The city of Sugar Creek will be celebrating its centennial for most of 2020. However, as we take a closer look at the city’s history we discover the community dates back much further than that.
The first historical reference to Sugar Creek was June 25, 1804. That was the night Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery pitched their tents and camped as they made their way up the Missouri River on their famous journey to the Pacific Northwest. Apparently the Sugar Maples lining the creek gave the fresh, clear water a sweet taste. Prior to the arrival of the white man to Missouri Territory, Jackson County was Osage Indian territory.
Shortly after statehood, a few farmers settled in the area. Deer and turkey roamed the hillsides. The Missouri River became the highway as the westward movement began, and Wayne City Landing became a main jumping-off point for the overland trails west. After unloading merchandise and supplies from the big river steamboats, the teamsters and their oxen teams had to struggle up the precipitous, rough and almost mountainous river bluff heading for the Jackson County Square. Realizing they could go around the bluff and up Sugar Creek toward the Square, they soon built the first railroad west of the Mississippi. It was a wooden rail freight line, pulled by mule teams up along the creek.
In 1873 the Goetz Brewery of Kansas City purchased 54 acres near U.S. 24 and Northern to establish a beer garden. In July1895, the garden became the Fairmount Amusement Park. The area’s developing inter-urban transit system soon tied Fairmount Park to downtown Kansas City and residents swarmed to the Park.
When Kansas City Southern Railroad ran a spur line into Sugar Creek, they dammed a creek, forming a ten-acre lake in the park. This added swimming, boating and fishing. The park grew into what became the “Disneyland” of its day. Today’s American Royal Horse Show is the outgrowth of the Fairmount Park Horse Show.
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, the land was being purchased by the Standard Oil Company of Indiana for a new oil refinery. The refinery began operations October 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.
However, that was about the time Henry Ford invented the automobile assembly line. With the coming of the “auto age” and the jet airliner, the product line expanded, and the refinery grew into one of the largest in the country, covering 430 acres, and had a processing capacity of 74,300 barrels of crude oil daily. The nucleus of the work force were Eastern Europeans brought in from the Whiting, Indiana refinery.
A mile and a half down the river it was discovered that those giant limestone outcroppings along the river bluff were composed almost entirely of the particular quality of stone from which Portland cement is made. In 1905 the Kansas City Portland Cement Company purchased 73 acres and began construction of a plant. Today, those original 73 acres have expanded to over 1,100 acres.
The boomtown that grew up around the oil refinery dates from 1904; when land was divided and sold for home sites, streets were plotted, merchants moved in, churches organized, and the school was built.
Originally known as River View, the city of Sugar Creek was established as a fourth-class city on November 15, 1920 and is now a centurion.
Reference: Sugar Creek Historical Center.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.