The first documented European visitor to the eventual site of Kansas City was Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, who was also the first European to explore the lower Missouri River. Criticized for his response to the Native American attack on Fort Détroit, he had deserted his post as fort commander and was avoiding French authorities. Bourgmont lived with a Native American wife in a village about 90 miles (140 km) east near Brunswick, Missouri, where he illegally traded furs.
Kansas City, Missouri is home to a rich history that has been shaped by the people who have lived in and visited there. While many are familiar with some of the city’s most famous events, such as those surrounding Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or even the minor league baseball team (the Kansas City Royals) currently playing at Kauffman Stadium; far fewer know about how this culture was created. This post will focus on highlighting major historical moments throughout Kansas City MO’s timeline over time while also touching upon its cultural impact up until present day.
Many historians point to 1827 when William Becknell began his journey across what would eventually become known as “The Santa Fe Trail.” The trail itself became an important part of the history between Missouri and New Mexico, as it was one of the first trade routes established directly connecting major cities. Once settlers were able to move through this new path they brought along their cultural practices which helped shape Kansas City’s culture today including but not limited to music such as Jazz (the art form originated in New) cooking traditions like BBQ (traces of which can be seen in the symbols for Kansas City, KS and MO), political movements (see: Jackson County home to the first elections where women were allowed to vote) as well as religious practices like Catholicism.
During the Civil War, the city and its immediate surroundings were the focus of intense military activity. Although the First Battle of Independence in August 1862 resulted in a Confederate States Army victory, the Confederates were unable to leverage their win in any significant fashion, as Kansas City was occupied by Union troops and proved too heavily fortified to assault. The Second Battle of Independence, which occurred on October 21–22, 1864, as part of Sterling Price’s Missouri expedition of 1864, also resulted in a Confederate triumph. Once again their victory proved hollow, as Price was decisively defeated in the pivotal Battle of Westport the next day, effectively ending Confederate efforts to regain Missouri.
Additionally when people began traveling through this region they brought along not only their culture but also themselves; specifically diseases such as smallpox that helped wipe out much of the Indigenous populations leaving behind fewer communities with enough members to continue traditions important to them today. However rather than focusing on these negatives it’s important we remember there are some positive outcomes including what is considered now a symbol of American West Culture – cowboys & cattle ranching (all things cowboy would likely never have existed if not for those who traveled westward).