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Paxton to be honored at pocket park

Dedication ceremony will take place on Tuesday

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

William Paxton led an interesting life.
He was a prairie farmer that grew tired of the prairie. So he started a town — Platte City —helped it become a county seat and he became its prominent lawyer.

Along the way, Paxton managed to add the titles of general store merchant, mill operator, abstractor, banker, public administrator, landlord, poet, genealogist, historian and author to his resume.

Indeed, he is best remembered in Platte County as the historian and author who wrote "The Annals of Platte County, Missouri," a work that still remains the definitive account of the county’s earliest days.

Prized by genealogists, the Annals features the family trees of prominent Platte County families, a service that Paxton said would show "that, by intermarriage, we have become one great family." And as another prominent Missouri citizen, Harry S. Truman, would often comment on other matters, it shows that history is often written by the winners.

The annals contain colorful episodes culled from period life, and often feature Paxton in a starring role.

Paxton tells how he and his friends tried to cure the first known case of cholera brought into town, but to no avail. He describes his efforts to convince a marauding union army to spare the Platte County Courthouse before he was hit with a bucket and retreating to his home. At the volume’s end, he attempts to put his work in perspective.

"In this book, the aspirations of my life are fulfilled," Paxton wrote. "The names of my companions were fading into forgetfulness. My volume is the first, but it will not be the last, monument erected to their memory.”

Now nearly 87 years after that last entry, Platte City and the Native Sons of Greater Kansas City are showing that they haven’t forgotten him, honoring the pioneer with a bronze historical marker in the new pocket park in Platte City.

The group’s proposed plaque is set to outline the life and times of Paxton, from his early days as a farmer and lawyer all the way up to his time spent as the historian of the area and genealogical expert. The group has placed similar markers in Kansas City Union Cemetery, Old Convention Hall, the Battle of Westport and the Savoy Grill in downtown Kansas City but it is the first such historical marker by the group in Platte County.

Local historians are welcoming the event.

"Good show," said Lee Wilhite, genealogical advisor to the Platte County Historical Society. "It’s a good thing for the old man to get some recognition. I don’t think enough people are awake to history and appreciate it.”

Others point to the man’s enduring legacy.

"I think it’s a great thing they’re doing," said Diane Pepper, director of the Platte Area Historical Society. "His book is the first thing many visitors to the Ben Ferrel Museum look for. We still sell it, supporting the museum to this day."

The dedication will occur on Tuesday, March 2 at 11 a.m. at the intersection of First Street and Main. All are invited to attend.


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