A post office was established at Independence, July 1, 1870, and also a mail route by which the mail was brought. Prior to this, parties had their mail brought from Oswego by private individuals, who received ten cents per letter for their trouble. Those who had been thus engaged were: L. T. Stevenson, M. L. Hickey and J. C. Woodrow. The first Postmaster was F. D. Irwin, whose appointment bears date with the first establishment of the office, and who received for his services a salary of $12 per year. The office has been held officially by F. D. Irwin, A. H. Moore, N, H. Ives and the present incumbent, W. T. Yoe.
The city is reached by various tri and semi-weekly stage mail lines from different parts of the county, besides the K. C., L., & S. K. Railroad, the chief artery through which its mails are received and sent.
The Government Land Office was located at Independence in March, 1872. Efforts had previously been made for this purpose, committee after committee having been sent to Washington, but without effect. Finally, however, arrangements were perfected with the local land officials, by means of which its location was secured, but not without some expense to the city, which paid for the privilege about $1,900.
The office, since its first establishment, has been under the charge of F. B. Maxom, M. W. Reynolds, Mr. Nichols, W. W. Martin, W. H. Waters and M. J. Salter, the latter being the present Register, and H. M. Walters, Receiver. Of the public domain, there is yet 16,000 acres open for settlement in this county. This includes the lands belonging to the General Government, those owned by institutions of learning and the common schools.
City Government, Schools, and Churches
Pursuant to a proclamation issued by the Probate Judge, Independence became incorporated as a village on the 23d of July, 1870; J. H. Pugh, J. E. DonLavy, E. E. Wilson, R. F. Hall and O. P. Smart were constituted a Board of Trustees, of which, at the first meeting, R. F. Hall was made chairman, and J. B. Craig, clerk. In a short, time, however, the place had outgrown village proportions. At a meeting of the trustees, on the 16th of the following November, steps were taken toward its incorporation as a city of the third class, and notice was given that an election would be held at the office of 'Squire Bunker on the 29th of November, to chose a mayor and five councilmen to serve until the election of their successors, in the following April. The day arrived and the election was held with A. G. Savage, Lewis Connor and Samuel Van Gundy as judges. Two candidates were voted upon for Mayor; these were E. E. Wilson and J. B. Craig, the latter being elected by a majority of four votes out of a total vote cast of 182.
Those chosen as Councilmen were: Thomas Stevenson, A. Waldtschmidt, W. T. Bishop, G. H. Brodie and F. D. Irwin, C. M. Ralstine was elected City Clerk, and J. E. DonLavy, Treasurer upon the first meeting of the city authorities, and subsequently, William Hendricks was appointed Marshal. As early as March 20, 1872, Independence had attained a population of 2,382, and accordingly, on that date was authoritatively and officially declared a city of the second class. At the first election held under the advanced organization, James DeLong was chosen Mayor; Osbun Shannon, Police Judge; J. I. Crouse, Treasurer; T. P. Tonvelle, Marshal, J. M. Nevins, W. Dawson, S. A. Weir, J. Beard, J. Morland, J. Kerr, J. Bloxom and E. T. Mears, Councilmen.
Since the incorporation of Independence as a city the office of Mayor has been held by J. B. Craig, E. E. Wilson, James DeLong, D. B Gray, W. E. Brown, Frank Jocelyn, William Dunkin and George Burchard.
The first school in Independence was taught by Miss Mary Walker, in 1870, and was kept in the building now used by the United Brethren's Congregation for church purposes. In this building, and also in a private hall, the schools were held for about three years. In 1873, a commodious school building was erected at a cost of $23,000. It is a two-story brick structure, very artistically constructed with appropriate projections, and contains eight spacious rooms. This was sufficient for the accommodation of the schools for some time; but at length even this became cramped for room, and in 1880 another building was erected. This also is a two-story brick house, of tasteful architecture in its proportions, contains four rooms and was erected at a cost of $85,000. Both of these buildings are surrounded by large grounds, enclosed by a neatly trimmed hedge, and are tastefully ornamented with shade trees.
