The Legend of Tobacco
By Emily Norman

In many ways tobacco and related
products have made a powerful impact
on the community of Weston, Missouri.
Tobacco has not only has it helped
finance businesses through the difficult
times, it has also helped Weston
expand and become a well-known
town.  Tobacco has forever
transformed the lives of those who
lived in the town and Weston’s tobacco
and tobacco barns still serve as a
physical memory of its legacy.  
The product of tobacco has affected
many lives in what once was the little
town of Weston.  The process of
harvesting the cash crop is very
lengthy and requires much needed
help. This led to the creation of jobs.  
Helping with the process of producing
tobacco products was an opportunity
for people to make some money and
start their new lives in Weston.  In the
rush of the holiday season, boys and
girls would work in the warehouses and
helped set up for the market.  
According to the book “The Tobacco
Auction”, “Girls helped by handing the
tobacco to the packers and packed the
tobacco, but the men are needed to
run the baskets to the hogshead and
pull it to the hydraulic press for
increasing the capacity of the
hogshead.  After school in the
afternoon, students who are able to
keep up their grades up head down to
the ware houses to lend a hand.  The
money earned was often spent on
holiday gifts or clothes.”  Marketers
from all over the United States came to
the tobacco auctions to judge and buy
the product.  The economy begins to
grow, and thus new businesses begin
to sprout.
  Weston expands and grows as a
community.  The first known
immigrants were from Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Virginia and with the
new arrivals the southerners brought
new customs.  When the Platte
Purchase was opened, the early
settlers burned down trees to clear
areas of the land to grow tobacco.
Records show that the beginning of
tobacco started in 1840 when the
tobacco was sent down the Missouri
river on rafts to Glasgow to be packed
in hogsheads and later shipped to
eastern markets. Around 1840 as few
as 300 people settled in Weston. The
numbers quickly grew to 5,000 people
by 1850.
  Throughout the years tobacco
businesses have had economic ups
and downs with the sales, but if it was
not for the many farmers, Weston
would not have turned into the town it
is today.  The annual amount of
tobacco produced in Platte County
before 1861 was 25 million pounds.
Today the annual tobacco production
is 2.8 million pounds. Due to the
tobacco buy out of 2004, the product
now has been sent to the southern
markets.   When the government
ceased to regulate tobacco, many
farmers became only a few major
farmers.  Quoted from the book “The
Tobacco Auction”, Louis Smithers
states, “There used to be three to
eight companies following the auction
system, but now we have no major
tobacco company purchasing Missouri
tobacco ‘upfront’ or for the production
of cigarettes.”  Until 2001, Weston had
the only tobacco market west of the
Mississippi.     A few of the tobacco
barns of Weston are still being used
today, others remain vacant and dark.  
However all the buildings serve as a
physical memory of what tobacco once
was, a thriving industry.
  The tobacco production opened up
new doors for the new settlers and
community, and because of the
production of tobacco in Weston, it
had transformed the town that now
exists today.  Tobacco has changed
many lives of Weston by creating jobs
and expanding the town.  To this day,
the town still cherishes the memories
of what once was a thriving industry
and will forever remember the legacy it
left behind.
1.)        Bless, Bertha I. “Weston’s First
Cash Crop.” Weston- Queen of the
Platte Purchase.
17-22. Print
2.)        Smither, Louis, and Stephanie
Rotterman. The Tocacco Auction.
Louis Smither. 59. Print.

3.)        Miller, Sandra. "Tobacco."
Memories of Weston, Missouri A Visual
History- 1837 to 1992.            Heritage
House. 13- 19. Print.

4.)        "Weston History | Weston,
Missouri." Weston History | Weston,
Missouri. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

5.)        "Weston Missouri - The Town
That Refused to Die." Weston Missouri
- The Town That
Refused to Die. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

