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Fly High and Fast – Vol. II Chapter 28: Kansas City, Kansas and Washington, Missouri

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JJ Meehan
The Meehan Family

One of my first long trips and one of my trips to Missouri took place with my friend Gene Knoernschild in 1975.  We were flying N6419U.  Gene needed to drop off one of his children in Kansas City, Kansas and pick-up another in Washington, Missouri.  He asked me if I would like to fly the aircraft so that he could work on the flight plans for each leg as we flow.  there was no need to ask twice.

Gene was an excellent pilot and a good friend.  We departed early on a Saturday afternoon for Fairfax Airport in Kansas City Kansas.  At the time the Kansas City Downtown Airport was being used by TWA as their hub for the middle part of the USA.  Fairfax Airport was located just across The Missouri River from Kansas City Downtown.  It was decommissioned in 1985.

I had just gotten my instrument rating and this would be my first instrument cross country.  The weather was forecasted to be clear during the first part of the flight but turn IFR by the later part.  Total Flight time was 5 hours and 30 minutes.  We flow the route using VOR points for navigation.  VOR is short for VHF omnidirectional radio range  which is a type of radio navigation system for aircraft. A VOR ground station broadcasts a VHF radio composite signal including the station’s identifier, voice (if equipped), and navigation signal. The identifier is morse code. The voice signal is usually station name, in-flight recorded advisories, or live flight service broadcasts. The navigation signal allows the airborne receiving equipment to determine a magnetic bearing from the station to the aircraft (direction from the VOR station in relation to the Earth’s magnetic North at the time of installation). VOR stations in areas of magnetic compass unreliability are oriented with respect to True North. This line of position is called the “radial” from the VOR. The “intersection” of two radials from different VOR stations on a chart provides an approximate position of the aircraft.   You can read more about VOR Navigation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VHF_omnidirectional_range.

The first leg of our flight would be Cedar Rapids to Ottumwa (OTM), Kirksville, (IRK) and finally Fairfax Airport in Kansas City, Kansas.

Fairfax Airport was decommissioned in 1985.  You can still see some of the runway to the northwest and southeast of the plant shown in the picture below.  The airport was best know for being the construction site of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber.

The airport was directly across the Missouri River from Kansas City Downtown Airport and served as an air strip for plane manufacturers and repairs in the city’s Fairfax district, as well as postal delivery. Passenger service in the area was handled by its Missouri sister (although Braniff briefly used it). Its IATA designation was KCK.

The airport was used by Harry Truman when he flew back to Missouri during his Presidency.

Shortly after this flight I would have an opportunity to make another flight to Fairfax Airport with my good friend Richard Bartholomew (Bart).  Bart and I graduated from Denison High in Denison, Iowa and a classmate of ours was going to medical school in Kansas City.  His name was Tony Clark.  We went out for BBQ at one of the local restaurants and then bar hopping – Fantastic time.


Back to the flight with Gene Knoernschild and his children.  We dropped off the one child with his grand parents after a few minutes of introduction and we were in the air again within 30 minutes.  Next stop was Washington, Missouri.

Washington, Missouri

Washington began as a Missouri River boat landing. The St. Johns settlement from which it grew was at the extreme western edge of the frontier when Lewis and Clark’s “Corps of Discovery” camped nearby in May of 1804.

By 1818 when Franklin County was formed, thousands of American settlers had already arrived. Many of these were friends, family and followers of Daniel Boone and his sons who came to the area in 1799. Daniel Boone served as the Spanish syndic (judge) on the north side of the River. The first ferry in the area was licensed to run in 1814. It connected the settlements of La Charrette and Marthasville on the north bank to the Franklin County settlements.

In 1824 a German attorney named Gottfried Duden settled across the river along Lake Creek. He visited the Washington landing and became acquainted with Nathan Boone, Elijah McLean and other pioneers. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his countrymen. In 1827 he returned to Germany which he felt was overpopulated. There he published a glowing “Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America” in 1829.

By that time the town of Union had been founded, and the County seat had been moved there from New Port in 1826. On the Missouri River, the Washington Landing was becoming more important for slave holding families to ship their tobacco and other crops. William G. Owens, Franklin County’s leading public official, saw a great future for the landing site and purchased the site and land nearby in 1827 in order to found a town. In 1829, lots for a new town called Washington were offered for Public Sale on the Fourth of July. Owens offered a lot free to anyone who would build a substantial house within two years. His wealthy friend, Dr. Elijah McLean bought 80 acres west of the town’s borders.

By 1832 there were two German residents who had built homes on Owens’ promise, Bernhard Fricke and Charles Eberius. In October of 1833 a group of twelve Catholic families arrived by steamboat at Washington. These farmers from the Osnabrück area of Hanover had heard and read of the Missouri valley described so favorably by Gottfried Duden. They were welcomed by Owens and Fricke and bought land in the vicinity on which to settle.

