Faye Ann Roberts’ generation grew up hearing adults say, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Younger folks might wonder who would do that. They’ll find an answer in the 19th-century village behind a ridge at the edge of Hodge Park Golf Course.
Wearing pioneer garb, Roberts, 75, is in the doctor’s office when schoolchildren visit, explaining medicinal herbs grown out back. “Of course, I’m not a physician,” she clarifies. “I’m just a volunteer who likes old things.”
She’s in the right spot at the Shoal Creek Living History Museum. Ascend that hill off the golf course parking lot, where only a covered wagon is visible, and behold 80 acres of historic structures relocated from all around northwest Missouri.
Set together, the buildings replicate a community out of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie.”
Outside the 1830 Hughes Sleeping Cabin, an informational placard explains a little about babies and bathwater:
“Saturday night was bath night in a big, old tub by the hearth. The water was heated in a pot over the fire. Everyone bathed in the same water, but the baby bathed last. (Have you ever heard of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?)”
No, said fifth-graders recently visiting from Dogwood Elementary in Kearney. But at least one was astute enough to ask if people in 1830 really hung portable fire extinguishers next to their hearths, as this cabin had.
“No,” said re-enactor Jesse Koster, 70. “In all my years, you’re the first kid to point that out.”
The living history museum at Hodge Park features grazing buffalo and hiking trails around an imaginary town. It is open from dawn to dusk, free of charge, for self-guided walking tours.
During school-group presentations and special events, volunteers unlock some of the buildings so visitors can check out the period furniture, cookware and clothing samples inside.
“We just call it the village,” said Roberts. “People tell us it’s a hidden secret.”
Beginning in 1975, when the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation designated the site “Heritage Village,” the layout of 19 structures grew in bits and pieces: A one-room schoolhouse, circa 1880, was trucked in from Tracy, Mo. Shield’s Mercantile came out of Parkville. The centerpiece mill is a replica built on-site.
The Thornton Mansion, two centuries old, had been a farm home southwest of Liberty for a family of 14 children. Six died before age 3.
In 2000, Roberts and next-door neighbor Marylee Wickham launched the Shoal Creek Questers Group No. 1363. The group, now mostly elderly and numbering 17, is committed to keeping the village stocked with neat old stuff in decent repair. They serve as role players during special events and even help clean the buildings.
The Shoal Creek Questers have a grant writer who has helped procure about $20,000 for replacement windows, chamber pots, the schoolhouse bell and a pie safe for the Stollings Farm House.
Pam Payne of the Shoal Creek Association said the gardening and window-polishing she does there is therapeutic.
“Just walking around, don’t you feel how relaxing this place is?” Payne said. “I’m apt to do more cleaning here than I am in my own home. It’s just a more peaceful place to get work done.”
Former park board member and Northland booster Anita Gorman said the village owed much to the imagination and activism of Anna Mae Hodge, who died last June. A promoter of fine arts, archeology and historic preservation, she had been married to longtime parks director Robert H. Hodge, for whom the surrounding property is named.
“When the village was first set up, almost nobody lived around there,” Gorman said. “Things have changed considerably. Just in that time.”
After some carefree hours in the village, visitors are whipped back into the 21st century by a view of three-car McMansions on the opposite side of the links.
Shoal Creek Living History Museum
Where: 7000 N.E. Barry Road, Kansas City, North
Hours: Dawn to dusk all year. Free to view building exteriors. Reserve for events.
Directions: From Interstate 435 just north of Interstate 35, take Shoal Creek Parkway exit north to Barry Road. Turn left; park entrance is down on the right. Walk up the hill west of golf course parking.