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How Kansas City really got its name

Possum Trot, Westport, Westport Landing, or Kawsmouth?

There are many names associated with the birth of Kansas City. Most people believe that the city was named after the state of Kansas, but the state of Kansas did not exist until 1861. Up north, the west side of the Missouri River was Bleeding Kansas or the “Great American Desert.” East of the Missouri River was the land of the blue: Blue Skies, Blue Mills, Blue Valley, Blue Springs, the Little Blue, and Blue Rivers.

gold jayhawker name

Robert White

Enter the entrepreneurs of Abraham Fonda, Henry Jobe, and a few other enterprising real estate souls. In 1838 they purchased 256 acres in what is now the West Bottoms for $4,200 from the estate of Gabriel Prudhomme, a French fur trader and farmer.

They wanted to build a town site but could not agree on the name. Port Fonda was definitely out, as Jobe claimed he would have nothing to do with any development named for a gentleman.

After much alcohol fueled discussion, the founders settled on a name: the Town of Kansas–named after a festive Indian tribe, the Kansas or Kaw.

Kansas translates to People of the South Wind. The tribe was famous for feasting, dancing, speechmaking, and gambling.

Aren’t you glad the we don’t have a spring opener for the Possum Trot Royals?

References: “Tom’s Town: Kansas City And The Pendergast Legend” by William M Reddig, Published by J.B. Lippencott Company, copyrighted in 1947 and reprinted through the Kansas City Public Library

Bob White is a Certified Financial Planner who lives in the Pleasant Hill area.  A graduate of Pembroke Hill School and the University of Kansas, he majored in Economics and minored in history.  In addition to local, Kansas and Missouri history, he has an interest in its unique aspects–the events missing from the history books and timelines that paint a more complete picture.