Wornall Majors House Museums

John Wornall & His Family

The Wornalls were a prominent family in the early days of Kansas City. John Wornall, namesake of Wornall Road, made a name for himself in the early days of Westport as a farmer. As the city developed around the Wornall property, the Wornall family contributed to the community, involved in banking, politics and education.

The Wornall Family

John Wornall Portrait

John Wornall, painted by George Caleb Bingham in 1866


35634208_123922192715

Eliza Wornall, painted by George Caleb Bingham in 1866

The Wornall family – Richard, his wife Judith, and their sons John and Thomas, arrived in the Kansas City area in 1843. Originally from Kentucky, the family was seeking new financial opportunities on the frontier. After taking out a loan of $2,500, the family purchased 500 acres of land from John McCoy, settled in a four-room log cabin and began to farm. The Wornalls farmed oats, corn and wheat, and raised horses, cows, pigs and mules. They sold these goods into the town of Westport. The crops from the first year reportedly paid for the entire purchase price of the farm.

Brothers John and Thomas inherited the farm after their mother died and their father returned to Kentucky to remarry. Thomas set out to find his fortune and died of cholera on the Oregon Trail in 1849, leaving John as the sole owner of the farm.

John married Matilda Polk in 1851, and she died the same year.

He remarried to Eliza Johnson in 1854. Eliza was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Johnson, who founded the Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission and would eventually become the namesake of Johnson County, Kansas. John and Eliza had seven children, but only two lived beyond the age of three: Frank (born 1855) and Thomas “T.J.” (born 1865). Eliza passed away a week after the birth of T.J. at 29 years old.

A year later, John married Roma Johnson, Eliza’s first cousin. They had three children, one who was stillborn and two sons: John, Jr. (born 1872) and Charles (born 1876).

The Wornall Legacy

John played a major role in the early growth of Kansas City. In 1860, the Kansas City Enquirer and Star listed him as one of the “solid men of Jackson County” – someone who paid taxes on $10,000 or more.

Philanthropy & Religion
A firm believer in the power of education, John contributed over $10,000 to the endowment of William Jewell College and served on the board of trustees for 25 years. He was also active in the Baptist Church, serving as moderator  of the General Association of Missouri Baptists and raising funds to build Westport Baptist Church.

Politics
In 1870, John was elected to the Missouri State Senate for one term. He served on the Committee on Banks & Corporations and was considered a brilliant public speaker. At the end of his four-year term, he was encouraged to run for governor of Missouri, but he declined, to the dismay of many.

Banking
John served as director for the newly incorporated Kansas City National Bank and acted as president for the remainder of its existence. He later helped organize the Bank of Kansas City.

Roma’s Legacy

After John’s death in 1892, Roma continued to live in the Wornall House for the rest of her life. She is credited with modernizing and preserving the house, adding electricity, a garage, and modern plumbing. She was also rumored to be the first woman in Kansas City to own a car.

Roma was extremely active in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, serving as Missouri state president in 1911, 1912 and 1922.

In 1909, Roma sold most of the remaining farmland to developer J.C. Nichols. The purchase included a clause that Roma could repurchase the house if she desired. Roma returned to the house in 1911. During the time she was gone, it served as the first school building for Kansas City Country Day School (now The Pembroke Hill School).

She lived here until her death in 1933. The house then went to her son, John Jr., who lived in the home until his death in 1962.

Wornall Family

Roma Wornall (far left) with family, including Frank Wornall (second from left) and John Wornall Jr. (far right).

Wornall Majors House Museums
©
Privacy Policy

The John Wornall House

6115 Wornall Road
Kansas City, MO. 64113

816.444.1858

The Alexander Majors House & Barn

8201 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO. 64114

816.444.1858

Facebook  Instagram  Pinterest  Trip Advisor  Twitter
Photo Credits: Jeri Adams, Sarah Bader-King, John Browning, and Bruce Mathews