Wichita Celebrates Its 143rd Birthday

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hundreds of people flocked to the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum Sunday to celebrate Wichita's 143rd birthday.

The celebration was the first of its kind at the museum, which is housed in Wichita's old City Hall.

"The country celebrates the Fourth of July in grand style so we thought, 'Why not celebrate Wichita's birthday? It's meaningful, it's important to us,'" Miller said.

It was on July 21, 1870 that early settlers signed a proclamation that this would be a city and it would be called Wichita, museum educator Abby Miller said. Of the settlers to sign the proclamation, there were 123 men and one woman. The woman, Catherine McCarty, was the owner of a laundry business and is perhaps best known for being the mother of infamous frontier outlaw, Billy the Kid.

Up until that time, the "city" had been comprised of one street: modern-day Waco Street.

"It was more of a trail with a few homes and some rustic shacks," Miller said.

The city grew in the several years following the proclamation.

"Three years later in 1873 is when it really starts to take shape and then once we get the railroad, the city experiences its boom years," Miller said.

At one point during the boom years, Wichita was one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, Miller said.

"We've seen a lot of growth and a lot of changes," Miller said.

Sunday's event at the museum was a celebration of that growth and the history that laid the groundwork for it.

"We love history and so this is just wonderful," Jean Fugleberg said.

The museum had activities on all four of its levels. One of the highlights for the partygoers was a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the historic clock tower. There people could grabbed a rope and ring the building's large bell.

Meanwhile, children used paper and glue to make their own reproduction of the city's flag.

Admission was free to the celebration for anybody who brought a birthday card.

"I brought my birthday card and wrote in there that when I meet anybody and tell them where I'm from, I tell them, "I'm from Wichita, Kansas!" Marsha Callaway said.

People who went to the museum Sunday say they loved the idea of the birthday celebration and hope the museum makes it an annual event.

"It's really cool to see all the people in Wichita coming together and wanting to learn more about their hometown," Andrea Prince said. "The more I know about my hometown it makes me more proud to be from here. It makes home a little more special in your heart."

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