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Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Remarkable Year in Review: The Stories of the History of Jackson County

What a year it has been! I cannot believe that an idea I thought was far-reaching has turned into something so amazing and led to a plethora of new friendships, amazing experiences and more responsibility to accurately retell history in a new, exciting way.

If you've never read my blog before, please.... stick with this post. I promise it's full of fun. :) 

An illustration in the Kansas City Star from 1932 depicting
the bustling town of New Santa Fe
This journey started when I was a little girl growing up surrounded by the remnants of an abandoned town called New Santa Fe. At one time, this town swelled to over 1,000 people and was the largest town in all of Washington Township, Jackson Co., Mo.

That's hard to imagine now, because Washington Township encompasses common locations such as Dallas, Martin City, Grandview and Hickman Mills. 

It's difficult to believe that the only evidence that there was something special on Santa Fe Trail and State Line Rd. is a cemetery and a granite marker placed by the DAR in 1906. But even as a little girl, I just felt that there was something special about these people that came long before me.

My imagination- my ability to envision life before suburban settlement- carried me through those rows of stones. 
The gates to the New Santa Fe Cemetery

That may sound cocky or pretentious to those of you who may not know me....

I honestly believe now this ability is a gift. 

As a child, I loved to write in my sea-green diary with dancing bears decorating its exterior. I craved the opportunity to write poetry in my teen years and as part of my undergraduate degree at Avila University, I wrote for the newspaper, The Talon. 

I don't have to create stories in order to tell them. 

Sometimes it feels as if this entire journey is much bigger than I even realize today. I'm still figuring it out, but the last year has naturally combined some of my favorite hobbies into one, neatly-tied package.

On the way to preschool! 
Genealogy + History + Writing = Passion

This has developed into a dream I never knew I had. 

Today, I sit in front of the screen of my computer imagining, wishing, hoping and persisting that these stories will never stop- that I can continue to reintroduce the unknown to thousands of people a month. 

My intention when starting this blog one year ago was to showcase the unknown stories of Washington Township in Jackson Co., Mo. I hoped that I could make history fun. I laughed when a colleague of mine snickered when I said I wanted to teach history someday instead of English. "Why history? History is just memorization of dates," she snickered.

Yes, that's the problem. History, if told in dates, is boring.

History, if told in stories, can be fascinating. They can be life-changing. When I write these posts about history, I tell them in packages filled with images, photographs and details that, I hope, makes you want to keep reading. 

I write STORIES.

A criticism of some of my history buff readers is that I don't include documentation at the end - a bibliography. That's right - I don't. Just ask. I have all of it. But my intention is not to write a history textbook or be published in a scholarly magazine. I crave to tell stories that have escaped publication and create human interest. I wish for the masses to relate to my writing, not to claim myself as a historian. I want to use my words to make people feel like they are a part of this amazing growth of Jackson Co. when it was just farmlands and trails to the West.

And for this month, I want to share a short description of all my posts with direct links that I have written since April 1, 2016. Some of you have read all of these, but I feel as I continue to write, these pieces of my writing are getting harder and harder to find due to the way the blog is set up.

So here it goes- a year in review! Just click on each blog title to read each of the posts or simply click on the "Click Here" button after each description. Included below are updates and descriptions of what each post covers. Read them all, read ones you missed and don't forget to share (you can do this at the bottom of each page before the comments or simply copying/pasting the website!)

As always, I adore comments and questions pertaining to my writing. Take a few minutes to read some of these posts and give feedback! 

April 2016-  Welcome to the Santa Fe Trailer! 
In my first post, I explain in detail what led me to this incredible journey. At the time, I thought only a few people would check it out and had no clue how to blog. :) But I do my best to explain my passion and love
Map of the Santa Fe Trail showing the ability to travel from
Independence to Westport or Independence to New Santa Fe 

of the history of Jackson County, and specifically, New Santa Fe. In it, I mention that all the research I had done to hopefully get a marker installed at the location of the historic Santa Fe Christian Church (demolished in 1971) led to this blog. I wrote a grant through the DAR and was denied in 2016. I am happy to report that after a second attempt, the DAR approved it this month! Stay tuned- I want all my readers to consider coming to its dedication in October 2017. And I will be writing about the church's history soon. To read more, CLICK HERE!

