Why is Kansas City located in Missouri instead of Kansas?

Early Riverfront
Early riverfront settlement

Both Kansas and Missouri have a Kansas City, but neither started with that name.

Kansas City in Missouri has been incorporated three different times under three different names. Prior to the first incorporation, the site of early Kansas City was a boat dock called Westport Landing.

In the 1830s, John McCoy’s settlement of West Port, at what is now Westport Road and Pennsylvania, outfitted pioneers for the Santa Fe Trail. Since the nearest landing for river travel and transport was 14 miles away at Blue Mills, near Independence, McCoy established a closer landing on the bluffs at the bend in the Missouri River, just two miles north of his settlement.

Soon after McCoy established “Westport Landing” in 1834, Kansas Town Company, a group of 14 investors, began to settle the area. In 1850 the landing area incorporated as the Town of Kansas; in 1853, as the City of Kansas; and finally in 1889 as Kansas City. John McCoy’s settlement, the old town of Westport, was annexed by Kansas City, Missouri, on December 2, 1897.

The Kansas, or Kaw, River flows into the Missouri River near the site of the early town, and the city founders finally settled on this geographic term for the town’s name. The Kansas River was named after the Kansa Indian tribe located in the area.

For more information search the Local History Index.

Librarian Sherrie Kline Smith
April 2006

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