You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Kansas? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Kansas city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Sunflower State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Kansas City (Photos)
- Newton (Photos)
- Derby (Photos)
- Paola (Photos)
- Eudora (Photos)
- Bonner Springs (Photos)
- Wichita (Photos)
- Parsons (Photos)
- Coffeyville (Photos)
For being 146 years old, Kansas City doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Kansas? That would be Basehor — a brand spanking 113 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Kansas… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Kansas, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 58 out of 62 in Kansas with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 93.5% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Kansas City turning out to be the matriarch of Kansas at the ripe old age of 146.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
1. Kansas City
In October 1872, ‘old’ Kansas City, Kansas, was incorporated. The first city election was held on October 22 of that year, by order of Judge Hiram Stevens of the Tenth Judicial District, and resulted in the election of Mayor James Boyle. The mayors of the city after its organization were James Boyle, C. A. Eidemiller, A. S. Orbison, Eli Teed and Samuel McConnell. In June 1880, the Governor of Kansas proclaimed the city of Kansas City a city of the second class with Mayor McConnell present.
In March 1886, ‘new’ Kansas City, Kansas, was formed through the consolidation of five municipalities: ‘old’ Kansas City, Armstrong, Armourdale, Riverview, Wyandotte. The oldest city of the group was Wyandotte, which was formed in 1857 by Wyandot Native Americans and Methodist missionaries.:370, 384, 388
For millennia, the land now known as Kansas was inhabited by Native Americans. In 1803, most of modern Kansas was secured by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1854, the Kansas Territory was organized, then in 1861 Kansas became the 34th U.S. state. In 1872, Harvey County was founded.
For many millennia, the Great Plains of North America was inhabited by nomadic Native Americans. From the 16th century to 18th century, the Kingdom of France claimed ownership of large parts of North America. In 1762, after the French and Indian War, France secretly ceded New France to Spain, per the Treaty of Fontainebleau.
Native Americans, then Spanish explorers such as Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541, and French missionary explorers in 1673 lived and traveled throughout the area of what is now Paola. Despite these early European incursions at the start of the 19th century, the area was largely controlled by the Osage people.
The history of Eudora predates American settlement. The Eudora area was home to various Indian tribes for thousands of years. The most notable tribe was the Kansa. The Kansa lived along the rivers of this region in villages until they were forcibly removed in the 1820s by the American government to make room for the Shawnee. The Oregon Trail and Santa Fe Trail passed through the region, just a few miles south of modern Eudora.
6. Bonner Springs
Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado spent the winter of 1541-1542 at what is now Bonner Springs. The diary of Father Juan Padilla records that the expedition reached the 40th degree (Kansas northern border) and came to a great river (the Missouri). An inscription found on a stone near Atchison has been translated as, ‘Thus far came Francisco de Coronado, General of an Expedition.’ The explorers traveled downstream to the mouth of another great river, the Kansas, and preceded upstream 16 leagues to camp in what is now Bonner Springs before returning to Mexico. Due to the mineral springs, this legend gave the area its first recorded name, Coronado Springs.
Archaeological evidence indicates human habitation near the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers, the site of present-day Wichita, as early as 3000 B.C. In 1541, a Spanish expedition led by explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado found the area populated by the Quivira, or Wichita, people. Conflict with the Osage in the 1750s drove the Wichita further south. Prior to American settlement of the region, the site was located in the territory of the Kiowa. Claimed first by France as part of Louisiana and later acquired by the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it became part of Kansas Territory in 1854 and then the state of Kansas in 1861.
The Wichita returned in 1864 due to the American Civil War and established a settlement on the banks of the Little Arkansas. During this period, trader Jesse Chisholm established a trading post at the site, one of several along a trail extending south to Texas which became known as the Chisholm Trail. After the war, the Wichita permanently relocated south to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
Parsons was named after Levi Parsons, president of the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. The town was founded in 1870 and incorporated the following year. It soon became a major hub for several railroads including the Missouri Kansas & Texas Railroad, Parsons & Pacific Railroad, Kansas City & Pacific Railroad, and the Memphis, Kansas & Colorado Railroad. During World War II it was home to the Kansas Ordnance Plant, which later operated for some years as the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant. In Spring of 2005, the munitions plant was placed on the BRAC list for closure. The community has rallied behind the current plant operator, Day and Zimmerman, to keep the company on the grounds after closure and to keep those jobs and more in the Parsons area. (See link to ‘Great Plains Industrial Park’ in ‘External Links’, below) Parsons is also home to the Parsons State Hospital & Training Center, which has been in operation since 1903 when it was opened as the Kansas State Hospital for Epileptics.
This settlement was founded in 1869 as an Indian trading post by Col. James A. Coffey, serving the population across the border in what was then the Indian Territory. The town was stimulated in 1871 by being made a stop on the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad, which connected it to other markets and developments. With the arrival of the railroad, a young surveyor, Napoleon B. Blanton, was dispatched to lay out the town. The naming of the town was left to the toss of a coin between Col. Coffey and U.S. Army Captain Blanton. Coffey won the toss and the town was officially named Coffeyville.
An Indian mission was established in 1829 at the town’s site, hence the name of the later settlement.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Kansas
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Kansas. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Kansas.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Sunflower State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Kansas:
- Basehor (Founded in 1905)
- Garden City (Founded in 1905)
- Arkansas City (Founded in 1905)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Kansas