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

The Belles of Westport My House The Trading Post

IMG_2899In 1909, Mrs. Carrie Westlake Whitney, the librarian, wrote of her account of her first visit to Westport (1881), “there was incessant hammering and banging from a dozen blacksmith’s sheds, where the heavy wagons were being repaired, and the horses and oxen shod. The streets were thronged with men, horses, and mules. While I was in town, a train of emigrant wagons from Illinois passed through to join the camp on the prairie. A multitude of healthy children’s faces were peeping out from under the covers of the wagons. Here and there a buxom damsel was seated on horseback, holding over her sunburnt face an umbrella or a parasol, once gaudy enough, but now miserably faded.”

My house the trading post, in Westport (Kansas City, Missouri), once catered to the families of sturdy, good people, whose life was that of the frontier. The rules and manners of the parties attended, were at the discretion of the host. A party at the old Westport saloon would have involved dancing and a “kissing” game. This would be followed by a “supper” that included pumpkin pie, peach pie, and buttermilk. Afterwards, the fun would continue with a run through the backwoods with candles.

With the room lite with candles that “shone brightly upon the fair maidens with glossy water-falls, delaine tissue dresses, hoop skirts and family jewels.” In 1850, dancing in Kansas City, was forbidden by the churches. The young folks were allowed to have large parties, accompanied by some older persons, but the kids refused to call them “chaperons.” For fun, packs of teens, would take a passage on one of the Missouri River Boats, and dance on deck to the fiddler music. A jolly captain, with a crew that supplied the teens with good southern cooking, made this excursion highly enjoyable.

Fashion in KC-Westlake

The most desired and eligible young men were from Westport. The prettiest and wealthiest girls were from Kansas City or Independence. The finest parties were hosted by the sons and daughters of the first trading post merchants, saloon owners, and farmers. The Santa Fe trade made these families wealthy. Their parties were legendary and drew in all the prettiest girls.

Before bridge parties and book clubs were popular, quilting parties were the social occasion for the mothers and daughters.  Some girls would travel ten miles to arrive as early a nine o’clock in the morning, to quilt. The ladies arrived by carriage, pulled by one of the girl’s own personal riding horses.  The women sat on rush bottom chairs around a quilting frame while stitching in different areas. In the company of the other quilters, pioneer women, brought up with cortly manners and elegances, kept their words polite.

Belles

The Belles of Kansas City, Missouri in 2014, are beautiful, well-mannered ladies, with charisma and a flair for taking pictures. Among the popular activities in Kansas City for kids to do include, playing soccer, hanging out at the Plaza and Union Station, and joining a modeling class. Here are a few more photos:

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My House The Trading Post From The Crane

1960 Antique Store

1960 46th and Bell Antique Store

Work is like this old fable, The Wolf and the Crane.

“A Wolf who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone. When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed: “Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf.”

Westport Missouri, from the time it was formed until present day, has been a working class neighborhood. Wars have taken place, the burning of Mormons, the Mexican War, Civil-War, Women’s Rights and other notable history. Business continued despite these events.

I write my blog from my house the trading post. The past owners of this property were young and old people. This building holds the ghosts of the pioneers, Indians, and business owners. Its greatest contribution to history is the fact that it just exists. It has to be noted that it is a wood structure. It is remarkable that the building has existed this long, despite the number of wars, battles, and fires that took place, and the capitalist nature of the city to knock it down and rebuild. And it survived Missouri weather.

The history of Kansas City, too often discuss the same characters, like; McCoy, McGhee, Yoacham, Boone, Ewing, Vogel, Harris, Wornall, Hickman, Thomas Hart Benten, Samuel C Roby, Henry Clay Pate. Here is a short list of who had a trading post or tavern in Westport in the 1800s.  It is important to note that this is not a complete census. The town was already, very big by the time the pre-civil war saloon, I live in, was built in 1853.

The goal or lifestyle of the Westport Missouri residents would have been work.  They were young working class men and women. Many of the first settlers would have been in their twenties.  As the town grew successful and Kansas City dug away the dirt and flattened the cliffs along the Missouri river, these pioneer families grew wealthy and moved into new homes and buildings creating downtown Kansas City. The growth in downtown Kansas City established new public-houses and buildings; built in a wise manner, with a more expressive display of dignity, even though some of the establishments were for the distribution of spirituous liquors.