The schools have undergone a thorough system of grading, which includes in the curriculum all the higher branches of learning. The number of children of school age in the city for 1882 was 1,130, of which number there was an enrollment of 794, with an average daily attendance of 503, under charge of eleven teachers, with T. W. Conway as principal. The expenses of the schools for the year ending August 1, 1882, amounted to $9,824.81.
The first religious services in Independence were held in Mrs. McClurg's hay-shed residence, in December, 1869, and were conducted by the Rev. Thomas Canfield. The first Sunday school was organized about the same time, and at the same place, with John McDill as Superintendent. The Christian character of the citizens of the city is evidenced in the many flourishing church organizations in existence.
The first Methodist Episcopal society was organized by Rev. William Laird, in 1870, and during the next year was made a station by Rev. Mr. Lewis, Presiding Elder. The church building was erected in 1875, and is a very artistically constructed brick structure, surmounted with a steeple. The congregation, now numbering a membership of one hundred and twenty, is under charge of Rev. Thomas C. Hunt.
The Presbyterian Church was organized through the efforts of Rev. Mr. Brown, in the spring of 1870. The first elders were Daniel Cline and John McDill. In the fall of 1870, Rev. Mr. Stoddard came to the charge in which he continued about four years. The pulpit at the present time is filled by Rev. R. B. Herron. The church building was erected in 1882, and is constructed of brick, brought by team from Baldwin City and Chanute. The membership of the congregation is now over one hundred in number.
The Baptist Church was established in October, 1870, under the special direction of Rev. Mr. Williams. A church house was erected during the following summer, and was the first church building in the place. The society numbers seventy-five members, and is without a regular minister.
The Congregational Church was formed in 1871, by Rev. Mr. Tunnell, since of Wyandotte, who was the first pastor. The church house is a very neat one-story, frame building and is very tastefully furnished. A parsonage was built near the church house during 1881. The society is under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Bosworth, and has forty-seven members.
The Lutheran Church was organized under the supervision of Rev. S. Karth, in 1872. A country church was also built, a small, one-story frame. The membership numbering about twenty-five, is under the spiritual guidance of Rev. A. Kramer.
The Catholic Church was formed as a body, at Independence, in 1873, by Father Panziglione, of Osage Mission. Until 1878, the people of this faith received monthly visitation from some of the fathers of the Mission, and after this date Rev. Robert Lacherr became resident pastor, for this and surrounding Missions, and in the following October was succeeded by Rev. P. School, the present pastor in charge. A church site was procured during the winter of 1880, and work upon the erection of the edifice began in the following May. The dimensions of the house now building, is one hundred feet long by seventy-five feet wide, to be two stories high, constructed of stone, and surmounted with a steeple one hundred and twenty-seven feet high. The upper story will be fitted up for an auditorium, and the lower one will be suitably subdivided into a chapel and rooms for school purposes.
The Episcopal Church was established here in 1871. The church house was erected in the following summer, during the pastoral charge of Rev. Mr. Beatty. The membership of the society is small and they are without a pastor.
The United Brethren Church was formed in 1871, with Rev. M. Evans, now of Radical City, as pastor. The society has a membership of about thirty, under charge of Rev. Mr. Rorick.
There is a Methodist Episcopal society, composed of the colored population of the city, who have a church edifice. Rev. David Ross is pastor.
There is also an African Methodist society, distinct from this, with Rev. W. C. Reed, pastor, and is made up from the negro population. Also a Baptist congregation, composed of colored people. Rev. Mr. Stanwood, pastor.
Societies, the Press, Etc.
The social and mutual benefit fraternities are here represented in eight different lodges or societies:
Fortitude Lodge, No. 107, A., F. & A. M., was instituted October 19, 1871, with E. Herring, master; John Morrison, senior warden, and J. M. Stevens, junior warden. The lodge, at present, has a membership of 150, and is among the oldest and wealthiest organizations of the kind in the State. A large and elegantly furnished hall is also provided, also elegant wardrobe and handsome jewels. B. F. Masterman is present worshipful master.
