From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Many years ago the writer was well acquainted with that portion of Platte County, Mo., which takes in Platte City and Weston; he, with other local ball players, would make trips, via wagon or buggy, to those cities to play either with their teams against other aggregations from Dearborn or Smithville, or with other teams against Weston and Platte City. Also, with other local boys, he attended dances occasionally over across the river, and especially those in Weston.
The dance trips to Weston were made via the "Q" railway, and the dances were held in a large storeroom on the southwest corner of the main street, and a short street that ran south to the old brewery. One dance that is recalled ended long after midnight, and as the "Q" southbound passenger was due at Weston between 5 and 6 A.M., the Leavenworth boys didn't worry over such a little inconvenience as no sleep and some Weston young folks were so sociable that they sat up until train time with their visitors in the Barton home, a broad, southern-style brick, with a wide inviting porch just oozing with southern hospitality and a wonderful place to enjoy the cool, early-morning breezes until the "Q" whistled up near Iatan, stirring the local boys into a fast run to the railway station.
A word about the Barton family. Mrs. Barton was a sister of that famous early-day stage driver, Ben Holliday, whose name is connected with the early history of the west and whose exploits as the handler of a six-horse team, and brushes with the Indians read like a dime novel. The old Holliday home, up on a commanding hill as one approaches Weston, with its original stone wall about it, is still one of the show places of the county. It is now owned by "Bill" Hull. In the Barton home, its mistress had gathered many of the western trappings of her famous brother. Mrs. Maude Poss, nee Barton, a daughter, now resides in Platte County, and at one time her son, Barton Poss, was the circulator for The Times.
It was not until the past week when the writer took a trip across the river with "Bill" Dresser, of The Times circulation department, that early day memories were stirred to action. If anyone other than a native Platte Countyan knows that county "Bill" does. It is his duty to deliver The Times to subscribers along the road from Fort Leavenworth, across the bridge to Beverly, Platte City and Weston each evening and on Sunday morning.
"Bill" started dropping his papers at the east entrance to Wint avenue, at the post, for Sgt. Wiant, the Fort circulator for The Times. Mrs. Wiant was there to take charge of them. Then we crossed the north bridge and the first single copy was pushed into a receptacle for Bill Moore, stationed at the U.S. prison farm.
"See that field over there," remarked "Bill;" that was planted in potatoes; much of it, was flooded, but they managed to salvage quite a few loads of spuds. They're planting some kind of a row crop now, I can't make out what it is.
"I'll throw a paper into Austin's now, but we'll stop there when we come back, since you wish to buy some of those delicacies we're advertising in The Times. At Beverly we'll leave one of our bundles at the postoffice, drop a few single copies and go over to Platte City's postoffice. See that big hill there south of us; they used bulldozers to cut it down to prevent landslides on the highway; pretty neat job, too, isn't it?"
"Notice how this highway curves around the Renz home? At one time it was planned to run it through that land right up against that big house, but I'm told influence was brought to bear and plans changed to this wide curve. It would have been a shame to cut up that yard, wouldn't it?
"That's a nice field of tobacco over there to the right. Back around Beverly the river got into some of the fields, but didn't damage them much. They're going to have some fine tobacco yields over here this year.
"Notice the way the engineers have routed highway No. 71 and 92 here at Tracy? Those entrances were somewhat confusing to me at first. See that water mark on that old tank to my left; that's supposed to be where the flood reached its highest point. Yes, Platte river is pretty muddy now, but it's falling.
"Well, here's the Platte City postoffice; I'll take in this bundle. Hello there, Bly Fee, how are the girls? Come over some time? I sure will." (And "Bill" explained to his passenger that Bly had girl triplets, who, as Fee said, had just begun to talk.)
"Now we'll double back on our tracks and go over to Weston. Must make these post offices by 5:30 o'clock as they close at that time. This road (gravel) was and old pike highway in the early days; the cobblestones are under this chat and it makes a good driveway in ordinary weather, but it it[sic] rather muddy when it rains."
As the highway crossed the C. G. W. railway tracks "Bill" remarked: "Up there on that hill is an old house and nearby is an old cave; or at least there once was, and in it was a big iron ring. I've been told that slave owners, either going to market or returning home with a slave would place them in that cave ad chain them to the iron ring to prevent their escape."