6.)        "General Information." Missouri
State Parks. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
Weston Historical Museum
601 Main Street - Weston, MO  64098
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The Fair That Started it All
By Alexa Raney
Platte County can be defined by many
things, from tobacco to railroads to the
Missouri River and riverboats. All these
things could be Platte County’s legacy
for many reasons, but none define
Platte County like the Platte County
Fair does. The legacy of Platte County
was shaped by the Platte County Fair
because it has been around for 150
years being a major social and
recreational event, standing through
problems like the Civil War and
bringing children and adults from all
over for an enjoyable time.
  According to William Paxton in his
“Annals of Platte County” he states
that the first fair organization was an
“impromptu meeting of citizens at the
drug store of Burge and Hogue in
Platte City.” During that meeting they
determined to hold a county fair on the
21st, 22nd and 23rd days of October.
The grounds purchased near Tracy
were going to be the place. “Hasty
preparations were made, a liberal
subscription raised and general
interest was manifested.”
  Fairs became popular in 1858.
There were at least 30 fairs running in
Missouri at that time. Practically all
fairs were agricultural and sponsored
by local agricultural societies. Fairs
had exhibits for farming and awards
and prizes for the best farm produce.
There were also horse and livestock
showings (McCandless 188). The first
Platte County Fair was held on
October 21, 1858. At the first fair, the
bleachers collapsed and 150 women
from Professor Todd’s Female
Academy were on them; luckily no one
was hurt! The first fair had remarkable
attendance, 400 people were there
each of the three days! Two more fairs
were held after the first one before the
Civil War. The Civil War in 1861
caused Platte City to suffer and go
through tremendous destruction. Platte
City was burned to the ground in
December and many men were
murdered. The fair started back up
again in 1863, 22 months after Platte
City was burned to the ground (Platte
County Fair). This event shows great
strength of the people in Platte
County. This shows that people can
work together and make something
happen! Having the fair just 22 months
after the whole city was burned to the
ground, I think that is amazing. It really
shows how much of an impact the fair
had on people and how much the
people really wanted the fair to happen.
  By 1870, the fair had a track for
showing horses and livestock and for
racing horses. They had the
grandstand similar to what it is now.
Also, large barns were built to hold the
animals. Many settlers were from
Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
This is an example of people coming
from all over to be at the fair. By this
time the fairs were five days long and
included a county wide picnic. The only
times the fair was shorter was during
the Great Grasshopper Plague in
1875, the drought of 1834 and the
Great Depression (Platte County Fair).
Through all of these problems, the fair
continued to go on each year, which
again shows great strength and
commitment by the people of Platte
County and the people involved with
the fair.
  Many of the fairs were memorable.
The 50th annual fair in 1913 was
notable because an airplane landed
on the fairground. A Platte County
resident at the times said this was
memorable because “nobody ever
sees airplanes in these days.” The
60th annual fair was unforgettable
because 57 men and women who
attended the first fair in 1858 were
there and they had their picture taken
in front of the grandstand. The 75th
annual fair was held in 1938 and the
100th annual fair was held in 1963 and
this was the Centennial Pageant, the
Centennial pageant was the 100 year
pageant (Platte County Fair).
  As of today, the Platte County Fair is
the oldest continually running fair west
of the Mississippi. Today the Platte
County Fair has more events then it
did when it started in 1858. Today it
has 4-H exhibits, a floral hall,
motocross, a carnival, musical
entertainment, a missy/master contest,
a demolition derby, a queen contest, a
mule show, a mud marathon, a truck
and tractor pull and a horse show. Not
to mention all the great food like
burgers, fries, funnel cakes and snow
  To think that this fair has been
running for 150 years is crazy! To
learn about how it evolved from a small
agricultural fair to having all the events
it has now is amazing. The Platte
County Fair definitely defines Platte
County’s legacy because it brings
everyone together, it has been
through difficult times but with the help
of the people it has always persevered
and continued on. It also gives people
a chance to show off their talents and
what they have to offer to the world.
Once again it is an example of how if
people work together they can
accomplish great things.
Works Cited
“History.” Platte County Fair. 2014.
Web. 5 Oct. 2014
McCandless, Perry. A History of
Missouri, Volume 2:1820 to 1860.
Columbia, Mo. University of Missouri
Press, 1972. Print.

