John Wornall House in Kansas City
The John Wornall House was built by John Bristow Wornall in 1858 when Kansas City was still considered "out west" by most Americans. The brick Greek Revival style home, located at 6115 Wornall Road, is overflowing with history. Last week, I met a member of Ghost Vigil at the evening Winter Chill tour of the home. According to her, the light spots in some of the photos are called "orbs" and indicate the presence of a ghostly spirit.
Can you see the orb in the photo on the right? It's over the mantel in the front room where John often smoked his pipe filled with Cherry tobacco.They say that you can sometimes smell the cherry tobacco when John's ghost is around.
Candace, standing by the window, kept us enthralled with stories as she lead us through the John Wornall House Museum.
We learned that this Brookside home has good reason to host ghosts as many people died in the house. During the Civil War, the farm house was used as a hospital by both Confederate and Union soldiers, depending upon who was winning the battle at the moment.
According to receipts found on site, it cost John about $4,500 to have the house built by local craftsmen. At the time, it was the largest and most prestigious home south of Westport. The limestone foundation was hauled in from the Missouri river; bricks were fired in a kiln on-site. It is a sturdy old farmhouse with walls that are one foot thick.
The kitchen is located at the back of the home. Approximately 12 by 15 feet, it was a bustling place in its' time. As one of the leaders of Kansas City, John entertained frequently. He was also responsible for feeding the many workers he employed on his farm.
During the Civil War, this room was used as a surgery.
There is a pass-through between the dining room and kitchen but the entrance is actually outside of the home off of a covered porch. From the porch, you can enter the house to the west, the kitchen to the north or the bathroom to the east.
John married Eliza Shalcross when she was 14 years old. They had seven children; two of whom survived beyond childhood. (Infant mortality rates were high back then.) After Eliza died, John married her cousin, Roma. John and Roma had another two children who lived to become adults.
This is the bedroom where Eliza gave birth to all seven children. The wallpaper and decor throughout the home is accurate to the period of the home.
The dishes on the bed are said to be Eliza's favorite china. It is also said that the ghost most often seen in this room is Eliza. A spiritualist reported that Eliza was not happy with John's choice of Roma as his second wife. The medium said that Eliza said "Of all the women he had to choose from, why did it have to be her?"
John Wornall owned four slaves. According to old census records, there were 2 men, 1 woman and 1 child. Their names were Jim, George and Allen; no name is recorded for the woman. After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the freed slaves stayed on the Wornall farm for some time.
The front parlor is grand yet comfortable to this day. Considering it was a farmhouse, on 400+ acres, it was quite an accomplishment in 1858.
Determined to bring culture to this cow town, Roma had this piano shipped in from back east.
During the Civil War, Missouri had sympathizers on both sides. John Wornall tried to remain neutral but was robbed and beaten several times - the Bushwhackers nearly hung him from the balcony once! He was saved at the last minute by the cavalry - just like in the movies!
In 1864, Eliza's father, Reverend Thomas Johnson was killed by Bushwhackers who sent a message to John that if he returned to his country home, they would kill him too. John and his family moved to their Kansas City home at 9th & Main after the funeral of Eliza's father.
Eliza died while they lived in their city house; John returned to the country house in 1870 with his wife, Roma.
I am seated in the woman's chair which has no arms because hoop skirts, worn by ladies in the 1850's, could not fit into chairs with arms. The man's chair, with arms, is facing the door and the window.
The John Wornall House Museum is open for public tours Tuesday through Saturdays from 10am until 4pm and Sundays from 1pm until 4pm. Reservations are recommended for special events. Whether you are interested in architecture, history or ghosts, touring the Wornall House is a delightful way to spend a few hours when you visit Kansas City!
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