Springfield Paranormal Research Group
John Wornal History !
When you step inside the John Wornall House Museum, you enter another
century. In 1858 Kentuckian John B. Wornall built this elegant home in the
Greek Revival style. Accurately restored to the period, its interior spaces and
authentic furnishings demonstrate why the house was called “the most
pretentious house in the section.” Now engulfed by Kansas City’s Brookside
neighborhood, the John Wornall House originally sat on the Missouri frontier,
the center of a 500-acre farm. During the 1864 Battle of Westport, both
Confederate and Union armies occupied the sturdy brick farmhouse and
used it as an emergency field hospital. This significant part of the Kansas City
landscape is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
John Bristow Wornall, the oldest son of Richard and Judith Wornall, was born
October 12, 1822, in Clark County, Kentucky. Two years after John's birth
the family moved to Shelby County, Kentucky, and settled four miles north of
Shelbyville. Richard Wornall had been a successful farmer as well as mule and
horse trader for nineteen years, but financial losses forced him to move west. In
1843, Richard, Judith, and their two sons, John Bristow and George "Thomas,"
moved to Westport, Missouri. Richard Wornall purchased 498.98 acres of land
from John McCoy for a total cost of $2,500. The crops from the first year
reportedly paid the entire purchase price of the farm. Richard and Judith sold
the land to their sons in the mid-1840s. Thomas died of cholera on the western
plains in 1849, and John became the sole titleholder. After Judith died in 1849,
Richard Wornall returned to Kentucky.
In 1850, John married Matilda Polk, daughter of William Polk of Bourbon
County, Kentucky. She died childless in 1851. In September 1854, John
married Eliza Shalcross Johnson (born April 20, 1836). Her father, Rev.
Thomas Johnson, founded the Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission in Kansas
John and Eliza had seven children. Two lived beyond infancy: Frank
(September 25, 1855-June 24, 1954) and Thomas Johnson (June 28,
1865-December 5, 1923). Eliza died on July 5, 1865, a week after the
birth of her last child. She was 29 years old. On September 25, 1866, John
married Eliza's first cousin, Roma Johnson (August 30, 1840-May 9, 1933).
They also had two children who lived beyond infancy: John B. (March 13,
1872-February 4, 1962) and Charles H. (born August 26, 1876-February 21,
Wiley Britton, who came to the Wornall farm in the spring of 1858 as a hired
hand, had this to say of John Wornall: "He was a good man, a true gentleman
and regarded by everybody in that section as one of its best and leading citizens,
and a boy from home in my condition could not have fallen in with a better
man, and surrounded with better influences than I found while living in his
home, treated as one of the family. He had come from Kentucky several years
before I came to him....He owned a beautiful farm...and treated me with
Wornall was one of the more prosperous farmers in Jackson County. In 1860
he paid "State, County, State Interest and Asylum" tax on $18,500 and
received a receipt for $114.85. The Kansas City Enquirer and Star listed
him as one of the "Solid Men of Jackson County, "meaning one of those who
paid taxes on $10,000 or more. The 1860 census shows that John Wornall
had four slaves and two hired hands (Silas Dawson and Josiah Bassett). Family
records indicate that a young Kentucky lawyer, John Peyton, lived on the farm
as did Harris Manion, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and Mittie Pigg, a fourteen-
year-old orphan from Kentucky.
John Wornall was a leading citizen in Jackson County. He was one of the
original members and president (in 1856) of The Jackson County Agricultural
and Mechanical Association. The association, founded in Independence in
1853, sought to encourage better methods of farming and introduce superior
types of crops.
John was active in the Baptist Church, serving as treasurer and moderator of
the Big Blue (later Westport) Baptist Church. He was also a strong supporter
of William Jewell College and acted as chairman of its Board of Trustees.
In 1857, John Wornall and his brother-in-law, A. S. Johnson, became
incorporators for the Shawnee Town Company of Johnson County, Kansas.
This interest in real estate apparently continued, as a directory in 1867-68
listed his profession as such. In 1860, the Kansas City Enquirer and Star
reported that southern sympathizers formed a temporary vigilance committee
called the Westport Minute Men. John Wornall's name headed the list; he also
served on its examining committee.
John Wornall co-founded the Kansas City National Bank in 1870. That same
year he was elected to the state senate representing Cass, Jackson, and Bates
counties. He served four years before declining re-nomination.
The Wornalls were representative of the southern migration to western
Missouri, but they were not the "average" farm family. The average farmer at
this time had between 80 and 100 acres of land. John Wornall met with almost
unfailing success in western Missouri.