In 1855 Santa Fe Trail trader, Colonel John Harris and his wife, Henrietta (Simpson) Harris, built their second home where the Santa Fe Trail turned west at the corner of Westport Road and Main Street. In 1922, it was saved from demolition and moved to its present location at 4000 Baltimore.
Kansas City’s oldest two-story brick home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, passed from Harris to his daughter and son-in-law, Colonel Charles E. and Mrs. Josephine (Harris) Kearney, who lived in the home until 1909. The Harrises were hoteliers and the puritanical Mrs. Harris famously forbid dancing in her establishment, which was located in the neighborhood of Baptist, Methodist and Quaker missionaries that sought to minister, convert and “civilize” the Shawnee Indians in Kansas.
Colonel John and Mrs. Henrietta (Simpson) Harris were proprietors of the nearby famous Harris House Hotel between 1847 and1864, “a popular way station on the Santa Fe Trail serving pioneers, trappers, traders and travelers.” Religion was paramount to Mrs. Harris who raised her seven daughters teaching them that, “to hem and embroider fine fabric and to be discreet and modest after the fashion of gentlewomen.” Coincidentally, three major missionaries were nearby and operating along the Santa Fe Trail route in what became eastern Kansas.
In 1855, the Harrises moved from their home near the hotel to a new brick home five acres of land on the southwest quadrant at the intersection of present day Westport Road and Main Street. The home passed to his daughter and son-in-law, Colonel Charles E. and Mrs. Josephine (Harris) Kearney. When threatened with demolition by progress in 1922, the home was relocated two blocks to its present location and serves as a museum and headquarters for the Westport Historical Society.
For more information:
Kansas Historical Society article about Kansas missionaries:
A Holy Battleground (20 page PDF)
Kansas City Public Library online article
John Harris 1795-1874 (3 page PDF)