Known Oval Santa Fe Trail Sign
Independence, Missouri

Oval Sign on Palmer Senior Center

     This marker is still in its original place which is above the 1940 Cornerstone on which used to be the Palmer Junior High School. It is the last school in Independence, Missouri to still have the Santa Fe Trail marker hanging. Since Independence was the "Queen of the Trails" or starting point of the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico, each school received a plaque. There was a ceremony at each school on November 16, 1948 at which "Oh Susanna," "God Bless America," "Wagon Wheels," "The Star Spangled Banner," etc. were sung. Speeches were made and a coonskin cap was worn by one speaker. The Santa Fe Trail markers were made by the Independence Stove and Furnace Company in Independence. Blevins Davis, who funded the markers and was a member of the American Pioneer Trails Association, was also a principal at Palmer for a short time before he went to Yale University and later produced Porgy and Bess internationally. Irvin "Shorty" Shope, who drew the mules pulling the wagon on the sign, was a western painter, illustrator and muralist from Montana.

     Palmer is no longer a junior high. The City of Independence remodeled the gymnasium and cafeteria and it is now the Palmer Senior Center. The Independence School District Administration remodeled and moved into the main building for more space. However, they have had to move to another location, due to environmental reasons.

     It was found that traveling on the river was faster than the difficulty of traveling up and down the land and through the thick forests. In 1819, the steamboats stopped at Wayne's Landing about 3 miles northwest of where Palmer Jr. High would someday be. The first steamboat was called Independence which may be where our city got its name. Lewis and Clark camped at this site. Supplies were taken from Wayne's Landing first by wagons and later, by the first railroad to the Independence Square where they were sold to those preparing to travel the trails. Wayne's Landing linked the trails. In 2008, markers with the history, paintings and maps were placed at the site. You may also sit and watch the Missouri River and the trains go by.

     The Palmer building is located 4 blocks West of the historical Independence Square and Courthouse where thousands of pioneers bought their supplies before taking off on the Santa Fe Trail. The pioneers camped around the Square while they organized their wagons for the trip. They could have possibly camped on the land on which Palmer was built.

     The National Frontier Trails Museum may be found across the street from the Bingham Waggoner Mansion on Pacific Street where the Santa Fe Trail was. The Museum has many hands-on exhibits, a video, wagons, diaries, and a gift and bookshop. The pioneers got their water supplies from a spring on the land where the Trails Museum is located. Besides being a stopping point on the Santa Fe Trail, Independence was also a part of the Oregon Trail. Tours are given of the ruts across the street behind the Bingham Waggoner Mansion and wagon rides are offered on the actual trails at specific times during the year. More ruts may be found in the Santa Fe Park, west of the baseball diamond. All ruts are marked and were found from a map from a satellite in space. We have eighteen Santa Fe Trail landmarks which were here when Independence was the "jumping off" stop for supplies. A map is available at our Trails museum.

     Solomon Young, President Harry S. Truman's maternal grandfather carried freight over the Santa Fe Trail. Jim Bridger, trails explorer, is buried at Mt. Washington Cemetery in Independence. People, who were important to the Santa Fe Trail such as John Lewis, Smallwood Noland and Hiram Young, are buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery. Daniel Boone, the Donner family, Calamity Jane, Jesse and Frank James, and many more pioneers have all been through Independence on the trails.

     Independence has the Pioneer Trail Adventures where you can ride in a covered wagon and hear the history of the trails, swales, rails, Civil War, historic Independence, Jesse and Frank James, and about President Harry Truman.

     On Labor Day weekend, our city celebrates Santa-Cali-Gon, or Santa Fe, California, and the Oregon trails with re-enactors, carnival rides, crafts, live country music, and many food vendors on Independence Square.
Used With Permission of the Author:
C. L. H.

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