When the whites first settled in the Kisumu area in the late 19th century, Kisumu became a trading post. The Kisumu region was then occupied by the luo community. Kisumu became a trading post - attracting the luo people from as far as Migori and Siaya. A person going to Kisumu at that time would say, "Adhi Kisuma" to mean I'm going to trade. From the word "Kisuma", the word for a trading post in Luo is "Kisumo". Kisumu the ultimate name for the town is an English corruption of the word "Kisumo".
Kisumu was located on a rocky ridge covered with thorn bush, before it was cleared and roads were cut," so wrote Charles Hobley a colonial administrator in 1900. On 20 December 1901, Florence Preston the wife of the engineer drove the last nail in the last sleeper by the shores of Lake Victoria and Port Florence came into being. However it was only called Port Florence for a year, and then it reverted back to its original Dholuo name - Kisumu, meaning a place to look for food.The English statesman Winston Churchill visited Kisumu in 1907.
Kisumu was identified by the British explorers in early 1898 as an alternative railway terminus and port for the Uganda railway, then under construction. It was to replace Port Victoria, then an important centre on the caravan trade route, near the delta of River Nzoia. Kisumu was ideally located on the shores of Lake Victoria at the cusp of the Winam Gulf, at the end of the caravan trail from Pemba, Mombasa, Malindi and had the potential for connection to the whole of the Lake region by steamers. In July 1899, the first skeleton plan for Kisumu was prepared. This included landing places and wharves along the northern lake shore, near the present day Airport Road. Demarcations for Government buildings and retail shops were also included in the plan.
Another plan was later prepared in May, 1900, when plots were allocated to a few European firms as well as to Indian traders