When I was a kid, a staple of the handful of field trips that a student would go on in the general Kansas City metropolitan area, was Missouri town 1855. I recall making such a trip sometime in, I believe, 5th grade and absolutely loving it due too the amount of living history staff that were there. Granted, for a school trip upwards of 30 years ago, I’m sure that it runs completely different now if they even do this anymore. When I started this project, I realized that I had not been to Missouri town for a long time and it was something that I would really like to take my son to. So, on a day that was probably too hot we loaded up and drove to Lee summit to travel back in time more than 100 years.
Missouri Town 1855; Lee’s Summit, MO
Missouri town is tucked away inside of Fleming Park, a large park that contains a lake and multiple picnic sites and campgrounds. One bonus of attending is that it’s almost directly next to a wild Buffalo preserve that one can stop at before or after you finish your journey.
According to their webpage:
Experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a small Missouri town on the eve of the Civil War. Missouri Town 1855 is a living history museum with more than 25 buildings dating from 1822 – 1860 spread across nearly 30 picturesque acres. Original structures from seven western Missouri counties are filled with historic tools and furnishings, setting the stage for life in the mid-1800s.
During your self-guided tour, our living history interpreters, heirloom crops, and heritage breed livestock will tell the story of daily life in the small 19th century towns of this region. Special events throughout the year focus on particular aspects of the community, from politics to music to life on the farm.
The museum is situated on rolling, grassy land, with a gravel lane through the center of the site. Please traverse with care. For the safety of our livestock and interpreters, pets are not permitted in the village.
I know, I know, I’ve already read this book for a previous article, haven’t I? But the truth is it’s a perfect book to depict what town life would have been like in the early antebellum period in Missouri. It was kind of a stretch when I used it for Deanna Rose Farmstead, considering that park doesn’t really have a set time frame to which it exists in. Missouri Town, however, neatly fits within this time. In this book there are depictions of town life including visits to blacksmiths, churches, getting supplies at the market, tending livestock etc. Pretty much anything that Missouri Town stands for. As I stated before, I prefer this book a little bit more then something like Little House on the Prairie because I’m a sucker for unknown underground stuff and I can’t say I’ve ever heard of the book prior to me starting this project. If you plan to do something like this with your kids, I would definitely recommend some sort of a book like this, as it will help your child get into the mindset of someone living in this time period. I have a review up if you’re interested.
If you plan to visit Missouri Town 1855, I would recommend not going on a very hot day. Unfortunately, when I planned this trip I did not realize it was going to be something like 91 degrees outside. I say this for many reasons, with COVID-19 still raging in my state one has to wear a mask in most of the indoor areas karma and things like water fountains are blocked off as to not help spread the virus. This is a problem if you are walking around the large park and you are not prepared with enough water. For kids the massive size of the land you can tire them out and make them very thirsty so be prepared for this. Also, in extreme heat some of the animals smell very bad-I honestly don’t care because I used to live on a farm when I was younger, but for others the smell of, let’s say, a group of hogs can be a bit much. If you have the opportunity to do so I would recommend going to the park sometime in the late spring or possibly fall depending on if they’re open or not. A nice 65 to 75 degree weather span would be perfect.
I also was a bit bummed that COVID-19 limited the amount of staff that could be on hand at any given time. When we went, I only saw a handful of people in costume maybe three or four volunteers and most of them were wrangling various animals. This was by no means a deal breaker, nor did it make the experience bad, but being able to interact with the living history staff is definitely one of the highlights of a trip to this.
That said, this was a very fun experience and it brought back a lot of nostalgia for when I was younger. I honestly don’t remember what it really looked like back then, and I only remember some of the staff members talking for the most part, but I still got the nostalgic feeling that you get in situations like this. If you come prepared, like stated above, there’s a lot of cool stuff to see at Missouri Town 1855. while it’s designed as a learning tool for young children, it can be enjoyed by young and old end is one of the better living history museums I’ve gone to. I think my only quibble was that I accidentally went on a day when they did a driving history thing, probably for people that can’t get around very well, and seeing a random Honda Civic kicking it around in front of a blacksmith shop sort of killed the illusion a tad. All-in-all it was a very enjoyable day and I would definitely recommend it.
This article is part of my summer series History Boy Summer, which you can keep up with by following this LINK.