From Our Past

Updated: May 17

The Clay County Museum building dates from at least the mid-1850s as a pharmacy. However, it apparently began life as a dry goods store. A January 14, 1881 issue of the Liberty Weekly Tribune article on “Liberty in 1846-7” stated “In 1847, N.H. Summers brought on a fine stock of goods, and a few days after opening, knocked the head out of a keg of powder, took his seat on it and touched it off. Strange to say, it did not instantly kill him – he lived from daylight in the morning until about 9 o’clock in the night. Mr. James Fritzlen bought his stock of goods and continued the business. Mr. Summers was a noble young man.” The article also mentioned he had been a clerk for Samuel & Gilmer, a dry goods store. Mr. Fritzlen passed away in 1849 but the building continued.

Another Liberty Tribune article mentioned on August 17, 1877 that “experienced druggist, Dan Hughes ‘has moved into his new drugstore building and now has one of the most stylish drugstores in the West”.” While another article dated January 8, 1886, stated Dan Hughes was a successful druggist “at his present stand for nearly twenty years past – first as a prescription clerk with his predecessor, Wm. A. Hall…and afterward as proprietor…” This suggests the building or lot that once housed the dry goods store of Mr. Summers was used as a pharmacy prior to the construction or reconstruction of today’s existing building.

Added to this mix is that of the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center records on the Hughes/Simmons Drug Store gives the building’s history as “Daniel Hughes, Jr., began working for S.W. Warren in his drug store in Liberty, Missouri, in 1865 and became a partner in 1870. In 1872 he purchased the business. He carried, “a large and well selected stock of goods in his line…,” and the business prospered. In 1877, Hughes remodeled his old building into the Italianate style it has today. Joseph C. Simmons bought the store from Hughes in 1887 and operated it until his death 58 years later.

The building was then bought by Dr. William H. Goodson who had practiced on the second floor since 1907. He continued to practice there until his death in 1963. He had his own druggist, Clarence Ferril, installed on the first floor continuing the tradition of the drug store in the building. Dr. Goodson would communicate with Mr. Ferril via an early intercom phone, which still graces the wall in the doctor’s office of the museum. All manner of bottles and boxes of medicines are also on display that date as far back as Mr. Hughes ownership.

Occasionally, a visitor will tour the museum and recount seeing Dr. Goodson as a patient. Each has had only the highest praise for him. Visitors see the doctor’s office and the equipment he used, much of which he had fashioned. The building houses many artifacts along with the spirit of the drugstore and doctor’s office it was. --Chery Carr Holtman

Chery Carr Holtman, curator, Clay County Museum

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