Keystone Chapter, No. 22, R. A. M., was instituted, October 14, 1873. The first official members were: James Weatherby, high priest; John Morrison, king, and Alexander Moore, scribe. The lodge now contains sixty members with B. F. Masterman, high priest.
St. Bernard Commandery, No. 10, K. T., was organized May 15, 1878. H. M. Walters was chosen first commander; R. H. Nichols, generalissimo; J. Weathersby, captain general. Meetings are held monthly in the Masonic Hall and H. L. Payne is the present excellent commander.
Eva Chapter, No. 18, Order of the Eastern Star was established October 16, 1878, with Alexander Moore as worthy patron; Mary E. Little, worthy matron, and Mrs. Elizabeth Mustain, assistant matron. Mrs. Dr. Hooser is the present worthy matron.
Independence Lodge, No. 69, I. O. O. F., was instituted October 12, 1872. The lodge began with nine charter members, viz.; H. T. Millis, J. W. Price, B. F. Devore, E. B. Green, J. D. Brodie, C. W. Rose, J. B. Craig, L. Laird and W. E. Smith. The society is provided with a comfortably furnished hall and numbers sixty members. V. M. Dewey, noble grand; J. Todd, vice grand; W. D. Avery, secretary, and A. Brinkman, treasurer.
Verdigris Encampment, No. 22, I. O. O. F., began with the following charter members: M. Sickafoose, H. T. Millis, J. Q. Adams, D. T. Camenga, S. O. Sanderson, J. D. Brodie, H. Bowman. The lodge, at present, numbers a membership of twenty-one and is under the following officers: Thomas Harrison, chief patriarch; T. C. Truman, senior warden; D. S. Lockwood, junior warden; A. Brinkman, secretary; G. Gotlieb, treasurer.
Independence Lodge, No. 814, K. of H., was instituted December 1, 1877, with a membership of twelve, but now has a membership of thirty. The first officers were: M. J. Salter, dictator; G. S. Beard, vice-dictator; V. M. Dewey reporter; E. Herring, treasurer.
The First Kansas Equitable Aid Union was instituted November 20, 1880. D. A. Dewey, of Columbus, Pa., with a membership of seventy-nine. The first officers elected were: J. B. Zigler, chancellor; Mrs. M. M. Miller, advocate; M. J. Salter, president; V. M. Dewey, secretary; E. E. Wilson, treasurer; T. N. Sickles, accountant. The organization has now only fifty-two members, and is officered as follows: J. B. Zigler, president and chancellor; V. M. Dewey, secretary; Mrs. M. J. Dewey, accountant; E. E. Wilson, treasurer.
The first effort at journalism in the county, was that made by E. R. Trask, in the publication of the Independence Pioneer, the paper being printed at Oswego, until in March, 1870, when it was printed in the town of Independence, with David Steel as editor. The paper was sold to Thomas H. Canfield, in December, and the name was changed, becoming the Independence Republican, and after changing hands several times, was removed to Howard County, in 1874. Of those editing the paper following Canfield and prior to its removal, were, respectively, L. M. Andrews, Captain Parker and John Q. Page.
In 1870, M. V. B. Bennett came to Independence, where he scattered light and learning to the people, through his somewhat sensational sheet, the Kansas Democrat. This enterprise began in December, but this part of Kansas seems to have been too "dry" for Democratic sustenance, for the paper was sold out to Peacock & Sons, and after a year, taken to Topeka.
The South Kansas Tribune was established in March, 1871, by L. U. Humphrey and W. T. Yoe. In 1872, George Burchard bought Humphrey's interest, who again, in 1874, disposed of the same to Charles Yoe, and the firm became W. T. & C. Yoe, who have since continued the publication of the paper, without the omission of a single issue. It is an eight columnfolio, Republican in politics and has a circulation of 1200 copies.
