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The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum is an historic farmstead that has been occupied since the 1820s. The farmhouse is recognized as the oldest continuously occupied home in Clay County. The farm has been restored to a living history museum. Exhibits are on display throughout the home. The property also includes the Big Shoal Cemetery and the site of the Big Shoal Baptist Church (no longer standing). The museum hosts regular tours, educational programs, and events from April through mid-December.


  • Atkins-Johnson Farmhouse
  • An older, undated photo of the home
  • The original structure of the home was exposed during renovation
  • Exhibits inside the home
  • Exhibits inside the home
  • The heritage garden with produce grown before 1900
  • The site of the Big Shoal Baptist church
  • Big Shoal Cemetery

In 1834, Jonathan Atkins purchased 130 acres from John Hightower near Big Shoal Creek. The property included a two-story log cabin, probably built between 1831 and 1834. [1] It is believed that the Atkinses remodeled and expanded their home in 1853. [1] The log cabin was encapsulated into an “I-House” plan, a folk architectural style that was popular in Missouri at the time. The I-House features four rooms with a central passageway in between. There is a chimney at either end, built from limestone gathered from the fields, and inscribed “1853.” The front of the home also has an open porch with columns and a veranda above.

Before selling to the Atkinses, John Highwater had donated the use of one acre of his property to the Big Shoal Baptist church. A log church was constructed in 1827, and a burying ground was established next to the church. The church is no longer standing, but the graveyard is still preserved as Big Shoal Cemetery. Approximately 164 people are buried on the land, including several early pioneers and Civil War veterans, although many of the graves are not marked with headstones. [2]

Jonathan Atkins, his wife Mary, and their nine children farmed the land of their homestead, growing hemp, wheat, and other produce. According to census records, they had cows, pigs, and sheep; Jonathan was listed as a wool carder in the 1860 census. [1] The farm also had a blacksmith shop, livery stable, and steam mill. The Atkinses were also a social family. The home was used as a polling location. People who came for events at the church camped on the Atkins farmland. [1]

Three generations of the Atkins family lived in the home. In 1902, Jonathan’s son William died, and the farm was purchased by Rudolph Shroeder, who used the land for truck farming. Produce from the farm was transported to Kansas City market. In 1920, the Shroeders sold the farm to Mary and John Johnson, who had five children. The last member of the Johnson family to live in the home died in 1991. [1] The property is referred to as the Atkins-Johnson Farm today because those families lived there for the longest time, about 70 years each.

In 2005, the City of Gladstone purchased the farm in order to convert it into a living history museum. The home went through extensive renovation work and opened to the public in 2013. The interior has original pieces from the families and artifacts from excavation work on the property. There are displays on farm life and the Big Shoal community, as well as temporary exhibits on various topics. [3] A heirloom garden showcases 1200 square feet of produce that the Atkins family would have grown. There is also an orchard, pumpkin patch, and beehives. Interactive programing at the museum has included guided tours of the cemetery, Civil War reenactments, gardening classes, and holiday tours. The farm is part of the Big Shoal Heritage Area, which takes up about 22 acres and includes the site of the church and Big Shoal Cemetery.

1.      Fenner, Krislin. “The Atkins-Johnson Farm: A Piece of History in Our Midst.” Coming Home to Gladstone Magazine, Spring 2009, 17-22. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://3b664d6a-bfab-4735-83bb-6288db49100d.filesusr.com/ugd/0db143_1edcde6373564057b4237d89ab1ab0a0.pdf.

2.      “Big Shoal Cemetery.” Coming Home to Gladstone Magazine, Spring 2010, 13-20. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://3b664d6a-bfab-4735-83bb-6288db49100d.filesusr.com/ugd/0db143_5b77bf7659b54079857a83bd2ec90f39.pdf.

3.      “About Us.” Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum Official Website. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://www.atkinsjohnsonfarm.com/about-us.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum: https://www.facebook.com/pg/atkinsjohnsonfarm/photos/?ref=page_internal

The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum: https://www.facebook.com/pg/atkinsjohnsonfarm/photos/?ref=page_internal

The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum: https://www.atkinsjohnsonfarm.com/site-history

The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum: https://www.facebook.com/pg/atkinsjohnsonfarm/photos/?ref=page_internal

Freedom's Frontier: http://www.freedomsfrontier.org/Visitors/Sites/Comments.aspx?ID=137&picSet=0

http://www.mggkc.org/our-projects/community-projects/atikins-johnson-farm-museum/

Freedom's Frontier: http://www.freedomsfrontier.org/Visitors/Sites/Comments.aspx?ID=137&picSet=0

The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum: https://www.facebook.com/pg/atkinsjohnsonfarm/photos/?ref=page_internal