The explosion of development west of the Mississippi, and the settlement of the open prairie, just a few short decades after Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition would have been incredible to witness in person. We can read the accounts that exist, check the official documents recorded at the time, and re-tell stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, but it’s incomplete. The written word, at the time, is simply insufficient today. It doesn’t nearly convey how awesome it must have been.
What we needed was live, 24/7 media coverage and, more importantly, social media back then. That would have been amazing!
We know James Lackey was one of the first settlers to the area back in 1830, but we have no color, no content, to fully understand what it must have been like. Twitter would have come in handy. @whackyLackey could have kept us informed on his progress with tweets like: "Among the natives, totes trespassing, yo! #getoffmylawn, #YOLO", and "Calling me squatter cuz I got no claim, down with big gov’t. #Iam99%!"
CNN would have provided 24-hour coverage of Mr. Lackey’s travels, trials, and tribulations. CNN would have created a cool graphic to splash all over called "Tracking Lackey." "CNN is ready to confirm that, wait, yes, we are calling it. In a CNN exclusive, sources tell us Mr. Lackey is using his hatchet to cut down what appears to be a sugar maple to be used in the construction of his log cabin, maybe firewood, perhaps a weapon of some sort." The CNN style folks would have let us in on was "haute" in the winter of the still yet early 1800’s. "As you see, Mr. Lackey is looking fierce in his beaver and bison pelt PJs."
The county was officially formed as Van Buren County in 1835. The county was named in honor of Martin Van Buren, our country’s eighth president. After Mr. Van Buren’s political career went belly up, the county was renamed Cass County in honor of Lewis Cass, a former soldier turned politician from Michigan. Van Buren really could have used Facebook back then. He would have posted the following: "People be cray-cray, sad face emoticon, angry eyes emoticon, thumbs down emoticon." Mr. Cass, naturally, would have used Facebook to post a Meme with Van Buren’s face and the message, "I don’t always have a county name after me, but when I do, it replaces a loser named Van Buren!"
What everyone would have hoped for at the time, if the technology had existed, would have been a Twitter beef:
@MartyVanB: Dude’s from Michigan. I mean really. That’s like Canada-south, ehh, what’s that aboot?
@ClassyCass 1782: Marty, you mad, Bro?
@MartyVanB: Wolverine state. Looks like a wolverine died on your head, Cass, if that is your real hair.
@ClassyCass1782: Your mom called. She wants the frock back that you’re wearing. Oh Snap!
In 1837, the appointed county commissioners set out to establish a county seat near the center of the county. The original plan called for the newly formed town to be named "Democrat." Can you imagine if Fox News was around back then? Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly would have straight up had a stroke. The commissioners settled on Harrisonville, the name coming from then U.S. Representative Albert Harrison from Missouri.
Harrison could have posted a selfie on Instagram of him posing in the mirror, flexing a bicep, flashing a peace sign, with the caption: "big-props, just named a town after me. U.S. Representin’ ya’ll!"
Talk about making history come alive.
Bill Filer is a Harrisonville resident and regularly appears in the Cass County Democrat Missourian.