TLC logo TLC #62 Bonus:  March 11, 2004

Dear Hearts and Gentle People:
For you history buffs, here is some fun reading. It comes to us from Al McCormick, a WMA graduate, who recently purchased a small book commemorating the 110th anniversary of Lexington and the 50th anniversary of WMA, published in 1930.
For you sticklers, we know that Lexington was founded 1822 and Wentworth in 1880. So technically, if it was written as well as published in 1930, this would have been the 108th anniversary of a platted town. But it had been a settlement for several years before then.
The chapters are as follows:
Program of the Day
The Story of Lexington Introduction
The First Settler
The County Seat
Jack's Ferry
The Original Town
Santa Fe Trade
River Transportation
The Court Houses
Pioneer Mother Monument
Al says "All items are re-typed as printed in the material I purchased, no liberties were taken."
There was a big celebration, and the United States Marine Band performed!

Program of the Day 


November 7th, 1930












U. S. Marine Band Leader





Wentworth Gymnasium


3:00 P.M. – FOOTBALL GAME, Chillicothe B. C. vs, W. M. A.

Wentworth Alumni Stadium



Wentworth Illuminated Stadium



Wentworth Gymnasium



Goose Pond



Tenth Street, West of Court House 


Source:  Program, United States Marine Band, November 7, 1930


                                         - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Now, keep in mind as you read, that the following was written in 1930. 


The Story of Lexington


Lexington One Hundred Ten Years

                                    Wentworth Fifty Years


One hundred and ten years ago, before there was a Kansas City, or any other city in the vast wilderness that stretched westward from St. Louis, Lexington was founded upon the rolling hills overlooking the mighty Missouri River. For over a century, a long time in a country as new as the United States, Lexington has existed, hale and hearty, watching and sharing development of the great inland empire.


Lexington has seen the west grow from trackless prairies with only a few trading Posts to a prosperous region of fertile farms and busy cities; has seen the covered wagon and pony express give way to the railroad, automobile, and aeroplane; has watched Missouri go through the adventurous days of pioneers and Indians, through those troublous times of the Civil War, through the throes of reconstruction, and through the crises of the Spanish American and World Wars. And Lexington has participated largely in the events of each historic period.


Now, after a hundred and ten years, Lexington pauses to look back over a career that for adventure, romance, and history can hardly be equaled by any city of the state. And Lexington is celebrating, not as a town whose work is over, whose life lies in the past, but as a vigorous center of a prosperous region, which looks with confidence and hope to the future. In this spirit of youthfulness and progress, based on a century of solid growth, proud of the past, but eager for the years to come, the city stops to mark a glorious anniversary.


The First Settler


In 1815, Gilead Rupe, the first white settler in Lafayette County established his rude home about two and a half miles south of the present site of Lexington. He was a man of considerable force of character – as the early pioneers in Missouri had to be – rearing a large family under most difficult circumstances, with his nearest white neighbor about sixty-five miles away, and with hostile Indians contesting his presence. His name appears frequently in the early records of the county, as a member of boards for the location of new roads, or rendering other sorts of public service. He lies buried in the cemetery at Lexington, where his well-marked grave is a point of interest for the antiquarian. 


The County Seat


            The first county seat of Lafayette County - or rather Lillard County as it was called until 1825, when the legislature bestowed the new name in honor of General Lafayette who visited St. Louis - was at Mt. Vernon, then a small village near the mouth of Tabo Creek, some eight miles east of Lexington. Here the first court was held in 1821, with Judge David Todd (who fought in the was of 1812 under William Henry Harrison) on the bench, and Hamilton R. Gamble as Circuit Attorney, In February, 1823, the people voted to move the county seat to Lexington, which had apparently been a considerable settlement for a number of years, being occupied by hardy pioneers from Kentucky, who had come down the Ohio and ascended the Missouri, and who gave the name “Lexington” to their first settlement in memory of their old Kentucky home.

Jacks' Ferry           


This settlement was near the site of the well-known ferry across the Missouri River, operated by William Jacks. The name “Jacks' Ferry” appears in the earliest court records of 1821 as a well established location, and the ferry had doubtless been in operation for a number of years. It was a rope and windlass contrivance, being operated by hand when the river was low, but using horse power in high water.


The Original Town


The river then flowed at the foot of the bluff where the Missouri Pacific Railroad now runs, and Jacks' Ferry landed about where the pumping station of the Lexington Water Company is located. The few houses that constituted the original Lexington were back on the bluffs about a mile and a half from the ferry landing, in what is now called “Old Town”; however, a road was laid out from the settlement to the landing following the course over the present waterworks road, a continuation of Broadway.


The Santa Fe Trade


An active commerce with the southwest had been growing during the early yeas of Missouri’s history. As early as 1822 a brisk business was begun with Mexico, using pack mules; two years later wagons were introduced with the rapid increase of business. Lexington was on the Santa Fe Trail, and during the years this Mexican trade flourished, its streets were filled with the outfits engaged in this work. Caravans of pack mules laden with merchandise destined for the great southwest, long trains of oxen drawn wagons, and picturesque teamsters and wagon bosses were an every-day sight, the scene being especially active during the period that Lexington was the western terminus for steamboat navigation.


Two Lexington firms very active in this western trade were those of James and Robert Aull, who maintained branches in Richmond, Liberty and Independence; and Waddell and Russell, later Russell, Majors and Waddell. The Aull brothers were in business in Lexington in the early twenties; W. B. Waddell established a freighting business in 1840, became associated with William H. Russell in 1842, and in 1855 the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell was formed. The Majors of this firm was Alexander Majors, who established the famous pony express which operated west from St. Joseph and Leavenworth.