If This Ground Could Talk.... 
This explains the routes of the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s from Independence to Westport or from Independence to New Santa Fe. Evidence is on the ground that we walk on each day. Some of the current roads we know so well, such as Wornall Rd., have been around for a very long time. This covers the early history of New Santa Fe and of Washington Township. Evidence is literally still in the ground and tells a very cool story! To read more, CLICK HERE!

James Felix Bridger 
May 2016- Trailblazers Influenced the First Chapters of New Santa Fe  
When people think of Jim Bridger, the terms "trapper" and "mountain man" are usual descriptions given. This tells the unknown story of Jim Bridger and his business ventures in southern Jackson Co., Mo. This was one of the most complex research endeavors I have tackled. You will learn something very unique about Bridger in the Kansas City area. To read more, CLICK HERE!

Memorial Day and Troop 601: Remembering Those Before Us
Learn about the efforts to continue to preserve the historic New Santa Fe Cemetery on the Santa Fe Trail and the importance of memorializing those before us. To read more, CLICK HERE!

June 2016- A Bit of Bull at Bull Creek: The Kansas Frauds of 1855 
Evidence of the numerous voter frauds occurring in Kansas tell the story of the passion these men on the border had to keep the institution of slavery in-tact and alive in newly-formed Kansas Territory. Their actions sparked the Border Wars. This is about one case of the blatant frauds that took place near Bull Creek in Miami Co., Ks. The pioneers in the area around New Santa Fe in Jackson Co. marched into Kansas to vote illegally. The repercussions of this event and those similar seem preposterous to us today- but it happened. Read about what these guys brazenly did and the lasting affects of this decision! To read more, CLICK HERE!

July 2016 - From the Potawatomi to Portland: The Journey of a Pioneer and His Connection to Washington Township  
From the institution of slavery to the forceful removal of Native Americans, the U.S. has seen some dark days. This story is of an Indian agent, his "peaceful" removal of the Potawatomi from lands in Johnson and Miami Co., Ks. and the land he was given for doing so. Stories such as his tell us some of the patterns of early pioneers that did at one time roam and farm the land in Jackson Co. To read more, CLICK HERE!

The Four O'Clock Hill House
August 2016 - Hidden Treasures Found at the Four O'Clock Hill House 
This was the post that broke the mold. Up to this point, I didn't have a huge following of readers- I didn't really know how to get my writing out there for the masses to read. This post changed everything. This is about the historic Four O'Clock House that was a marker for wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail. I was acquainted with the owners since I was a little girl, but I had never sat down and listened to the amazing history of this house. This acquaintance quickly turned into a friendship with Steve and Wendy Hodgden that I know will stay in tact for years to come! I got so excited when I watched this post trend on social media. I gained thousands of views and this rejuvenated my want to continue this unique adventure. To read more, CLICK HERE!
Square nails found at the
Four O'Clock Hill House

September 2016Unearthing the Forgotten at the Four O'Clock Hill House 
This post covers the first metal detecting dig I have ever (sort of) been a part of. Jackwick Metal Detecting worked with the owners of the Four O'Clock House to do a dig on the historic farm's property! This was so cool to see what evidence still remained hidden underground 150+ years later. A bonus of this venture was developing a friendship with Jackwick that I cherish today. To read more, CLICK HERE!

October/November 2016The Lipscomb's, a Log Cabin, and a Legacy Lost (Part 1 & 2) 
The sacking of Lawrence 
Imagine my excitement when I was convinced that a slave cabin still existed within a few miles from New Santa Fe and on the border between Missouri and Kansas?! Well, that's what led to this two-part post and includes some important history of Westport, the Border Wars, the Civil War, and the Battle of Westport. Once you finish Part 1, click on the link at the bottom to read the conclusion! This story is fascinating. I'm now in contact with Nathan Lipscomb's descendants and have gained even more knowledge on this unique and strong-willed family! To read more, CLICK HERE!

