Life on the farm at Armour and Locust before 1880


For many years, the Ragan farm at what is now the corner of Armour and Locust was a well-known landmark. But like many things in today’s Midtown Kansas City, things were about to change forever when this photo was taken in 1886.

ragan-homeFamily and friends had gathered to say goodbye to the old homestead where the Ragans had lived since 1836. This snapshot represents the very sudden transition between Midtown’s start as a farming community and its abrupt transition to rapidly-developing clusters of homes. This change came about because of a huge development boom in the 1888os and the Ragan farm, like many others, disappeared in its wake.

This 1887 map (from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Kansas City) shows the farm, highlighted in yellow. It lies between Kansas City and the town of Westport. Like most of the land outside those two more settled areas, it was a large tract with a few scattered houses and other buildings. By a few decades later, the area would be solidly covered with new suburbs, streetcar lines and local businesses.

003-replacementJacob Ragan’s grandson Stephen recalled years later the main part of the house was standing when the family moved in. Jacob Ragan added the porch and a rear wing. He remembers the nearby area south of Armour near the present-day Gillham Road.

“At what is the northwest corner of the slightly intersection was a famous, never failing spring and the doctor (Stephen Ragan) heard his grandfather tell of seeing as many as a thousand Mexicans encamped around the spring on their way from Independence to Westport for the Santa Fe Trail trip over the plains,” the Kansas City Star reported in an interview with Stephen Ragan in 1921.

Jacob had fought in the War of 1812 and was a southern sympathizer, That led to hard feelings and Stephen Ragan told the Star that Federal soldiers threatened to burn down the house.

“He was ordered to take such household goods out of the house as he wished to save, but he refused to do so, saying that all might as well go with the home. Finally the soldiers withdrew without carrying out their threat,” he said.

At the end of the war, Ragan and his wife gave a grant of part of their land which became the Home for Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy, later a home for the aged run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Ragan also built one of the the earliest churches in the area, a log church on his property and was one of the founders of the Hyde Park Christian Church.

Grandson Stephen recalled driving hogs to market from the farm, and he said there was also a large cornfield.  A family cemetery at the present-day 36th and Cherry was later moved to Union Cemetery.

Ragan sold the farm in 1886 as the push for land south of Kansas City grew. During the land boom, his property increased in value from $60,000 to $250,000 in one year between 1885 and 1886. When he sold it, it was platted as the Kenwood subdivision, one of the first subdivisions that would later make up Hyde Park.


  1. Gail Hickam Fines says:

    Dear Sirs,
    As a descendant of Jacob and Anna Ragan who has devoted a considerable amount of time researching them and their family line I am curious as to where you got your information? Of particular interest is the statement that he was a Union supporter. I really cannot see how this could be true as he came from a slave owning family (His mother partially freed two slaves at her death), he was a cousin to the Younger family of Independence, and he reportedly spent most of the entirety of the Civil War in jail at Westport for his “treasonous” behavior. Add in the fact that he and is wife gave the land for the CONFEDERATE Widows and Orphans home, how could anyone think them Union sympathizers? The Steven Carter you mentioned surely got his grandparents mixed up with another relation, it often happens with family stories. Please check your facts more carefully.

  2. Gail:
    Thanks for the additional information on the family. And you are correct – the April 3, 1921 story from the Star that we used as part of our research did have it backwards. We have made the correction in the story. If you have additional information you’d like to share, our readers would be interested.

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