Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Setting Out from Independence

     Independence, MO, was the first and most famous departure point for westward expansion in the 1800s. First came the Santa Fe Trail, starting in 1821, which soon turned into a significant trading route between the U. S. and newly independent Mexico. Independence became a thriving, sophisticated place, and it was not uncommon, we were told, to hear English, Spanish, French and even German spoken in the streets of town.

     Then came the Oregon and California trails, starting in the early 1840s. Settlers from the East and all around the Midwest would arrive by boat on the Missouri river. They then climbed up a three mile bluff into town, dragging whatever equipment and provisions they had with them. Most of the settlers, however, traveled light and outfitted themselves in Independence, as there were plenty of people ready to provide them with wagons, mules, oxen, food and clothes.

     This is a typical wagon used by the settlers.


     But this is the wagon we're using to make the trip.


     In the 1840s the traditional departure point for both the Oregon and California trails was the courthouse in Independence. Later on, people bypassed Independence and traveled farther upriver to leave from St. Joseph, MO, or Council Bluffs, IA. This is what the Independence courthouse looks like today. The center portion of the building is original, from the 1830s, although of course it's been renovated and added onto several times in the past 180+ years.


     And this is what it looked like in the 1840s, according to a painting at the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence. You can see that the basic central portion of the building is the same.


     Here's the marker outside the west side of the courthouse.


     Of course, Independence, MO, is famous for one other thing, as the hometown of Harry S Truman. There was one connection Truman had with the pioneers. When he married Bess Wallace in 1919, he moved into her house, built by her grandfather who made his money selling equipment to the west-bound settlers. They moved back into that same house after the presidency and lived there the rest of their lives.


     So anyway, we left Independence and traveled northwest through Kansas, looking for old signs that our forebearers had been through here. We found this off Route 99 in North Central Kansas . . .


     We couldn't see them either. But no fear, a little ways down the road I ran into a true pioneer woman.


12 comments:

DJan said...

Neat pictures! Those oxen look a little stiff to me. :-)

Anonymous said...

We drove through Independence a few years ago while on a long midwest road trip and visited the Harry Truman presidential library. It was the first (and, so far, only) such library I've gone to. I was very pleasantly surprised at how interesting it was. You are probably past it now, but we also found that the museum in Kansas City for the sunken ship Arabia was fascinating too (I know, it sounds weird, but we promised some relatives that we'd go there, and we were glad we did). I love road trips!

retirementreflections said...

This looks like an awesome road trip, Tom. I especially like the final picture!

Meryl Baer said...

I bet your wagon is a lot more comfortable than the old wagon. I don't think the 1800's model had air conditioning.Enjoy the trip!

Retirement Confidential said...

I love this trip. It's like reading the book all over again minus the mules.

Jono said...

Thanks for bringing us along!

Barbara said...

Great post. Looking forward to more on this subject.

gigihawaii said...

I like Truman's beautiful house. My husband likes your car.

Sally said...

Many years ago, my parents were in Independence with my grandfather on a trip to Ohio. They drove by Truman’s house and he stepped out the door to go on his morning walk just as they drove up to the house. My grandfather was a great Truman fan and was thrilled. They waved, and he waved back. It is a story I always loved to hear my grandfather tell.

MARY said...

Tom what a great start to your adventure! Please keep the updates coming so that we can continue to enjoy your journey!

David @ iretiredyoung said...

I'm enjoying reading about your journey. Not being from the US myself, I know very little about some of the history, and your posts have sent me off to read up more. Compared to some European history, these events are relatively recent, but that sometimes makes them more relatable. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

Anonymous said...

I've an old photo showing Harry & Bess Truman on the porch of their house in Independence. Beyond their yard were many adoring fans who had come out to welcome the Trumans home. (My Mom made sure that our family was among them.)