Skip to main content

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.


1827 -------------------


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

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

Black and white image of the original 1827 courthouse in Independence, Missouri.


Portrait of Joseph Smith Jr., the Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the mid 1800s.

-------------------- 1831

Joseph Smith Jr., leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, arrives in Independence and declares it the new Zion.



1833 -------------------

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

Painting of the Town of Independence in 1838.



Image of the first brick courthouse constructed on the Independence Square in 1836

------------------- 1836

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.



1843 -------------------

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.

Image of the map with the trails west and a drawing of the wagon train moving west.


Black and white photo of Bingham-Waggoner Estate

------------------- 1852 

The Bingham-Waggoner Estate is built.



1860 -------------------

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

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

Portrait of Hiram Young.



Image of a wagon on the Independence square in the mid 1800s.

------------------ 1862 

With the Civil War underway, the First Battle of Independence took 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.



1864 -------------------

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.

Portrait of General during Civil War



Image of the Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot in the original location with railroad map in the background

------------------- 1879

The Chicago & Alton Depot is built. 



1881 --------------------

The Vaile Mansion is constructed.

Black and white image of the Vaile Mansion exterior



Image of the birthplace of Harry Truman in Lamar, MO

------------------- 1884

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



1890 -------------------

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

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

Image of the S. Crysler home that Truman moved to as a child.



Image of the inside of Clinton's Drug Store on the Independence Square.

------------------- 1898

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



1901 -------------------

Truman graduates from Independence High School.

Image of Truman's graduating class in 1901



Image of Truman's identity card for the American Expeditionary Forces. His rank is Captain, 129 Field Artillery.

-------------------- 1917

Truman served as Captain of Battery D, a field artillery unit, in France during WW1



1919 --------------------


Truman married Bess Wallace at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The newlyweds move into their home at 219 N. Delaware St.

Outside view of the Trinity Church brick building.



Image of the Courthouse with a portrait of Truman attached with a red paperclip.

------------------- 1927

Truman became the presiding judge of Jackson County Court.



1934 -------------------

Truman won a seat in the United States Senate for the State of Missouri.

Judge Harry S. Truman at Sikeston, speaking through a microphone as he stands on the back of a truck bed.



Image of Harry S. Truman taking Presidential oath of office

------------------- 1945

On the winning ticket with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Truman assumed 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.



1948 -------------------

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

President Harry S. Truman's arrival in Washington, D.C. from his Whistlestop Campaign trip.



------------------- 1953

Harry and Bess Truman return to live in Independence, following his presidency.


1957 -------------------

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

Harry S. Truman holds shovel in his hand and gives speech. Ceremony for the Presidential Library dedication



Eternal Flame burning in the courtyard of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in the foreground. A statue of Truman is in the background.

------------------- 1972

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



1979 -------------------

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

A close up view showing the front of the Bingham-Waggoner Estate



Image of Harry and Bess Truman on the front porch on Delaware Street.

------------------- 1982

Bess Truman passed 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.



1982-1990 ------------

The first female Mayor, Barbara Potts, was elected in Independence. She is the 46th Mayor of Independence. 

Image of Barbara Potts, the first elected female Mayor of Independence.



A side view of the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri with blue skies and light wispy clouds in the background

------------------- 1983

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.



1996 -------------------


Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot is moved from its original location to its current location on West Pacific Ave.

From 1992 to 2002, members of the community worked to restore the historic wonder back to life.

A front view of the Chicago & Alton Depot and the corresponding sign



Image of the Truman Library in the background with the KC Heart in the foreground

------------------ 2020

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

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


2023 ------------------ 

Now it's time for you to add your Great American Story to Independence. 

Aerial view of Independence Santa Cali Gon Festival