History of Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Originally, Lee’s Summit was named the “Town of Strother” by William B. Howard for his wife, Maria D. Strother. Howard came to Jackson County in 1842 from Kentucky, married Maria in 1844, and by 1850 he and Maria had built a homestead five miles north of town.
In October 1862, Howard was arrested for being a Confederate, and after being paroled, he took his family back to Kentucky for the duration of the war. After the war ended, he returned and, knowing that the Missouri Pacific Railroad was surveying a route in the area, platted the town with 70 acres in 1865 as the town of Strother.
In 1865, Strother changed its name for early settler Dr. Pleasant John Graves Lea, who moved to Jackson County in 1849 from Tennessee, upon hearing that the Missouri Pacific Railroad was making plans to build. Unfortunately, in August of 1862, Dr. Lea met his demise and was killed by Kansas Jayhawkers.
When the Missouri Pacific Railroad surveyors arrived, the local people and the railroad wanted to name the town in Dr. Lea’s honor. He had a farm on the highest point, and near the path of the tracks where his murder had taken place, so they chose the name of “Lee’s Summit” to commemorate him.
However, they misspelled the name “Lees Summit” (with two “e’s”; “Lee” instead of “Lea”; and leaving out the apostrophe) on a boxcar that was serving as a station and donated by the Missouri Pacific, then a sign next to the tracks, and finally in the printed schedule for the railroad.
Regarding the town’s name, opposing groups with Southern sympathies claim that the town was named after famed Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Nonetheless, the name was already circulated and published with two “e’s,” so the town petitioned the state legislature and incorporated its name in 1868 as: “Town of Lee’s Summit.”
In 1912, a prominent lumber businessman, R.A. Long, began building his estate, named Longview Farm, on the western edge of the city and into part of Kansas City. When complete, his estate had a mansion, five barns, and 42 buildings on 1,700 acres. The farm also had a church, Longview Chapel Christian Church, which was completed in 1915. It soon became internationally famous as a showplace farm. Today, one of the horse barns on the estate is home to Longview Farm Elementary and the site of Longview Community College. The church and mansion enjoy mention on the National Register of Historic Places. Other parts of the farm have been turned into Longview Lake, Longview Community College, and development called New Longview. Lee’s Summit also features Missouri Town 1855 and Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery.
As of the 2010 census, Lee’s Summit population was approximately 91,364, making it the sixth-largest city in both the state and Kansas City Metropolitan Area.