Independence Missouri is a rather large suburb of Kansas City with a population of 117,000. A couple weeks ago we were looking for a day trip. Karen had never been to the square at Independence. So off we went. What a wonderful day it would turn out to be.
Upon arrival in the area I wanted to show Karen the Latter Day Saints Church which is a magnificent building nestled in the heart of Independence. Most people are familiar with the Mormon journey to Utah and that Joseph Smith founded the church in New York.
If you’re not from Kansas City, you may not know the history behind the Mormon journey in that Missouri played a role; all be it not a very proud part. I’ll mention a couple other famous New Yorkers that made a trip to Missouri a little later in this post.
Joseph Smith and his followers moved to Missouri, and later Illinois. The larger part of them went on to Utah with Brigham Young leading. They were met with hatred in Missouri. As I understand it, in 1831 Smith declared the righteous would gather in Independence Missouri to greet the second coming of Christ. Thousands of followers moved to Missouri and the start of a bloody Mormon War would begin. The Missouri governor, believe it or not, issued an extermination order to expel Smith’s followers. The order literally legalized the killing of these settlers. The conflict was proceeded by eviction of the Mormons from Jackson County for which Independence is the county seat. The order was issued after a clash between Missouri Militia and Mormons north of Kansas City, just miles from Karen’s and my home. Then Governor Lilburn Boggs declared the Mormons had committed open defiance of the law and were at war with the people of Missouri. They were treated as enemies and driven from the State to Illinois. During the Mormon War Joseph Smith was briefly imprisoned in nearby Liberty Missouri. The jail site is now one of the church’s historic locations and open to the public. As I wrote earlier, this is not a proud part of my State’s history.
Karen was fascinated by the seemingly dozens of smaller churches of varying faiths scattered around the historic Mormon Church area in Independence. She and I had also previously visited a cemetery near where a Mormon battle was fought. Interesting enough, not to tour the Mormon gravesite and monument but to find the resting place of Bloody Bill Anderson. He was a Confederate bushwhacker during the Civil War who was killed, beheaded, dragged through the square in Richmond Missouri and buried in the worst place at the time – which was the Mormon Cemetery – in an unmarked grave. Bad day for Bill to say the least. Of course, the grave was marked by the time we found it. Legend has it Jesse James’ brother Frank marked it and a funeral service was put on by their fellow bushwhacker, Cole Younger, of nearby Lees’ Summit Missouri. At one time, the James and Younger brothers had been at least brief members of Quantrill’s Raiders. Admittedly I might have the order of occurrence wrong in that it may have been Cole that marked the grave and Frank that held the funeral. I digress…
One stop on that weekend was to be the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence. But first we found a fantastic pizza restaurant on the square. Figures the name of the establishment is Square Pizza. Some may find it square that I took a photo of our food, a square pizza with the best ingredients.
Harry Truman became President with the death of Franklin Roosevelt. It’s fun for us to know in the 1948 election, when Truman was elected President, he stayed the night at the Elms Hotel located down the hill from our home. He is known as an Independence Missouri native but was born in Lamar Missouri. Also of interest is that Lamar is the same town Wyatt Earp’s family had moved to from California and Wyatt would become the town’s Constable. Lamar is located a couple hours south of Kansas City. I digress…
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Truman Library in Independence to me is learning about the total gutting and rebuilding of the White House interior while Truman was in office. The museum had a collection of photos taken during the re-construction. Truman decided to keep the exterior of the White House in place for historical reasons.
Also of interest was an exact model of the Oval Office set in the time Truman occupied it. I wandered around looking at old photos of Truman in his office, comparing it to the furnishings in the mockup. I must say they got it exactly right to the smallest detail. They even got the book titles correct on the shelves. It was fascinating to see the President’s reading interests. Several artifacts are from the White House.
One sign told the story of how Truman would work out of the Independence Library nearly every day. He was known to answer the phone if someone was not around to answer it for him, informing the caller that he was the real Harry S. Truman. The museum is like a walk through two generations of American history and includes important displays of Truman’s presidential and personal life with exhibits of Americana spread throughout its two floors. Harry, Bess and daughter are buried in the manicured courtyard.
I’ve known people in my life who met the Trumans. Apparently, his door was open to visitors and he was often seen walking the sidewalks of Independence with a City Police Sargent. Truman was raised as a Master Mason in the same Masonic Lodge I attended in nearby Belton Missouri. An older lodge brother recalled when they built the new Lodge he met Truman at his office (to solicit a donation). Truman pulled out his checkbook. Truman said one of the greatest achievement of his life was being the Master of the Missouri Masonic Grand Lodge. My lodge brother told me before he left Truman’s office he had a brief talk with the President. The brother had been on a ship at the end of World War II destined for the invasion of the Japanese homeland. He thanked the President for ending the war, by dropping the bomb, thereby saving his life. Truman said he had rarely been thanked by someone personally for that.
I should also point out during the summer, entrance to the library is free to those that served in the military. There is an RV campsite down the road which we did not have a chance to tour.
Karen and I were able to meet up with full-time RVers Fred and Bonnie from New York. They had started a recent trip in St. Louis Missouri and are now following the foot/boat/RV steps of the Louis and Clark Expedition. You can catch a two-part blog post of their visit in Kansas City at HappiLeeRVing.
We had a wonderful time visiting after dinner in Kearney Missouri. The couple had lots of advice and experiences to share. At times Karen would drift into conversation with Bonnie while Fred and I talked about something else. Fred says do this fulltime RV thing before you’re too old to handle the physical part. Bonnie was talking to Karen about clothing at the same time so I did not catch that. I think it had something to do with Fred keeping too many jackets. We talked about trip planning, this trips theme of following Louis and Clark, decision to stick with an RV gas/electric refrigerator, and attending the RV Dreams Rally.
The couple agreed there is much more to see in the Kansas City area than they had imagined. Fred likes to plan stops weeks in advance. When asked how they can force themselves to leave an interesting area before they saw everything, Fred said their attitude is “they will catch it next time.” We talked about planning for stops, how long they stay and how far between moves. We even talked briefly about an exit strategy should they ever want to come off the road. The couple really seemed happy! That was a joy to see. We finished coffee and headed over to visit Jesse James’ grave where the price of admission was
only having to put up with a history lesson by yours truly.
I’ve been busy going over a couple future blog posts in my head. Stay tuned for a few ideas on hobbies while on the road. And a list of items we plan to equip our RV with. Heads up – I’m not sure if it’s the same at your local Walmart but ours has 50% off on Weber Q 1200 grills. I suppose because it’s the end of the season.