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A long journey to a new home

The Examiner

My dear old great-grandmother, Julia Cairns Noland, passed away at the age of 94 when I was a young lad of 12.

About the only thing I really remember about her – other than her stories – was that she had really big ears. Every time I saw her, I said, “But grandmother, what big ears you have!” She would always counter with, “The better to hear you with, my dearie.”

The pioneers worked strenuously to make new homes.

Julia was born just before the Civil War in 1860 near Cainville, Illinois. When she was 8 or 9 her father, John Cairns, decided he would move the family to Kansas for some of that cheap land being offered. So, they loaded up all of their possessions in several covered wagons and headed west, like so many other pioneers of the times.

Ted Stillwell

There were three younger sisters, so Julia and the oldest of the three took turns driving one of the wagons, while her mother drove another. In one wagon was a supply of food consisting of canned and dried fruit and vegetables, cured meat and lard. Two other families also came along, the Baileys and the Pilgrims.

Julia said they were three weeks on the road, “and my lands child, the roads were poor, and we had to ford many streams along the way, including a big ferry boat ride across the Mississippi.”

They had an old grandfather who lived just east of Main Street (on College) in Independence at the time, so they stopped off for a visit on their way to Kansas. The old man owned a tract of land with good, rich soil here in town covering several blocks and convinced them it would be better to settle in Jackson County, instead of way off out in Kansas.

So Julia’s father began looking at numerous tracts of land and considered buying a farm southeast of the present Union Station in Kansas City, but decided it was just too hilly – he was used to farming flat level ground back in Illinois. He finally decided on a large spread southeast of Independence, just north of the present-day Woods Chapel Road and Missouri 291.

The girls walked a mile and a half every day in home-made boots to the Seever’s School – a small log building built by a pioneer named David Hall. The seats were made of split logs with legs of cross pegs, and the writing desks were tacked onto the side of the wall. Young Julia was so proud of her father’s handwriting and the fact he became clerk for the school district.

After attending Seever’s school for a few years, Julia moved into town and stayed with that old grandfather and attended the old Ott School, which was located at the time on the corner of North Liberty Street and College. Ott School was the first public school in Independence. This writer attended the second Ott School at U.S. 24 and Noland Road. Today, the third Ott School is a few blocks north of there on Noland.

Julia was a good student and grew up to become a school teacher – at least until she married Oscar Noland, because from that time on she lived a pioneer woman’s life, raising six children, cooking, milking the cows, and washing clothes on an old-fashioned washboard with homemade lye soap.

Julia set her pen to paper at the age of 93 and wrote the history of her exciting life, so that I could pass it on here, years later.

Reference: Memoirs of Julia Cairns Noland

Reach Ted W. Stillwell at Ted@blueandgrey.com or 816-896-3592.