This was the nature of the city, and has been ever since. Kansas City tends to invest in a new construction project, often centered on building another shopping and entertainment area, and then new construction for residential housing communities. Problem is, we haven’t run out of land. Kansas City has about 116 square miles of real estate. In Kansas City we don’t build up, we build out. Creating older communities that struggle for business. New city projects always bring in the newest technology, however, the consumer only needs the basic comforts from life.

To maintain a reasonable life-style I must work forty plus hours a week. The hours each day reserved for work are not my favorite. The work day begins at 5:30 am when the alarm goes off. I have to work at waking up. It is my habit to push the snooze until six or six thirty. I could stretch it to seven but then I wouldn’t get breakfast or have time to pack a lunch. I plan my lunch the night before. I usually have it set aside, in one area of the refrigerator. The extra time allows me to make last-minute changes as I fill my lunch bag in the morning.

I have to follow a routine to get through the hurried work morning. I shower, dry hair, moisturize, and dress. My wardrobe picked out the night before, it doesn’t have to be dressy. I choose between a blue or black, or pink uniform, and if they are dirty, I wear jeans. I prefer to wear the hospital uniform because I work in a laboratory. I perform medical testing, and I splash a lot of serum. If I’m in my scrubs when I get home, I remember I am still contaminated, but when I’m in my jeans I get comfortable, and forget I may have blood splashes on my cloths. Ack!!

By 7:30 am I am on the highway. I start the first mile or so at normal speed. By 7:37, traffic is 20 mph. I have never figured out why each day traffic slows to a crawl for several miles. Then a few minutes later I’m traveling the speed limit again and there is my exit. I manage to get into the parking lot at 7:57, my shift starts at eight. On Saturday’s shift, I get to work fifteen minutes earlier, because there isn’t any traffic.

My work days, at the laboratory, vary between Monday through Friday, or Tuesday through Saturday. By 9:00 am, I am homesick. But I don’t let on. I blow my nose, and keep looking for specimens. The morning is slow. Not many doctor offices have sent in any specimens, we are just working on orders that were added on, overnight. This is the hard part, the blood specimens have been put into a numbered order in the walk-in refrigerator. Some associates love the cooler, I hate it. But I’m responsible for the chemistry testing and must find seven specimens, in seven different boxed compartment, in the cold. My white lab coat provides some warmth. Burr!

The first weekend of every month I coach/teach a girls modeling class. A very long weekend. I feel kind-a catatonic. Zombie-ish. I try to incorporate some of that positive thinking I teach the girls, but I get tired, tired, tired. Then I don’t care, and find conversing to be a chore. Believe it or not, I like my jobs…but when striving to make another person a buck, I wonder about a lot of things. Like, why am I here?

Then it is ten in the morning, and I smile, because it is break time. I leave my white jacket on the chair, and I go to the little room that contains the only clean sink and food worthy refrigerator. I have fifteen minutes. In my pocket, I set my phone timer. During this time I wash my hands, blow my nose, wash my hands, go to the toilette, wash my hands. I nibble on fruit, salami, and cookies, while I guzzle a coke-cola. My stomach gurgles, and I give a small belch. A silly little tone vibrates from my pocket, it is time to go back. Later, I’ll take a thirty minute lunch and if time allows another fifteen minute break in the afternoon-right before I go home for the day.

With my lab coat on, I pray the hours will go by quickly. Number, after number, specimen after specimen; slowly I turn, checking name, identification number, and test order against the computer screen. Two computer screens, 1500 specimens, and a chemistry analyzer that has a mind of its own. I run several monstrous size equipment that divides the entire room. These analyzer perform the testing that once upon a time a scientist performed in test tubes with titration biurets and apparatuses. At four o’clock, I set the timer for 4:30. I try to bring the beast down, but the specimens keep coming in, I saw on the pending list that we only had 38 specimens left to complete, now there are 128. This happens every night. Doctors add more tests, after they have received the testing results. Thanks to modern computers, what the doctor sends in that day, the doctor can get results for. But, I’m contracted to stay till 4:30. We are technically, open until 5:00pm. I feel this is so similar to the fast food service industry. “May I help you?”