December 2016- Christmas History, Cultures and Traditions of Kansas City Settlers 
I left the comforts of southern Jackson Co. and did a blanket post about the development of Christmas traditions that we use today and how they started. Included are some interesting pieces about early Westport history and a visit to the Wornall House for their Christmas candlelight tour. This post led to a new friendship with the National Frontier Trails Museum, where I plan to work to help develop some programs at their Independence museum. To read more about Christmas in Kansas City, CLICK HERE!

January 2017A Quantrill Raider's Revenge on the Border and Beyond 
This was super fun to research. :) An inquiry by a reader asked about her descendant's land and led me to a chase that lasted two months. In the end, I developed a comprehensive history of Daniel Vaughn, one of William Clarke Quantrill's most powerful and influential guerrilla fighters during the Border Wars and Civil War. Without him, KU Medical Center may not be where it is today- or even exist! This covers his journey and its impact on the Kansas City area. To read this unreal story, CLICK HERE!
Wyley Wyatt Farmhouse in Grandview

February 2017- Grandview Farmhouse Features 140 Years of Grand History 
I never thought I would surpass the viewership I had with my post on the Four O'Clock Hill House, but I was wrong! My most popular post of the year, this tells of the house built on the land that once was the home of Daniel Vaughn, a Quantrill Raider. It discusses the history of this farmhouse and the people that built it. Dave and Kathy Sutoris, owners of this home, welcomed me with open arms and shared with me. The house is still for sale! Included is the story of a plane crash that happened as well! To read more on Wyley Wyatt's home, CLICK HERE!

An aerial view of the Gill-McGee farm at 119th and State
Line; courtesy of the McGee family
March 2017- From the Border Wars to a Landmark Lost: The Legacy of Marcus Gill 
I have spent years researching what I thought was going to be published in March. I wanted to tell the unique history of a home I have cherished since I was a little girl, but the sale of the home interrupted my plans. With only a few weeks to spare, I had to reach deep into my notes and copied materials to pull out a story. Marcus Gill's story- a highly documented one- seemed like a natural fit in my hasty situation. It covers a log cabin and its connection to Quantrill. That log cabin was then turned into a sprawling country estate owned by the grandson of one of the original founders of Kansas City, A.B.H. McGee. What I thought would be a pretty mediocre post has perpetuated some of the most amazing things I have happened to date. Since this post, I am in contact with the last of the Gill descendants to live in this home. "The McGee boys," as I like to call them, are my new friends. They have introduced me to some of the last people to live in the area prior to suburban development and have shared priceless stories of growing up on the farm. I intend to showcase their stories soon. To read this incredible story, CLICK HERE!

There it is - a year in review. It was fun to go back and read my old posts and see how my little goal - to tell the story of the early history of Washington Township in Jackson County -has snowballed into something much larger. I'm now writing a bi-monthly history column in the Martin City Telegraph; this is just another example of what this blog has started. You can find this publication partially online and can pick up a copy at local businesses for free! My first article can be read here: Martin City Telegraph- The Interesting Beginnings of Martin City

My mother and me!
I don't even know how to thank everyone for the support over the past year. I especially want to thank my mom, Helen Van Hecke, for encouraging me to pursue this, talking over topics with me, listening to me hours before publication read each article aloud to her over the phone, and pushing me to give up some things in order to make room for things that matter more. She's my newly retired unpaid research assistant. 

Ah, the things moms do for the love of a child. :)

This is just the beginning. Although I am unsure about what will happen next or where this road will lead, I am grateful to everyone that has taken the time, even for a few minutes, to read these stories and support the Santa Fe Trailer.  

What started as a curious child chasing her shadow amongst the stones at the New Santa Fe Cemetery has turned into a love of the pioneers that roamed the rolling hills of Washington Township long before us. And now they feel like family.

The stories are a-plenty, and I plan on showcasing my passion in more pieces for years to come.