Steps Through Time

Retrace the roots of pioneer trails, President Truman & heartland history in Independence, MO

So much has happened in Independence since our town was founded in 1827 that it can be hard to keep our story straight. That’s where this timeline comes in. Explore our history, from pioneer trails and noteworthy homes to entrepreneurs and former President Harry S. Truman, and look for all the ways to experience each chapter today.


Independence is platted and founded. The Log Courthouse, the first government building in Jackson County, is built by slave labor at 107 W. Kansas Ave.

It remains the only courthouse between Independence and the West Coast for the following 40 years.

Tour the two-room courthouse, where Harry S. Truman presided as judge in the 1930s, on a guided tour.


Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormon church, arrives in Independence and declares it the new Zion.

Independence serves as the world headquarters for the Community of Christ Church.

Explore the temple near the Historic Independence Square to learn more about the Mormon heritage here, or embark on the Missouri Mormon Walking Trail.


Mob violence erupts, and the local Mormon community is forced out of Jackson County.


The first brick courthouse is constructed on the Independence Square.

The historic courthouse on the Square has undergone several major renovations since its construction. Its current design was constructed in 1933 under the leadership of Harry S. Truman.

The Jackson County Historical Society provides complimentary guided tours of the Historic Truman Courthouse where visitors can see Truman’s former office and courtroom.


The first migrant wagon train leaves from Independence on the Oregon Trail.

In the years that followed, an estimated 400,000 migrants would step in behind wagons heading west, following the Santa Fe, California, or Oregon trails. All these trails started in Independence.

Listen to the history of prevailing pioneers who embarked west during a mule-drawn wagon tour with Pioneer Trails Adventures.


The Bingham-Waggoner Estate is built.

The meticulously preserved estate is open to the public for walk-in tours of the expansive grounds and furnished home.


Former slave and African-American entrepreneur Hiram Young runs the largest factory in Independence, Hiram Young and Company.

In 1860 alone, his wagon manufacturing business produces 300 wagons and 6,000 ox yokes for westward pioneers.


With the Civil War underway, the First Battle of Independence takes place on August 11 on the Square.

In a Confederate win, Captain William Quantrill captures control of the city. Independence witnessed two Civil War battles.

Find the historic markers on and around the Square, or jump aboard Pioneer Trails Adventures to learn more about these battles.


The Second Battle of Independence is fought in Independence.

Confederate General Sterling Price wins the victory and moves west to Westport, where he is defeated.


The Chicago & Alton Depot is built.

Restored between 1992 and 2002, the furnished two-story depot is open seasonally for tours.


The Vaile Mansion is constructed.

Visitors are welcome to tour the three-story Victorian home during daily tours and seasonal events.


Harry S. Truman is born on May 8 in Lamar, Missouri.

The City of Independence commemorates Truman’s birthday every year during the Truman Day celebration.


Truman moves with his family to 619 Crysler St. in Independence.

Truman meets Bess Wallace during Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church.

Both the City of Independence and the National Park Service have created walking tours on which visitors can see all the places where Truman grew up in Independence.


Truman takes his first job at Clinton’s Drug Store on the Independence Square.

Clinton’s Drug Store stands in the same place today as Clinton’s Soda Fountain, a fun ice-cream and sweets shop.

Drop in for a milkshake and stand where the young Truman stood.


Truman graduates from Independence High School.


Truman marries Bess Wallace at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The newlyweds move in to their home at 219 N. Delaware St.

Now known as the Harry S. Truman Home, it remains the same as it was when Bess Truman passed away.

Walk through the home, where Truman’s hat and coat still hang by the door, during a guided tour.


Truman becomes presiding judge of Jackson County Court.


Truman wins a seat in the United States Senate.


On the winning ticket with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Truman assumes the office of vice president of the United States.

On FDR’s death 82 days later, Truman would become the 33rd president of the United States.


Truman traverses the country by train on his Whistlestop Tour, campaigning for his election to a second term as president.

The local train depot where Truman stopped during his Whistlestop Tour, affectionately known here as the Truman Depot, still stands today and operates as an Amtrak station.


On July 6, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated in Independence.

Visit the Truman Library, one of only 14 presidential libraries across the United States, to learn more about Truman’s life and presidency.


Truman passes away at the age of 88 and is buried in the courtyard at the Truman Library.


The Bingham-Waggoner Historical Society, in cooperation with the City of Independence, purchases the 19.5-acre Bingham-Waggoner Estate.


Bess Truman passes away on October 18, 1982, and is buried next to her husband at the Truman Library.

In her will, she leaves her and Harry’s home to the American people.

Today, the Truman Home is operated by the National Park Service.

Stop by the National Park Service Visitor Center at Truman and Main streets in downtown Independence to secure your ticket. Tours are offered seven days a week from Memorial Day to November 1.


The Dewitt family donates the Vaile Mansion to the City of Independence.

The Vaile Victorian Society, a local nonprofit formed in the same year, begins refurbishing the home to its original state.


The Truman Library is undergoing a $30 million renovation featuring an updated entrance and lobby, exciting new exhibits, and enhanced technology.

The revitalized library will continue to highlight Truman’s legacy for decades to come.

With so many ways to experience the rich history of Independence today, there’s no better time to plan your trip here and start writing your own story.

Follow in the footsteps of pioneers & trailblazers in Independence
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