Jackson County Notables
Events, locations, and industries important
to Jackson County history.
EARLY LAND GRANTS
Surnames in this land grant information: PRUDHOME, CHICK, STONE, TATE, SUBLETT,
WILSON, MCCOY, RAGAN, CALDWELL, COLLINS, SMART, GILLIS, MCGEE, FONDA, OWENS,
HICKS, CARTER, ELLIS, BOWERS, JOBE, MULKEY, FRY, PARKMAN, SHAW, SMITH, SWOPE
When GABRIEL PRUDHOMME received his land grant on October 18, 1830, the land did
not look very attractive. His estate extended from the Missouri River, across
the hilly forest lands southward to the present Independence Avenue, east to
Troost Avenue, and west to Broadway. He had already explored the riverfront in
1814-15 with the French trappers. Prudhomme knew he had acquired a good river
frontage near a trail leading southward. But he did not live long enough to see
the birth and infancy of a great city that was to rise on his land. He died in
1931. From the Prudhomme heirs, the first townsite of 256 acres was purchased,
on credit for $4,200. This land had been purchased by Prudhomme for $340 from
On November 14, 1838, 20-30 men assembled near the river at the foot of what
later became known as Grand Avenue. In a small cattle lot which had been fenced
off by rails, a few planks were placed across the corner of the pen. SQUIRE
GEORGE TATE mounted the perch and "carefully adjusting his spectacles and
taking a few chew of tobacco, proceeded to announce the sale belonging to the
estate of Gabriel Prudhomme."
There were a few outside bidders, and the townsite was purchased by the bid of
W. L. SUBLETT, for which 14 men gave their notes. They were W. L. Sublett, MOSES
G. WILSON, JOHN C. MCCOY, GEORGE TATE, JACOB RAGAN, WILLIAM M. CHICK, OLIVER
CALDWELL, WILLIAM COLLINS, JAMES SMART, WILLIAM GILLIS, FRY P. MCGEE, ABRAHAM
FONDA, SAMUEL C. OWENS and RUSSELL HICKS.
Jacob Ragan, one of the note signatories, came here in 1837 with his wife, ANNA
(CARTER) and 6 children from Bath Co., KY. They settled on a farm considered to
be some distance inland from the Missouri River. Their 120 acre tract covered
the area now bounded by 31st and 37th streets, Oak and Holmes streets. They
built a large, hospitable home that stood on the later site of the Trinity
Methodist Church, Armour Boulevard and Kenwood Ave. (Both husband and wife are
buried in the Union Cemetery).
THOMAS SMART lived along the river bluff anad was only a spectator to the sale
of ground. H. G. REES of Independence speaks of remaining overnight in 1839 with
Mr. Smart. "We nailed blankets up inside the cabin to break the wind from
those endeavoring to keep warm; the chinks between the logs had not been
plastered with mud, making it difficult to keep warm."
Smart's home was typical of those in the unsettled country where wild animals
still roamed the hills.The 14 committee members retired to the log house on the
riverbank at the foot of Main Street occupied by "ONE-EYED ELLIS" to
select a name for the new town. No doubt there was much laughter as those
roughly dressed men sat in front of the blazing fire and suggested one name
after another. OLD SQUIRE BOWERS, a spectator who lived on the river,
facetiously suggested "Rabbitville or Possumtrot" but was treated with
silent contempt. Another suggested, "Kawsmouth" and "Port
Fonda" in honor of ABRAHAM FONDA, then a prominent member of the committee.
Unfortunatley Fonda became involved in a quarrel with another part-owner, HENRY
JOBE, who threatened all sorts of legal, fistic, and even shotgun remedies, and
the results were that "Port Fonda" was not accepted. Finally
"Kansas" was agreed upon, and was the name under which the new
townsite was surveyed and by which it was called until 1853. At that time it
became known as the "City of Kansas" and in 1880, as "Kansas
It is hard to say how serious a view some of the men in the Ellis cabin may have
taken of the new town's chances, but JOHN MCCOY went to work in earnest and
surveyed the first townsite in 1839. It was bounded by Delaware, Grand and 2nd
Streets, and the Missouri River. McCoy related, "There wee a few old
girdled dead trees standing in a field, surrounded by dilapidated rail fence,
and all around on all sides, a dense forest, the ground covered with
impenetrable underbrush and deep, impassable gorges."
