Who cares about local history? You should have some attachment to history, because, believe it or not, you are a part of history whether you are age 30- or 80-something.
As each moment passes, the pages of local history become more voluminous, diverse, interesting and complex. “Good” things happen. “Bad” things transpire. Most things fall in between, and may not have much meaning now. Sometimes a person, place or event has regional, state, national, or international impact. Or, it might simply have meaning to you, especially if you had some involvement.
Think about all the seemingly ordinary things you have encountered in your lifetime. Can you say, “Hey, I was there.” Or, “I remember that. What was I doing? How did that affect my life, or my family’s future?” Most importantly, ask, “How did I then, or might I now, document that?”
It may seem ordinary, but, the “extra-ordinary” difference between you and the next Examiner subscriber is the few who will take the time to write down or type those memories, one at a time. Fewer still will donate recollections and associated materials (like original documents and photographs) to a local archive for posterity.
Independence, Jackson County and the Kansas City region are rich with local history. We continue to make strides at collectively preserving that shared wealth we call “the past.”
I’m giving it my best shot. As a historic preservationist, I continually draw upon those local history stories preserved in the Jackson County Historical Society’s Archive and Research Center, and highlight them in one way or another for folks who might give a care. For the last 15 years, I have researched and produced a modest collection of writings that you might find of interest should you wish to begin, or continue learning – and appreciating – local history.
I’m in good company, but, it is a small alumni of people who research, write and publish local, nonfiction history. The Historical Society’s book shop is a clearinghouse for such books. You can visit the book shop at the History Center in Jackson County’s Historic Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Or, you can view and purchase available titles at jchs.org (click on “JCHS Store”).
I wonder if anyone might care about some new books on local history?
Next month, the Historical Society will publish my latest book, “Winding the Clock on Independence Square: Jackson County’s Historic Truman Courthouse.” This commemorative souvenir booklet discusses how the moniker building on the Square has evolved since the 1830s – yes, 1830s. I also provide a first-release, historical and architectural walking tour around the first block of the Square. Maybe Square merchants and property owners will care to contribute their histories for a future, updated edition?
Speaking of Square merchants, a former historic preservation manager for the city of Independence, Pat O’Brien, has just released a new book, “Merchants of Independence: International Trade on the Santa Fe Trail, 1827-1860.” This book, currently available at Amazon.com, shows how this frontier town – on the western edge of the United States until the mid-1850s – was the center of an emerging international trade market. The Historical Society has invited O’Brien to visit Independence this summer for a lecture and book signing.
Examiner reporter Brandon Dumsky’s story, “Retired teacher shares her adoption journey in book,” (The Examiner, March 8) introduced Sally Beebe’s new book. Beebe, a longtime Independence school teacher, documented her life as an adoptee, her quest to locate her birth family, and the outcomes. Beebe’s book is available by calling 660-696-2333.
If you are one who cares about local history, thank you in advance for considering supporting the nonprofit Jackson County Historical Society through membership, tax deductible gifts, and/or in your estate planning.
David W. Jackson is archives and education director of the Jackson County Historical Society.