Art, blog, History, Kansas City, Story, Uncategorized

My House the Trading Post Welcomes Strangers


The Kitchen.  Bar stools from early days.

The Kitchen. Bar stools from early days.

A topic I am not comfortable writing about… is the lives of the slaves. I’ll discuss here under working class neighborhood. Nearly every family in Westport Missouri between 1830 and 1860, had two slaves per household.

I include this section as it is significant because on the map of Westport, in 1829, there are two spellings for the name Patterson; or there were two Paterson families registered living on the same land parcel. The map had the name Paterson, with one t printed in pencil. However, on all other documents regarding the land, the name Patterson, is written with two ts. The Census registers a black man, at the time as named, Paterson. The census also shows the Patterson household has eight members, with seven listed as white. Under slaves the box is left empty. The map shows a pencil drawing of a dwelling, which happens to have the shape of my two-story building. (The map is inside every book about Kansas City, or Westport- and available in real at the Missouri Valley Room).

Mr. A. Patterson and his family came from St. Louis Missouri, where they lived in an area with large plantations.  Patterson was also elected the Justice of Peace in Westport Kansas City in 1828. Before he died in 1930, he officially married two couples. One of those couples was the owner of a trading post. The other was the owner of a furniture store. After Mr. Patterson died, parts of his land were rented. Both a black businessman, as well as Indian, leased the land.

History tells us that black men and women adopted the last names of their slave owners. Occasionally, slave owners fathered children with the slaves. Accounts of slaves during this time, like Mammy Pleasant, tell stories of her reliance on powerful men like Judges, and her time spent between adjoining plantations in Missouri.

White families continued to hire full-time domestic help throughout the years of 1860 until about 1960. Many African-American blacks, at the time my house the trading post was build, were free. There may be a link between the Patterson family and the Paterson family. I would like to collaborate with someone who is an authority. A lot went on in the early days.

The African-American black men and women of Westport Missouri would have had various talents, like the culinary arts, and business skills. As a slave, they may have been sold many times and with each new owner they would have learned new skills. Taverns with a reputation for having an outstanding cook, could make a fortune.

The Slaves ran the kitchens, in the year 1853; the year this house was built. Freed slaves, often found themselves in position of servitude, even for a fee. It was a difficult chore for a single person to prepare meals without help. The kitchens would have consisted of an open fireplace with a huge pot hanging from a crane as the stove. The frying pans covered in suet. A pointed rod with an iron handle would be near by to hold meats over the fire. In the tavern there would have been one main open room with a fireplace at one end. That area would be known as the kitchen.

During the various years, there would have been no reason to keep an employment record for someone who came to the backdoor looking for a job. Those parts of history will be lost. In addition, it is fortunate that the wooden pre-civil war saloon has survived tragedy like fire. Many Westport properties were lost in those early years to fire.

Missouri had both slave owners and Abolitionists.  Gatherings in homes formed networks to support the antislavery movement. In 2013, a small town north of Kansas City uncovered a tunnel under their small city. The forgotten passage ran the length of the town, from the railroad station to the park. The park was once the location of a large university. I was driving through town when I noticed a commotion and stopped to hear the town gossip. No further news has been given the citizens. Such a passage could have been used for Abolition activities, also known as the Underground Railway, which provided the escape points from slavery.

The kitchen today, of my home, is beautifully modern. It is my favorite part of the house.

Missouri Plantation Recipe for Persimmon Beer, (1859, Mammy Pleasant)

Be sure the persimmons are fully ripe. Remove from them the stalk ends and the interior calyxes. Then mash the fruit and add enough wheat bran to make stiff dough. Form the dough into thin flat cakes and bake until crisp. Then break the cakes up into clean wooden barrels and fill them with water. Set the barrels upright and cover them with thin white cloths and set them in a place which is warm and dry. The cakes will rise to the tops and begin to foam. Three or four weeks later the barrels must then be moved to a cold place and wooden covers put on them. To make certain of success, toast dipped in yeast can be put into barrels with the persimmon cakes.

Nephew, Kyle

Nephew, Kyle

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