There was a cloud on the title which was not cleared until 1846. A second plat
was then filed, taking in an additional section between Independence Avenue,
Central Street, Oak Street and the river. A third plat was filed in 1849,
extending the area to Cherry Street on the East.
When the "City of Kansas" came into legal existence March 28, 1853, as
a municipality, 30 of the residents went to the polls and voted to accept the
charter of incorporation. This privilege had been granted Feb. 22, 1853, on
There seems to have been little objection since so few voted. Obviously, too,
elections were not what they had been earlier, when the community voted the
first tiem at the presidential election of 1832. WILLIAM MULKEY, an old-time
pioneer who came to the frontier with his mother and grandfather in 1828,
remembered that first election. "That first was memorable, the year Andrew
Jackson was re-elected President", he related. "The men voted under
the limbs of a great elm tree on the Westport Road. There were just 33 of them.
Every voter drank from an immense jug of whiskey as he deposited his ballot, and
cider and ginger cakes also were served, and everybody here was for
Those few persons buying lots in 1839 along the levee worked out a meager living
for the next ten years, and the insignificant steamboat landing struggled for
existence. As late as 1846 there was no place from the valley of O.K. Creek to
what became Grand Avenue where a person on horseback could go up or down the
JAMES H. & ELEANOR (FRY) MCGEE, who crossed the river from Clay county in
1828, were among the earliest white settlers. They acquired a squatter's claim
and built a log house high on the branch of Turkey and O.K. Creek. Later this
creek ws diverted into the city sewer. This log cabin was later replaced, using
slave labor, by the first brick house to be built in the future Kansas City, at
what became 19th and Baltimore. On O.K. Creek, McGee operated a small gristmill
and distillery, from which he dispensed food and drink to Indians and
surrounding settlers. When he died in 1838 he had acquired nearly all the land
between the town of Kansas and Westport, and his name, in connection with that
of his sons, has been continuously identified with the growth of the city.
FRANCIS PARKMAN and his relative, QUINCY SHAW, arrived at the levee in 1846 on
the steamboat "Radnor". He stated: "Here we landed, and leaving
our equipment in the charge of COLONEL CHICK whose log house was the substitute
for a tavern, we set out for Westport."
WILLIAM MILES CHICK built a 2-story log, weatherboarded mansion known as the
"White House", which could be spotted by riverboat captains a long
distance up the river. Here, Chick became the first postmaster and host to
distinguised guests such as Parkman, Shaw, Thomas H. Benton, John C. Fremont,
and many others. Chick also operated a warehouse and store in connection with
The Chick family left Alexandria, Virginia, in 1822, with their slaves and all
their household goods, in four horse-drawn wagons. They first settled in
Glasgow, Missouri, where they farmed until the flood of 1826 washed their crops
In the meantime, Mr. Chick heard of the village of Westport. they came here in
1836 and bought a little store from JOHN C. MCCOY (old site of Harris House).
The Chicks and their family of nine children lived above the store. In 1843
Chick bought a farm in the west bottoms (present central industrial district).
In the winter Chick built a log business house at the foot of Main Street on the
levee and a dwelling house on the top of the bluff of what became the first
elite residential area of Kansas City and MRS. ANN ELIZABETH (SMITH) CHICK
reigned as the first lady of Pearl Street.
Their son, WASHINGTON HENRY CHICK, as a boy, roamed the hills when the land was
a jungle. He saw the city take root from nothing when he worked in his father's
store. In later years he talked of the McGees on O.K. Creek and TOM SMART who
lived on the corner of what became 11th and Main Streets. The Smart land was
covered with a jungle of trees and brush, but Mr. Smart hired a man to clear it
at $2.00 a day. Tom Smart told Chick "he did not know where he was going to
get the money, but afterwards he took a jug of whiskey to the levee and sold it
to the Indians and made enough to pay the man." This farm, for which Smart
paid $5.00 an acre, laid the foundation of two large fortunes, the Smart and
This page was last updated August 2, 2006.