Photographer's Note

Known colloquially as the Jackson County Log Courthouse, this unimposing structure was the county's first official government building, built in 1827. It's now located on Kansas Street, but was relocated in 1916 from its original location at the southeast corner of Lexington and Lynn Streets. It was initially intended only as a temporary structure, and was built on a private lot: the public square was being kept vacant for a more prestigious and permanent building, which materialized about a decade later. At the time, this two-room, single-story log building was the only courthouse between St. Louis and the Pacific ocean, and remained such for forty years, serving an increasingly-populated Western region, at the trailhead of the Santa Fe Trail.

The courthouse primarily dealt with business related to especially land disputes, and, more controversially, slavery, as Missouri was admitted as a slave state when it joined the union. Perhaps tellingly, the building itself was built with slave labor, specifically by a man named Samuel Shepard, the slave of James Shepherd, who had settled with his family near the public spring on the east side of town. The initial contract apparently was awarded to Daniel P. Lewis, whose bid for $150 was accepted. The courthouse was abandoned after about a decade when the permanent one was built at the center of Independence Square, which also still stands today. Lot 59, where the courthouse originally stood, was then sold to a private party. The land and the building were sold multiple times over the years, however, so it had several different uses.

It was apparently also used as a Mormon mercantile, so it likewise has significance to the LDS church: it's the only existing Mormon-owned building still standing in Independence dating from the Mormon period, as the group left Independence in 1833.

When Mayor Christian Ott, Jr. bought the property, he offered the historic structure to the city for preservation; Jackson County eventually accepted it, and in cooperation with the Kansas City Board of Parks Commissioners, it was moved to a vacant lot near Independence City Hall. Future-president Harry S. Truman also apparently held court there in the 1930s.

It's open seasonally, from May to September, from 10 AM to 4 PM, and now serves as a museum.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 89 W: 78 N: 1077] (1922)
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