The City of Lee’s Summit and its History

The City of Lee’s Summit and its History

The city of Lee’s Summit is the sixth-largest city in both the state of Missouri and in the Kansas City metropolitan region, with nearly 100,000 of the nicest people in the area. But, don’t be fooled. Even with it’s growing population, the city emits a very small-town vibe. Stroll past the charming 1905 train depot (now home to the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce), stop into a local coffee shop, visit a few antique shops, and chat with the locals. You will quickly recognize why the city of Lee’s Summit is such a friendly place and a desirable spot to settle down, raise a family, and swell with civic pride.

lees summit history and where the city is at now

lees summit missouri history


Rich and fascinating is how we at Lee’s Summit Reviews would describe the history of Lee’s Summit. Over a century ago, the tiny area of just 11 blocks was known as the “Town of Strother,” and was platted along the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Today, that “tiny area” sprawls over 65.87 square miles and is known affectionately as Lee’s Summit, Missouri. 

In the late 19th century, William B. Howard had big dreams and was inspired to relocate to an area just east of Kansas City. He was intrigued by the serene landscape and soon began making plans to build a city in his image. Today, nearly 100,000 residents have been lured to make Lee’s Summit their home. With its peaceful and family-centered community, the city of Lee’s Summit is a strong and bustling city. Throughout the decades, Lee’s Summit has been filled with stories of courageous grit, strong-willed dedication, and modest determination. As a result, Lee’s Summit, Missouri is now a much sought-after place to live and work.

Howard eventually founded the “Town of Strother” in October of 1865. He filed for a plat of land which already had 11 blocks surrounding a business district. When incorporated, the Strother population was even one hundred people. Then, in late 1868, the town’s name was changed and incorporated again as the “Town of Lee’s Summit.” Since the highest point on the railroad between St. Louis and Kansas City was on this site, the word “Summit” was an obvious choice, but there are many opinions as to why the name Lee was selected. One of the popular theories centers around Civil War General Robert E. Lee.  Many people migrated to the area from various southern states after the war, and many were of the opinion that Lee’s name was chosen for this reason. But others suggest the town received its name from Dr. Pleasant Lea, an early settler to the area. Whether credit should be given to “Lee” or “Lea” has been a long-standing debate.

Lee’s Summit also has an infamous citizen, that of Cole Younger. Younger was known as “The Last of the Great Outlaws,” and according to local lore, he was driven to a life of crime after seeing his father robbed and murdered. 

Many of Lee’s Summits residents were in church when an enormous fire broke out in the downtown area in 1885. Wooden structures were lost, and the burning buildings helped spread the blaze across town. The entire business district succumbed to the fire and the loss was determined to be over $87,000. Twenty-five structures were destroyed by the fire, yet the people of Lee’s Summit were determined to rebuild, and they did just that.

The Union army was enforcing Order #11, forcing anyone with Southern allegiance to leave their rural homes in western Missouri. Cole Younger and his gang, however, are thought to have redeemed their criminal reputation by saving many burning homes from the 1885 fire, making Younger somewhat of a local hero. One such house belonged to William Howard. 

Order #11 did much to unify the southern transplants in eastern Missouri and inspired Younger to enlist in a band of Confederate outlaws called “Quantrill’s Raiders.” Younger was later apprehended after robbing a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. After serving over 25 years in prison for his actions, he was released in 1901 and returned to the city of Lee’s Summit, where he lived as a decent citizen until he died in 1916. Younger is buried in the Lee’s Summit Missouri Historic Cemetery.

Nearly 30 years later, in 1912, R.A. Long, a Kansas City lumber company magnate, began to erect an enormous estate. He dubbed the estate Longview Farm, which was on the city’s west side, and abutting Kansas City. When Long completed his farm, it featured his mansion, five horse barns, and 42 additional buildings, all spanning over 1,700 acres. The trivia question of all trivia questions: Who is the grandson of Harrison Metheny, the electrician who worked to construct the Longview mansion? Answer: Jazz guitar legend, Pat Metheny.

all about lees summit and its history

history of lees summit mo

Furthermore, the elaborate farmstead also featured a church, Longview Chapel Christian Church, constructed in 1915. The farm quickly became known around the world as a showcase estate. One of Long’s horse barns is today the home of Longview Farm Elementary, part of the renowned R-7 School District, and the home of Metropolitan Community College – Longview Community College. The Long mansion and church have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the mansion and college, you can find beautiful Longview Lake and a quaint housing development known as “New Longview.”  Lee’s Summit is also the home of Missouri Town 1855 and the Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery.

Altogether, the city of Lee’s Summit’s history is chock full of stories resulting in triumph and resulting in tragedy. However, each story is rooted in the dedication and commitment of its people who have never lost sight of a dream – the dream of creating and maintaining a progressive and regal city. The citizens of Lee’s Summit have never forgotten from whence they came and they have never lost touch with honest American values – the values of community and kindness.  Her forefathers would be, indeed, proud.

lees summit and its history

city of lees summit flag

21st century Lee’s Summit is an astounding story in and of itself. Such as a boasting successful industry, booming residential areas, and a prosperous economy. Additionally a bustling and historic downtown and not to mention earnest philanthropy and charity. The city of Lee’s Summit has a lot to brag about – among them Longview Farm, vibrant downtown revitalization, a lively cultural arts community that includes theatre, dance, and many music events, Longview Community College, safe and secure neighborhoods, Unity Village World Headquarters, James A. Reed Wildlife area, desirable parks and recreation, exceptional schools, and a flourishing list of nonprofit, civic, community and philanthropic organizations. It’s no wonder that in 010, CNN/Money and Money magazine awarded Lee’s Summit with a ranking of 27 on its list of “100 Best Cities to Live in the United States.”  

If you have never experienced the city of Lee’s Summit, we welcome you to visit soon. Take in our sights, sounds, and rich heritage. Shop among the many friendly businesses, dine at one of the hundreds of fine restaurants, and enjoy an entertaining evening of nightlife. Lee’s Summit Reviews and the entire city of Lee’s Summit awaits you and promises to make it an experience to remember.