I’ve often heard that nothing stays the same, especially in Kansas. For instance, the town of Arkansas City in Cowley County began as an early rendezvous point for horse thieves and was first called Walnut City, then Adelphi, and next Creswell. However, on June 10, 1872, the town gained respect and was incorporated as Arkansas City, mainly because it was built on a hill close to the Arkansas River. 

Speaking of the river, it may very well be the only river in America whose pronunciation changes as it crosses state lines. From the mouth of the river, to the Oklahoma-Kansas state line, it is called the Ar-kan-saw. From Arkansas City, through the state of Kansas, the river is called the Ar-Kansas. From the Kansas-Colorado border to its headwaters near Leadville, Colorado, the name again assumes the pronunciation Ar-kan-saw.

The Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, called the river St. Paul or  St. Peter, after arriving there on a Catholic holy day in 1541. Later, the Spaniards called it Rio Napestle or simply the  Napestle. The Native Americans before them referred to the Arkansas as Ne Shuta, which means “red water.” Then, as the French explorers came along they called it by yet another name, the Ar-Kansas, which was named for the Arkansas Indians. In 1806, James Wilkinson, governor of the Louisiana Territory, labeled it the Ar-kan-saw. 

A little closer to home, the Kansas River was named for the Kansa Indian Tribe (or Konza, which ever you prefer, some folks still call them the Kaw Tribe). They lived and hunted along her river banks.

Armourdale and Argentine are both located in Wyandotte County along the Kansas River and are suburbs in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. The meat-packing industry flourished in the Kansas City area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Armour family established a meat-processing plant not far from the stockyards, and the city of Armourdale developed around it in 1891. The company that organized the town site included the notable Boston capitalists Charles Francis Adams Jr., John Adams and Nathaniel Thayer.

Argentine was the location of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad transfer depot with its side tracks, roundhouse, coal chutes and sheds, which largely determined the site of the town. Many workers and businesses built near the job. In 1880, the same year Argentine was platted, the Kansas City Smelting and Refining Company began receiving ore from mining districts in the western mountains. The company processed the ore into lead, gold and silver. This smelting activity led to the town being named Argentine, the Latin word meaning silver.

The Missouri River was also named for a Native American tribe, the Missouria Indians, whose people once lived and hunted along the river banks in central Missouri. Further north in Atchison County, Kansas, which is also located along the river banks, there used to be a thriving community called Arrington, which dates back to about 1862. The lovely Mary Arrington of Ohio had planned to marry Thomas Hoops of Atchison County, but sadly he died just before their wedding day, so she never got the opportunity to see the town and health spa that Hoops had named in her honor. In the 1880s, health enthusiasts flocked to bathe in the “highly magnetic waters” of the Arrington Mineral Springs. Chemists from St. Louis stated that the waters were “highly recommended for liver and kidney complaints, rheumatism, scrofula, gout, dropsy, hemorrhoids, hysteria and general debility.”

The springs brought prosperity to Arrington for many years, but a large fire in 1917, and the coming of World War I, ended the health resort era. Today, there are only about 30 people living in Arrington. 

Ref: “1001 Kansas Place Names,” by Sondra Van Meter McCoy and Jan Hults

To reach Ted Stillwell send email to tedstiilwell@gmail.com or call him at 816-896-3592.