Centennial History of Argentine; Kansas City, KS 1880-1980
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In The Beginning, continued

For over 90 years, a lumber yard has been located in Argentine. Originally called the Badger Lumber Company, the Mack family gained ownership of the yard and it has since been known as the Mack Lumber Company located at 26th and Metropolitan. In the past, the company has owned its own lumber mills and several hardware stores. Shortly, the Mack Lumber Company will move to a new location in Lenexa.

The Industrial State Bank (chartered in 1917) and the Argentine Savings and Loan Association (founded in 1906) have faithfully served the community. During the 1920's the Argentine State Bank, the Mutual State Bank and the First National Bank also operated in the community. The Russell Steel Products, Inc. (founded 1922) and the General Amer. Transp. have made a contribution to the community.

The Simmons Funeral Home founded by George Simmons in 1882, has gone through four generations of family ownership. It is the oldest family-owned funeral home in the greater Kansas City area. Many other former stores and businesses also served the community. Some of these were: (Groceries) Holcomb, La Grange, Carmona, Stifler, Solow and Persky, (Bakeries) Gorsage, and Dorans, the Heath Motor Repair Shop, Fuller and McCauley, the Maher Dry Goods, Hoke Realty and the Annie Williams Millinary. Some other present stores and businesses include: Laswell Drugs, Arnold's Drug Store, Sears, Mickey's Surplus Store, Argentine Auto Supply, Jay's Barber Shop, Horner's Grocery Store, Park Theater, Safeway Grocery Store, Shalinsky's Drug Store, Western Auto, Sterling Auto Supply, Vega Filling Station, Hoke Realty and Insurance, Huggins Realty and Insurance, Longwith-Carr Realty and Insurance, T.G.&Y., Finkemeir Bakery, Schlatter Insurance, Ryan Insurance, the Van Mol Dairy, and Purinton's Tavern.

Many of the above businesses suffered greatly during the 1951 Flood which is considered the greatest natural disaster in our nation's history, causing an estimated $870,000,000 damage in the Kansas River basin alone. On Black Friday, July 13, 1951, the protective dikes were toppled and flood waters covered an area from Ruby Avenue to the Union Pacific tracks in Armourdale. Metropolitan Avenue was covered with water up to 32nd Street. Water was up to the second floors in houses in the vicinity of 26th and Strong. Parts of Argentine were eventually flooded with water from 10-20 feet deep. A record flood crest fo 45 feet was reached and this was 10 feet greater than the height reached by the Flood of 1903.

Mere words cannot express the suffering that areas of Argentine, Turner, Armourdale, Fairfax, and the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri went through. The clean up work was staggering as much of Argentine was covered by a layer of mud several feet thick. With flood control levees and dams and lakes completed, hopefully big floods are a relic of the past. Many present day residents of Argentine were not yet born or living elsewhere at the time. Those who did experience that flood will never forget, however, "Black Friday, July 13, 1951," will always go down as the darkest day in Argentine's history.

Many writers, including myself, have overlooked one distinct ethnic group that has made a valuable contribution to the community. This is the Mexican-American or Spanish Speaking community of Argentine. This group, because of social and political unrest in Mexico and employment opportunities offered by the railroad began arriving in Argentine by 1920. Here they gained employment with the Santa Fe Railroad and the packing industries in great numbers and to a lesser extent with the Kansas City Structural Steel Company and other businesses.

Argentine, unfortunately, was a mere microcosm of America during the 1920-50's. Consequently, Mexican-Americans suffered covert and more often open discrimination in the community. Denied access to many businesses, they were forced to sit in segregated areas and denied access to the community grade schools. Mexican-American elementary school children were forced to attend the Clara Barton Grade School from 1923 until 1951. Unhappy memories still exist of this era which time has a habit of never completely erasing. Urban renewal efforts in Argentine have removed some of the physical if never the emotional scars of an unhappy chapter in Argentine's history.

