Monett Battle of Westport Fund

History of the Fund

Monnett Fund logo

Dr. Howard N. Monnett of the Civil War Round Table of Kansas City in 1964 wrote the book Action Before Westport which recounted the story of the Battle of Westport of 21-23 October 1864, the largest engagement west of the Mississippi. Dr. Monnett’s enthusiasm for the subject within the Round Table led to the discussion of creating an automobile tour of the widely dispersed battle sites.

In 1975, members of the Kansas City Round Table formed the Howard N. Monnett Battle of Westport Fund, Inc. as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization to mark and interpret the sites associated with the Battle of Westport. By 1979, the founders of the Fund had raised $25,000, erected permanent monument markers at 25 sites and created a self-guided 32-mile automobile tour.

Since 1979 the Fund’s preservation efforts have focused on the reclamation of the Big Blue Battlefield at Byram’s Ford site which was damaged in the 1950s by an industrial park development.  In 1983 the Fund obtained an initial donation from Commerce Bank of a fifty acre tract of the battlefield including the Byram’s Ford crossing on the Big Blue River. The site was designated in 1989 as the Byram’s Ford Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Byram's Ford Road Site of the Historic District was acquired for $42,000 by the Fund in 1995.

The Fund reached an agreement with the Kansas City Parks Department to own and operate these more than 100 acres of battlefield land as the Big Blue Battlefield Park. As a result a corridor stretching for a mile along the Byram’s Ford Road across the battle field from the bluffs on the east side of the Blue River to the crest of Bloody Hill is now in the public domain.

In 2002 the Fund issued an Interpretive and Development Plan for the Byram’s Ford (available on the web at www.battleofwestport.org/Plan.htm) which provided for acquiring additional tracts and restoring the site to its 1864 appearance. The Fund’s battlefield reclamation plan was adopted in May 2012 by the Kansas City Parks Department as its Master Plan for the Big Blue Battlefield Park.

The Fund, City of Kansas City and United States Army Corps of Engineers negotiated a series of agreements that provided flood control and yet preserved the historic battle site. Those “green” efforts were nationally recognized in 2012 with a ceremony addressed by the Mayor of Kansas City. In March 2012 as part of its agreement with the Fund, the Corps completed the reclamation of a large part of the site by removing roadways and other modern intrusions and reseeding the site with prairie grass.

In 2006 the Fund launched its Saving Kansas City’s Battlefield initiative which aims to reclaim all of the Byram’s Ford site south of 59th Street on which eight buildings of the industrial park then were standing. The Fund’s initiative received the enthusiastic endorsement of the City Park Board. Director Shirley Christian and the Fund Chairman Smith co-chair this funding and acquisition effort. A video showing the Saving Kansas City’s Battlefield project result is on the web at www.battleofwestport.org/Video.htm.

Substantial progress has been made on the Saving Kansas City’s Battlefield initiative. Four of the eight buildings in the industrial park are now owned by the Fund or the Kansas City Parks Department. Two of the buildings nearest to Byram’s Ford are completely eliminated. A third building at 5951 Manchester in the center of the field was acquired in December 2010 for $250,000.00 including a $150,000 mortgage which remains to be paid. The Fund is now conducting further fund raising in order to retire the $150,000 debt so that the warehouse can be removed.

A fourth tract at 5001 E. 59th Street containing 3 acres and a 45,000 square foot warehouse was acquired by the Fund in July 2012 from the Jackson County Land Trust.  The warehouse is currently being dismantled in order to reclaim the site as part of the battlefield.  In May 2012 the Fund and the Kansas City Parks Department obtained a grant for $498,000 from MoDOT and a grant for $150,000 from the City’s PIAC program for the acquisition and removal of  a fifth tract containing an adjacent warehouse located at 5950 Manchester.

Another major project of the Fund is the Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum located in Swope Park near the Byram’s Ford site, which opened in October 2008. The Museum is open from April to October each year.  More volunteers are needed so that the Museum can remain open to visitors. For more, see our website at www.battleofwestport.org.

Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum (Dick Titterington)

From October 24 to 26, 2014 in Swope Park and the Big Blue Battlefield Park, the Fund hosted the Battle of Westport 150 Commemoration. Chairman Dan Smith declared the event was a “smashing success.” There were an estimated 5,000 attendees over the three day event. This was similar to the attendance at the Battle of Franklin 150 in Tennessee, which had greater financial support and more national coverage.

Battle of Westport 150 Commemoration

Officers and Directors of the Fund

Chairman of the Board

Daniel L. Smith

President

Les Thierolf

Vice President

Lane Smith

Secretary

Alana A. Smith

Directors

Shirley A. Christian
Alisha A. Cole
Paul H. Gault
Charles H. Kopke
Dick Titterington

Members of the Fund

  • Sandy Ackerson
  • Donald V. Bates, Sr.
  • Donald V. Bates, Jr.
  • James Beckner
  • John M. Brooks
  • Tony Kostusik
  • Mel Cole
  • Harriet Duff
  • Betty Ergovich
  • Orvis Fitts
  • Brian Lawson
  • Joe Louis Maddox
  • Randy Merker
  • Arnold Schofield
  • George Vessel
  • James Speicher
  • Blair Tarr

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
P.O. Box 6202
Shawnee Mission, KS 66206

Email: info@cwrtkc.org          Membership Application

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