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Woodneath Farming History

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In August of 1870, Presley L. Moore bought Woodneath’s 240 acres and delivered a sense of cohesion to the property.1 After a turbulent 1860s that featured the Civil War, transitioning agricultural markets, and Woodneath changing hands four times in six years, Moore brought stability. He would go on to own the land for three decades, making notable changes to the property’s profile and paving the way for its future. This started with Moore giving the farm its name, Woodneath.

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Woodneath Gains an Identity (1870-1900)

Moore was also responsible for building Woodneath’s large barn. The barn was built around 1875 and became the central hub of the property. It was two stories and featured a stone foundation, wood frame, and a gabled roof. To the side, a four-stall stable was built to provide shelter to the family’s horses, mules, and oxen.2 The building of a large barn would have been a monumental change in the property’s agricultural world because it provided a one-stop-shop to accomplish the many needs of a farm. 

The barn provided Moore the security to grow his business, which by 1880, seemed to be thriving. The land, fences, and buildings on the farm were valued at $12,000 in 1880, a large amount when compared to similar neighboring properties. Moore owned 15 horses and eight dairy cows in 1880, and the farm also featured 35 hogs and 100 chickens. Moore grew corn, oats, wheat, and apples, like many other nearby farms. However, he also produced more unique goods for the family’s enjoyment, including 50 pounds of honey and five gallons of wine made from grapes grown on the property.3

The most substantial asset at the Woodneath farm in 1880 was Moore’s herd of 55 shorthorn cattle.4 Moore’s large herd shows the growth of the cattle industry in the region around Woodneath. After the Civil War, Kansas City became an important cattle trading center. Presley Moore’s herd and the property of Woodneath assuredly factored into this rapidly growing system until he sold the property in 1900.

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The Early 1900s (1900-1923)

Not much is known about the next two owners of Woodneath. John Robb bought the property in 1900 but left little record of his farming activity.5 Robb is described in the 1920 History of Clay County, Missouri as a “a prosperous farmer and stockman,” signaling that he may have followed in the footsteps of Moore by raising livestock.6

This focus aligned with the statewide trends of the time. Missouri existed primarily as a livestock state during the early 1900s. For example, in 1930, it was estimated that there were 2.8 million cattle in Missouri, along with almost two million sheep and four million pigs, some of the highest numbers in the nation.7

In 1919, Oliver DeMoss purchased Woodneath from the Robb family for $46,400, and a year later, the property’s silo was built.8 Much like the barn that was constructed 45 years before, the silo would have been a monumental upgrade in the farm’s technology. Silos helped save time and labor, and its contents provided a safety net for farmers. During difficult times, crops stored inside could help feed milking cows or sheep. The process of working with the silo was tedious and carefully monitored, but its results would have been crucial to Woodneath’s families.

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Dairy Farming at Woodneath (1923-2008)

W.A. Crouch Jr. bought Woodneath in 1923, which signaled the start of Woodneath’s dairy period. Dairy farming was flourishing during this period, with 285 dairy farms in the Kansas City region.9 Crouch was known as a reputable dairyman, and his farming endeavors would continue to get more advanced with the addition of electricity at the farm in 1933. The installation of electric machinery and lighting meant milking could be completed in less time, and with less help.

In 1940, one of W.A.’s sons, Edwin, and his spouse Naomi, purchased the farmstead from his father and established Crouch Farm Dairy. Edwin improved the farm’s infrastructure and grew the size of the family’s herd, amassing 125 Holstein dairy cows.10 In 1945, the family purchased a processing plant and added more delivery routes in Liberty and Kansas City. The company sold products like milk and cheese, as well as what locals called Crouch Kool-Aid, which came in flavors like orange-pineapple.11

Farming was a family affair for the Crouches. Bill, one of Edwin and Naomi’s sons, remembered getting up at 2:00 a.m. to start milking, before going back in the house for breakfast around 5:30 a.m. They would then work the fields before starting another round of milking at 2:00 p.m. This all-hands-on deck attitude was crucial to family farms across the region. A dairy farm runs 365 days a year, and it took everyone pitching in to keep it going.12

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Farming at Woodneath shifted away from dairy beginning in the 1950s. The Crouch’s sold their cows, delivery trucks, and processing plant, signaling changes happening industrywide. However, the family continued farming the acreage around their home, turning their attention to raising alfalfa and corn. By 1960, the Crouch’s had 200 acres of alfalfa growing at Woodneath and 500 acres of corn on rented land.13

Edwin passed away in 1961 and Naomi passed almost thirty years later in 1990. During the last decades of the 1900s, most of Woodneath’s acreage was leased to local farmers before it was acquired by developers. The original barn was torn down for safety reasons after the Library acquired Woodneath in 2008. However, the silo and barn frame that now stand call back to the property’s history and the families that once farmed at Woodneath.

Notes

  1. Liberty Tribune (Liberty, MO), August 26, 1870.
  2. State Historical Survey and Planning Office Historic Inventory, Woodneath Archival Collection, Kansas City, MO.
  3. Missouri Secretary of State, “1880 Agricultural Schedule for Clay County, Missouri”.
  4. Missouri Secretary of State, “1880 Agricultural Schedule for Clay County, Missouri”.
  5. Homestead Abstract 1821-1919, Woodneath Archival Collection, Kansas City, MO.
  6. History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri – 1885 (St. Louis: National Historical Company, Press of Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885), 280-84.
  7. Conrad Hammer, “Types of Farming in Missouri,” Research Bulletin, University of Missouri College of Agriculture Experiment Station (1938).
  8. Homestead Abstract 1821-1919, Woodneath Archival Collection, Kansas City, MO.
  9. “Dairy Farming: Johnson County’s Most Prominent Industry,” Johnson County Library, March 17, 2019, https://jocohistory.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/dairy-farming-johnson-countys-most-prominent-industry/.
  10. Liberty Tribune (Liberty, MO), December 29, 1961.
  11. Photograph of Order Form, Woodneath Archival Collection, Kansas City, MO.
  12. Bill Crouch Interview, Woodneath Archival Collection, Kansas City, MO.
  13. Liberty Tribune (Liberty, MO), December 29, 1961.
This piece was written by Jackson Hodges, an intern at The Story Center and UMKC History graduate student. Preparing this page was part of a larger project during the spring of 2022 to research and communicate Woodneath's agricultural history.

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