The first mayor of Kansas City was William Samuel Gregory (b. Aug. 4, 1825, d. Aug. 11, 1887). Mayor Gregory began his term on April 18, 1853, a month after Kansas City was incorporated. He defeated Dr. Benoist Troost by nine votes. At that time, there were only 63 citizens voting. However, he only served for less than a year because it was learned that he lived outside of the city limits. His term was completed by a democrat, Dr. Johnston Lykins.
Gregory was born in Shelby County, Kentucky on August 4, 1825, when he was orphaned as an infant. He and his wife, Eliza Ann Wade, relocated to Jackson County, Missouri in 1844 when he was only 19. They resided on a farm that was near the small growing town. Gregory and his brother, James A. Gregory, owned and operated a mercantile business in the levy (East Bottoms). Along with other people settling in, Gregory decided to petition to incorporate what would become the Town of Kansas.
With his grocery business expanding with a store opening near the border of Kansas and Missouri, he purchased the land we know of as subdivisions, Timber Trace and Blue Hills. The land was later sold to his father-in-law in 1851.
Gregory lost his wife to cholera and she is buried in Union Cemetery. They had two children together. Gregory would later marry her sister, Mary. He would continue to be instrumental in developing the town by helping to create the city charter and develop laws. He would see the City of Kansas receive its new name in 1853. Gregory belonged to the Whig party and ran for mayor getting the best of 63 votes. As stated above, Gregory could not complete his term because he was serving illegally, which afforded Johnston Lykins to finish out the term. The boundaries of Kansas City included in the city charter would be the deciding factor of Gregory not being able to serve as mayor. His farm was outside the city limits. He did resign upon the news of this development being spread.
During the Civil War and all the turmoil going on in Kansas City, he moved to St. Louis (he was a southern sympathizer). In 1867, he moved back to Kansas City with his Gregory and Co., which became a profitable wholesale grocery business with the help of his sons. Gregory built a new store in 1879 at 3rd and Main Streets.
By the 1870s, Gregory allegedly suffered from a condition known as dyspepsia which effects are similar to that of an ulcer. On the advice of doctors, he went to Manitou Springs, Colorado in 1887 to start over and improve his health. It wasn't a solution though and he wanted to return to Kansas City. In this same year, Gregory passed away from kidney failure. He was only 62 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery where people are buried by occupation.
Gregory's legacy continued with the help of his sons running the grocery store at 3rd and Main Streets. By 1889, the business became very lucrative. His son, Robert Lee Gregory, bought a controlling interest in 1890.
Allegedly, in 1930, the subject of no street being named after the city's first mayor was brought up. A resolution was adopted by the Park Board to rename 71st Street as Gregory Boulevard in honor of William S. Gregory. Although he didn't get to fulfill his term as mayor, he helped to father Kansas City.
Maybe the next time you drive down or across Gregory Boulevard, you will know where that piece of history began.
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