History of Wichita
Now recognized as one of the major mid-sized cities in the nation, Wichita has come a long way since its infant years as a trading post and cowtown. The road from "then" to "now" has been filled with colorful people, events and businesses that have been the building blocks for today's cosmopolitan Wichita... a dynamic community rich in culture, activity and opportunity.
The Wild, Wild West!
In 1868, a Wichita Town Company was organized with Mead and six others as original incorporators. Wichita was incorporated as a city of the third class on July 21, 1870. One hundred twenty-three men and one woman signed the original incorporation petition. The woman was Mrs. Catherine McCarty, who owned and operated a laundry. Later, she moved to New Mexico, where her oldest son, Henry, changed his name to William Bonney, better known as "Billy the Kid."
Move Along, Little Doggies!
Jesse Chisholm came to Wichita first in about 1863, leading a party of sportsmen and adventurers here to hunt game. He later marked the cattle trail, best known as the Chisholm Trail , from the King Ranch in south Texas to Kansas. Cattle by the hundreds of thousands traversed the trail to the Santa Fe railhead at Wichita. In 1872 alone, 350,000 head of cattle were sold in Wichita at a value of more than $2 million, a princely sum in those days.
Spurred by this influx of cowboys in the 1870s who brought hundreds of thousands of cattle out of Texas north to Wichita along the Chisholm Trail, Wichita was indeed a rough and tumble cowtown. It was a city where Wyatt Earp, "Buffalo Bill" William Mathewson, and Bat Masterson walked the dusty streets. Just west of the river, the area known as Delano was especially wild and woolly. All manner of vice could be found in saloons, dance halls, gambling and prostitution houses to entertain the thirsty and lonely cowboys.
Down To Business!
Even though the cattle trade lasted only three or four years, its presence assured Wichita's position as a commercial hub. With the trade groundwork firmly established, manufacturing and agriculture industries thrived in the late teens and early 1920s. In addition, savvy aviation entrepreneurs moved in to take advantage of the benefits of a prosperous oil industry, agreeable climate and wide open spaces perfect for building and testing these new birds of flight.
Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines!
The Beech (now Hawker Beechcraft Corporation) and Cessna companies continue today, as does Learjet (now Bombardier Aerospace Learjet), founded by William Lear in the mid 1960s. It was through the efforts of these aviation pioneers that Wichita earned the title of "Air Capital of the World." With all companies still located in Wichita, that title firmly remains today. Cessna, Bombardier Aerospace Learjet and Raytheon supply more than half of the world's general aviation and military aircraft. Boeing supplies two-thirds of the world's commercial airliners.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Lives On!
About the same time, another innovative business leader, A.A. Hyde, invented a product that was to become a household word... mentholatum. Later, two enterprising Wichitans launched White Castle hamburgers here.
In 1958, Frank and Dan Carney borrowed $600 from their mother and established their first Pizza Hut in Wichita in a small red-bricked building. This original Pizza Hut now resides on the campus of Wichita State University as testimony to the possibilities of vision, hard work and the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Making Themselves at Home!
But, it's the original foundation as a center for commerce that has been the one constant ensuring Wichita 's progress through good times and bad. It's a legacy of commerce that will continue to keep Wichita prosperous as we charge ahead in this 21st century.
Martin K. EbyDondlinger & Sons Construction CompanyLegacy BankCase New HollandJohnson Controls – YorkConco, IncStar LumberWescon ProductsHouse of SchwanBKD, LLPIMA Financial GroupSullivan Higdon & SinkMeritrust Credit UnionHutton Construction
Allen Gibbs & HoulikBeechcraft CorporationBlack Hills EnergyBombardier LearjetCapitol Federal Savings BankCommerce BankEquity BankFoulston SiefkinGrant ThorntonHutton Construction CorporationKansas Gas ServiceMeritrust Credit UnionProfessional Engineering ConsultantsSullivan Higdon & SinkWal-Mart Stores Inc. - EastWestar EnergyWichita Eagle