A few of those specimens will not get done tonight. The laboratory manager will be tense and I do not want to tell the doctors whose test results will be delayed. The lab will open at four in the morning and start the whole process all over again.

The work day may bring the blues, but the treasures within this house can almost always brighten my mood. In my bed cloths I move from room to room in this huge saloon from long ago. I carry a load of laundry through the house. I put the load of dirty cloths in the washer. I drop a quarter into the juke box. A 1954 Wurlitzer plays my selection, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” With no one in sight, I dance and sing along. At work I have my I-phone tunes, but at home I have the treasures the wolf left behind.

A Saloon’s Treasure 

A 1954 Jukebox, left behind by, plays only 50's tunes.

A 1954 Jukebox, plays only 50’s tunes.

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Jade, my house the trading post

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Jade is the color of Spring. March is the color of green. Shades of green jade are peaking out from the gray winter. It brings a smile and thoughts of being young.

Remember high school? A Friday party in class. The classroom windows open for the fresh air. There is a knock at the door.  A tray of icecream cups arrive. Oh joy!

 

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What Boys Like, my house the trading post

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Kansas City pecans are some of the tastiest nuts around. The nuts are sweet and oil rich compared to southern states. Missouri river towns, like Kansas City, offer fertile soil and sunny conditions for pecan trees. Many pecan trees were planted in the 1800s.

We have a friend who has a pecan tree; he gathers up a bag full that have fallen to the ground. The shucks starting to split open. It is easy to remove the shells. The price of pecans at the local grocery store is about $18 a pound. I wouldn’t pay that much. I enjoy my nuts fresh and free from the ground. Making pecan pie from scratch is often cheaper and tastier.

Since our friend dropped off a bag of pecans and our pet duck (Squeaky) has started laying eggs again, I needed to do something with these God given gifts. As a food ‘snob’ I prefer store bought chicken eggs for breakfast. However, anything with enough sugar in it, I’ll eat. My husband never objects to anything I serve.

I know what boys like. They like my pecan pie. So here’s my recipe for Pecan Pie. Enjoy!

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PECAN PIE
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Corn Syrup
2 tablespoon margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/4 cups pecans

Pie Crust
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup fake butter/ shortening
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
4 tablespoon cold water

Make the pie crust first (or use a prepared pie crust). 
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt. 
Next, cut the shortening into the flour mixture until pieces are the size of a small pea. 
Combine the vinegar and water and slowly sprinkle into the flour. 
Gather the moistened  dough into a ball, refrigerate for ten minutes or more.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. 
Place all the pecans on a greased cookie sheet/baking sheet. 
Roast pecans for a few minutes, carefull not to burn. Cool.

Beat the 3 eggs in a medium bowl. 
Add brown sugar, corn syrup, melted margarine, vanilla, and nutmeg. 
Stir in pecans. 

Roll out pie crust and line a pie pan. 
Pour pecan mixture into pie crust. 
Bake 50 minutes. 
A knife inserted into the edge should come out clean.

Serve warm, cold, with ice-cream, or just on plate. 
Yummy!

SQ-qnd-Eddie
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The Train Era-My House The Trading Post-Hemingway Visit

My House the Trading Post, The Train Era

Union Station

Union Station

On the Fourth of July, 1863, Kansas City celebrated the opening of the first railroad bridge over the Missouri River. In fact, it was the only bridge across the Missouri River. The owner of the Union Pacific Eastern Railway, made a successful ascension in his Balloon from the public square, now known as the present City Hall location. A crowd from Missouri and Kansas cheered amid the firing of a cannon. The Coates House or Broadway Hotel hosted a grand banquet in honor of the railroad.

The first passenger train, in 1864, ran between Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas. The Topeka stop was added next. By 1909, a trip to Topeka from Kansas City, took two hours with many passenger trains on three different rails. The rails were extended 385 miles West, by the year 1868, and allowed excursions from Kansas City to Denver. The ride required two nights and one day for the trip. At this time, buffalo still roamed in herds, that often delayed the trains which had to wait for the buffalo to cross the tracks. A trip from Kansas City to Denver, cost $45.00. Today, Amtrak will get you there in eleven hours, for $166.

