Much like Independence, the town of Weston was an early trail town. It was the pride of the Platte Purchase back then and was laid out in 1837 by Joseph Moore, an ex-soldier from Fort Leavenworth.
Much like Independence, the town of Weston was an early trail town. It was the pride of the Platte Purchase back then and was laid out in 1837 by Joseph Moore, an ex-soldier from Fort Leavenworth. When the western border of Missouri was originally drawn in 1821, it ran in a straight line north and south from the mouth of the Kaw River (the point where it dumps into the Missouri). However, the Missouri River meanders in a northwesterly direction.
If you look at a map today, you’ll find that the western border of the state has changed from its original concept. In the early days of Missouri statehood, areas of Platte County, along with Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Holt and Nodaway counties, were in Indian Territory. Those counties covered 2 million acres of rich, prime farmland – 3,168 square miles that some of the settlers thought should have been included within the Missouri state boundaries.
Some early settlers even created problems when they disregarded the state line and tried to claim homesteads in the Platte Territory. Under orders from the federal government, soldiers were sent from Fort Leavenworth to uproot those intruders and send them back to Missouri, burning their cabins and out buildings in the process. Finally, in 1830, the Missouri state legislature arranged to purchase the Platte Territories and pushed the state line on west to the Missouri River.
Weston became the first town in the Platte Purchase and took its name from the fact that it was further west than any other outpost on the frontier. Because of her proximity to Fort Leavenworth, Weston grew rapidly as a jumping-off place to the West. Her streets were thronged with commerce, and at her wharves lay steamers, barges and keel boats to convey her accumulated products.
The northern Missouri farmers loved Weston because it was a complete day’s journey closer than driving their produce filled wagons all the way to Independence.
It was in Weston where the original idea of the Pony Express was conceived in 1840 and a saloon keeper named Ben Halladay raised capital for the expidenture. He purchased whiskey for 25 cents a barrel and re-sold it for 25 cents a shot.
The town showed great promise for a major city of the future; however, three major changes of fate altered that promise. Like so many other doomed towns along the banks of the Missouri, the river went on a flooding rampage and changed course, leaving Weston’s wharfs a half a mile from the river front. Then, at 3 a.m. March 8, 1855, a fire broke out in the rear of Murphy’s Ten Pin Alley, which destroyed 41 businesses and two homes. But the day of doom came to Weston with the building of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, which diverted trade elsewhere. The town’s investors bolted and crossed the river to Leavenworth.
The tobacco farmers stayed put, and Weston became the tobacco capitol of our neighborhood. The old-timers used to prepare for a shopping trip to town by making “carottes” of tobacco (a French spelling), which were hard plugs resembling the vegetable in shape. The carotte had a specified weight and was worth 37 cents as a recognized medium of exchange.
To make his “money,” the tobacco farmer bored holes in a log, dampened a sufficient amount of cured tobacco leaves, and pounded them tightly into the hole with a wooden mallet. When the tobacco had dried tough and hard, the log was split open and the “currency” removed. Since nearly every adult used snuff back in the Old West, there was a steady demand for these carottes, from which snuff was grated.
Reference: The Missouri River by Cecil Griffith.
It’s Spring Open House on the Independence Square. Join us March 25 and 26 when our shops unveil new spring merchandise and will offer specials galore at every store. Register to win a basket filled with special merchandise from our one-of-a-kind shops.