Walking West with Robert Campbell

Mile 401- Kansas City (Modern Day)

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Bird’s Eye View of Kansas City, Mis­souri
Jan­u­ary 1869

You will remem­ber from our pre­vi­ous stop that Robert Camp­bell and com­pa­ny were fol­low­ing the Mis­souri Riv­er, stick­ing to the south­ern bank. They encoun­tered mul­ti­ple small Euro­pean-Amer­i­can set­tle­ments along the way, includ­ing our last stop at Jef­fer­son City. How­ev­er, they were begin­ning to make their way fur­ther west and these Euro­pean-Amer­i­can set­tle­ments were becom­ing more and more scarce.

We found lit­tle set­tle­ments all along our route, but they became more sparse in the upper coun­ties until we got to Jack­son Coun­ty.” “The first Indi­ans we saw were the Kaws, in Jack­son Coun­ty [Kansas City metro area]. “…That year Jack­son Coun­ty was pur­chased from the Kaws and Osages.” “…At the mouth of the Kaw [Kansas Riv­er], just above the site of Kansas City, Ely and Cur­tis were locat­ed as traders”

As you know, Robert and Com­pa­ny left Saint Louis on Novem­ber 1, 1825. Roberts nar­ra­tive dates his arrival in mod­ern day Kansas City at 1826, just the jour­ney across Mis­souri, one of the eas­i­est legs of their jour­ney had tak­en months.

Fran­cois Chouteau, the nephew of the famous Auguste Chouteau, estab­lished a trad­ing post near the mouth of the Kansas Riv­er in 1821. In 1838 a tract of near­ly 270 acres of what is today down­town Kansas City was auc­tioned off, with a group of four­teen investors known as The Town Com­pa­ny being the high­est bid­ders at $4,220. This group of investors named their new tract of land The Town of Kansas in hon­or of the Kan­za tribe who had once inhab­it­ed the lands around the mouth of the Kansas Riv­er. The ini­tial 14 investors were joined short­ly after this point by three addi­tion­al investors, includ­ing Robert Camp­bell. In 1857 Robert Camp­bell sold near­ly all of his acreage in Kansas City to his nephew John Camp­bell for $50,000. John Camp­bell, set­tled his fam­i­ly in the young town, build­ing what was called the “show piece” of the town as his home. This home, pic­tured below, was torn down in 1903.

So when Robert arrived in 1826, there would have been lit­tle to noth­ing wel­com­ing the par­ty to Kansas City, the pop­u­la­tion was only 700 more than 20 years lat­er, and it was not even offi­cial­ly found­ed until 1850. It would have been just anoth­er West­ern out­post where the par­ty could have resup­plied before head­ing deep­er into the large­ly unchart­ed West.

John Camp­bell
George Caleb Bing­ham
Cir­ca 1860
John Camp­bell Mansion

Great Bend, Mis­souri Riv­er, at Kansas City
Alexan­der Gard­ner
cir­ca 1867
Mod­ern Image of the Mis­souri, Kansas confluence.