Kansas City has a lot of history, but few places have as many spots within such a small area that give you a glimpse into the past as Independence Missouri. Once an area settled by the Osage Indians, Lewis & Clark recorded in 1804 that they picked plums, raspberries and wild apples in the spot that would soon become a major frontier town dubbed “Queen of the trails”.
One could easily spend an entire weekend walking the footsteps of those who shaped Independence and Kansas City, so grab your walking shoes and lets step back in time!
Pioneer Trails Adventures
Every trip through Historic Independence should start with a horse & buggy ride on Pioneer Trails Adventures. You choose the length of your trip ( square only, city limits or whole city) and relax while your driver tells you the tales of the past. I’d recommend the full tour where you see all the historic sites and hear amazing stories you’ve probably never heard about Kansas City’s past. Rides are offered starting at the visitor’s center at Truman & Main street on the square.
Admission; Square only $10 adults, $7 kids, City Limits, $20 adults, $7 kids, Whole city $30 adults, $7 kids. Open Monday through Saturday 9 – 4:30 through December 31.
1827 Log Courthouse
Built as a mercantile for the Mormans that flocked to Jackson County in the 1820’s & 30’s, it later became the only courthouse between Independence and the Pacific Ocean. It was used by Judge Harry Truman in the 1930’s. Hours are Monday through Friday 10-2 with free admission.
Bingham -Waggoner Home
Originally built in 1827, the home had several owners before George Caleb Bingham moved in. The most famous of the owners, he lived there until 1870 but not before he painted his famous painting depicting the harsh Order # 11 during the Civil War. The Waggoners, mill operators, moved in and expanded the home. The last Waggoner lived in the home until 1976. Be sure and check out the wagon swails beside the house, still present from the hundreds of thousands of wagons that traveled west on the trail.
1859 Jail and Marshall’s House
This amazing jail and home to the Marshall looks so much smaller on the outside than it is on the inside. See how the Marshall and family lived just steps away from the multi celled jail, one of which belonged to Frank James. Check out the museum showcasing the border war history.
Admission; $6 adults, $5 children. Monday through Saturday 10-4, Sunday 1-4
Chicago & Alton Depot
Built in 1879, this depot served as the third tip of the triangle servicing travelers from Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City. The first floor houses the waiting room, stationmaster’s room and baggage room and the second floor holds the stationmaster’s residence with a kitchen, dining room, bedroom and parlor.
Hours are Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 9:30 – 4:30 and Sunday 12:30-4:30. Admission is free but donations appreciated.
Located a few miles north of the square, Vaile mansion was built in 1881 by Colonel Harvey Vaile and his wife. It is one of the best examples of Second Empire style architecture in the United States and has 31 rooms, 9 marble fireplaces, running water in bathrooms and a 48,000 gallon wine cellar.
Admission $6 adults, $3 children. Hours 10-4 Monday through Saturday and Sunday 1-4
National Frontier Museum
Next to the Bingham Waggoner estate, this museum is a must for anyone interested in the local or frontier history. It highlights the history and purpose of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trials, showcases Lewis & Clark in the area and fur trapping here in Kansas City. You will see authentic covered wagons, trail artifacts and a large collection of letters and diaries of those who traveled west. An interactive room for children tests their skill at filling a wagon with only the necessities and there is pioneer clothing to dress in. Make sure you browse the gift shop for some books, old fashioned candy, pen quills and other items that people used in the 1800’s. Admission $6 adults, $3 children. Hours Monday through Friday 9-4:30 and Sunday 12:3-4:30
Tickets for the Truman Home must be purchased at the Visitor’s Center, located at the intersection of Truman and main in the square. The Truman Home belonged to his wife, Bess’s grandparents and was built from 1867 to 1885. Harry lived here after his marriage to Bess in 1919 and, except when he was in Washington, until his death in 1972.
Admission $5 for ages 15 and up. Hours Tuesday through Sunday 9-4. Only 8 people on each tour allowed.
The first of the 13 Presidential libraries built in 1957 houses all the documents, papers, records, collections and historic materials obtained in the Truman Administration. Additionally there are over 30,000 artifacts including gifts from foreign heads of state, gifts from private citizens, personal possessions of the Truman family, political memorabilia and objects associated with historical events of Truman’s life. Within the library’s courtyard lies the resting place of Truman and Bess along with an eternal flame.
Admission $8 adults, $7 seniors, $3 children ages 6-15. Hours Monday through Friday 9-5, Sunday noon – 5.
Clinton Soda Fountain
Don’t leave town without a visit to Clinton’s Soda Fountain, home to one of Harry Truman’s first jobs as a teenager. Enjoy an old fashion phosphate or a banana split at the 100 year old marble counter while looking at vintage photographs throughout. Hours Monday through Saturday 11-6.