For Sale: A Piece of Jackson County History

Historic home 2
This historic home off 123rd and Belleview is up for sale.

Historic Home Holds 160+ Years of History

By Diane Euston

It’s extremely rare- unheard of – to see an old, historic home perfectly preserved in the city. It’s even more rare to have the opportunity to own a part of history.

Nestled snugly between Verona Hills and Timber Trace subdivisions just south of Santa Fe Trail at the foot of a large hill rests a five bedroom home now for sale.  Just beyond a tree line on Belleview, down a gravel road, is this stately home that partially predates Leawood, Martin City, and even Kansas City.

Historic home property
Now on 4.84 acres, the property originally stretched from Blue Ridge to 122nd St. and State Line Rd. to Wornall Rd. 

Known in some historical documents as the Watson Place Inn, this lovely antebellum home has seen well over 150 years of history in its day. It is one of the last homes standing on the Santa Fe Trail in Missouri.

Because land records don’t indicate homes, it’s hard to decipher when the home was actually built. According to legend, the home was first a tavern on the Santa Fe Trail. Other locals called it an inn for the 49er’s as they traveled to California. However you want to look at it, there was most likely a building, now the heart of the dining room of the house, that served travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. The lovely, open dining room with a fireplace façade partially reworked (but still has fittings for pots to swing) is a centerpiece of the room.

historic home dining room
The fireplace in the dining room still has fittings for pots to swing. Courtesy Reece Nichols. 

The first owner of this historic land for sale was an Indian agent named Anthony Davis who purchased all of the land between 1846-1848. The land stretched from Blue Ridge Blvd. to  122nd Terrace and State Line to  Wornall Rd. to the east.

Anthony left the area for the Wild West and sold his land in 1850 to none other than William S. Gregory, namesake of Gregory Blvd. and Kansas City’s first mayor. Gregory is known to have had a grocery store on the levee and did open a store in New Santa Fe in the early 1850s. Did he live in part of this historic home? It’s a possibility.

Wiliam S. Gregory, born in 1825 in Kentucky, married Eliza Wade. When she died in 1851, William did something all-too-common in these days and married her younger sister, Mary Wade. In fact, records indicate that Eliza was buried on the property where this house now stands.

In 1851, Gregory sold his land to his father-in-law, Samuel B. Wade, a southern sympathizer and owner of 10 slaves in 1860, a large amount for the area. According to records, one slave cabin existed on the land.

Historic home interior
The chestnut room and library was designed by Dr. John E. Watson in the 1870s.

Sam Wade was what we would now call a “border ruffian” and was quite involved in organizing meetings and preserving the institution of slavery. He raided into Kansas to illegally vote and even cast his vote in 1855 for himself and his ten year old son, proving his southern beliefs. By 1861, the area, including where the house now stands, was flooded with the Border Wars.

Many houses on the border were ransacked and even burned. Legend states the reason that this house was not destroyed is because it supposedly served people from both sides of the cause.

A direct descendant of Sam Wade’s stated that he was “killed” in 1861, indicating that it is quite possible that his backward belief system had caught up to him. His wife died around the same time and both were originally buried on this land. However, the family later moved six graves, including William S. Gregory’s first wife, from this farm and

Historic home dr watson
Dr. John E. Watson

reinterred them at Union Cemetery. The graves sadly remain unmarked today.

In the late 1860s, the new town doctor of New Santa Fe, John E. Watson (b.1838), moved into the home and made drastic changes to its appearance. A native of Pennsylvania, Dr. Watson added a room to the southwest of the home importing native chestnut from his home state. The room stays perfectly preserved, a lovely addition to this antebellum-style home. This is where the home gets its name of the Watson Place Inn.

 Dr. Watson died in the 1880s and is buried near Martin City at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

The house stayed in the Watson family until 1930 when they sold the 11-room home to a new owner. Less than five years later, the house transferred to John V. McKinney, a Kansas City streetcar executive. Plans in 1935 were to remodel the home and build onto it. An addition was added during this time period that joined some of the older portions of the house, including a once-detached kitchen. The home was expanded from 11 rooms to 16.

Historic home newspaper
The house in 1935. Courtesy the Kansas City Star

In the 1940s, a new ambitious owner, lawyer Clinton Gates, bought the property. His daughter, Paget fondly remembers growing up on this farm. Paget recalled, “My parents made major changes to the dining room and decorating changes of the living room and library.”

She would wake up in the morning and milk their cow, Judy, before she went to school. They had a lake, now at the current cul-de-sac at the end of 122nd Terr. where they would ice skate in the wintertime.

Historic home aerial
Aerial photograph of the original farm and its land in the 1940s. Courtesy of the Gates Family

Although only 4.8 acres of the home remain from the original 45 acres held by the Watson family, the home and its land are a step back in time. The home now features historic charm with modern conveniences. The original pine floors, bubbled hand-blown glass in the windows on the main floor, and the fireplaces remain preserved.

This 4,660 square foot home and its land are testaments to a time long lost in modern development and should remain for future generations. It has rich history attached to the Santa Fe Trail, the beginnings of Kansas City, the Border Wars and the Civil War. The key now is to find someone who can love and cherish the Watson Place Inn for the years to come. It is a chance to own a piece of Jackson County history.

To inquire about the home or see additional information, visit the Reece Nichols website. 

Diane writes a blog about the history of the area. To read more about the history of this land and its home, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com

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