KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a cool Saturday morning, Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City gathered together at the Greg and Shirley Pryor YMCA Challenger Field in Platte County.
Temperatures hovered around 20 degrees, but more than 20 people gathered around a podium and microphone to watch a bit of history unveiled.
In cooperation with the city manager’s office in Kansas City, the group, the city of Kansas City and the Kansas City Parks Department teamed up to install three historical markers in the Northland. The NSDKC was founded in 1932 with the mission to preserve unique and rich history in the area.
Two reside in Platte County, just off the walking path to the north of the YMCA Field — which is located across from Platte County School District’s Barry School.
One of the markers honors the Town of Barry, once a booming town in the 1820s. The other marks the Liberty to Fort Leavenworth Road, which is to the west of the Barry marker.
The third marker is in Clay County on North Platte Purchase Drive, on the hill overlooking Costco.
That site, for many years, was the old Western border of the United States.
“We have so much rich history in Clay and Platte (counties) and yet we fail to celebrate it like we should,” historian Keith Nelson said. “These markers will help celebrate this. We can’t fit the whole story on the markers, so we will be asked why you didn’t include this or that. If you know the story and if you don’t, maybe it will inspire you enough to do more research and learn more about the area.”
The old Western border of the United States now is the dividing line between counties — Clay and Platte — but hundreds of years ago it was the dividing line between the United States and Native American territories.
That border existed from 1821 to 1837, back then when the state line was a straight shot north from where the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet in Kansas City. In 1836, the United States acquired the land from now North Platte Purchase Road to the Missouri River for a sum of $7,500 from the Iowa and Sac and Fox tribes. All told, the USA acquired 3,149 square miles from the Indians, who were forced to move again.
The new addition would later become Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Holt, Nodaway and Platte counties.
Steve Noll, a one-time politician and current president of the NSDKC, noted there more than 50 historical markers throughout the region, but it is rare to unveil three at the same time.
“To preserve and provide education in the Kansas City region and what better place than a youth sports center,” he said. “We have a playground with three markers within a five-minute walk. Hopefully a lot of kids and parents will read it and will become a little more knowledgeable about the area and appreciate what all we have.”
The other two markers, in Platte County, are closely tied together.
The Town of Barry marker and the Liberty to Fort Leavenworth Road went hand in hand. When Cantonment Leavenworth was created in 1827 to protect the Santa Fe Trail in Leavenworth, Kan., the closest town for supplies was Liberty, Mo., a 30-mile trek.
Through the work of Col. Henry Leavenworth, the military partnered with local settlers to build a road from Leavenworth to Barry, while men from Clay County built the road from Liberty — founded in 1821 — to Barry.
“In the early 1820s, there was nothing else like it in greater Kansas City,” past NSDKC president and emcee Ross Marshall said. “Independence was founded in 1827. Kansas City was a little town on the Kansas River when it became a town in 1838. There was nothing else here.
“They met at the state line and brought stuff back to Leavenworth.”
The road later became Old Stagecoach Road and part of the original trail follows the path of Interstate 29.
The road became one that many wagons traveled to get north to St. Joseph, Mo., or Oregon, Mo., to pass the Missouri River to get into Kansas. Nelson gave a personal account stating his early descendants made the trip from Liberty to Oregon in 1846 and of the seven people on the wagon, five didn’t make it.
Nelson noted there was evidence that in 1849 and 1850, a Robert James made the trip from Liberty to Leavenworth on the road on his way to the Gold Rush in California. While his name is rather unknown, he fathered two children, Frank and Jesse, which became pretty well known in this part of the world.
“We were the catalyst for what went North,” Nelson said. “Jackson County likes to celebrate they had the Sante Fe Trail and Oregon Trail. A lot of those people went through the town of Barry and out onto the plains.
“I’m so happy to see us celebrate the history with these three markers.”