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Missouri River, South
Missouri River, South
TitleMissouri River, South
DescriptionPostcard view of downtown Kansas City in 1855 looking South from the Missouri River
Historical ArticleThe population of Kansas City in 1855 was 478. The town was organized in 1850 under the Jackson county Court and three years later the state of Missouri granted a charter. Birdsall, Williams & Co.'s History of Jackson County, describes Kansas City in the year 1855:

At this time all there was of Kansas City was situated along the river front except a few residences which had been built upon the hills overlooking the levee. The levee was only about wide enough for a team to pass, jutting over a ledge of rocks into the river on the one side and rising hundreds of feet into the bluffs on the other.

Here and there excavations had been made into the hill and business houses built. One of these was the Union Hotel (later the Gillis House) and another Chick's warehouse. About the foot of Broadway a wagon road, wide enough for one wagon, had been cut across, leading into the Kaw bottom, which was then a dense woods, except where the French traders had cleared off a few patches.

Only one street is seen on the postcard, Market Street (now Grand Avenue), in the center of the card. It followed a deep ravine that started on the levee near the foot of the present Grand Avenue and wound around to the southwest across the present market square, up by Delaware and 6th and then southeasterly to the Junction. This road up the ravine was the one over which the Santa Fe and other wagons had passed.

The postcard, published in black and buff white by the Southwest News Co. of Kansas City, Leipzig-Berlin [and reproduced in color by Max Bernstein], was made early in the century.

Kansas City Times
June 8, 1984

How Kansas City looked in 1855 was an original work of itinerant artist F. Buckeridge. The picture looks south and was painted from Clay County on the north bank of the Missouri River. Stumps, logs and several workmen indicate lumber-clearing. The scene was reproduced in color by Max Bernstein.

Market Street (Grand Avenue), the straight dirt road shown leading from the river levee to buildings on the crest of the hill, was engineered by Michael Smith, who was the first city contractor on our streets. This work was done in 1855 and the city paid Mr. Smith $1,200. M.F. Payne was mayor and the population of Kansas City was 478.

The first city addition was McGee's Addition. The grounds were part of the estate of James McGee. They were subdivided into lots in the summer of 1855. Lots were 49 1/2 feet front by 115 1/2 and 132 feet deep. Streets in the addition were named for the McGee children, such as Mobillion and Milton, which were later given numerical names, 16th and 17th streets.

Milton McGee often met steamboats at the landing, sometimes with a band. He led passengers who were migrating to this border up the hill in his hack to McGee's Addition, to show and sell the level, tree-shaded woodland. (My great grandfather, John Taylor bought two lots on Oak Street in 1857 when they arrived by steamboat.)

Kansas City Times
June 28, 1985

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local SubjectMissouri River
Digital FormatJPEG
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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