Simpson History




John & Henrietta Harris

John and Henrietta Harris

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John Harris                                    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 1852.

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 direction.

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.

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Col. Charles Esmonde Kearney                   Josephine (Harris) Kearney

Harris-Kearney House


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 Westport Road.

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.




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