But, his main source of business in Weston
in 1841 was outfitting the Mormon wagon trains headed to Salt Lake City. Holladay would also later build the International Hotel, one of the
best places to stay in Weston
west. Unfortunately the hotel later burned down and no longer stands
town continued to grow as area businesses actively traded with Fort
Leavenworth and the area Indians. Large warehouses were established along Market Street close to the
wharf, to serve the burgeoning river trade.
In 1844, the Holy Trinity church
was built, sitting high upon a hill on Cherry Street. The Presbyterian Church, also built in the 1840’s, would ring its
bell to alert dockworkers that a steamboat was coming. The Presbyterian Church is now the Christian Assembly church and
sits at the corner of Washington and Thomas. Both historical churches are still active today.
With the coming affluence, early settlers began to build stately
columned Federal Style two-story houses like those they had left in
the South. The town
residents also built several commercial buildings that exhibited the
influence of the French traders from New Orleans and
Canada, as well as a German influence from those emigrants who arrived
in the area.
In 1846 the
St. George Hotel (now the Hotel Weston) was built, one of the
three in Weston during its heyday, but
the only historic hotel remaining. In the 1800’s the hotel catered to the working man, providing 47
rooms on the top two floors. On the first floor was a
sample rooms where traveling salesmen could exhibit their wares, a
tobacco shop, a restaurant and two retail spaces.
Between the years of 1846 and
Holladay furnished supplies to General Stephen Kearny's Army
during the Mexican War. Continuing to expand his empire, Holladay
California in 1852.
By the early 1850’s,
population had grown to 5,000 becoming the second largest port in
only. At this time, as
many as 300 steamboats would be seen docking in
from April through November unloading supplies for Fort Leavenworth and shipment
Trail. On their return trip, the steamboats would be loaded with
tobacco, hemp, lumber, animal hides and fruit.
resided for a time in Weston. After Cody's father, Isaac, was attacked
and stabbed while giving an antislavery speech in
Bill came to live with his uncle, Elijah Cody, in his home at 600 Main
In 1855, the first in a chain of disasters
would start the spin of decline for which Weston would never
recover. The first was a major fire in the downtown district of the
city where most of the businesses were destroyed. However, Weston
persevered and rebuilt its business district. Most of the buildings
today were built between 1855 and 1860.
Ben Holladay had already moved west
by 1856, his business ventures were far-flung and recognizing the
potential profit of the natural limestone springs of the Weston area, he built the McCormick Distilling
Company in 1856. The
distillery, still in existence today, is the oldest continuously operated
distillery in the United States.
During this time Platte County and the Weston
area were quickly
becoming embroiled in the Kansas-Missouri border wars, which preceded the
Given the proximity to "Bleeding-Kansas”
the town had sympathizers on both sides of the conflict, but given
their dependency upon slave labor, most of the population was
pro-slavery along with the rest of Missouri.
The "genteel” community formed a secret society and
drew up a resolution, which provided for the "scrutinizing and
reporting” of any "suspicious looking persons” who might be taking
or inciting abolition.
There were about 500 members of the secret society who publicly
announced their opposition to any pro-abolition members of the
community, any businesses who
profited from trading with those "Bleeding-Kansans,”
and any who objected to the "regrettable excesses” of the vigilantes.
this secret society were the so-called Border Ruffians who were
notorious pro-slavery thugs. In 1857, the Chicago Tribune reported these ruffians as,
"a queer-looking set, slightly resembling human beings, but more
closely allied … to wild beasts… They never shave or comb their hair, and their chief
occupation is loafing around whiskey shops, squirting tobacco juice,
and whittling with a dull jack-knife.”
Fervent abolitionists lived side by side with those whose way of life
was built upon the institution of slavery. Bands of armed men ranged
both sides of the border, making ordinary life impossible. The value
of slaves and land dropped by half, and long before the war was
officially declared in 1861, Weston
experienced hand-to-hand fighting in the streets.
By 1858, Weston's
population was second only to St. Louis, Missouri. Then, in the midst of the pre
Civil War chaos, another disaster
occurred, when a major flood filled the Muddy Missouri
and destroyed the port of Weston.
