It was a 1,500 mile journey, but I finally made it out to Independence, MO. This was the starting point for most of the pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail. My trip to Independence took 4 days of long driving in my RV. For the pioneers, it took several weeks. Many came to Independence by boat up the Missouri. Some also rode horses or walked.
In the 1830’s, Independence was the frontier. There was no Kansas City or surrounding towns. Independence existed because it sits on a bluff, had fresh water springs, and the river boats could only go up the Missouri River to Upper Independence Landing. Also, the Indian Nonintercourse Act of 1834 prohibited people from settling any further west.
Independence was where the pioneers got outfitted, bought their provisions, and got their wagons ready. It was a bustling place in the spring time when hundreds of wagons were heading out. There were several campsites around the town where people encamped and gathered.
In 1828, Independence was a lone frontier town. Today it’s surrounded by the sprawl that is the greater Kansas City metropolitan area.
For a history buff, there’s some nice historic sites to visit. Being the home town of Harry Truman, there’s the Harry Truman Presidential Library and the Truman Home is a National Historic Site. I’ve visited both of these in prior visits. Here’s a post that I wrote on one of the visits – Independence and Rediscovering Harry Truman
For this visit I was interested in seeing it from the Oregon Trail perspective. In downtown Independence, there is historic Court House Square. This is the original town center that holds the Jackson County Court House. The present court-house was built in the 1930’s when Harry Truman was the county commissioner. There’s also a couple historic markers for the Oregon Trail and the Sante Fe Trail.
Just a few blocks east of court-house square is Pioneer Spring. This spring was used by the pioneers to fill their water barrels before heading out on the Trail.
About 3 miles north of the square is Wayne City Landing. Originally called Upper Independence Landing, this was the site where the river boats unloaded. The place is now a small park. There’s a few historical placards depicting the history of the landing. I was disappointed with this site because it was overgrown and there was no view of the river.
The last place I visited was the National Historic Trails Museum. The small museum has displays and a few artifacts. It covers the routes and history of the Oregon, California, Sante Fe, and Mormon Trails. Independence was the starting point for three of these trails. Some Mormon saints left from Independence but most started their trail journey near Council Bluffs in Iowa.
The museum has some good displays of maps and journal entries from the pioneers. You can see the routes and read their words about their travels. I was somewhat disappointed as I had already read much about the trail. So for me there was not much new to learn.
Here’s a video I made on my visits to the sites in Independence.
After about 2 1/2 hours, I was on my way to start my journey along the trail . I headed west along I-70 to get beyond the Kansas City urban areas. I started following the trail just a few miles from Topeka at the small town of St. Mary’s.