How I Found A Home And A Family History In Kansas City, Kansas
Talking about the Johnson and Wyandotte County border in Kansas for the past few months literally has hit close to home for me — I live just a few blocks north of the county line in Wyandotte. As I found out since moving there, I'm closer to home than I realized.
I never really thought I’d live in Kansas. I grew up a Missourian. My parents fled the Johnson County suburbs for the Missouri Ozarks after I was born.
As a kid, I played in the forests and creeks near my house and listened to Cardinals games on the radio. Family vacations almost always included a cave tour. And thanks to fourth grade Missouri history, I can still recite the official Missouri State bird (blue bird), flower (hawthorn), and mineral (galena) — in case you were wondering.
When I got a job in Kansas City, I moved to the Missouri side. It seemed like that was where I fit. I was young, single and worked in Missouri. But when it came time to buy a house, I fell in love with one in Wyandotte County, and as it turns out, not far from the side of the family I knew least about.
Most of my Kansas roots are in Johnson County. My great-grandfather started Carter's Grocery in downtown Overland Park and later a sporting goods store. He also served as chief of Overland Park's volunteer fire department for years.
By the time my parents were kids in Shawnee Mission schools, Overland Park was in the middle of a growth spurt — houses and stores were being built all around them, and that was just the start. As a kid, when my parents would take me to visit relatives, they would point at strip malls and apartment buildings, wowed by what had replaced the cornfields.
On the other side of my family, I also had roots in Johnson County. My grandma grew up on a farm in Gardner, Kansas. And in a reversal from current McMansion trends, she says her family chopped off part of the the house because it was too big.
I knew about these roots, but one branch of the family tree has been more of a mystery: the Wyandotte County branch. My grandfather died when my dad was only 11 years old and loose family ties grew even weaker.
Talking to a great uncle a few years ago, I realized I don't live far from where he and my grandfather grew up in Rosedale. Today, their house and street are gone, taken up by the ever expanding KU Med. It seemed like my family history had been wiped out.
But I found a little bit of it on a walk to the Rosedale Memorial Arch. There among the names of Rosedale soldiers who died in war was one that was a familiar last name — Corbin. It was another great uncle, Emmett Corbin.
I see kids and families in my neighborhood every day, but that’s when it hit me that long ago, one of those families was mine.
Kansas City, Kansas feels like home. It’s hard to say why exactly. Maybe it’s history. Maybe it’s being close to my aunts, uncles and cousins. Maybe it’s being able to legally set off fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Maybe it doesn’t really make sense when a place feels like home, but sometimes it just does.
Maria Carter is the news director at KCUR.
This look at the line between Wyandotte and Johnson Counties is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Become a source for KCUR as we investigate Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.