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Posted on: June 7, 2016

Historic Oregon Trail Marker Unveiled On Independence Square

Frank White and Dr. David Fairbanks

When his wagon train formed outside the Jackson County Courthouse, James A. Pritchard anxiously anticipated the great adventure that lay before him as he prepared to head out onto the Oregon Trail. Like thousands of other settlers before him, he was "ready now to bid adieu to homes, friends and... the abodes of Civilization, its peace, comeforts [sic] and its safety." (The Overland Diary - James A. Pritchard, 1849) 

Some 167 years after Pritchard went west to seek his fortunate during the California Gold Rush, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. joined National Historic Trails Superintendent Aaron Mahr to unveil a historic marker commemorating Independence Square as the "jumping off" point for three iconic trails — the Oregon, California and Santa Fe. The Historic Truman Courthouse, which has entombed within its walls the original courthouse Pritchard would have seen in 1849, is now adored with the bronze Old Oregon Trail medallion that renowned sculptor Avard Tennyson Fairbanks created in 1924. 

The artist's son, Dr. David Fairbanks of Bethesda, Maryland, donated the medallion, noting, during the unveiling ceremony Tuesday afternoon, that it captured the "action and vigor" of 19th Century pioneers. The same artwork appears on monuments at Chimney Rock in Nebraska and other key points along the Oregon Trail. 

"And now it's at the beginning of the trail, here in Independence," Dr. Fairbanks said. "I know my father would be pleased."

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