Independence, Missouri & The Little House Project

Little House on the Praire at Starlight

    About The Little House Project: As a child, the very first "chapter books" I read were "The Little House Books." I remember watching the television series and falling in love with the history of pioneers through the Ingalls family. I wanted to share the stories with my own girls (we have three, just like the Ingalls) and I wanted the stories to jump off the pages and capture their imaginations just as they had mine. With Little House on the Prairie: The Musical coming to Starlight Theatre in Kansas City (June 22-27, 2010), I decided it was time to dust off the beloved books and introduce Little House to my girls. The "My First Little House" picture book series was a wonderful introduction for my young girls, and my oldest loves the original chapter books... but each book introduces new vocabulary and concepts unfamiliar to my 21st century kids. As we read about churning butter, trundle beds, covered wagons, ox yokes, and log cabins images of Kansas City's wonderful historic sites and museums came to my mind and thus the idea for The Little House Project was born. My girls and I are embarking on Day Trips in Kansas City exploring what life was like for Laura and her family through the wonderful museums and sites across our metro. This is just the beginning.... we encourage you to read along and journey with us as we escape to the 1800s with the Ingalls for the next six weeks in anticipation of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical in Kansas City! ~ Kristina Light


Independence, Missouri: Going West

    Independence is rich with wonderful museums. We often remember it as the home of President Truman, but before Truman there were pioneers! The third book in Laura's collection, "Little House on the Prairie," begins with the Ingalls' journey West from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Eastern Kansas.

      So, what was it like to travel in a covered wagon? Laura tells of loading the wagon and leaving furniture behind. What would you take on a wagon journey? Can you imagine living in a log cabin? Independence is the perfect place to answer these questions and more!

First Stop: National Frontier Trails Museum

National Frontier Trails MuseumNational Frontier Trails Museum: 318 W. Pacific Ave., Independence, MO. 816.325.7575

Admission: Adults $5.00, Seniors (62 and older) $4.50, Youth (6-17) $3.00, Children 5 and younger are free. Bonus: They also offer a wagon ride/ museum combo ticket!
Hours: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Saturday, 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Sunday. 

The National Frontier Trails Museum tells the story of Lewis & Clark and Westward Expansion on the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe Trails through artifacts (including many familiar items Laura mentioned in the books, from ox yokes to washboards), and the journals of early pioneers. When we travel to Grandma's house for the weekend, my girls want to take their entire collection of beloved toys and books. It's hard for them to imagine a pioneer family moving across states leaving precious belongings behind without even the option of renting a U-Haul. The story of Laura's journey west came to life most of all through the "Load a Wagon" exhibit. We entered a room with an empty wagon where we discovered shelves stocked with provisions. Everything was labeled with its weight and description. The signs caution not to overload the wagon as it would burden the animals and destroy the wagon itself. The girls had to determine what they needed for the journey, and soon realized many of their wants were left behind. As you load the wagon, a red light brightens to indicate a heavy load... tough choices must be made. In addition to this exhibit, the girls also enjoyed building their own log cabin with Lincoln Logs, determining their fate had they participated in the California Gold Rush, exploring the General Store and Blacksmith's shop, and comparing the Conestoga and Prairie Schooner Covered Wagons. This site is a MUST SEE!

National Frontier Trails Museum Photo Gallery: You must have a Shockwave Media Player installed to view.

Second Stop: Wagon Swales and Walking Trail

Wagon Swales Independence Missouri


Across the street from the National Frontier Trails Museum on the south side of the Bingham Waggoner Estate
313 W. Pacific , Independence, MO. FREE

Laura refers to "wagon tracks" throughout her books. As early pioneers traveled right through Independence, some wagon tracks, a.k.a. wagon swales, are still visible today. As we walked the trail, we saw depressions in the ground believed to be made by wagons of pioneers in the 1830s.

Third Stop: Pioneer Spring Cabin

Pioneer Spring CabinPioneer Spring Cabin: In front of the Roger T. Sermon Center, E corner of Noland & Truman Rd., Independence, MO. 816.325.7111

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-2pm (April -Oct). FREE

Laura's family lived in a Log Cabin in the Big Woods and again on the Prairie. This fully furnished log cabin is much like the cabins in the books. Emily was captivated by the tiny house and the idea of an entire family of five living in such a small home. There is no running water, no furnace, no electricity.. it is a great example of the type of home depicted in the stories.

Fourth Stop: 1827 Log Courthouse

1827 Log Cabin1827 Log Courthouse: 107 W. Kansas, Independence, MO. 816.325.7111

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-2pm (April -Oct). FREE

We took a tour of the two-room log courthouse. Much of its story centers around early disputes in Jackson County, but the courthouse was also used at one time as a family home. The small quarters, fireplace, and furniture hanging from the walls to accommodate sleeping space gave us a firsthand image of life in the Little House.



BONUS: Pioneer Trails Adventures

Pioneer Trails Adventures Pioneer Trails Adventures: On the Square in Independence: April - October from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 816.456.4991

Pioneer Trails Adventures features wagon rides with historic interpretation. Learn the about the town where three trails began, two Civil War battles, and of course, Harry Truman. Ride a mule-drawn covered wagon to see Independence as a pioneer would. Tickets range from $7-25 depending on the tour you choose to take.


More on The Little House Project

The Little House Project continues through the end of June 2010! We'll be embarking on Day Trips across Kansas City to explore life as Laura lived for the next several weeks. To follow the newest installments subscribe to the eNewsletter!

The Little House Project Articles

More MoKan Day Trips & Vacations!

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