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The Centennial History of Independence, Mo. by W. L. Webb

Chapter 8:
A Sleepy Little Town Wakes Up


Independence was an unpromising, sleepy, dull, almost silent little village for the first year or so of its existence.  Now and then the County Court met for a few busy days and less frequently Judge Todd came and held a brief term of Circuit Court.  These sessions of Court were occasions for the foregathering of the pioneers, or back woodsmen, first settlers or whatever we may denominate them.  But the place had two advantages, namely, it was the county seat and it was on the Santa Fe Trail.  This trail had been marked out by the governmental commission two years before the place was selected as the seat of justice.  The Trail had been surveyed and located in 1825 from the old fort at what is now the town of Sibley.  The fort and trading house were abandoned in 1827, when cantonment Leavenworth became the military center of the West.  Hence, Fort Osage was never a rival to Independence.  For a time Blue Mills made a strong bid for the popular favor, with its ferry and its boat landing and its flouring mill.

     Presently Aull and Company from Lexington, Mo., established a store in Independence and carried such goods as those bound for the mountains or for Santa Fe might require.  Independence henceforth was no longer a sleepy, one horse village.  If we had a history of the business conducted by Aull and Company we should have a history of the county seat's first tottering steps in the commercial world.

     The assembling here of the mountain hunters, fur traders and trappers, the trains of pack mules and finally wagon trains drawn at first by mules and the arrival of Mexican traders and the return of the Missourians from New Mexico with bags of silver dropped down on the ground in front of Aull's store; and the frequent visits of Indian bands -- all these mingling and mixing, fighting and drinking, afforded no time, day or night, for Independence to go to sleep.

     Blacksmith and gunsmith shops were set up and wagon shops and  harness shops and taverns -- all of these multiplied to meet the demands of business.  But from all accounts the place was the resort of rough characters and there was much noise and much confusion.  Also there was much money.

     All sorts and conditions of men frequented the bustling young town.  It became almost a congress of languages.  Each race was heard in his mother tongue.  The Spanish, Italian and German language were heard mixed with idioms and dialects of English.  Also Choctaw and Chickasaw, Osage and Kaw.

     The late Capt. E. W. Strode, while traveling in the West, met a man who was a wanderer and who had been in all parts of the country, but he said that Independence was the roughest town  he had ever seen, frequented by tough characters from the West -- drinking, swearing and fighting.  W. S. Flournoy recalls Capt. Strode's story.

     The missionary, the preacher and the priest came along with the first arrivals.  Schools were established and the county seat of Jackson County went forward more rapidly than any other pioneer town in the West.  Independence was never hard up for money, the most fortunate pioneer town recorded in the annals of the West.

     Suddenly the sleepy little village felt the urge of a mighty ambition, the ambition to become a town.  A petition, signed by two-thirds of the taxable inhabitants, was presented to the County Court, praying for an order of incorporation, and the petition was granted, including this entry:

     "And it is further ordered by the Court that John Smith, Jones H. F. Flournoy, John Clemison, John Modie and Richard McCarty be trustees for said incorporation for the term of one year from and after the date of this order, and until their successors are duly chosen and qualified  as trustees of said corporation."

     I give credit to W. S. Flournoy for calling my attention to the above record in the County Clerk's office.  The trustees had power to appoint police.  A common seal was adopted.

     "In 1849 the town had grown to such an extent that application was made to the General Assembly of the State of Missouri for the incorporation of the town, which was done.  By an act of the General Assembly, approved March 8, 1849, the City of Independence was incorporated.  It then ceased to be a town and became a city," quoting W. S. Flournoy's  manuscript.

     It may be stated in passing that Kansas City was first incorporated as the town of "Kansas" by the County Court.


The Centennial History of Independence


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