John and Henrietta Harris
John Harris brought his family from
Madison County, Kentucky to Jackson County, Missouri in the early 1830s.
They first settled in what is now Hyde Park, not far from the present day
Westport High School. Sometime later the Harris family moved to a more
commodious house on Westport Road. It, too, was built of logs,
weatherboarded, and situated on the north side of the Independence-Westport
Road directly across from where the Broadway Hardware Store now stands.
In this house the Harrises were to add one daughter and see at least
three of the six they already had, married off.
Harris had been buying and selling land
since 1834, and in June 1846 he bought his first Inn and Tavern; he had taken
over the tavern of Allen B.H. McGee. It was basically the same two-story
log building which John C. McCoy had built in 1833 and operated as a store.
The tavern burned and he replaced it with a three-story brick hotel in
By 1854, all of his daughters having
been married except one (and one who had been widowed), John decided that his
station in the community merited more pretentious quarters than the comfortable
but modest house on Westport Road. Having plenty of real estate upon
which to build he selected a high, lovely five-acre tract on the ridge to the
east of town. There, where the County Road from the north veered slightly
to the southeast he built his new house facing to the north-northwest. He
was still on the Westport-Independence road, but facing in the opposite
When John Harris died in 1873, one of
his sons-in-law, Colonel Charles Esmonde Kearney, moved his family into the
house in order that his wife, Josephine (Harris) Kearney could care for her
mother, who lived until 1881. The Colonel added an extra wing extending
toward the rear of the house.
Col. Charles Esmonde Kearney
Josephine (Harris) Kearney
Listed on the National Register of
Historic Places, the Harris-Kearney House serves as a public museum as well as
the office headquarters for the Westport Historical Society.
The Harrises came to the Westport area
in 1832, settling in a small log house at present day 39th Street and Gillham
Road. In 1855, before the Civil War, John and Henrietta Harris, built
the fine, two-story, all brick house "on a ridge just east of town."
When John Harris died in 1873, his son-in-law, Charles Esmonde Kearney,
moved into the house so his wife, Josephine (Harris) Kearney, could care for
her mother, Henrietta. The Kearneys built the back wing of the house
probably in 1870, and Mrs. Harris lived in the upstairs quarters until her
death in 1881. The Kearneys lived here for 28 years.
The home was standing on 5 acres of the
land on the southwest quadrant at the intersection of present day Westport Road
and Main Street (an Osco Drugstore stands there now). It was moved to its
present location in two sections in 1922. The Westport Historical Society
acquired the home in 1976 and has restored the 1855 original part as a house
museum. The rear portion of the house is the office and board room of the
Society. The ground on which the home stands was once part of Gottfried
Hornung's vineyard. It extended from Main to Central on the South side of
Today a new and exciting life has begun
for the historic Harris-Kearney House. In 1976, after the Society
acquired this beautiful antebellum house, they immediately started restoration
of the front part of the structure.
With restoration of the 1855 part
completed, the Woman's City Club of Kansas City furnished the South Parlor to
its beauty of the 1870's period. The Colonial Dames of America, Chapter
XIII, has furnished the South Bedroom, circa 1875.
On the Upper Landing are two chairs and
settee, the bridal furniture of Susan Harris upon her marriage to William R.
Bernard, early merchant of Westport and partner in a trading post with A.G.
Boone, the grandson of Daniel Boone, frontiersman.
Museum hours are 10:30-3:00 p.m. Monday
through Friday, although appointments may be made for viewing after 3:00 p.m. and on weekends.