The Tobacco Industry
By Rachel Heili

  The dictionary definition of
“legacy” is something handed
down from the past. In other
words, what are you
remembered by? What has left
its mark on you? What defines
who you are?  Not only do you
have a legacy left for those after
you, but every town possesses
its own defining objects and
events. Weston’s legacy is a
complex web of people, places,
and history best personified by
the tobacco industry that has
given jobs to many people, been
a main export, and left its mark
with the fields and barns it has
  The tobacco fields were a
popular place for teenagers
seeking a job. Tobacco requires
about 200 hours of manual labor
per acre of the crop. Dan
Morgan, a current tobacco
farmer, recalls that it was
common for high school
students to work in the end-of-
season harvest. Ask just about
any lifelong resident of Weston
over 40 and they will most likely
have worked for the industry in
some way or another. You can
see the evidence through their
callused hands and stories they
are always willing to tell.
Tobacco is a crop that needs
much attention and has gotten
just that from countless Weston
residents throughout the years.
  Tobacco has been a principal
cash crop and main export for
Weston in past years. This town
was once called the tobacco
capital. In fact, Weston was the
only tobacco market west of the
Mississippi until 2001. Platte
County still produces 65% of all
tobacco in the state of Missouri.
It was originally planted in
Weston by the many people that
moved here from Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Virginia when
the town was growing. Several
million dollars’ worth of the
popular crop was sold each year
in its first seasons in the town.
Weston benefitted from selling
25 million pounds of tobacco
prior to 1861. Around
Thanksgiving, auction barns
such as Weston Burley House
and New Deal Warehouse would
be the site of six to eight week
long tobacco auctions. These
auctions would draw in buyers
from companies all across the
country, earning Weston a big
profit. This profit was a huge
contributor to Weston’s
economy, making tobacco
classified as a main export and
significant cash crop.
The legacy of Weston is still
noticed today as you drive
through town or along the old
country roads outside city limits
and see the numerous barns
and acres upon acres of
tobacco fields. Some of the
larger and more well-known
barns are the Weston Burley
House and New Deal
Warehouse that were mentioned
earlier, but others include the
four tobacco barns located in
Weston Bend State Park as well
as many others throughout
Platte County. Some barns can
still be seen filled with tobacco
during harvest while others
seem to have been abandoned.
Whatever their conditions,
tobacco barns still stand and are
spread throughout Weston’s
Even if a legacy is defined by
many aspects, Weston’s legacy
can be recognized most
prominently through the tobacco
industry. If you take a moment to
look around the town of Weston
you will find that there are many
people ready to share stories of
working in the tobacco industry.
They might even take a moment
point out the multiple barns and
fields they worked on during the
scorching hot days of their
teenage years. This cash crop
was a main export and still is the
cause for many memories of
Weston. One can only wonder
how one plant can shape a
whole town’s legacy.
Our Soil, Our Legacy
By Grace Cogan

  Agriculture has played a large role in
the legacy of Platte County. Since the
mid-1820s, farmers have come to
Platte County from states such as
Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio for the
many opportunities the lush soil
provided. Cattle farmers found the
grass was beneficial for their herds to
graze on and crop growers found that
the soil was particularly suitable for
tobacco. Nowadays, Platte County
farmers still keep the family heritage
alive for cattle still graze and crops are
still raised and harvested.  

  One of the first known crops grown
for profit was Chinese Hemp used for
rope making, fabric and a product
called oakum, used to make ship hulls
water tight. Kentuckians arrived in
Platte County in 1843 and it is said this
is when the first hemp crop was
planted and harvested. It was then
exported down the Missouri River.

  Growing hemp was hard work and in
the dawn of the Civil War, slaves did
most of the labor involving this crop.
The first large hemp crop exported
yielded 100 tons worth sixty dollars per
ton. T.F. Warner, Cody Perrys and A.
Baker were some of the names
associated with Chinese Hemp growing
in Platte County. In 1867 5,000 tons
were exported all over the country. It is
said Platte County ranked second in
hemp production in the United States.
Some people suggested it produced
the most in the world and was ranked
first in quality. In 1875, ten years after
the end of slavery Chinese Hemp
production nearly ceased due to the
lack of labor.  Former slaves, now free
citizens, refused to do the work.

  Sometime after the Civil War, as
more and more settlers arrived from
the states of Kentucky, 0hio and
Virginia they found all areas of the
county to be very fertile and productive
for all types of farming from wheat to
livestock. They also found the soil was
perfect for growing a more specific
kind of tobacco, Burley Tobacco.  The
first large crop, grown for export,
proved to be a success. After farmers
harvested the tobacco, it was loaded
onto rafts and sent down the river to
central towns in Missouri where it was
combined with other tobacco crops
from Missouri and then sent on to
markets in Kentucky. As the settlers
moved west tobacco was grown in
areas all along the “Mighty” Missouri
River.  In 1894, 14,000 pounds of
tobacco was shipped to Kentucky. A
few areas found success with tobacco
such as Glasglow, Missouri. However,
no other county in the state was able
to grow tobacco as well as Platte
County. This was the beginning of
commercial tobacco in Missouri.

