Photographer's Note

Located at 313 W. Pacific Ave. in Independence, MO, this astonishing and meticulously preserved mansion is now one of the most popular house museums in the state. A house has been situated on this site since about 1827, as the site sat on the road known as the Santa Fe Trail, from where wagon trains set out for the Old West. The current home, with several renovations having taken place, was built in 1852, along the 1846 alignment of the Santa Fe Trail. A wagon swale, or a deep gully worn by the countless wagon wheels which passed through it can still be seen just off to the left of this photo.

It's named for two figures: the first was artist and politician George Caleb Bingham, who opposed the military government martial law imposed on Missouri, which bore much of the brunt of the brutal Civil War. His most famous painting is "Order No. 11," which, like Picasso's Guernica, depicted the burning of the city and the death and destruction which ensued. Copies of this painting are found all over Independence. This Union Army directive was issued on Aug. 25, 1863, which essentially forced the depopulation of four counties in western Missouri. Issued by General Thomas Ewing, Jr. and approved by Abraham Lincoln, the order forced all residents, regardless of their allegiance, to vacate their property and move to communities near military outposts, in order to deprive pro-Confederate insurgents of the material support they had been receiving from residents, but it ultimately backfired, as the pro-Confederate raiders received far greater support than before in the wake of this disastrous and destructive mandate. It was repealed in Jan., 1864, but the damage had been done. According to some sources, even 140 years later, the towns and areas affected by this order are less developed than those of the surrounding communities. The famous painting describes the destruction: livestock were killed, farm property was stolen and destroyed, and homes, barns and outbuildings were burned to the ground. Some civilians were also summarily executed, including the elderly, resulting in a burned-out "no man's land" which had been a rich farming region before. The notorious Kansas volunteers who carried out the order were ordered not to engage in looting, but this mandate was un-enforceable. The pro-Confederate insurgents also helped themselves to anything that was abandoned which remained behind, including livestock and food stores which were not burned, so the Confederates stockpiled vast amounts of provisions before the Union troops could burn them, providing them with almost unlimited resources they didn't have previously.

The second owners were the Waggoner clan, flour merchants who purchased the home in 1879, and who operated a mill nearby. Their brand was known as "Queen of the Pantry Flour," mostly used for baking. George Gates, the grandfather of Bess Truman (whose childhood home is just around the corner, in fact) was a partner in the mill, and the name was eventually changed to the Waggoner-Gates Milling Company. This family kept the home in the family for three generations, with almost 100 years of occupancy. The last resident died in the 1950s, and the home was purchased by a group of private citizens in 1979, in conjunction with the City of Independence, along with about 20 acres of land to create a museum and a park. It is, in fact, located just across the street from the National Frontier Trails Museum, where the old flour mill used to be. Docents give lengthy tours of the inside of this magnificent home, which is furnished throughout with pieces, primarily from the Victorian period.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1119] (1996)
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