wyandotte Regional Planning Commission.  Citizens in both countries will use this report to guide them in the growth and expansion of this area.

The Indians and the buffalo herds they once went out to hunt are gone.  The Wyandot Village on the hill above the river is no more.  The steamboats that plowed up and down the Missouri have been replaced by trains.  Instead of the shrill whistle of the old steam locomotive under the hill at Armstrong, the hoarse toot of the diesel engine and the zoom of the jet is heard.

In spite of these many changes, the spirit of our city's founders still lives in their descendants and in the people of a later day who came here from other sections of the country or from foreign lands.  The Wyandots and the men and women of old Wyandot City have left us a rich heritage of democracy, freedom of religion, and a desire for education.  Residents of annexed areas to the original city have added to the growth and prosperity of the community.

You boys and girls who are tomorrow's citizens, have no trails to break through the wilderness of a new country.  You do, however, have the opportunity to carry on the work begun by those who have gone before you.  The future of Kansas City depends on how well you assume your responsibilities in this growing, thriving modern community.

There lies before you a new era in transportation, communication and in scientific discoveries that industry will use for the benefit of all citizens.  To you will be given the duty and the privilege of aiding in the work of your churches and in the growth of the school of which you are a part.

The years ahead will challenge your courage and endurance.  The manner in which you meet this challenge will determine the kind of city that will be a home for you and for those who follow after you.

Written by Nellie McGuinn
Kansas City, KS Public School Educator
for USD 500, January, 1961

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

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