In the fall of 1873, W. H. Watkins established a paper at Independence, called the Southern Kansan, which was generally held in high esteem by its many readers as a good paper. The paper was subject to numerous changes of proprietors, and, in 1878, came into the hands of W. H. Warner who in connection with the weekly issue, also published a morning daily, with J. B. Rowley as city editor. This enterprise also failed, for want of sufficient financial provender.
John E. Stinson began the issue of a tri-weekly paper called the Itemizer, in June, 1879. As an editor and journalist, Stinson was well liked by all his patrons, and although his paper enjoyed gratifying success, yet his restless and unsettled disposition led him to abandon the field and move to Colorado.
The Star, was established at Coffeyville, Kan., April 14, 1881, under the name of the Coffeyville Star, by H. W. Young, who brought his press and material from Galva, Ill. On the 14th of October, 1881, the location of the paper was changed to Independence, where it is now published as the Independence Star. The sheet is Democratic in politics, and having had the subscription list of the Living Age, a greenback paper, added to its own, now enjoys a wide circulation and patronage, and stands prominent as an educator of public sentiment, throughout the county.
The Evening Reporter, a daily paper, was started September 12, 1881, by R. C. Harper and S. M. Wassam. After four months it was taken by Harper, who is now sole proprietor and editor. It is a five column folio; independent in politics and has a circulation of 400 copies.
The Independence Kansan, was begun in February, 1882, by A. A. Stewart. The paper is Democratic in politics and is enjoying gratifying prosperity, and is equal in influence to to[sic] any paper in the county.
Banks. - Independence boasts of two monetary institutions as banks of deposit. The first established of these was Hull's Banking Company, in December, 1871 by C. A. and Edgar Hull, and is a private institution. A banking house was erected in 1872 and is a substantial two story brick building. A double vault is provided with Hall's best Time Lock Safe.
A similar institution was started in 1871, by J. Q. Page, who sold out in 1873, to W. F. Turner and W. E. Otis, and is now operated as a private bank under the firm name of W. E Otis & Co.
The first manufactory in the city, and indeed, the first in the county, is the water power flouring mill at this place. It was established in 1870 by Alexander Waldtschmidt. The power is derived from the Verdigris River, and the mill has a capacity for grinding 250 bushels of wheat, and 150 bushels of corn per day. It is now owned by W. F. Turner, and is held under lease by G. Koehn, who is engaged in its operation. A cotton gin was also attached, and is operated in season.
The Independence City Mills is a flouring mill, and was established by A. H. Arter in 1876. The institution was sold July, 1880, to J. A. Roth and G. H. Humble, and in June, 1882, came into the sole possession of J. A. Roth. The mill contains three run of buhrs, and has a capacity for grinding 100 barrels of flour per day, and is run by steam power. The building is three stories, built of brick and stone, and stands near the heart of the city.
Independence Woolen Mills. - This enterprise was begun here in April 1882, by Samuel Sharp, and is under the management of W. P. Sharp, as agent. It is what is known as a two set, or double set mill, and contains 480 spindles, ten looms, and eighty spindles for yarns, also a complete set of finishing machinery for the manufacture of jeans, cassimeres, blankets, flannels, yarns, in fancy colors and knit goods of various kinds. The goods are made of the best material, all wool, no cotton or shoddy being used. The mill has a capacity for making 350 pounds of yarn per day, and 3,000 yards of woven goods per week, requiring the employment of thirty hands. The goods find a market all over the State, traveling salesmen being employed in their sale. The factory building is 125x50, one story and a half high, solidly constructed of stone. The motive power is steam, a thirty-five horse power engine being used. The entire establishment, including buildings, machinery, and all, was fitted up at a cost of $25,000.