It was a round about journey from Kansas City to the East before the Missouri Pacific railroad. Travelers would leave Kansas City by Steam boat and arrive in Weston, Missouri. At Weston a connection was made with the Platte Valley railroad that went to St. Joseph, Missouri. The St. Joseph railroad would take passengers to Hannibal, Missouri. Passengers bound for Chicago, would board a Steam boat from Hannibal to Quincy, Illinois. Connecting with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railway of Illinois. The trip from Kansas City to Chicago was made in forty hours. There was only one train a day, and no choice of route.

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The train was established in 1854; Kansas City broke ground for the first rail lines in 1860. Soon afterwards, parents of unwanted children started to use the train to dispose of children. “The Childrens Aid Society of New York Orphan Trains,” ran in the years 1854 to 1929. My grandmother, was one of those children. A note was pinned to a little girl’s jacket by her mother, when she was five years old, most likely announcing her availability to be adopted. The train traveled from junction to junction until at last it stopped for a long time.  All the little boys were chosen first.  She was an overlooked little girl, she traveled on the train until it ran out of tracks. She was placed on a returning train back to New York. When the train stopped at the train station, a couple decided to adopt her.

The older couple had no children of their own. They had come to the train station to adopt a little boy, but they had been running late. Her name, Dorthy, was the only child left to pick from. It isn’t clear if their intent was to make her their scullery maid, but she spent the next ten years cleaning their house. Soon after Dorthy was adopted, Mrs. Brandt had a child of her own, a son.  A year later, the Brandt’s had a daughter. Dorthy’s chores increased with her new bother and sister.

The Brandt’s were a wealthy German family, at the turn of the Century. Mr. Brandt, is known for his architecture. There are several historic homes and apartment buildings that give credit to him in the Chicagoland area. However, the Will that he and his wife bequeathed, left out their adopted daughter, Dorthy. All their wealth, went to her brother and sister, natural-born heirs.

Dorthy, passed away years ago, during the Thanksgiving holidays, in a nursing home north of Kansas City. She had just moved into the nursing home due to a colon problem. She got the opportunity to meet her real mother in the 1960’s. It was a surprise to find out that her mother was a Pennsylvania Amish woman, who had gotten pregnant by an ‘English’ man. Apparently, the young Amish woman and the ‘English’ man, did not stay together. The Amish woman tried to care for her twin children for as long as she could. She had placed the children on the train, in about the year 1910, when they were just five years-old. As the old Amish woman spoke to Dorthy, she remembered she had a twin brother. Her twin later contacted her, after their mother who abandoned him, located him living on a farm in Illinois. He’d been adopted by an Iowa farm family, who were very kind to him. After he inherited the family farm, he bought a bigger farm in Illinois, where he retired and passed away in the same year Dorthy passed.

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By 1870, the railroad industry had become a monopoly, as it was the life blood of American commerce. After, competing railroad companies layed duplicate tracks to do business in the popular cities, the railroad companies realized merging operations would increase profits. The railroads were allowed to exist as a “natural monopoly” because multiple companies would be a waste of financial and material resources. The train slowed the amount of business Westport once saw. Hunters no longer needed trading posts. Wagon trains were obsolete like the need for a place to quench your thirst after traveling the dusty trail. Union Station became the hub for business travel and pleasure adventures.

In Ernst Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls he writes about the angst of farewells at the train station. ” He had taken the train… to go away to school for the first time. He had been afraid to go and did not want any one to know it.”   He also wrote, “the Kansas City train stopped…There was nothing in sight but the road and few dust-grayed trees. A wagon lurched along through the ruts, the driver slouching with the jolts of his spring seat and letting the reins hang slack on the horses’ back…”

Ernst Hemingway arrived in Kansas City by train. Hemingway came to Kansas City when he was 17 years old. It was in October of 1917. Ernst’s brother had gotten him a job at the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter. His brother Tyler Hemingway was living in Kansas City and had a friend who was the Star’s chief editorial writer. Although, Hemingway only stayed in town for six months, Kansas City likes to take credit for being mentioned in 5 of his novels, 4 published sketches, and dozens of short stories. He reported on the activities at Union Station. The train station had people coming and going. This is where he got introduced to ‘shady characters’ and celebrities.

