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Kevin's Chronicles of KC: The Wornall House

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Feb 02, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before the Civil War, John Wornall was a jack of all trades.

He was a successful farmer. He helped establish the Bank of Kansas City, worked in real estate and insurance and was a one-time Missouri State Senator.

His accolades also include donating to Baptist Churches and being one of the original trustees of William Jewel College, donating thousands of dollars to the school.

Centuries later, the Wornall House, located at 6115 Wornall Road, is a museum.

Much of it mirrors what it looked like just before the war – and the chaos that turned a nice family home into a field hospital during the Civil War.

Sarah Bader-King, a curator and historian at the Wornall House, gave 41 Action News more insight and perspective on Wornall, his family, the home and its role during the Civil War.

“(John) gained his prominence in Kansas City because of his philanthropic efforts,” Bader-King said.

Then one day during the Civil War, the Wornall’s family home was forever changed.

“(Soldiers) just ransacked the house,” Bader-King said. “They took over and used every part of it for their own purposes.”

Both Union and Confederate soldiers used the Wornall family home as a field hospital. And it was all but pleasant for the family, according to Bader-King.

“These soldiers looted small objects,” she said. “They actually took furniture out of the house that was in the way and dumped it out of doors and windows onto the Wornall’s front lawn.”

Objects that remained didn’t always serve their intended purpose.

“The Wornall’s dining room was used as actually the operating theater, as this was being used as a hospital,” Bader-King said. “Most of the stories involve a lot of amputations in particular. Amputations were the most common form of surgery.”

Civil War surgeons used the first floor, while the upstairs rooms become recovery areas for the soldiers.

“Westport is thought of, of just a kind of place you go to drink and eat, but at the time it was really a critical jumping off point for people as they were traveling westward on the trails,” Bader-King said.

Wornall and his home were a big part of that. The home, which is in its original location, once stood on a 500-acre farm. At the time it was built in 1858, it was about three miles from the nearest town – the Town of Westport.

The rooms have been kept up and many aren’t too far off from how life was during and after the Civil War.

For more information, visit the Wornall Majors website.

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Kevin's Chronicles of KC is a year-long series looking at the history of Kansas City. You can read more about the project and other stories at kshb.com/chronicles.