The Caledonia Flour Mill was established September 29, 1874, by a man named Ballentyne. In about two years P. Scott became interested as partner in the concern. The firm owing to reckless management of their finances and business, became insolvent and the mill came into the hands of W. F. Turner, the present owner, under a mortgage which he held upon the property. It was leased by S. S. Tyler in January, 1877, who has since continued its successful operation. The mill building is a story and half frame, of rather small linear dimensions, but is fitted up with excellent machinery, with three run of buhrs, and purifying and scouring machines. The motor power is a thirty-five horse power engine, and the establishment has a capacity for grinding about 100 barrels of flour per day.
The Eagle Flouring Mill was built in the fall of 1882 by G. W. Bowen, and is the largest flouring mill in the county. The building is a substantial stone structure, 50x36 feet, and four stories high, with a one story engine room 50x20, to which is built a smoke stack seventy-one feet high, the base of which to the height of about fifteen feet is of solid stone masonry, ten feet square, the balance being brick. The machinery is complete and of the latest model. Four four-foot buhrs, and two set of patent rolls are used in grinding, with a united capacity of over 100 barrels of flour per day. The propelling power is a sixty horse power engine. The mill is built immediately upon the railroad, thus affording easy and convenient shipment of manufactured goods.
The Independence Canning Factory was established in May, 1882, by J. Keepers, and on August 21, was sold to A. G. Ritz and M. C. Putnam, the present owners and operators, in the canning of fruits, vegetables, corn, mince meat, butters, preserves, etc. The building is three stories high, 60x40 to which is appended a cook room 20x16 feet, one story in height, the whole, including also machinery, costing about $7,500. The factory has a capacity for canning fifteen thousand (15,000) cans per day. So far, however, the highest number of cans filled in any one day was three thousand (3,000). During the canning season over one hundred hands are kept in employment. The firm are supplied with all the necessary machinery and make all their own solder and cans.
The Independence Coal Company was organized in 1881 for the purpose of developing the coal mining interests and industry of the county. An executive committee was constituted with G. W. Donaldson, president; J. W. Price, secretary; and W. E. Otis, treasurer; whose duty is to manage the business of the enterprise. The committee comprises nine members, and in the entire, manages the general affairs, while its officers, the president, secretary and treasurer, are empowered to transact the ordinary business affairs. The farm of W. R. Mozier, lying about two miles southwest of the city, was leased by the company for a term of forty-nine years for mining purposes. The coal vein underlying this property is two feet thick, and of excellent quality. A single shaft is operated, from which in the last eight months there have been taken about 10,000 bushels of coal. The company design opening other shafts and also intend making further explorations for this mineral in other parts of the county.
Independence is located at 37°13'42N, 95°42'41W (37.228251, -95.711392), along the Verdigris River just south of its confluence with the Elk River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.9 km² (5.0 mi²), all land.
As of the 2000 census, there were 9,846 people, 4,149 households, and 2,609 families residing in the city. The population density was 764.9/km² (1,979.4/mi²). There were 4,747 housing units at an average density of 368.8/km² (954.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.00% White, 7.17% African American, 1.16% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.10% from other races, and 2.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.84% of the population.
There were 4,149 households, out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32, and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,574, and the median income for a family was $37,134. Males had a median income of $26,552 versus $20,017 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,496. About 11.4% of families and 13.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.
Points of interest
The State of Kansas designated the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Ingalls family at Independence as a historic site, which is open to visitors. It is the location from which the events of the book Little House on the Prairie take place. It includes a cabin modeled after the original (at the William Kurtis ranch) and the original post office. Much of the surrounding countryside retains its open and undeveloped nature.
Scott Hastings, professional basketball player
William Inge, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
Bill Kurtis, television journalist.
Alf Landon, 1936 Republican presidential candidate
The following are part of USD 446:
Independence High School, home of grades 9-12,
Independence Middle School (Kansas), grades 6-8,
Washington Elementary School, grade 5,
Lincoln Elementary School, grades 3-4,
Eisenhower Elementary School, grades Pre-K-2,
Zion Lutheran School, grades K-8, and
St. Andrew's Catholic School, grades K-8.
Independence also has its own community college, Independence Community College.