River Transportation


The first steamboat to attempt the Missouri River was the “Independence” under the command of Captain John Nelson, arriving at Old Franklin in May, 1819.




In 1838, George and William Houx hewed cottonwood logs on an island in the river, floated them down to Lexington, and built a small school house in which was organized the first high school in Lafayette County. Out of this modest beginning has grown Lexington’s excellent system of public schools, organized and administered with careful provision for both elementary and secondary instruction, with a four year high school, a carefully selected library, well equipped laboratories, vocational courses in Teacher Training, Agriculture, and Home Economics, in addition to a complete cultural course, all inspected and fully accredited by the Missouri Department of Education, the State University, and the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary schools.


Lexington is proud of its public schools, and is grateful for the unusual public service record by one it its pioneer citizens, Col. George P. Venable, who served on the Board of Education continuously since 1844.


In 1847, the same year in which the present Court House was completed, the cornerstone as laid at Lexington for a Masonic College - the first institution of its kind in the world - whose removal from Palmyra to Lexington had been authorized by the Missouri Grand Lodge of Masons. The school was dedicated and formally opened in 1848, entering upon an interesting career of usefulness that lasted until just before the war. It attracted a great many students of note, among whom were Gen. John S. Marmaduke, governor of Missouri; Thomas B. Catron, Senator from New Mexico; Stephen B. Elkins, Senator from West Virginia; Judge Sammuel F. Gilbert of Platte County, Alonzo Slayback of St. Louis, Robert Keith of Kansas City, and Judge John E. Ryland of Lexington.


During the war, the college building and grounds were occupied alternately by Federal and Confederate troops, and they served as Federal headquarters during the Battle of Lexington, for the forces under Col. James A. Mulligan, who surrendered to Gen. Sterling Price after a three day siege, September 18, 19, 20, 1861, and who was killed in action at Winchester, Virginia, July 25, 1864.


A short distance from the college building stood the Anderson house -now called the Tilton Davis house - a fine old home with spacious halls, high ceilings, solid walnut woodwork, and a beautiful outlook over the river. This house was used as a hospital during the siege and battle, and its bullet marked walls stand as a grim reminder of the great conflict of the sixties. The capital of one of the columns on the front porch of the Court House also bears a cannon ball which struck it during the battle, shattering a part of the shaft and embedding itself in the story where it still remains to tell the story of the war.


From Al: When you read this, you will wonder why some words are capitalized and others are not. I repeated the text just as it was in the book.


The Court Houses


When the county seat was moved to Lexington in 1823, there was no county building prepared, and court was held in a private house - the old Buck home - which formerly stood near the corner of 24th and South streets. This condition prevailed until 1825, when a new Court House, erected on the square now used as a ball park, between 23rd and 24th streets, was completed and occupied. This building was poorly constructed however, and in a few years it was condemned and abandoned. In 1835, a new three story brick Court House was completed and used for twelve years. In 1847, the present Court House, a two-story brick structure of handsome colonial design, with tall clock tower and massive stone columns was built and has been occupied continuously for eighty-three years. It stands today, in excellent condition, in daily use, and serving, by the simple dignity of its architecture and the romance of its many years of history to link the past with the present.


These three county buildings have been the scenes of many hard – fought legal battles. Judge David Todd who received his commission from Alexander McNair, Missouri’s first governor; Hamilton R. Gamble, later judge of the Supreme Court and governor of the state; Judge John F. Ryland, afterward a member of the Supreme Court; Alexander W. Doniphan of Mexican War fame; Eldridge Burden, first mayor of Lexington, probate judge for twelve years and member of the state legislature for eight years; Thomas T. Crittenden, nephew of John J. Crittenden of Kentucky and later Governor of Missouri; William Warner at one time prosecuting attorney of Lafayette County and afterward United States Senator from Missouri; these distinguished men, and many others aided in the administration of justice in the early years of Lexington’s history.


Pioneer Mother Monument


On Wednesday, September 28, 1927, a committee consisting of Mrs. John Trigg Moss of St. Louis, Chairman of the National Old Trails Committee of the D. A. R., Mrs. William Livingston of Clinton, Vice-Chairman, Mrs. B. L. Hart of Kansas City, Missouri State Regent of the D. A. R. , B. L. Thompson of Herrington, Kansas, Vice-President of the National Old Trails Road Association, Frank A. Davis of Rosedale, Kansas, Secretary, Judge Robert Barr of Independence, Misorui and B. M. Little of Lexington, viewed sites at Independence and Lexington and after discussion and vote, Lexington was chosen to have the perpetual care of Missouri’s monument to the Pioneer Mother. The monument stands at the head of Cliff Drive, and was dedicated on September 17, 1928.     




The people of Lexington in pioneer times were quick to feel the need of spiritual influences in their lives, and religious services were held, whenever possible, in the schoolhouses.


The Little Sni-a-bar Baptist Church, which was organized in 1825 about three miles southwest of Lexington, moved to town in 1838, changing its name to the First Baptist Church of Lexington. A congregation of Disciples organized themselves into the Lexington Christian Church in 1836. The following year, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was formed. In 1839, the Presbyterian congregation was established in Lexington, and six years later the parish of Christ Church, Epsicopal, was organized. While Catholic missionary priests made visits to Lexington for many years, the first organization of a parish appears to have been in 1853. Lexington also has Trinity Evangelical Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, and a Christian Science Society.


River Crossing
The First Newspaper
(These installments still to come.)













Links to other pages