When the floodwaters receded, the river’s channel had moved several
hundred yards to the west (to the other side of the railroad tracks
today.) Though this did not
deter the river traffic, it was a blow to the community. But, in 1859 the railroad was built extending north from
gave the community new hope.
was filled with pro-slavery sympathizers, the state joined the Union in
1861, and many of Weston's
young men went to war. In
November 1861, the Weston area
saw its first and only organized battle at Bee Creek when the Union Army Major
left St. Joseph for Platte City to capture Silas Gordon, a noted
Southern partisan. Despite the 500 man Union force and two pieces of
artillery, Gordon slipped away, and began gathering his friends to attack
the Union force. The major let it be known he intended to stay in Platte
City, but instead marched out and made for
Kansas on the
turnpike. The Southern sympathizers gathered about 50 men and made a hasty
stand at the Bee Creek Bridge to stop the federal force.
small group of southerners were able to stave off the federal advanced guard, but when the US troops
opened fire with their artillery, almost half of the Confederates fled.
The fight lasted for about an hour, and only ended when the southerners
ran out of ammunition. The entire battle was visible from the land of Red
Three of the Confederates were captured and two of them were later
executed because two Unionists were killed at the Bee Creek skirmish. The
third man named William
Kuykendall was spared. He survived the war and moved west, and
interestingly, served as a judge at the first "trial" of Jack McCall, who
had murdered Wild Bill Hickok.
The next month the U. S. Army
sent another force that captured two more suspected partisans and executed
them at the bridge. One of the soldiers marked the letters "U S." on the
bridge railing in the blood of the executed men.
The town was torn apart by the devastation of the
Civil War, never to
recover its prior heyday status. After the war ended in 1865, all Hemp production stopped, it
being too labor intensive to make profitable without slavery. In 1869, the railroad was extended south to Kansas City, but it
was too late for Weston's
recovery. By 1870, the
town’s population had fallen to just 900 people.
If all that Weston had been through wasn’t enough, the city was yet to
experience two more disasters. The first event would change Weston's
life forever when the devastating flood of 1881 occurred. This
time, when the waters receded the river slipped into an old channel
almost two miles away, permanently ending any riverboat traffic.
Then, in December of 1890, Weston
experienced another devastating fire in its downtown district. Weston was on its way to becoming a
However, the people of Weston
was a still a strong agricultural product and many of its area
residents stayed, though it would be more than sixty years before the
city was to see a renaissance.
In the late 1950’s, the rich heritage of
Weston resurfaced and the Weston Historical Museum was
founded in 1960. The
community began to look at its historic buildings and more than 100
antebellum homes started to be restored. Many people in Weston now believe that it
was the "disaster” of the flood of 1881 that "saved” the town for
today. No longer on a
growth path such as Kansas City and St. Joseph, Weston's original buildings
In 1972, twenty-two blocks of Weston were designated as a
Historic District and placed on the National Register of Historic
1980’s saw a revitalization of the downtown business district as the empty
storefronts were bought or leased, showcasing antiques, collectibles,
specialty items and other novelties.
Weston's businesses, organizations and
individuals have joined together to restore Weston to a place of pride, billing itself as
the "Town that Time Forgot." Lined with antique shops and restaurants, the visitor can easily
step into the past.
Weston attractions include a 1,055 acre state
park on the Missouri River; the McCormick Distilling Company (tours not allowed);
the former German Lutheran Evangelical Church, built in 1867, which houses
the cellars of the Pirtle Winery; O'Malley's 1842 Irish Pub where visitors
can sample Irish beer in the cellar of the oldest brewery west of the
Just a short trip
from Kansas City, Weston is tucked away in the Missouri
River Bluffs just 25 miles north of Kansas City. Weston has a little to offer
everyone including history, romance, shopping, casual and fine dining,
wineries and museums.
Weston, formerly the St. George Hotel, built in
1846, has now been fully restored and is
again open for business. The fire in December 1890 left the
building in ruins, but two street side brick walls were left standing. With an added brick facade, those two walls are part of the current
building, which dates to 1891. The building is now ten feet shorter than
the original building. Except
for the time between the fire and the reconstruction, the hotel was run
continuously until 1984 when a small fire occurred in one of the three
apartments on the first floor. Today, the
hotel features a bakery, wine bank, and spa in its historic surroundings.
Weston Bend State Park, administered by the Missouri
Department of Natural Resources, offers scenic overlooks, camping
facilities, and hiking and biking trails. Four tobacco barns are located
within the park's boundaries and one is used to tell the story of tobacco
More outdoor adventure can be found at the Snow Creek Ski Area. Snow
Creek's snowmaking capabilities keep the slopes open from mid-December
of America, updated March, 2017.