Smithville, in Clay County on the Little Platte River five miles north of Kansas City, was named for Humphrey and Nancy Smith who came west with their six sons and daughter from New York state in 1824 to find land and build a home. They also built a water-powered mill on the river. The point where the mill was located was Smith's Falls.
Smith frequently was called "Yankee Smith" by the Southern sympathizers who were predominant in Clay County.
Smithville is the second oldest settlement in the county. (The county at that time extended north to the Iowa line.) Main street in Smithville looks somewhat the same today as when this 1909 post card was published. The main difference is that the business houses on the left side of the card have been razed and a small park occupies the site. The restaurant under the sign at left belonged to Roy Millis.
The establishments across the street, at right, have been identified by Leon Morton, whose general merchandise store was on Bridge Street, just around the corner and not shown. Mr. Morton, in his 80s now, started working at the store in 1903. His identifications: Farmer's Bank; T.J. Breckenridge, grocer; Bill Rice, drugstore (Rice at one time was representative from Clay County in the Missouri Legislature); O.P. Yates, shoe store; Jake Shaeffer, restaurant; Ernest Carver's hardware store; Daddy Russell's pool hall, and Pete Bowen's saloon and pool hall. Upstairs were an opera house and dance hall.
The latter is the only two-story building in the block and that came about by all the merchants in town subscribing $10 to $50 apiece to encourage the builder to make it two stories. A hall was needed for local dances and an occasional play.
Mr. Morton says flooding by the Little Platte slowed development of the town. In 1946 water was 11 feet deep in his store and the ceilings were only 12 feet high.
Today's recently completed Smithville dam eliminates the flooding of the past. The Corps of Engineers dam costing over $68 million controls a drainage area of 213 square miles in the Platte River Basin. In addition to impounding potential flood waters the lake can provide 29 million gallons of water a day for future use by cities. Allocation is as follows: Kansas City, 75,700 acre-feet; Smithville, 8,000 acre-feet; and Plattsburg, 11,500 acre-feet.
Kansas City Times
August 13, 1982