His story, In Our Time,  resembles the work he did for the Star. Another one of his passages describing Kansas City is found in, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

“In those days the distances were all different, the dirt blew off the hills that now have been cut down, and Kansas City was very like Constantinople. I was walking from the Woolfe Brother’s Saloon where, on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day, a free turkey dinner was served,”

The fact that he writes about the Woolfe Brother’s Saloon has never been related to my house, a Westport Saloon, but it should. The owner of my house in 1917, had a nephew staying here who was friends with Hemingway. The two of them got drunk frequently, it was his secret hide away from the adults and associates of the Kansas City Star. Westport has always been the part of town that would have attracted a young man who wanted to hang out with creative individuals, drink, and party.

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It is interesting to consider which characters that may have passed through the doors of this Westport saloon, or inhabited an apartment upstairs.  I truly believe that Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, and Daniel Boone have been here.

I am also convinced that Ernst Hemingway had a friend who lived here (The boy shown in the B&W picture of the tavern in 1909). The boy in the picture continued to live in this neighborhood until the age of 98. I share many of his stories in this blog.  I do not remember the fellow’s name and I am not aware of his exact death (sometime in late 1990’s). If the man says he was friends with Ernst Hemingway, I see no reason why he should lie. There were lots of authors that have lived in Kansas City, he only mentioned being friends with Ernst. It is that old man’s recollection of frontiersman like Doc Holliday, Boone, and Hemingway that I write about.

Kansas City is mentioned in many of Hemingway’s writings. He continued to visit Kansas City over his life. He even had several children born in the hospital in Kansas City. Most likely Truman Medical Center, he describes it in his writings as the hospital on the hill down from Union Station.

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The Belles of Westport My House The Trading Post

Fashions in Kansas City
Fashions in Kansas City

The room lite with candles “shone brightly upon the fair maidens with glossy water-falls, delaine or tissue dresses, hoop skirts and family jewels.” Young men and women, alternated standing in a circle. They moved left, holding a partner’s hand, in a game called, “Marching down to old Quebec.” In 1850, dancing in Kansas City, was forbidden by the churches. The young folks were allowed to have large parties, accompanied by some older persons, but the kids refused to call them “chaperons.” For fun, packs of older teens, would take a passage on one of the Missouri River Boats, and dance on deck to the fiddler music. A jolly captain, with a crew that supplied the teens with good southern cooking, made this excursion highly enjoyable.

Dancing became fashionable among the married sect of society women and their husbands, (the business men of Independence, Westport, and Kansas City). The two favorite events were the Pallas Ball and the Charity Ball. These events were given by the young ladies, who were teachers at the local schools and day nursery.

kitchen convo4 girls kitchen

My house the trading post, in Westport, was refered to as a dance hall. It catered to the other type of family. The families of sturdy, good people, whose life was that of the frontier. From which they endured many hardships moving westward. The rules and manners of the parties attended, were at the discretion of the host. A party at the old Westport saloon would involve dancing and a “kissing” game. This would be followed by a “supper” that included pumpkin pie, peach pie, and buttermilk. Afterwards, the fun would continue with a run through the backwoods with candles.

The most desired and eligible young men were from Westport. The prettiest and wealthiest girls were from Kansas City or Independence. The finest parties were hosted by the sons and daughters of the first trading posts and saloon owners. The Santa Fe trade made these families wealthy. They built fine mansions within Jackson County. Their parties were legendary and drew in all the prettiest girls.

McCoy’s notes document that the Johnson Homestead, was near the long canon river bluffs, and had been occupied by Judge Bales who turned it over to Doctor Smart. John Johnson, had six children and a wife. The Johnson’s family were Methodist. They held family events south of Westport on the Indian Mission. The purpose was to honor the Indians. It should be noted that the Johnson family was adopted by the Shawnee Mission Indian’s Chief, in 1850, because of their great kindness to the tribe. The Johnson family and Shawnee Indian’s relationship is well documented. My daughter Megan has married into a Johnson family and given us, Eddie Johnson.

