Chapter 3.0: Westport Growth and Change
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.
The first wagon train to successfully make the trip west to Santa Fe from Westport, consisted of 25 wagons. The wagons were built to hold one and 1/2 tons of weight. Later, 3 ton wagons were used which required 8 to 10 animals. These were also called Conestoga wagons after the valley in Pennsylvania were they were made.
Although the historical maps do not give Westport Missouri, enough credit or distinction for its routes to Santa Fe, California, Oregon, and the Pony Express. It should be noted, that the pioneers, cowboys, stage-coach operators, and town folk, were young (in their 20’s) with a strong opportunistic approach to life. Every viable passage, trail, and road was used for travel and adventure. There would have been more than one stage-coach operator, more than one wagon train leaving town at one time, and more than one group of cowboys herding cows.
By 1824, wagons became the main means of transporting freight. The wagon pictured in this blog, is typical of the first wagons that were pulled by six oxen or mules. Oxen are cattle specifically raised to pull wagons or work; these bulls are disciplined to work with the cowboys. The Santa Fe Trail thrived between 1822 and 1880. Folks came through Westport for routes to Oregon, in 1843. The Settlers traveled on the Overland Stage Route between 1859 and 1869, as small towns and villages were founded. All over Missouri, and through Kansas, city and towns were prospering. The town of Westport was busy.
In addition to having a tavern, saloon, and trading post on every block, Westport had many artisans who could repair a wagon or wheel and outfit the wagon team. Television has provided us the same old stories of the loved characters like Daniel Boone or Bat Masterson. However, there were, indeed many more characters. With thousands of wagons passing through the town of Westport, each month; millions of people visited Westport between 1822 and 1880. I hope my story, is one needed to be told, to add to the legends of the old west.
The Pony Express created numerous trails and established routes for the delivery of mail, between 1860-1861. My great-grandparents owned a farm (outside of Cameron Missouri, in DeKalb County) that they sold in the early 1950’s, by request of the US Government, for the Pony Express Nature Conservatory; which was completed and opened to the public in, 1966. The Pony Express made a significant historical impact to the DeKalb County and the United States. Information about the history of the mail delivery in the 1800’s, or the Pony Express, are available and proudly maintained at the museum in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri.
During the holidays, I like to drive up to the Pony Express Nature, Wildlife and Fish Conservatory, outside Cameron, Missouri, where my great-grandparents once owned the land. In the middle of the man-made lake, are a group of trees that have been there since before the 1960’s. Those trees surrounded great-grandmother’s house. There is no mention in the history books that the land was bought from the Abram’s family in 1951. History of the Pony Express, merely mention that the Nature Conservatory was opened in 1966. Cameron, MO is situated 50 miles north of Westport, Kansas City. Kansas City, would have been the main source of supplies for the small towns like Cameron, that were being formed in 1860.
I submitted information to the State of Missouri Department Of Natural Resources, last December, regarding the property’s eligibility for listing in the National Registry of Historic Places. However, after review the Board for Historic Places determined that I did not include adequate information. They did comment,
“This property may have significant associations, but it is unclear from the information provided what they may be. Due to extensive post 1909 changes, this building could not be nominated for association with the Santa Fe Trail. Historic integrity may be an issue as well (the siding and garage appear to be relatively recent additions). If additional research indicates other possible periods of significance or significant associations, we would be happy to take another look at this one. Note that the National Register listing purposes, significance should never be considered as self-evident.”
I know I need more research, but if you read a few blogs back, I went to the Recorder of Deeds and the public records are on poorly visible microfilm. In addition, the county courthouse does not have the staff, to sit by me for hours, flipping through records. Each time I go there, they have to start with file 1, and work back, I have not been able to just find a record by year. I am also, an introvert. I don’t like asking for help, or calling attention to myself. In order to look through the library, I need to ask for the staff to assist me in my search. My throat gets phlemed up, and I sound like a duck as I say, “excuse me, can you help me?”
I did talk to the library on the phone with no problem, and received a lot of information. The librarian at the Missouri Valley Room, has been really helpful by phone. I usually email him a question about my house, and then he looks it up and calls me back with the information. Online, the library website says that research services have a fee attached, but I haven’t been charged for anything related to my search.