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Westport Growth and Change


Westport Growth and Change

Across from Kelly's

Between 1800 and 1917, Westport, as well as, Kansas City, was in constant growth and change. The streets have been moved, as well as, houses and buildings. Sometimes, the homes were moved more than once. It is for that reason that I would like to know when the street in front of my house, officially became named Bell.

The Kansas City Public Library has been helpful to me in researching the history of my house. To begin my search I considered the following questions, “When was the structure built?” “Who was the original owner?” and “How does the structure fit in to the history of the neighborhood and city?”

There are a wide variety of sources to explore to answer those questions. I was able to ask the Kansas City Public Library for assistance with my research. The first place the librarian told me to look was the City Directories. City Directories and Telephone books list people at their home addresses or by business. Occupations, names of spouses and marital status are usually included in the city directories.

After, 1917, when the city had settled and the streets were established, the Indexes are searchable by address. I have been able to locate who was living at my house, to the present year. The Atlases and Sanborn Maps, list important changes to the area, such as Kansas City’s merger with Westport (which occurred in 1898.)

In the 1890 Hoye’s Blue Book, which was available on microfilm, I found a number of Patterson family members, a Paterson Company, and a Wholesale Liquor Distributor, located on B-way, a street that no longer exists. I need to consult the maps and atlasas to determine the actual street name in front of my house in the various years. I have not been able to find “B way” on any of the maps. Text on the history of Westport, mention the Santa Fe Trail as being the Bi-way. However, a photograph found through the online library had ‘B-way’ handwritten in the corner. B-way is short for Broadway.

Interesting fact, a man named, James G Bell, wrote the, “Diary by Bell (1832-1867),” that contains a story about a cattle drive from San Antonio to California in 1854. The diary was published by Emerson Hough, as part of the “Log of the Texas-California Cattle Trail, 1854.” This gave an extremely rare account of the cattle drives to California. Because of his famous writing, the cattle drive from Westport along the Santa Fe Trail, beginning decades before, is less known.

Researching the history of my house has been fun, fascinating, and fulfilling. The story of, My House The Trading Post, requires additional facts to support its history. As I work with staff of the Missouri Valley Room for more historic information to share, readers will be introduced to current friends and neighbors of the pre-civil war building on the corner of 46th and Bell. A certain amount of insight has been learned about the previous owners and residents, the neighborhood, and the community at large, and fueled my imagination in creating this blog.

The Kansas City, wind blew through my coat as I dug into my purse for quarters to feed the parking meter. I went to the Jackson County Court House, on twelfth street to retrieve the deed to my house. unfortunately, the search was slow, very, very slow.  I only got as far back as 1951. The problem with the search, is that in 1990 the city decided to make more room by putting all the old records onto microfilm. The persons responsible for this task may be at fault because the ability to focus the individual records past 1951 was quite difficult.

An employee of the Recorder of Deeds Office, Pearlean, was very patient and skilled at using the dinosaur microfilm machine. She also understood how the records were stored. First we located the deed number from the property description, than we were able to search for the owners, each time the property was sold.

As I said, I only got back as far as 1951. The problem being, we couldn’t focus the document well enough to read the letters of the buyers and sellers. Pearlean, put the tapes onto several different microfilm machines, that were in the public records office. We also weren’t able to correctly identify the record filing numbers which would have helped in locating the next previous years owners. Ms. Pearlean focused, changed the lighting, repositioned the page, and did everything her skill and trial suggested. After 45 minutes, Pearlean, asked if I had enough money in the parking meter. I hadn’t. The quest for supporting documentation regarding my house, the trading post, continues.

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