  In 1909, it is said Cox Lumber sold
enough lumber to build thirty tobacco
barns. Sometime in 1911, JB Doran
constructed the very first loose leaf
tobacco warehouse. In 1916, Doran
also acquired two new warehouses
that allowed farmers the only market
west of the Mississippi, two in Weston,
and two in Dearborn.

  Weston once had tobacco fairs with
food and beverages provided by the
local merchants. The shows also had
games, exhibits, and even queen
contests. Farmers enjoyed seeing how
successful the year's crop was and
their children enjoyed a fun filled day.
On November 1st, 1929, the very first
tobacco show was held.  During the
war, spirits were too heavy to hold the
events. The very last tobacco show
was held in l957. At one time sixty two
percent of Missouri's Burley crop came
from Platte County. Almost a hundred
years later, only a very few farmers of
Platte County still plant tobacco but, it
is still remembered and remains as the
“Cash Crop”.

  Another large crop in Platte County,
was the apple. In its early day, the
main apple was Ben Davis. It was
known for the significant time span it
could be stored.. The earliest known
apple orchards of the county were
those of C Thorp and WR Keller; both
men were well known in the area. Early
newspaper articles might lead one to
believe that both men soon became
only buyers and whole sale brokers of
the fruit. It is said that Thorp was the
biggest buyer of apples with houses in
Weston, Tracy, and even DeKalb.
Keller purchased his own apples in
order to ship them all over the country
and bought approximately 12,000
barrels in 1888.

  It was during this same time period,
that William Rees, a former Sergeant
in the Civil War, and his cousin John
Meek Downy had settled in northern
Platte County and began the
Rees/Downy Orchard about nine miles
north of Weston in Roseville, Missouri
– today, known as Rushville. Rees was
known as the “Apple King” to almost
everyone who knew and did business
with him, for it was said that he was a
kind and honest man who was well
respected. The first Rees/Downy
Orchard was said to have been a total
of 160 acres.

  In 1911, the Harpst and Rodenburg
Orchard was shipping four to five
railroad cars a day, apples were high
in demand. There were many family
orchards in Platte County but
Thorp/Keller Rees/Downy, Brill,
Harpst/Rodenburg, Hardesty, and
Shouse were some of the largest and
were commercial orchards. In1929, it
was reported that Jonathan apples of
the area were appearing on the table
of the King of England.

  In 1925, Edwin Vaughn planted an
apple orchard.  He began by planting
apple trees in a small orchard and
years later, L.R. Vaughn and his wife
Sue continued his legacy caring for the
orchard tending to their own country
store just outside of Weston, Missouri.
After years in the orchard business,
the Vaughn family decided to close the
orchard in 2010.

  Around the same time Edwin Vaughn
started his family orchard, the Hall
brothers began their very own orchard.
Along with four other families, they
purchased a rail car full of young apple
trees from Wathena, Kansas, however,
after purchasing the saplings a natural
disaster occurred that wiped out the
young trees of the other four orchards,
only the Hall orchard survived. Halls
harvested their last apples in the

  Today, a majority of Platte County
citizens do not look upon agriculture as
their main source of income, however,
the modern farmers of the area keep
the legacy of agriculture alive
throughout Platte County. During the
1800s, an ordinary man may have
come to Platte County, knealed down
and brushed the soil with his hand. He
may have stood up and smiled. This
was his new home and a way to
provide for his family. He may have  
planted tobacco, apples, hemp, or
raised cattle. Today's farmers are still
a representation of those early settlers.

  It is my belief that Platte County's
agriculture has made us who we are
today. From those early families to our
present farmers, the farming spirit is
continuing and will continue.

  L.R. Vaughn and his sons, have
once again planted a quaint orchard in
a part of the Vaughn Apple Orchard.
Earlier this year, they harvested their
first crops of apples and peaches.

  I believe that agriculture defines our
history very well. Families have
depended on the crops for the past
two and a half centuries and still
continue to today. This is our soil, our
home and our legacy.

I would like to thank Carolyn Larson for
assisting me in finding some of the
resources I used in writing this essay. I
would also like to thank L.R. Vaughn
for taking the time to answer my
questions about his family orchard.

First Place - Junior Division