Jackson County is probably an anomaly because we have four courthouses. One of those is not even located at the county seat. The big courthouse downtown Kansas City, which was built during the Great Depression, conducts all county business west of Blue Ridge Boulevard. All county business east of Blue Ridge takes place at the county seat in Independence.

Jackson County is probably an anomaly because we have four courthouses. One of those is not even located at the county seat. The big courthouse downtown Kansas City, which was built during the Great Depression, conducts all county business west of Blue Ridge Boulevard. All county business east of Blue Ridge takes place at the county seat in Independence.

When Independence was named the county seat back in 1827, one of the first things they needed was a courthouse. So, a log cabin courthouse was constructed to serve as a temporary solution until a contract could be issued for a permanent brick structure on the town square.

A slave by the name of Sam Shepard was called upon to hew the logs for the cabin, which was constructed on the corner of Lynn and East Lexington streets, one block east of the Square. The logs came from the many black walnut trees that grew across the hill where the Square is today. After only a couple of years however, it was abandoned for a new brick courthouse in the center of the Square. The old log cabin was then used for a residence for a while and a warehouse, but it was eventually moved to its present location on West Kansas Avenue one block south of the Square and restored for county use. Harry Truman used it for his temporary office as county judge during the remodeling of the present day Square courthouse (now generally called the Truman Courthouse).

The first courthouse, the log cabin, is still in excellent shape and is generally open to the public as a tourist stop. It also has a Mormon history, so the Latter-day Saints Church maintains its presence and conducts tours telling stories about its history.

No county business is conducted today in the old courthouse on the Square. Truman’s courtroom is in this building and is open for tourists. The Jackson County Historical Society’s archives and book store is also located in there.

County business and court proceedings for Eastern Jackson County are conducted at the Courthouse Annex at Kansas Avenue and Osage Street.

Jackson County was part of the Osage Indian hunting grounds, and Osage Street was named in honor of the Great Osage Nation. Kansas Avenue, however, was not named after the state of Kansas. In fact, the street was given that name long before there was a state of Kansas. That was still Indian Territory. It was named after the “Kaw” – the Kansa Indian tribe.

The Kaw lived out on the plains of present day Kansas during the summer months but wintered around the big springs and tall forest known today as the Independence Square. On that hill we call the county seat were 16 major freshwater springs, the staff of life on the western frontier, and those springs are the reason Independence grew up in that particular location.

So, you might ask, what happened to those springs? It is my understanding that so many wells have been sunk across the Midwest over the years that the water table has actually been lowered. Thus, those springs no longer flow with fresh, clear water. Some are still slightly active, but they only produce what is known as surface runoff and are very polluted.

Many years ago the city either capped them all or ran them off into culverts. I’ve also read that the Big Blue River was about a half mile wide where it flows underneath Truman Road and was diminished to its current size for the same reason.

Reference: “Jackson County Pioneers,” by Pearl Wilcox.