Introduction to Independence, Missouri
The Missouri city of Independence sits about 10 miles east of Kansas City and is considered part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The county seat of Missouri's Jackson County, Independence is most famous for being the birthplace and residence of Harry S. Truman, the nation's 33rd President. The city is surrounded by several major highways, including Interstates I-70 and I-435; U.S. Routes 24 and 40; and Missouri State Highways 210 and 291. Nearby communities include Liberty (to the north), Blue Springs (to the west), and Grandview (to the south).
Originally called Big Spring, the community of Independence was settled in the early 19th century by missionaries sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) to convert the Indians living in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Although later expelled from the area due to tension with local Missourians, the Latter-Day Saints and its offshoots gradually returned to the city, at times making Independence their headquarters. In the mid-1800s Independence was officially defined by an act of Congress as the starting point of the Oregon Trail. A period of growth ensued, although the area was split by conflicting sentiments during the Civil War. The city became the site of two important battles during the war, one of which resulted in the capture of the town by Confederate troops. During the 20th century, Independence was put on the map by the presence of one of its most celebrated natives, Harry S. Truman. Truman, who grew up in the area, was elected presiding judge of the county court in 1922 and then to the U.S. Senate in 1934. In 1944 he was elected as Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice-president and became President one year later upon Roosevelt's death. Truman was reelected in 1948. During his tenure, Truman often returned to Independence, using his local home as a summer White House. His home and Presidential Library are now two of the city's biggest tourist attractions.
Attractions in Independence
The pivotal role played by Independence in American history is reflected in its grandly restored mansions. One of these, Vaile Mansion, was built in 1881 by local entrepreneur Harvey Merrick Vaile, and represents one of the finest examples of Second-Empire Victorian architecture in the country. The Bingham-Waggoner Estate was constructed in 1855 and was once owned by George C. Bingham, famed Civil War artist. Marshal's Home & Museum is contained in an 1859 jailhouse which once housed Frank James, Jesse James notorious brother. The Truman Home, whose beauty lies in its simplicity, offers a glimpse at the personal life of the nation's 33rd President. The Truman Presidential Museum & Library features exhibits, audio and video programs, and artifacts celebrating the Truman presidency and also his pre and post presidential life. Other Truman landmarks in Independence include the Truman Courthouse & Office, the Truman Memorial Building, the Truman Depot, and the Truman Farm. One of Independence's most celebrated annual events is the Santa-Cali-Gon Days, a Labor Day festival celebrating the city's heritage as a starting point on three major frontier trails: the Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail and the Oregon Trail.
Sports fans can find plenty of action just a few minutes west of Independence in Kansas City, where three major league pro franchises are located. Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals are an American League mainstay, while the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs attract large crowds every fall and winter. Kansas City is also home to the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer (MLS).