Independence was founded on March 29, 1827 and quickly
became an important frontier
town. Independence was the farthest point westward on the Missouri River where steamboats
or other cargo boats could travel due to the convergence of the Kansas River with the Missouri
River approximately six miles west of Independence, near the current Kansas-Missouri border.
In 1831, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (LDS or Mormons) began
moving to the Jackson County, Missouri, area. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter-day
Saint prophet, declared a spot just west of Courthouse Square to be the place for a prophesied temple
of the New Jerusalem in expectation of the Second Coming of Christ. Tension grew with local
Missourians until finally the Latter-Day Saints were expelled from the area. Many offshoots from
the main body of Latter-Day Saints gradually returned to the city, often making Independence their
headquarters, including the Community of Christ, the Restoration Branches and the Church of Christ
In the mid-1800s an act of Congress defined Independence as the start of the Oregon Trail.
President Harry S. Truman grew up in Independence and in 1922 was elected judge of the County
Court of Jackson County, Missouri (an administrative, not judicial, position). Although he was defeated
for reelection in 1924, he won back the office in 1926 and was reelected in 1930. Truman performed
his duties in this office diligently, and won personal acclaim for several popular public works projects,
including an extensive series of fine roads for the growing use of the automobiles, building of a new
County Court building in Independence, and a series of 12 Madonna of the Trail monuments to pioneer
women dedicated across the country in 1928 and 1929. He later returned to the city after two terms as
President. His wife, First Lady Bess Truman, was born and raised in Independence.
Independence continues to be of great importance to branches
of the Latter Day Saint movement and
is the headquarters of the Community of Christ. The Community of Christ has built a large and striking
temple in Independence (see Independence Temple), and also operates other buildings nearby, including
a large auditorium. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) operates a large visitors
center nearby to these buildings, all of which are nearby to the original Temple Lot, which still remains empty.