Kansas City

The modern city of Kansas City, Missouri, traces its roots to Westport, a settlement established by John McCoy in the 1830s to outfit travelers setting out on the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe trail was a commercial wagon road connecting the U.S. state of Missouri to Mexican Santa Fe, New Mexico. McCoy’s nearby riverboat landing became known as the City of Kansas, and later Kansas City. That city soon eclipsed–and in 1897–annexed Westport.

At the height of the Pioneer Mother Movement (1925-1940), Kansas City erected famed western sculptor A. Phimister Proctor’s heroic-sized Pioneer Mother grouping.  In it, a pioneer mother (modeled after the artist’s own mother) rides a horse and cradles her infant child in her arms.  She is accompanied by her husband and a mountain man guide. The larger-than-life bronze grouping was widely celebrated when it was dedicated in 1927, but soon forgotten. It was rediscovered in the 1980s when Westport requested that the statue be relocated to their historic downtown.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Westport and Kansas City competed with Independence, St. Joseph, Omaha and Council Bluffs as jumping off points for the Oregon and California trails. Today, these communities once again compete for recognition as favored jumping-off points. But instead of selling oxen and flour, today they compete for heritage tourism. These towns and other communities in the greater Kansas City metropolitan era all mark their connections to the 19th-century overland trails with their own pioneer monuments.

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