Weston Historical Museum
601 Main Street - Weston, MO  64098
All rights reserved
Weston Historical Museum
Why We Are The Way We Are
By Barbara Gatschet

Look carefully at the past of Platte
County and you will find elements of
our history that have lingered and
prospered here along the banks of the
Missouri River. In the mid-19th century,
the United States was a country in
motion, then as it is today. Exploration
of the west and then the desire of the
growing citizenry of the United States
for more wilderness to tame, gave the
region which became Platte County an
identity reflected in the settlers who
came here to explore new territory,
provide provisions for the trek west
and to facilitate their transportation
needs. Transportation of goods and
people by wagons, steamboat and
then rail dominated the lives of the
restless pioneers and immigrants
whose destinations lay to the west. On
the banks of the Missouri River, they
stopped to contemplate the crossing
and the unknown territory beyond.
Many stayed, seeing opportunities for
themselves in farming the rich Platte
County soil and becoming tradesmen,
merchants and facilitators of those
continuing their journeys. Little towns
like Parkville, Weston and Iatan
became industrious river ports of call,
necessary to the traveling public and
outstripping early Kansas City in size.
Have we here in Platte County not
continued this tradition of travel and
transport? We soon became the heart
of America, the hub of a circle of
expansion reaching border to border
and coast to coast. One part of that
early pattern has continued, a legacy
of movement of goods and people.  
The Trans World Airlines hub which
dominated the area for decades,
employed hundreds of Platte County
citizens at the Overhaul Base and
Training Center facility and opened the
way to nationwide and international
travel for them and their families.
Curiosity and interest in the world
outside the county could be indulged
by a population which otherwise might
have felt landlocked and provincial.
Kansas City International Airport
survives in Platte County, connecting
both us and the entire Kansas City
Metropolitan area to the world.
Our location in the center of the
country put us on a path crisscrossed
from many directions and we
benefitted from a variety of travelers
seeking their fortunes. Many found
Platte County a good place to stop and
settle down and our current population
reflects those same family names,
giving our present citizenry a shared
heritage with their founding fathers.
Many families moved here from
Kentucky where they had farmed
tobacco and they found the soil and
climate here amenable to their crop of
choice and continued successfully
growing burley tobacco to this day,
dotting the county with its distinctive
slatted barns. The bottom land
replenished yearly by the muddy
Missouri River was ideal for row crops
and became another of the ready-
made assets which prevail. We have
had agriculture at our heart since the

Early on, the thirst for spirits arrived in
Platte County and has since been
richly slaked through a variety of
industries. McCormick Distilling,
founded by Ben Holladay in 1856 is
the oldest continuously operating
distillery in the United States.  The
Weston Brewing Company was
established in 1842 by a German
immigrant. In 1901 it became the Royal
Brewing Company and actually
sponsored the first Kansas City Royals
baseball team. German settlers
planted vineyards in the mid-1800s
that provided stock sturdy enough to
save the French wine industry when
disease ravaged their vineyards. Platte
County boasts several excellent
wineries and the agreeable soil
supports a variety of grapes. There
exist many plentiful and enjoyable
venues for liquid refreshment in Platte
County today as residents and visitors
enjoy the bounty.
Platte County has cultivated the arts
and this may be the result of the
devotion and the encouragement of
the women’s clubs and ladies’
auxiliaries that insisted on music
lessons and performance, choirs and
choral groups and the organizations
like the Chautauqua Circuits that
proliferated and were welcomed here
in the early twentieth century. We have
seen Community Theater introduced
throughout the county over the years
and enthusiastically supported for
decades by the residents. We enjoy
theater arts at Park University,
established in Parkville as Park
College early in Platte County history,
its student-built MacKay Hall is an
historic landmark in Parkville. Park has
grown into an expansive educational
institution that has gracefully adapted
to changing times, while visibly
retaining its legacy.  We marvel at the
virtuosity displayed by the students at
the International Center for Music
there, and we enjoy concerts by the
Northland Symphony.  Our town
festivals are dotted with musical
performances of many varieties. Platte
County excels in its fine public
educational opportunities, our well
cared for neighborhoods, our fine
museums and historic homes,
preserved and celebrated by our
citizenry and shared with the public.
We value our parks and camp grounds
and other public venues and the
appeal we have for tourists and
visitors. Platte is a family-oriented
county with many opportunities for
nurturing and enriching our children’s
lives. We Platte Countians appreciate
the physical beauty of our
surroundings. The vista of the wide
Missouri River and the surrounding
bluffs (our lush little mountains) replete
with natural springs and streams have
provided inspiration for outdoor
recreation that draws us outside and
prompts us to consider carefully our
zoning and planning with an eye
towards the future. We value the
presence of the indigenous wildlife and
try to preserve habitat for its sake and
for ours. Our county is well-off by
Missouri standards and the disparities
of income are generally compensated
for by the availability of church and
charitable generosity. The incidence of
criminal activity is handled well by law
enforcement and adjudicated by an
efficient court system. The lawlessness
of the frontier years has been
leavened by remorse and reason.