On a more positive note, the Park Theatre, the Spanish Speaking Office, the history of the Parish House, and businesses such as Spanish Gardens and Jalisco's are visable influences that this ethnic group has on the community. The St. John the Divine Church, founded by Father Gabriel Perez, in 1936, has been a focal point for the community. A parish grade school was operated there from 1949 to 1965, and Father Gabriel is one of the most respected and beloved figures in the Argentine community.

A small Black community which traces its roots back to the smelter era also has its share of contributions to Argentine history. Blacks were also to an extent segregated against and were forced to attend the Lincoln Grade School for many years until the mid 1950's.

Urban Renewal Projects have added another, and at time controversial dimension to the community. The Argentine Heights and Silver City projects are considered modern projects of how Urban Renewal can change an old community yet preserve its original character. The Argentine Heights program was the first residental rehabilitation program in the state of Kansas. Completed in 1972, the project cost $2,200,000. The 320 unit Berkshire Village Complex is a large portion of this project. The Silver City project was the largest of the Kansas City, Kansas Urban Renewal Projects in terms of acreage and cost. This project cost $9,700,000 and comprises 346 acres. A third project, Villa Argentine, has been an effort over the last few years to relocate homes and businesses in the Mexican-American community and is an attempt to use federal funds to preserve an ethnic culture.

The Argentine community has many civic and service groups, fraternal organizations, numberous churches, two city parks and a branch library. Schools such as Argentine High School (founded 1884), Harmon High School (founded 1973), Emerson Elementary School (founded 1887), Stanley Elementary School (founded 1889), the Silver City Elementary School (founded 1971) and Noble Prentis (founded 1911) have faithfully served Argentine for many years. The Franklin Elementary (founded 1898) phased out in 1972 and the Lincoln Grade School (founded 1888) and phased out in 1965 also served the community as did the small Carlisle, Thomas Edison, and the Bruce and Lowell Schools of early day Argentine.

The Argentine Parish House is a community center that was built in 1922. The Parish House has been a center of community activities for over 50 years as basketball games, boxing matches, dances, club meetings and social affairs have been conducted there. The community can also boast of two parks: Clopper Field and Emerson Park. Clopper Field is named in honor of Dr. David E. Clopper, a doctor of the community, who devoted his entire life to the betterment of the community. A plaque dedicated in his honor is located in Emerson Park.

The Argentine Activities Association is one of the most prominent organizations of the community. One of its biggest undertakings was the Argentine Parade which was an annual affair for 30 years with the last one held in 1963. Another distinguished organization is the Hawthorn Club which was started in 1905. Perhaps its most important accomplishment was the founding of the Argentine Library in 1907. Other active organizations include the Argentine Optimist Club, G.I. Forum and the Women Relief Corps.

There are many fraternal organizations in Argentine. Most of them use the Ben Hur Masonic Temple at 1500 South 30th Street, in Kansas City, Kansas. These organizations include: The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Order of the Eastern Star, the True Kindred, the International Order of Jobs Daughters, Harmony Rebekah and the Odd Fellows. Many churches are located in the community. They include: the Emerson Park Christian Church, the Ruby Avenue Baptist Church, the First Christian Church, the Ruby Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, the Second Metropolitan Baptist Church, the Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. John the Divine, the St. John the Evangelist Church, and the Metropolitan Avenue United Methodist Church.

Argentine can look back with pride to 100 years of eventful history. The Prophet's grave site, Sauer Castle, long established businesses and old families are reminders of an eventful past. The Urban Renewal Projects and the J.C. Harmon High School are examples of how a community can change without losing its original identity. The Argentine community will continue to grow and prosper while never forgetting its glorious heritage as it enters its second 100 years.

