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Kansas City has played an important role in American history due to its strategic position on the Missouri River, and its unique border location between the North and South in the slavery debate. Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans to see the region in 1673, when they traveled up the Missouri as part of their Mississippi River expedition. However, present-day Kansas City was not settled until 1839, when John McCoy established the Town of Kansas near his already-existing town of Westport.
The Town of Kansas was formally incorporated in 1850. By this time, it had become a critical location in western expansion, since the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails all started from Jackson County, in which the town was located. A few years later, when the question of popular sovereignty in determine whether Kansas would be a free or slave state came up, the border Town of Kansas became a breeding ground for conflicts between pro-slavery Missourians and abolitionist Kansans.In 1869, soon after the Civil War ended the question of slavery for good, the city was chosen to construct the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad bridge across the Missouri River, which led to rapid economic expansion. Under the guidance of architect George Kesseler, Kansas City’s planned growth made it a prime example of the City Beautiful movement, and today boulevards and parks can be found all around the city.