The citizens of Platte County have
resisted change in personal ways that
depend on circumstance and
opportunity. Natural events, like the
unpredictable course of our river
boundary have changed the
complexion of our landscape and the
personalities of the towns that suffer
the indignities of flooding. The
increasing demands for energy have
caused development and dissension
over the sources and solutions of
electric power usage. We have learned
to compromise and, grudgingly or
cordially, agree to disagree.
The history of Platte County is fraught
with many aspects of our national
dramas and traumas. The Native
American tragedies of exploitation by
the white man echoed the incidence of
their originally tricking us by selling us
territory they didn’t own in the Platte
County region.  The impact of slavery,
the divisive years of the Civil War, the
Mormon expulsions from the region,
the Border Wars with Kansas; all these
events had their influences in and on
Platte County. We were bequeathed a
legacy of tense and fractious
partisanship that pitted North against
South and those differences have
insinuated themselves into our politics
today. As the allegiances of the
political parties in America realigned as
times changed their  roles, the
North/South identities, the Feds and
the Rebs, the abolitionists and the
bushwhackers have sharpened and
renamed themselves and each other
as Conservatives and Liberals, Right
wingers and Progressives, Socialists
and Tea-Partiers, Tree-Huggers and
Red-Necks.  These hard- drawn lines
of different points of view are
undeniably part of our legacy, bubbling
up in less violent clashes than in the
past, but always threatening to disrupt
our civic discourse. Yet we usually pull
together when the chips are down. Our
patriotism is amply and appropriately
displayed and we serve our county
and our country through volunteerism
and service. The sense of community,
the appreciation of each other’s
contributions and the desire for
peaceful co-existence compel us to
urge ourselves to stand together for
the common good.  We could not have
achieved this stature had it not been
that we have been influenced by the
lessons of our history, and our
adherence to the codes of behavior
insisted upon by the well-intentioned
citizens who taught and raised us.
Perfect civic harmony can be elusive,
but we strive, as our forebears did, to
represent our parcel of Missouri with
By  Kathy Miller

