The original 13 colonies of the United States hugged the eastern seaboard of America. Then, for a hundred years, from about 1760 to the 1860s, the settlers moved westward in a couple different large migrations. The first migration pushed the frontier as far as the Mississippi Valley. During the second migration, following the Louisiana Purchase, settlers moved into Missouri in massive numbers, and then pushed on toward the Pacific Coast line of California and Oregon country.

Here in our neck of the woods, Native Americans inhabited the fertile plains, plateaus and rugged mountains of Missouri when the first Frenchmen penetrated the wilderness a little more than 300 years ago. These native tribes were hereditary foes, constantly at war with each other, but they all maintained peaceful relations with the French traders and missionaries who sought only to collect furs and convert them to Christianity. French settlements were mere trading posts and missions, not farms and villages, and did not encroach on Indian hunting lands.

Both the Native Americans and the Frenchmen left their mark in the form of state and city names. How many can you think of at the moment? Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and the Dakotas, just to name a few. Then, Lake Lotawana, Osceola and Delaware Street where Harry and Bess Truman lived, and of course. Shawnee, Kansas – they are all Indian names. Then, there is Laclede and Lafayette Counties, Napoleon, St. Louis, Creve Coeur, Des Peres, Missouri, and the new Choteau Bridge – they are French.

Two hundred years ago there were an estimated 20,000 Indians living in Missouri. There were Kickapoo, Kansa, Shawnee, Sioux, Osage, Delaware, Sac, Fox, Iowa, Otto and Missouria tribes, to name a few. As the need for land became greater and greater, land agreements with the Indians were constantly broken. Bloody Indian raids soon followed the influx of settlers and continued until about 1815, when a treaty was signed with 19 of the tribes to vacate the new Missouri Territory. However, a 26-mile wide strip of land along the western edge of Missouri, where we live (from Fort Osage to the present Kansas-Missouri border) was not opened until 1825.

Settlements and river ports began to quickly develop along the Missouri River, such as Franklin, Boonville, Arrow Rock, Lexington, Liberty and then Independence (which is six years younger than Liberty). Kansas City is even younger yet.

Lexington was named for the early settlers' hometown, Lexington, Kentucky, and reminds a person of an “old charm” southern town.

A guy wonders if maybe Franklin might have been named for Benjamin. I know Boonville was named for Daniel Boone, but to me, Independence and Liberty both seem like pretty patriotic names. Many towns grew up around fresh water springs, the staff of life such as Independence and Blue Springs. Sibley is probably the oldest town in Jackson County; it grew up around Fort Osage, which dates back to 1808, long before statehood in 1821. The town was named for George Sibley, who was the factor (or merchant in charge) at the store; he was the 33-year-old boss at the fort. His 16-year-old bride brought the first piano to the frontier.

Probably the youngest settlement in Eastern Jackson County is Sugar Creek. It grew up around the old refinery. In 1903, rumors flourished that land was being bought up around the mouth of Sugar Creek, along the river for a goat farm. In fact, it was purchased by John D. Rockefeller of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana for a new oil refinery. The refinery began operations Oct. 22, 1904. The principal product was kerosene, sold from barrels and tanks in the back rooms of grocery stores to light the lamps and heat the cook stoves of the day.

Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to or call him at 816-252-9909.