Monday, November 29, 2004

Weston, Mo. -- A Spirited Town

Welcome! Let's get in the mood for Christmas, shall we? Today we stop at Weston, Mo., a village of about 1400 people in Northwest Missouri.

Weston has a long, colorful history. It's situated on the Missouri River, just on the east side across from Leavenworth, Kansas. It was a part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and Lewis and Clark made part of their journey through Weston.

The river has been the lifeblood of the land around Weston. Not only did the river open up paths for trade, but it also contributed to the rich, fertile farmland (some of which has been in my family since the Civil War.) Some of the crops of this area are tobacco, hemp, corn and soybeans. Weston was a major tobacco trade center until recently, when the last tobacco sales barn closed on the west side.

Weston has been hit hard by several disasters. First, in 1855, a fire destroyed most of the downtown area. Three years later, in 1858, the river changed course and flooded the town, destroying the port. And third, the issue of slavery during the Civil War ripped the area apart.
Platte County, Mo., was very much a slave county, immediately adjacent to Kansas, formed as an abolitionist state. Kansas became known as "Bleeding Kansas" during the Quantrill raids on Lawrence, Kansas. The whole area saw bloodshed during the border war between Missouri and Kansas.

The population had grown from 300 in 1840 to 5,000 in 1854. After the turmoil of the 1850s and 1860s, a mere 900 residents remained in 1870.

Today, Weston, like many small towns, is capitalizing on its history. A historic building which once was home to river boat captains and traders is being converted to luxury apartments.

The St. George was supposed to open in late summer, but workmen were working hard the day after Thanksgiving.

These days, spirits other than historic figures keep the town going. Weston is home to McCormick Distillery. There's a gift shop downtown that sells some of the wares.

Just down the road from the distillery is one of the area's many wineries, Pirtle Winery.
The winery is housed in an old German Lutheran Evangelical Church. The owners offer wine tasting daily. Pirtle's is best known for its mead, which is a honey wine. Several gift items are also sold at the winery.

By Thanksgiving, area residents are loading freshly cut Christmas trees on top of their cars and merchants have decorated for the holiday. The street downtown is crowded with shoppers taking in the Victorian atmosphere that has been recreated in the 21st Century.

Shop owners have a competition to decorate their store windows around a theme.

Here's one who used the Dr. Seuss book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Huge green hands came down from the ceiling on each side of the window, ready to snatch the goodies on display.

But you know, there's always a good reason for every action, don't you think?

No holiday visit to Weston is complete without a visit with Father Christmas. He makes his first appearance each year at Weston's Open House, held in early November.


TECH said...

More great photos and stories! You need to travel more! I'm enjoying this.

FrenziedFeline said...

You need to find a job as a travel editor somewhere! :)