Turner and Shawnee Township for the most part have shared in neighboring Argentine's growth and prosperity. Until recently, however, they did still retain many of the attributes of a large rural community. Like Argentine, the area traces the origins to the Shawnee Indians. Shawnee Township was organized shortly after the Civil War in 1866, and the area was by then opening up rapidly to white settlement. Many Belgiums and German farmers settled in this area which became well known for fruit growing, dairy, and truckfarming. The Steele, Geiger, Speaker, Mitchem, Coughlin, Holsinger, Key, Espenlaub, and Sauer families among others were prominent fruitgrowers. The Olson, Van Mol and McMahon families operated dairies. Some prominent early familes include: the Matney, Gibbs, Payne, Callahan, Straub, Rieke, Gallager, Sheidley, Jones, Pierce, Antoine, Colby, Puhr, Ashlock, Keckler, and Hadley familes.

A familiar landmark is the old St. Rita's home at the corner of Junction Road and Shawnee Drive. In earlier years this was also referred to as the Antoine or Colby House. Built around 1862 this was originally a 15 room inn and trading post. Local lore has it that the building withstood several raids from rebel bushwackers during the Civil War. Later the Lester and Fenton Colby families owned the place for many years and recently it was utilized as a nursing home. Another old landmark is the old stone Matney barn located on the property of Eugene Matney. The old Thomas McMahon home at the corner of Steel Road and Shawnee Drive and the John Coughlin residence at 3009 South 53rd Street are two impressive homes of early day Shawnee Township.

Like Argentine, Turner owes its development to the coming of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1875. J.J. and M.S. Swingley officially founded the town of Turner in 1881, by establishing a general store, an ice house, and a small manufacturing business in a corner of their farm. Soon the unincorporated town had a livery stable and a grocery store. In 1884, M.S. Swingley became the first postmaster. According to undocumented sources, Turner derives its name from the Charles Partonnar family. Over the years, the name, according to this explanation, became mispronounced and misspelled as Turner. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, however, the area was simply called Farmer on very early maps.

By 1910, Turner had a population fo 200 with a school, a post office, several stores, express and telegraph facilities, and a small depot. The first businesses and much of the original town developed on the south side of what is now known as 55th and Kansas Avenue. C.S. Wilson started a bank on the west side of the street. On the north side was a small white frame Baptist Church. Founded during the 1860's it was originally called the Mountain Grove Baptist Church, later renamed the First Baptist Church of Turner and moved to its present location. Several other churches have faithfully served the Turner community.

Mrs. Helen McDaniel, former Principal of the Turner Elementary School, compiled and wrote, along with other residents, a fine history of the Turner community in 1979. This 37 page booklet distinguished old families that have graced Turner's heritage. Some of these include: the Lovelace, McCamish, Wilson, Mamie, Madden, Lillich, Potter, Clark, Pitkin, Swartz, Wendt, Dreyer, Hubert, Godard, Perkins, Partonnar, Ainsworth, Rodgers, Locke, Petigo, Probst, Arndt, Payne, Barber, Swingley, Hearin, and Strickland families. Many of these and other early day resident of Shawnee Township are buried in the Maple Hill Cemetery and the Shawnee Township Cemetery on South 55th Street.

Major industries in the post-war era such as Boise Cascade, Thompson-Hayward, T.G.&Y., Southwest Industries, Fairbanks Morse, the Bulk Mail Center and the soon to be completed Swift Processing plant have located in the Turner bottoms and greatly contributed to the economic growth of Kansas City, Kansas.

The neighboring farm community of Morris is nestled away in a quiet corner of Wyandotte County. The name Morris is derived from the old Morris Packing House which operated sheep pens in the community. These sheep and cattle yards were in use until the 1951 Flood and along with the railroad and rich farmland gave a measure of prosperity and stability to the little unincorporated community. Some old families in the history of the Morris community are the: Berry, I.N. Hart, Russell Hart, Edwin Hart, Hines, Zimmer, Patterson, Clayborne, Schuetz, Seiler, Coleman, Kendall, Wilson, Jones, Kurth, Patterson, Bledsoe, and Everhart.

Submitted by Edwin D. Shutt II