KC Destinations Blog

August 1, 2016

Retrace the Steps of American Legends As History Comes to Life in Kansas City

A History buff and bucket lister’s delight, the Kansas City region offers more than 100 interactive exhibits, living history museums, attractions and historic homes for those seeking to reconnect with the past.truman

Truman brought to life Harry Truman's no-nonsense manner and modest background has drawn people from all over the world to Independence Missouri as they retrace the steps and get a closer view into the personal and political life of the 33rd President of the United States.

The Truman Library and Museum tells the story of Truman's life-from early years all the way to his rise to presidency. After your tour, take a few moments to reflect quietly in the tranquil courtyard including the graves of Harry and Bess Truman.

historic homeHome Sweet Historic Home Within a short driving distance of each other, historic homes in region allow visitors take retrace the steps and relive the lives of former historical pioneers. From a famous painter’s house and studio, to a former United States president’s home and Victorian mansions, perfectly preserved homesteads await visitors in Kansas City.

Located in Independence are four historic homes, Truman's family home (a short drive from the museum), the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, the Vaile Victorian Mansion and the 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home and Museum.

Catch a glimpse into the lives of historical figures and how they lived by visiting the preserved homes of famous pioneers such as outlaw Jesse James at his family home and birthplace in Kearney, MO; immigrants from Eastern Europe at the Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center; famous painter Thomas Hart Benton; creator of the Pony Express, Alexander Majors; and Moses and Anna Grinter, operators of one of the first river ferries during the great migration west.


Civil War The battle marks left behind by the Civil War are a daily reminder of a troublesome past in our regions’ history. Below is a list of Civil War sites in the area that offer a place for learning, reflection and commemoration.

Kansas City: Union General Thomas Ewing signed Order No. 11 in the Pacific House Hotel in Kansas City’s River Marketplace on August 25, 1863. The Order forced nearly twenty thousand residents in four western Missouri counties from their homes.

Westport: Known as “The Gettysburg of the West,” the October 23, 1864, Battle of Westport ended with three thousand casualties.

Independence: Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s troops held back Union forces in a skirmish just west of Independence.

St. Joseph: The Union used the St. Joseph-based Pony Express to communicate with allies in California. Jesse James also called St. Joseph home.

Kearney: Federal soldiers tortured Jesse James’s stepfather at the James Farm in Kearney. The act led James to vow revenge on the Union. James is buried in nearby Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Liberty: A clash near Liberty on September 17, 1861, resulted in 126 casualties and helped the Confederates consolidate northwest Missouri.

Kansas City, Kansas: The Old Quindaro Museum, overlook and ruins and Underground Railroad Museum preserves and promotes the historical and cultural awareness, educational value and overall importance of the African American Community of Quindaro to the history and evolutionary development of Kansas as well as the United States of America.

Leavenworth: Fort Leavenworth originally established in 1827 to provide protection along the Santa Fe Trail. During the Civil War, Fort Leavenworth served as a training station for Kansas volunteers, and in 1864 the fort's garrison prepared for a possible attack by Major General Sterling Price on his Missouri Expedition. The fort is best remembered for its role in supporting the post-Civil War Indian Wars.

Franklin County: Franklin County is included in the Freedoms Frontier National Heritage Area which explores the pre-Civil War border wars between Missouri and Kansas, shaping of the Frontier by early settlers and our enduring struggles for Freedom even to present day.

pioneer trailsPioneer Trails and Frontier Life Embark on a journey, immersing yourself in the pioneer life of the 1840s. Travel back in time to 1849 where gold was on the mind of thousands and the streets were bustling with wagon trains preparing for their departure West. Stand where fates were unknown and retrace the steps of these legends as you explore their stories.

National Frontier Trails Museum: Independence, MO was a crucial hub in the 1800s, as scores of pioneers ventured into the American West. Five major trails are highlighted in the museum and showcase the rugged terrain and sometimes devastating hardships the travelers had to face on the Lewis and Clark Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail.

Lanesfield School Historic Site: Edgerton, KS offers a turn-of-the-century school lessons from a costumed schoolteacher as she guides tours through the restored 1869 one-room schoolhouse

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm: Olathe, KS is home to three original buildings of this last remaining stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Take a stagecoach ride and participate in the activities travelers of the 1860s did when they stopped here on their way west.

Shoal Creek Living History Museum: Clay County boasts a living history museum which started in 1975 and is nestled quietly on 80 acres out of the 1,000 acres that makes up Hodge Park. The museum has twenty-one structures including seventeen authentic log cabins and homes, relocated from surrounding counties, dating from 1807-1885 to create a village setting.

For a complete listing of all things “History Buff” click here. What will you mark off your historical bucket list this year?

-Emily Crawford, Marketing & PR for Independence, MO.