The Crane

Chapter 6.0:

My House the Trading Post and the Crane

Kansas City 1858

Kansas City 1858

How do you feel about work? I often feel 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.”

There is an English writer, named, John Ruskin, who published his first novel in 1845. He gave a number of lectures and wrote some important books on art and architecture. He devoted himself to work on social problems. He suffered from bouts of madness and his writings expressed that. My private journal sometimes sound ‘like his writing rants. My psychiatrist told me to keep a journal, then she said she didn’t care what was in it, although she thought I was a good writer, the exercise wasn’t intended to be read.

I pout when I have a job, and I pout when I don’t have a job. Not having a job, gives me the freedom to write and read whenever I want.  Ruskin has said, “I have seen and known too much of the struggle for life among the laboring population to feel at ease, even under any circumstances, in inviting them to dwell on the trivialities of my own studies;”

He goes on to say, “No teacher can truly promote the cause of education until he knows the conditions of the life for which that education is to prepare his pupil.”

Westport Missouri, from the time it was formed until present day, has been a working class neighborhood. There is a book about the, “The Battle of Westport, Missouri’s Great Confederate Raid,” by Paul Kirkman.  Wars have taken place, the burning of Mormons, the Mexican War, Civil-War, Women’s Rights and other notable history. A lot has been written on such topics, but as I read the various historic events concerning Westport Missouri, I don’t see enough written about the common working citizen of Westport. (Granted most folks don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing.)  The past owners of this property were young people. This building holds the ghosts of the starter business owners.

I claim its greatest contribution to history is the fact that it just exists. It has to be noted that it is a wood structure. I think it is remarkable that the building has existed this long, because of the number of wars, battles, and fires that took place, and the capitalist nature of cities to knock it down and rebuild.

The history of Kansas City in my opinion, too often come from the stories of the Upper Classes. The history books all 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 Wesport in the year 1845.  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.

The goal or lifestyle of the residents would have been work.  They were young working class men and women. 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, the wealthy families moved into new homes and buildings in downtown Kansas City. In downtown Kansas City, they established new public-houses, and built them in a wise manner, with a more expressive display of dignity for such establishments that would sale spirituous liquors.

This was the nature of the city, and has been ever since. Not to be political, but with each new Mayor, Kansas City tends to invest in a new construction project, often centered on building another shopping and entertainment area, as well as new construction for residential housing communities. Problem is, we haven’t run out of land, yet. So we don’t build up, we build out. Creating older, communities that struggle for business. New city projects always bring in the new technology, however, the consumers only seek the basic needs and comforts from Kansas City, because silly, we all can’t be rich. The worker in Kansas City simply picks up his or her lunch pail and heads north, south, east, or west for twenty minutes from where ever they live, and they go to work.

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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