There used to be a sign on a quiet corner of a quiet street in the quiet town of Peculiar that perhaps best illustrates the city’s unique sense of humor.

“In 1861–1864, while bloody battles raged throughout the southern states, nothing happened here,” the metal plaque read. When the occupant of the home where the “Historical Marker” was displayed passed away, his family took the sign with them as a souvenir.

Perhaps it’s just as well. Things seem to be happening in Peculiar that would render the sign’s message obsolete.

The city of Peculiar is located about twenty-five miles south of Kansas City on Interstate 49. The town’s distinctive name was the result of letters dispatched between Edgar Thompson and the United States Post Office. Edgar was the town’s first postmaster and had suggested the name Excelsior, which was rejected because there was already a town in Atchison County using that name. Two other names were suggested, both of those lost to history, both rejected as well.

According to legend, the town decided to allow the US Postal Service to decide the town’s name. “We don’t care what name you give us,” the representatives of the yet unnamed town wrote to the postmaster general, “as long as it’s sort of peculiar.”

In his reply, the postmaster general paved the course for the town’s identity. “My conclusion is that in all the land it would be difficult to imagine a more distinctive, a more peculiar name than Peculiar,” he wrote.

“There’s a great deal of pride in the name,” says Mayor Holly Stark. “At some point in time, the Chamber of Commerce came up with the slogan, ‘Peculiar, Missouri: Where the Odds are With You.’ Some folks love it, some folks don’t care for it at all. You can find it on some merchandise in town but it has never been an official slogan of the city.”

Holly says that, while some consider Peculiar a bedroom community, the city has a strong sense of place. “We went through a complete comprehensive master plan in 2009 and we set thirty-seven public hearings to talk to our constituents about how they wanted the city to develop,” she says. “Everyone pretty much said the same thing. We want to continue to have our own identity but, of course, we want all of the same amenities that they have in southern Jackson County.”

Peculiar was established in 1868 and reestablished in 1889 in Cass County. It was incorporated in 1953 as a fourth-class city. Though originally only on the east side of Interstate 49, the city limits have moved and expanded to follow transportation into the city, beginning with train travel and, more recently, the highway system. Today, the town covers approximately 8.5 square miles on both sides of the interstate with a population of 4,608, according to the 2010 census.

The opening of a new interchange off Interstate 49 last year has given the town a second front door, and Holly says that’s where the future growth of Peculiar will take place.

“We can actually be in a town of almost 5,000 people, have a school district with great academic and athletic programs, and still keep our small-town feel,” Holly says.

Plus, says Holly, the town is conveniently located just thirty minutes from downtown Kansas City, less than thirty minutes to the sports stadiums, and fifty minutes from Kansas City International Airport.

“We’re not as far off the beaten path as some people seem to think we are,” she says.