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Before bridge parties and book clubs were popular, quilting parties were the social occasion for the mothers and daughters.  Some girls would travel ten miles to arrive as early a nine o’clock in the morning, to quilt. The ladies arrived by carriage (with an old black man as a driver), pulled by one of the girl’s own personal riding horses. In the company of the other quilters, pioneer women, brought up with cortly manners and elegances, kept their words polite.  The women sat on rush bottom chairs around a quilting frame while stitching in different areas.

In the olden days they said that Independence was a town with good breeding, and that Westport was a town of “good fellowship,” and that Kansas City had both, good breeding and fellowship. The belles of Independence went to some of the best schools of the west. The Wyandotte Indian girls traveled to Independence to attend the fine colleges for young women. One historic book described the daughter of a Westport man, who complained her father made fun of her eloquent educated speech; that she often spoke one way, while at home, and another when away at school.

Westport was a natural trading post for the people everywhere, going everywhere, each one carrying with them a story. Men were charming and the women strived for refinement. Many of the girls that made the society pages were called eligible belles. The daughters of the founding families, of the three cities, were described as popular and beautiful. Stories of romances and first tragedies fill the pages of history books. Kansas City, being proud of their citizens, kept many scandals out of the records.

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In the summer of 1850, the local trading posts and general stores received shipments of French and English, joconets, French challies, lace manellas, parasols, fans, kid and filet gloves, cotton and silk hosiery. Special signs called attention to Ladies’ Bonnets and the Millinery department for the latest Paris styles. Most orders from France arrived within thirty days. The fourth of July, brought out all the daughters to town for new purchases.  Everyone was getting ready to attend the celebrations of band music or the various balls hosted by the local hotels and taverns.

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Today, the most common women’s fashion in Westport or Kansas City, Missouri is the skinny jean and the knee-high boots, ankle boot, or cowboy boot.  This is a good look on most ladies, especially if paired with an extra long top or mini-dress. Television shows like, any of the “housewives reality shows” provide a gist of which fashions are popular. However, in little Ol’Westport, we have specialty dress stores, where one of a kind outfits can be found. Everyone else shops at Walmart (or Target). What they end up with, is every other girl, wearing the same thing.

Even as far back as 1909, Mrs. Westlake, a high society lady of Kansas City, noted that the women’s wear was not very stylish. Mrs. Carrie Westlake Whitney was appointed the librarian in March, 1881. In her account of her first visit to Westport, she writes,”there was incessant hammering and banging from a dozen blacksmith’s sheds, where the heavy wagons were being repaired, and the horses and oxen shod. The streets were thronged with men, horses, and mules. While I was in town, a train of emigrant wagons from Illinois passed through to join the camp on the prairie. A multitude of healthy children’s faces were peeping out from under the covers of the wagons. Here and there a buxom damsel was seated on horseback, holding over her sunburnt face an umbrella or a parasol, once gaudy enough, but now miserably faded.”

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Kansas City women have been forming new clubs since the pioneer times. The women gathered to provide stimulus of association, the desire to engage in analytical thought and sustained discussions. They realized that as an organization they could broaden and deepen their intellectual work and accomplish more. In that same spirit I have established an organization, called the Professional Business Women’s Club of Kansas City, http://pbwckc.webs.com

The first ladies, who started organizations and clubs in the pioneer day sent letters out to the women they knew and messages delivered by their driver. I am sending out an invitation by blog; to any individual, female or male, that enjoys the History of Kansas City, the town of Westport, or believes children can become brave, creative, leaders from playing group sports, like soccer, to join my club, PBWCKC. http://pbwckc.webs.com/apps/members/

Wishing you many warm moments to share this Christmas. Thank you.

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My House The Trading Post Pioneer Days

Chapter 1

Early Settlers In Pioneer Days

1900's
1900’s

Kansas City was one of the stopping places for early settlers in pioneer days. At one time people traveled through Kansas City by boat, horseback, and stage-coach. Missouri offered all a man could desire, rivers, valleys, hills, and plains. Yet, people were on the move West. The reasons for travel varied from fur trapping, hunting, adventurers or quest for gold.

