Christmas at the Wornall House

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


This week’s Historic Postcard is a Chrome era postcard depicting Christmas at the Wornall House.


The house was built in 1858 by John Wornall, who emigrated to the area in 1843 from Kentucky with his parents, Richard and Judith, and brother Thomas. The family purchased 500 acres near present day Loose Park and began farming, and raising oats, corn, hay and wheat, along with livestock. The Wornall property would have run from roughly 59th Street south to 67th Street, bordered on the east by Main Street and the west by State Line.


Brick for the Wornall House was fired on site, 50 feet or so east of the present day house. Sand hauled from the Missouri River was used in the mortar, and limestone quarried nearby was used in the foundation, as well as window lintels and interior fireplaces.


At the time of its construction, times along the Missouri-Kansas border were becoming more unstable by the day as Jayhawkers from Kansas clashed regularly with pro-slavery partisans from Missouri, and the risk to the family was very high. While the Wornall family were slave owners with Southern sympathies, John Wornall maintained neutrality throughout the course of the war.


During the Battle of Westport in October 1864, the home served as a field hospital for both the Union and Confederate armies. Upon their retreat after being defeated, the Confederate army sacked the house, leaving little of the furnishings. The Union Army used the house for their wounded after the battle ended.


Despite the fact that the Civil War ended in April 1865, the Wornall family did not return to the house until 1874 due to the family receiving death threats, preferring instead to reside in their downtown Kansas City residence.


The Wornall family occupied the house until 1962, following the death of John Wornall Jr. It was purchased and restored in 1964 by the Jackson County Historical Society. In 1972 the house underwent extensive restoration and was reopened as Kansas City’s first house museum. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The advertising message printed on the back of the card reads: “This fine farm mansion was built before the Civil War on a 500-acre frontier tract. Now in the heart of Kansas City, the house stands at 61st Terrace and Wornall Road.”


The card was mailed to Miss Helen Pautler at 405 Oak Street, Union, Mo., in September 1968.

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