At West Platte, where the highway crossed a bridge, the writer recalled how, at one time, he came over from Leavenworth on the C.G.W. and persuaded the conductor to stop so he could get off. After a short walk the home of H. Clay Cunningham, just at the top of the hill, was visited. Clay, as he was known, was one of the early prominent Platte County farmers and at one time president of the Platte County Fair Association. He sold his home, preparatory to moving to Florida. At the Burlington station, waiting for his train, he was run over and killed by a passing train on another track.
Never was there a more hospitable little lady than Mrs. Clay Cunningham, known to all as Aunt Kittie. She distantly was related to one of Abe Lincoln's sweethearts and took delight in showing the visitor many mementoes of Lincoln, among them letters he had written to one of Aunt Kittie's relatives. After Aunt Kittie died those prize possessions became the property of a family named Vineyard, of St. Joseph, Mo., and The Kansas City Star, on Lincoln's birthday some years later, used the letters and photographs in a rotogravure section.
A bit further on "Bill" called attention to some buildings down in a hollow to the left. "That's a distillery," he said, "but I don't know whether its operating now."
At the Weston post office "Bill" parked at the entrance of what seemed a dead-end street. Seated on a curb with several other buddies was "Brownie" Hull. "Say "Brownie", you won't arrest me for parking here, will you? asked "Bill" and Hull's reply was, "If you've got any money we'll take you up."
From the post office the visitor was taken down to the Burlington station past the large tobacco warehouses where sales are held each year. "That foundation," remarked "Bill," pointing to two long rows of concrete, "was where there was a third warehouse, but it burned and never was rebuilt."
Over on Washington street "Bill" showed his companion a fine high school building; and a thoroughfare lined with as pretty a collection of homes as could be found in any larger city; also the old flour mill, and a brick school building set back from the road on the bank of Mill creek which he said was once used for Negro children.
"Now I am going to show you something," "Bill" remarked, as he took a southerly direction. "That Catholic church up there I'm told was placed on that hill after the top had been leveled off, and there's just enough room for it, the priest's residence and parking space for cars of the congregation."
The road led up the steep side of the hill, and there, at the top "Bill" said, "Look." It proved to be an automobile garage dug, like a cave, into a hill whose side was straight up." The door was even with the clay bank and almost hidden because of the same color as the soil. "That's the most unique garage I've ever seen," remarked "Bill." His companion readily agreed. A short turn on the road, still going up, took the car through a deep gash in the hill, almost as narrow as the car's width and with dense growth of shrubbery on each side. And from the brow of this hill the road dropped, almost perpendicularly down into a little valley. It was a dead-end street, so the car was turned around, almost "on a dime," and headed back toward Weston, up that same steep hill that seemed almost too much for even a cat to climb.
"Now, we'll go back the river road. Yes, it's good traveling if you don't meet anyone in the narrow places," the passenger was told. He had been on the same road many years before when it was worth almost one's life to travel it, but now, in dry weather, it isn't the worst road in Platte County.
"I'm told that the Missouri river came almost up to where the Weston railway station is now," explained "Bill," "but you see how many square miles of land has been made sine then, and how far from Weston the stream is. Now keep your eyes open for you'll see a flock of real buzzards over there on the sand bar. They're supposed to eat carrion but I don't see what they find to eat on that bar." And sure enough the buzzards were there; almost 100 of them.
"Down there is where the steamboats had their landing before the days of the railroad," was explained by our guide and chauffeur. In the early days people who came from the east got as far as this landing, then known as Rialto, and took a boat either to Fort Leavenworth or Leavenworth city. There was nothing left of Rialto, however, but a memory as the place had been completely wiped out by the Missouri's swift waters.
A short turn brought us out on a rough stretch of road that led into Beverly, and then to highway No. 92, bound for home, but we didn't forget to stop at "Austin's" for some of those table delicacies (yes, we said "delicacies") and we speeded up for home across the north bridge.
When, we reached Leavenworth, despite the fact that the car made good time and stirred up a good breeze, both "Bill" and "we" were soaked to the skin from perspiration. It was an enjoyable trip, nevertheless, and one well worth taking if one has such a well-posted chauffeur as "Bill" proved himself to be, especially on historic spots of "Old Platte.".