Growing up in Weston, I used to dread
Sunday afternoons after the football
games were over when my parents
would suggest an afternoon drive
through the country.  We lived in the
country, so I wasn’t sure why we had to
drive around back roads marveling at
the scenery.  What I did not know then
was that years later I would find myself
on journeys meandering rural roads
with that same longing my parents
had.  What defines the legacy of Platte
County, what shapes and defines our
history, are the familiar landscapes
that we return to not just year after
year, but decade after decade.
My drives often begin at Weston Bend
State Park.  If I go to the overlook with
its panoramic view of the Missouri
River bottoms, I know that Lewis and
Clark saw what I am seeing, the
mingling tones and textures of nature,
the winding river. Perhaps one of the
trees in the dense canopy was the
same tree they saw or even touched.
Perhaps they glimpsed a white tail
emerging from the woods as I hope to
do. Or, perhaps they returned to watch
the green trees softening, later to
erupt into flames, and then to walk with
the leaves crunching underfoot. Our
lives might be fleeting or transitory, but
this landscape is not.  It remains.
The Missouri River is a backdrop to
Weston and to the farm my family
owned for more than a hundred years.
My grandfather, Roy Johnson, loved
Port William, the name of our farm
which was adjacent to the river.  My
childhood was filled with watching him
knit hoop nets to drop into the river or
fixing the lines on his ever expanding
collection of rod and reels.   It was
nothing for him to haul out a 70 pound
blue cat. He was swift in gutting and
beheading the fish which had whiskers
like the channel cat he also caught.  
These fish put up a good fight, one of
the reasons he loved to fish for them.  
If Grandpa did not sell the fish, we
would gather for a fish fry. The men
would batter the catfish and drop it into
lard sizzling in huge black cast iron
kettles. Today, my nephew Matt ,
fishes for the same fish my grandfather
caught, or for a crappie, or any fish
that might take his line. The ritual of
fishing, the love of this landscape is in
his blood; it is a heritage, a legacy.
Another land legacy from our farm is
picking up pecans. We are lucky to
have a pecan grove right out in the
middle of my Uncle Ted’s soybean
field.  Every fall for as long as I can
remember, after the first frost, we take
buckets and fill with pecans.  This
custom, more than any other, helps me
know that the holiday season is on its
way.  The pecans will be shelled then
used to bake pies and breads and
cookies. Grandpa always told me to
watch for wooly worms; if their coat was
heavy, that meant we would have a
hard winter.  My mother is 82, and she
still picks up pecans every year.  She
might be a little slower getting up, but
this offering from the land is not
something she will give up.  Yet
another gift I have received from this
landscape is Eagle watching.  I didn’t
have to see an eagle in a zoo; I have
watched one on the land of my
grandfather. Today my husband and I
plant a garden on this land.  Yes, we
have a garden on our property, but
digging in the soil that belonged to my
grandpa and now to my Uncle, helps
me feel

life’s rhythms, to feel connected to
something greater than myself. The
old smoke house is falling in, but the
soil is black and rich and alive.
Twilight is a time of magic in the
country.  Recently, I had visitors from
the city, and we lingered outside on
our deck well into the night. They kept
looking up. I was confused.  My friends
shared that in the city, they do not see
stars.  Our sky is big and open and lit
up, and although I do not know names
of constellations, I can still count stars
sprinkled across the sky. The stillness
and stars evoke memories of lying flat
on my back looking up into the sky and
feeling like I was falling into it. Even the
Weston sky is part of the landscape.
Watching tobacco being planted
behind my house takes me back to my
years as a teen setting tobacco for
local farmers.  It was actually fun work,
and besides, we got to get a suntan.  
Donald Spratt gave me my first job, but
I have worked in fields for Schaback,  
Siler, Hill, and Roberts.  No matter who
now owns or farms this land, the
landscape endures; the open pastures
or promise of harvest keeps
generation after generation returning
to the land.  I was reminded of this
recently when Michelle Siu from
Toronto published a photo essay,
“Twilight on Bradley Farm” in the
Washington Post.   In her beautiful
piece, she describes the Bradley’s love
of a farm that has been in their family
since 1883. She describes Mrs.
Bradley’s love of nature. Mr. Bradley
knows what so many before him knew;
that we are mere caretakers of this
land and the legacy we have been
given. Even after we are gone, this
lovely landscape will be here for others
to write and tell stories about.
Driving down the back roads, tires
humming on blacktop or crunching
gravel, I can imagine other landscape
scenes.  These landscapes reflect the
way we have lived.  I learned to swim
by plunging into frigid pond water at
Bud Goodlet’s.  I waded into weeds to
recover a lost softball or perhaps to
catch a grasshopper. But the slashing
weeds are the point.  I have trudged
calf deep through snow just to make a
trail and watched my frosty breath lead
the way.  I have heard a chorus of
coyotes and a swarm of honey bees.  I
have watched a football game and
become so distracted by the beauty of
the hills framing the field, that I wasn’t
sure of the score.  I have hunted
morels, and if I didn’t, I know who will
have some and who will share.  The
legacy of Platte County and Weston is
the landscape: the hills, the river, the
bottoms, the farms, the very land we
walk on that will endure long after we
are gone.   This land is what shapes
us and often writes our story for us.  
So, I will continue my rustic country
drives through the landscapes that
define me and remember that legacy
my parents gave me.  I thank them.

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