The wooden well sits near a small creek in a large median on Brookwood Road in Mission Hills, a beloved piece of neighborhood history.
Renovated several times over the years, it was ready for another facelift.
In his pursuit of the Eagle Scout rank as a Boy Scout, Max Reno decided to help beautify the well. The 15-year-old, a member of Village Presbyterian Church’s Boy Scout Troop 91, planned the project to make a new roof, fence and stone walkway for the well.
The well’s provenance is somewhat murky. Local folklore holds that the well served soldiers at the Battle of Westport in the Civil War, as well as travelers on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. A plaque nearby says the well was dug in 1854, but the original wooden plaque, now rotted, put the well’s origin date at 1864.
Local historians do not have documentation to show whether either claim is true. David Boutros, assistant director of the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City, says the well is near active areas from the Battle of Westport and could have been used by soldiers. However, he also said that due to the well’s location and small size, it’s unlikely that trail travelers used it.
About 20 people helped Max rebuild the well Saturday.
To construct the roof, Max and his fellow Scouts had to build layers of wood, felt and shake shingles. Likewise, the Scouts had to build the stone walkway in several stages. The center of the well will remain boarded up, as it is no longer functional.
Max’s dad, Buzz Reno, said he was proud of his son’s plan and was assisting where he could.
“It’s not me; it’s all Max. I can help with parts, and I can help with ideas, but I’m not particularly a handy man — at least that’s what my wife says,” Reno said.
Max, who will be a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East, got his project approved by the Mission Hills Park Board and City Council. Having the Scout take charge and manage a significant service project is the goal of this Eagle requirement.
“It’s good for the boys to learn how to give direction to adults,” said Brian Redelsheimer, one of the adults helping with the project. “It’s all about leadership.”
Max said he researched the project on the Internet, looking at many different websites. He also discussed safety precautions with a contractor.
Bordner Roofing donated materials, and House of Rocks provided supplies at a discount. Royal Fence & Design owner Jay Pyle donated fencing materials and labor. A nearby homeowner allowed the Scouts to use water from his hoses.