A small group of men organized to form the town of Westport in the 1820’s. These early settlers liked the wilderness area west of Independence Missouri and North of Saint Louis. Lewis and Clark, years earlier, had noted the territory was perfect for resting the horses with its sheltering woodlands and clear running springs.

Gillis house

The first structures were log cabins. Boards were applied to the esteriors later. The general shape of these oldest buildings like my house, had small panes of glass, and an outside chimney. One of the popular establishments that developed in those early days was that of the Trading Post. Trading practices with the Indians flourished because traders had a great influence with the Indians and the government relied on this relationship. The Indians were extended credit and the traders were soon able to replace the log cabins with two-story Taverns and Dance Halls.

Westport became a rough and rowdy frontier town. The town was overrun with gun-toting renegades, drunken Indians, and Mexican War soldiers. A man named, Vogel, ran a tavern in Westport.  Taverns in those days were used for community business, socializing, weddings, and funerals, which took place in the large main room, often fitted with a bar and some shelves. My house is that tavern.

In the winter of 1829, a resident of Westport, a Mrs. Rachel Patterson was widowed when her husband had a heart attack. Mrs. Patterson survived with 6 children, I think mostly boys. Sadly, Mrs. Patterson was denied the right to have title to her land where Mr. Patterson had built their homestead. Her land was situated on the far west quadrant of Westport, along the Kansas State Line. Kansas at the time was Indian Territory.

Most mothers snatched their children from the paths of the madmen and travelers in Westport. However, the Patterson children played with the Indian children from the Kansas reservation and grew up friends with the Indians and had a way with making friends with folks around town. This was a lucky thing for Widow Patterson, because, as she took her “land ownership” case to court, she would need a few secret admirers to help her succeed.

Mrs. Patterson vs. the State of Missouri, Jackson County, Westport Kansas City, was a case that is documented to have started in 1830 and wasn’t settled until 1877. Widow Patterson did win her case. But by then, women’s rights had begun, slavery had ended, and the Indians even moved on. The fascinating part of the story, is how Mrs. Patterson survived all those years and how my present day house may have provided income for the Patterson’s family.

breadwagon

My research has discovered that Mrs. Patterson may have sold whiskey. While, flour mills were in operation in Independence the whiskey business was popular in Westport. By the 1830’s there were two-million people in all the Missouri Territories. The earliest census of Westport stated that there were 12 businesses, including one Indian owned trading post. Nine of those businesses were taverns or trading posts.  Men like John McCoy, had a combination general store, tavern, home, and post office. The women of the time ran businesses, too. These businesses were often, boarding houses, or the women sold fresh bread.

A priest traveling in 1840, to the frontier town of Westport noted that during his travel in the Missouri wilderness, he encountered an abandoned cabin where a poor Indian woman had died a few days earlier. Imagine Westport, where Indians with shaggy ponies tied up by the dozens to poles along the houses and fences of Westport Road. Indians, with shaved heads and painted faces, other Indians with long flowing locks and a few wrapped in blankets, all strolling down the streets and lounging about the shops. Also note, it was illegal to sell whiskey to the Indians.

It is my belief that Mrs. Patterson or her sons ran a tavern on the west of end of town, and sold Whiskey to the Indians. Pieces of history indicate that this building I call home, was once that structure of an old Westport original tavern.  After Kelly’s Tavern burn to the ground as a result of a kitchen fire, men started to remove the old wooden buldings. One owner sold his old wooden tavern building for as little as $5.00.  Several stories indicate that two-story buildings were rolled along Westport road on huge tree logs, pulled my mules. Logs are still under my house, to this day.

Mr. Kelly, a prominent tavern owner, lost his first wooden tavern, at the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Ave., to a fire. Irishmen brought with them a great skill for brick and stone. He hired many talented Irishmen to build a brick tavern on the corner; where it is still in operation today. Kelly’s Tavern in Westport is the oldest surviving tavern in Kansas City. I loved drinking and dancing there in my 20’s (in the 1980’s). Every college kid, from far and near has partied at Kelly’s Tavern.

