Lewis and Clark, Mr. McCoy and How We Escaped the Name “Possum Trot”

Kansas City in the Mid-1800s
Kansas City in the Mid-1800s

The Birth of KC: A (Very) Brief History of Kansas City’s Beginnings

Kansas City has a fascinating history. Our story is filled with familiar names, but a lot of us don’t know the people behind those names and what they’ve done for us. Let’s change that. History can bridge generations, enhance our communities and enrich our lives, so let’s start with the beginning and take a look back.

1804: Lewis and Clark Make a Stop It all started in 1804 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition came through Kansas City. After being appointed by President Jefferson to explore the new Western territory of the US, they camped for three days at the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. They (pretty much) fell in love and gave the area mad props, noting it was "a fine place for a fort."

1821: François Chouteau Sets Up Shop Next up was a bunch of Frenchmen, such as François Chouteau, moving west from St. Louis to trap for furs and trade with Native Americans. François established the first European-American settlement, Chouteau's Landing, in 1821, off the Missouri river and Grand Ave.

1833: Meet John McCoy – “ The Father of Kansas City”John McCoy, known as the “Father of Kansas City” entered the picture in 1833 when he founded Westport (what up Westport!) with his trading post. To supply the post, he created a dock on the Missouri river (between Main and Grand) known as Westport Landing, marking a new era for Kansas City.

1838 - 1850: The Town of Kansas (not Possum Trot!) is Established It was our dudes McCoy and Chouteau who literally put KC on the map. The land surrounding both Westport and Chouteau’s Landing was owned by a farmer, but these guys recruited some other local businessmen, formed the “Town of Kansas Company” and purchased the land.

There was great debate on the name of our city. Port Fonda (I get it Port Fonda, I get it), Rabbitville and Possum Trot were high on the list, but the “Town of Kansas” eventually won out and was founded sometime between 1838 and 1850. The official date isn’t clear, but we do know The Town of Kansas was incorporated in 1853 as the City of Kansas and later became Kansas City in 1897.

  • Let’s bring it back: Back in the day the slang names were awesome. Those who lived close to the river were called “rabbits” and those living in the ‘hills’ were called “goats”.

Today: Pay Homage to Our Dudes So next time you cruise along Chouteau Trafficway or visit McCoy’s give a tip of the hat to the men that made your trip, your burger and your city possible.

And look for more posts coming soon on Westport, the River Market, Quality Hill and more!