Kansas City, Missouri lies at the center of the United States of America and is thus a major commerce and transportation hub.   As a spot where the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet, it has always had a strategic positioning in terms of trade since European settlers from France first explored the city.  The very first such contact occurred in the early 1700s:

The first documented French visitor to the Kansas City area was Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, who was also the first European to explore the lower Missouri River. Bourgmont was on the lam from French authorities after deserting his post as commander of Fort Detroit, after being criticized for his handling of a Native American attack on the fort. He lived with a Native American wife in the Missouri village about 90 miles (145 km) east near Brunswick, Missouri, and illegally traded furs.

In order to clear his name, Bourgmont wrote “Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony” in 1713 followed in 1714 by “The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River.” In these documents, he described the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, being the first to refer to them by those names. French cartographer Guillaume Delisle used the descriptions to make the first reasonably accurate map of the area. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Kansas City are would later be visited in 1804 by Lewis and Clark on their most famous western expedition.  The first settlement in the area was 20 miles away at Fort Ossage in 1808.   In 1821 Francois Gesseau Chatteau would set up a trading post named “the village of the Kansa” in what would later be known as Kansas City.

One of the oddest things about Kansas City, Missouri is the fact that it sits right across from Kansas City, Kansas.  I mean you have to ask the question, “Why is a city in Missouri named after a neighboring state when it could just as easily called Missouri City?”  Max Londberg explains why at KansasCity.com:

Early residents of the area found inspiration for the word Kansas from the Kanza Native American tribe. KCMO was incorporated in 1853, even before Kansas became a state, in 1861. In October 1872 small towns around present-day KCK joined up to form Kansas City, Kan.

They used the same name as the neighboring KCMO in an attempt to attract visitors who thought they were traveling to the more booming KCMO…

So essentially, the people on the Kansas side of the border actually stole the name to lure people over from the more thriving city.  They would later even push to annex the original Kansas City from Missouri, to no avail.

As this video from KMBC lays out, most of the original settlers were people moving out west to farm and eventually the city become a very important trading post after a bridge was able to be built across the Missouri river and a railroad ran across it: