John C. McCoy was the brother of William McCoy, the first Mayor of Independence. The McCoy brothers were born to a well-to-do family and raised back in Chillicothe, Ohio.
After they received a well-rounded education, John and William set out for the Missouri frontier to make their mark in the world, landing on the west bank of the Mississippi in the late 1830s. They found St. Louis to be a bustling place during those years, but that was not their destination. They were headed for the very outskirts of civilization, but couldn’t agree whether to head for St. Joe or Independence. It was a flip of a coin that landed them on the muddy streets of Independence, which was a wide-open town, and every bit as busy as St. Louis with a population of about 900. They were both soon involved in the lucrative mercantile business supplying merchandise for the overland trail business.
As the years unfolded, John witnessed Independence grow into a respectable city. He, of course, grew from a young man himself, to a grandfather and then a great-grandfather. John McCoy began to reflect on those early years that he found so fascinating. He found the need to write a series of articles about this community as it was in 1838 for the Jackson Examiner, which of course, was the forerunner of today’s Examiner.
In one of those articles, he wrote that Independence was originally a place of arrival and departure, as well as an outfitting place for fur trappers and the mountain men of the Rockies and Western Plains. It was well worth while to witness the arrival of some of those incoming pack-trains. Before entering the town, they would give notice of their arrival by the shooting of guns, so that when they reached the Owens and Aull Supply House, there would be a goodly number of people on hand to welcome them. Those trappers and mountain men were a greasy, dirty bunch. McCoy wrote that soap and water, surely, was a rare commodity with them. They cared very little for water except to quench their thirst.
Their donkeys and mules were loaded down with heavy packs of buffalo robes and other peltry. Occasionally they pulled a small wagon, wrapped with rawhide to keep the vehicle from falling to pieces. So accustomed were they to their work, that it took them little time to unload the burdens from the backs of their beasts and store those goods in the Owens and Aull Warehouse. The trappers let the merchants attend to repacking and shipping their goods on down river to St. Louis, because it was now time to party.
The arrival at Independence was always a joyous ending of a sometimes hazardous trip, so they were always up for a jolly good time. They managed to drag every resident that was willing right along with them. The western outpost of Independence was then transformed into a high carnival atmosphere for the next several days.
The mountain trade at length, however, gave way to the Mexican trade. Pack mules and donkeys were discarded for huge covered wagon caravans drawn by mules and oxen.
Such men as David Waldo, Solomon Houke, William and Solomon Sublette, Josiah Gregg, Charvez, and others of like character were some of the early adventurers, and as the government gave them permission to enter and trade with the people, as they ventured across the plains regardless of the danger.
Samuel C. Owens, it is said, was the first trader in Independence. He came to Missouri from Kentucky when he was a young man. Owens became the first clerk of the Jackson County Circuit Court, but is probably best known for the many caravans he pushed on toward Santa Fe.
Reference: The Centennial History of Independence, Missouri by W.L. Webb
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