Civil War Era Through The World War I: 1852-1922

The Civil War in Jackson County
The Civil War (1861-1865) in Jackson County was a tumultuous era that wreaked havoc for every individual and family.

Even before the other sections of the country knew there was a war between the states, Independence and Jackson County were the center of a war-torn territory.

Border Raiding
The hostilities in our area actually began in 1854, seven years before the outbreak of the war. Lawless raids swept over this territory on the border of slavery. During the war, guerrilla bands from both Missouri and Kansas raided back and forth. The old courthouse looked out on scenes the like of which no other community ever witnessed.
1922 Photo of Airplane - Jackson County Takes to the Air in 1922 Opening of Richards Flying Field
The Battle of Independence and the Battle of Lone Jack, fought respectively on August 11 and August 16, 1862, were parts of the same campaign. They were provoked by leaders who the year before had served under Price in the Missouri State Guard, but they now came with commissions in the Confederate Army on recruiting expeditions.

After the battles citizens without respect to party, flocked to the scenes of strife and did all in their power for the suffering and the dying. The courthouse was used as an emergency ward. Dead bodies were stacked on the lawn.

Martial Law

Administration of government and justice during these years was quite difficult, and for a period was surrendered over to the Federal government when martial law was instituted under General Order No. 11. Independence became a Federal post, commanded by Colonel James T. Buel of the 7th Missouri Cavalry, a force of about 500 men, camped partly on the west side of Pleasant Street. Buel’s headquarters, with a company or two, was in the old McCoy Bank Building on the Square (southwest corner of current-day Liberty and Lexington). The lot on the corner to the east, later occupied by the Chrisman-Sawyer Bank Building (southeast corner of current-day Liberty and Lexington), was then vacant property.

It was reported that Buel contemplated an attack on the Confederate recruiting camp. This attack was anticipated by Hughes, who at daybreak on Monday morning, August 11, suddenly dashed into Independence and opened fire on Buel’s headquarters, from which came a vigorous defensive reply.

Remodeling the Courthouse
The Jackson County Courthouse was remodeled in 1872. Only necessary components of the former structure(s) were removed as the building was enlarged, refaced, etc. A wing was added on the east and a tower with a clock was placed on top.

For specific details about the construction and evolution of Jackson County’s Courthouses, contact the Jackson County Historical Society. Inquire about their recent journal article about this fascinating topic.

After 15 years, the Jackson County Courthouse on Independence Square was once again remodeled and enlarged in 1887 under orders of the Jackson County Court.

Reconstruction & the Wild West
During the 10 years immediately following the Civil War, Independence won notoriety as the wildest town in all the West. The pistol ruled. Saloons and gambling houses made for lively nights. The wildest of returning soldiers stalked the streets with ready weapons. The old courthouse was the scene where the bust up of outlaw gangs occurred. The trials of outlaws and their conviction marked the beginning of a day when law ruled again and the legal code took the place of the pistol.

Jackson County Circuit Court records that contain first-hand, original documentation into these and other litigious matters are soon to be open to the public. The Jackson County Historical Society is leading a campaign to raise funding to process (clean, unfold, flatten, re-folder, identify and microfilm) these records, so they may be readily available to researchers after more than 100 years.

Turning of the Century
The 1907 Jackson County Court decided to call on the general revenue fund again to remodel the Courthouse (it had been 20 years since it had last been enlarged), for no bonds up to that point were ever voted for the various changes made to the courthouse. This structure would serve the County Seat for more than 25 years to come.

The Great War
During this time the United States entered the Great War in Europe. An enduring legacy from this chapter in Jackson County history is the erection of the Liberty Memorial, the nation’s only monument solely dedicated to World War I. Today, the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial is a renowned site for interpreting this worldwide conflict and Jackson County’s participation in it.

Woman's Suffrage
In 1920, after a long battle for suffrage, women in the United States gained the right to vote. The first step taken by Jackson County’s election board in May 1920 was to add 89 precincts (bringing the total then up to 338 precincts) to permit Kansas City women to cast their first ballot for president (and county and state officials) that November. From statistics obtained from the suffrage states, it was estimated that registration would increase from 60% to 80% with women voting. While registration at that time was 79,000, it was estimated that the Kansas City women vote was 50,000 strong.

The women of Jackson County demonstrated their desire to take a hand in the conduct of the affairs of government by exercising their right of suffrage in the first day of registration (September 28) in the “country precincts” outside Kansas City. Turnout far outweighed expectations, and it was estimated that the total number of voters would triple the 1916 turnout. The Jackson County League of Women Voters on October 31, 1920, urged all women who voted to display an American flag at the front of their home on that day in recognition of the right that was recently granted.