Other shop owners were jealous that Mr. Kelly had such a fine brick establishment, that many replaced their taverns with brick also. Although, the paper trail ended regarding the purchase of the building and moving it down the street, I believe that a man like, Mr. Harris gave or sold the building to Mrs. Patterson or one of her sons or to someone who rented land. Because the building sits on the plot of land once owned by Mr. Patterson, at the corner of Mr. Harris plat. Later Mr. Vogel purchased all of the Patterson’s land.

My house is about 200 yards from the Kansas Indian Missionary and Schoolhouse. The Indian School is now a museum and tourist site. It isn’t possible to walk to the missionary school from my house today, because tall, modern, cement, stone and brick buildings line the roads and form multiple blocks that create a barrier where the wilderness once allowed a path. The local newspaper of Old Westport, reported that a “particular tavern not more than 200 yards from the Indian Mission was suspected of selling spirits of alcohol to the Indians and contributing to the derelict behavior of the savages.”

westsign

I live in one of the oldest wood trading posts, remaining, since the days of the pioneers. It was the last place to stop for provisions on the way west, and the first chance to buy a beer after a two months cattle drive on a dusty Santa Fe trail. (1822-1880)

1909 Grocery store.
1909 Grocery store.

A boy, as tall as the gentlemen he poses with, stands in front of the grocery store in a picture, from the year 1909.  That young man was 98 years old, when he shared his accounts of the property. He lived up the street from us. He gave Bob, that picture of our house. The man had worked there, at the time of the turn of the century.  As he tells it, his family owned and operated the grocery store.  When the property was first built, the Santa Fe trail and cattle drive came through Westport.  This property, was the last post to buy something for settlers leaving town and the first place the cowboys saw, coming in.

Originally, the two-story building was fifty-yards up the hill. There was a pond at the current spot of the residence. Once the pond drained down to bed rock the house was set squarely by the road. The house was set along the far side of the pond, by engineering logs under the building, and dragging it down the hill with mules. The dirt foundation was replaced with cement, sometime in the 1980’s. In order to pour the foundation, the house had to been raised, exposing the huge logs for the first time since the logs were used to move the structure in 1855.

Pioneer lunch pail and coffee thermos
Pioneer lunch pail and coffee thermos

During the renovations that began in the late 1970’s,  a portion of an old dirt road and cobblestone curb was discovered in the backyard while Bob was landscaping, along with old medicine bottles and whisky jars. The Five layers of roofing and petrified wood on the house, provided an architectural manual of the different carpentry techniques used, as each layer exposed the years dating back to 1860.

1960 Antique Store
1960 Antique Store

In 1860, the place was a  tavern, by 1909 it was a general store. Shortly, thereafter if fell into the hands of a contractor. By the mid-20th century the property had seen its best days gone. In the 1950’s, it was owned by a junk dealer who had the place packed to the ceiling with antiques and had two rental apartments upstairs. It was in that condition that our good friend, Drake, acquired the property and started those late 1970 renovations. He needed a commercial building for, Drake Design, a company that made fiberglass molds for the auto industry.

2008 Law Office
2008 Law Office

My husband Bob, bought the property from Drake. After 12 years of solo labor, Bob, was able to convert the house into its present condition and design. Bob has lived here for over 30 years, practiced law, worked on his art, and rehearsed a band or two. I have lived here for five years and absolutely love the place.

1867
1867

The original building was a rectangular, 2 story building with a large main room on the first floor.  In the late 1800’s an American Indian man, who owned the trading post/tavern, enlarged the building on the north side, doubling the size of the  building to 5000 square feet, utilizing a slant in the roof for a lodge pole, the technique matched the traditional structures built by his tribe.

Old Santa Fe Trail. 45th street facing west toward, Bell Street.
Old Santa Fe Trail. 45th street facing west toward, Bell Street.

During the spring and summers of 1852- 1855, over 90,000 head of cattle traveled the by-way each year. The Stockyards operated in Kansas City’s west bottoms from 1871-1991. Once the railroad was installed it became the main means of transportation after 1870. These events had a significant impact on my house, the trading post, and its history.

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