Then on November 16, 1834 Wm. G. Owens was shot in the back and died. With his death the legal affairs of the young town were thrown into turmoil. On October 8, 1836 a rival town named Bassora was started just east of Washington. In 1837 a Post Office was first established at Washington, but then moved to Bassora. Soon German born John F. Mense, son-in-law to Owen’s widow Lucinda, managed to untangle Washington’s legal affairs which were tied up in probate. On May 29, 1839 the town sometimes later referred to as “New Washington” began again, and the Post office moved back in 1840.

After 1833 the German population of Washington area grew rapidly. Anti-slavery Germans were overtaking the population of wealthy slave owners. In 1834 groups of Germans from Giessen led by Friedrich Muench, and Soligen led by Frederick Steines, would fill the nearby hills and valleys. Their letters written home to friends and relatives brought more of their countrymen to the Missouri valley.

After the first years preoccupied with carving new homes out of the wilderness, the German pioneers craved cultural items such as books and musical instruments. Books were the items most requested in the letters back home where German encyclopedias, textbooks, bibles and hymnals, were sent from the “Old World” to enlighten the New.

On February 9th, 1855 the Pacific Railroad came to town and Washington experienced a boom. Steamboat ferries connected the town with its neighbors of North Washington, Dutzow, and Marthasville across the river. Brick buildings were built all over town, giving Washington the nickname of “brick town of Missouri.” In 1856 the town’s first newspaper “The Franklin Courier” appeared in both English and German. Cultural groups such as the theatrical society called the Players’ Club and the Turn Verein were forming by 1859. Washington’s “Busch’s Brewery” had been established in 1854 by German born John B. Busch, older brother of the St. Louis brewer. By 1860 all of the town’s Trustees but one were German. These German Americans were strongly supportive of the new homeland, which would be important to Missouri’s role in the civil war.

Federal forces during the Civil War controlled both the Missouri River and the Pacific Railroad. The Union Army’s 54th and 55th Regiments of the Enrolled Missouri Militia numbered over 2,000 troops raised in Franklin County. Also formed here were the 17th Missouri Regiment. But when Confederate Gen. Sterling Price, staged his last campaign to recapture Missouri – known as Price’s Raid- there were only about 600 troops stationed at Washington


On September 28th, 1864, Union General Rosecrans at St. Louis wired Capt. Julius Wilhelmi, warning him of the approach of General Sterling Price and his troop of 10,000 men. Fearing the enemy too strong for their small number, the Militia and the townspeople retreated to the north side of the river by ferryboats and skiffs. The night of October 1st Price’s men camped at the Detweiler’s place east of Washington. They moved into Washington the next day and plundered the town for food, forage and usable horses. The railroad depot was set afire. A teamster John Henry Uhlenbrock and a young man named Bartsch were shot. After satisfying its appetite for supplies, the army moved westward towards Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City.

After the war, son of the town’s slaveholding founders, Franklin County’s State Representative James W. Owens, was instrumental in drafting the State’s proclamation abolishing slavery. The town then entered a postwar period of creativity, industry, and prosperity – a “Golden Era.” Franz Schwarzer arrived in Washington in 1865, where he would soon open a zither factory that would turn out International Award winning instruments by 1873. That same year, at Washington’s first Agricultural and Mechanical Fair, James Jones won the horse race and the pewter pitcher trophy. In 1884 Joseph A. Bayer started his pottery using locally mined clay. The next year Henry and Anton Tibbe devised the manufactured corn cob pipe which would bring their family worldwide fame and fortune.

The new “grammar” school was built in ornate architectural style in 1871, after many years of using the second floor of the Town Hall for classes. A citywide waterworks opened in 1889 with a power plant at the foot of Jefferson Street. Next Anton Tibbe built an electric light plant and on New Year’s eve, 1892 officially “turned on the lights” in Washington. By February 1893 audiences were crowding Turner Hall to enjoy its plays and parties by the light of the new incandescent lamps. The “Independent Telephone Company” another Tibbe enterprise, was organized a few years later.

By the turn of the century Washington was serving its bi-cultural inhabitants and the surrounding territory as a commercial and social center. The pioneer families from the old South had blended with those of more recent vintage to form a vital population prepared for the challenges of the next century.

After picking up Gene’s daughter we headed home.  The trip home was totally IFR.  We flow to Quincy, IL (UIN) and then Cedar Rapids.  At Cedar Rapids I shot my first ILS Approach which the following video to the right will give you a feel for what I experienced.   Gene was a huge influence on my ability to learn how to fly correctly and safely.  He was a great Engineer, Parent and Teacher.

You can see my other blogs on flying on my WEB Site – “FLY HIGH AND FAST”.


Written by jjmeehan13

April 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in Flying

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