It wasn’t exactly as exciting as when Harry met Sally, and there was no sex scene in the sleepy pizza parlor Shanda and I found to eat at; but it was an adventure nonetheless. Independence, MO is a small midwestern town dedicated to preserving the life and memory of the quiet man who had one of the most difficult presidencies in US history: Harry S. Truman.
A walk through Independence, MO is a walk through history. A greenery rich and dispersedly populated town sat idly under the repressive August heat when we visited. Statues, monuments, and signage remind visitors that one is walking the streets Truman walked. Truman died in 1972, yet his spirit lives reverently on in Independence, MO.
My partner, Shanda, was on an extended business trip in Kansas City, MO, this summer and after researching how she might keep herself entertained, I decided to fly out for a long weekend getaway. Museums, history, jazz, BBQ, and the Missouri River, sold me on the trip. It was an awesome decision to go to Missouri; we packed a lot of entertainment into those three and half days. Each day ended with sore feet, a dead camera battery, and left us more enlightened and amused that we had been at breakfast.
We decided to dedicate one of our precious three days to Independence, MO. We visited former President Harry Truman’s home, the Truman Presidential Library, the Lewis and Clark trailhead, and walked around the single square designated as “downtown.” It was likely our only opportunity to visit Independence, MO; and here is yours:
Harry Truman was born to Missouri farmers and raised in Independence, MO, where he and his wife, Bess, lived before, during and after residing in the White House. The Democratic party recruited Truman to run as Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President because he connected ethically and emotionally to the farming and rural communities. President Roosevelt was already in ill health during his reelection and the democratic party understood they were effectively choosing Roosevelt’s successor. Truman had a reserved mannerism and was interested in business and bettering the community. He was not interested in becoming president but felt anyone else would pollute the presidential office with corruption; therefore, he accepted the nomination.
Truman’s presidency was plagued with dilemma and below are some of the historical events which he influenced:
- Atomic bombing of Japan
- United States to economic resuscitation of war-ravaged Europe
- Expansion of Roosevelt’s New Deal (social services and economic recovery of the Great Depression)
- The Korean War
- Assassination attempt survivor
Truman often found himself stuck between a rock and hard place. He made unpopular decisions throughout his presidency and the policies and institutions he created did not receive public revere until around the time of his death.
Prior to establishing themselves in Salt Lake City, UT, the Mormons were chased out of Independence, MO. A few Mormons laid low and quietly resurrected the Mormon community in Independence, MO, after hostilities died down.
We saw more churches than gas stations in this small town; some elaborate and some very quaint like the one below:
The following pictures were taken in and around the 1859 jail and Marshal’s Home Museum (next to the old school house). The Sheriff and his family would live in the front of the house and the jail was the back part of the house.
Downtown Independence, MO consists of the Historic Jackson County Truman Courthouse that takes up one entire square block. The four shop-front blocks that encircled the courthouse make up the rest of “downtown.” We saw one other person in downtown, a bricklayer, working on an adjacent building.
Independence, MO provided a memorable day trip. It is a small town with defined weather seasons and an abundance of picturesque churches. I loved the trees, historically significant sights and learned so much about Harry Truman and events that surrounded his presidency.
Rest in Peace Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972)
33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)
*Information in this post was obtained through the Truman Presidential Library and governmental plaques and information boards located throughout Independence, MO.