KEARNEY, Mo — A 25-minute drive north of downtown Kansas City, Kearney is located in north-central Clay County. As of the 2020 census, the town’s population sits at over 10,400 residents.
Kearney was founded in the 1850s, but the town was originally named Centerville. It was later renamed Kearney, and long-time resident and business owner Darrell McClung believes there are two theories as to how it got its name.
“Charles Kearney was the first president of Kansas City Cameron Railroad, many think maybe that he is the one that is kind of named after the others that maybe John Lawrence, who was from Kearney, Nebraska laid out. He was the one who named it,” McClung said.
“So, I always say it’s kind of the history of the mystery.”
The town of Kearney was first laid out coinciding with the building depot for the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad. With the railroad in place, Kearney’s population grew over time, at one point, as many as 50 to 60 trains a day came through the town.
Kearney is most well-known as the hometown of American outlaw Jesse James, who is buried in Kearney’s Mount Olivet cemetery. He was born there in September of 1847 and would go on to commit over two-dozen bank robberies over the years before being killed by a member of his “James Gang”, Bob Ford, in 1882.
Clay County bought the James property in the 1970s, and it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, where people from dozens of countries visit every year.
But the town’s most interesting part isn’t just its history; it’s the community.
Many came together to make the town’s amphitheater happen after the mayor’s request to start the project, which was worth $500,000 at the time.
“We have a tremendous group of people who have actually settled his community and it’s nice that the people that have came here want to come. They want to come and be a part of what’s here,” McClung said.
FOX4 will broadcast live in Kearney from 7 to 10 a.m. on Friday for our first Zip Trip, and are set to hit many more cities across the Kansas City metro area this summer.