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Independence, Kansas

Independence is a city in Montgomery County, Kansas, United States. The population was 9,846 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Montgomery County.

Geography

Independence is located at (37.228251, -95.711392), along the Verdigris River just south of its confluence with the Elk River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.0 square miles (12.9 km²), all of it land.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 9,846 people, 4,149 households, and 2,609 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,979.4 people per square mile (764.9/km²). There were 4,747 housing units at an average density of 954.3/sq mi (368.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.00% White, 7.17% African American, 1.16% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.10% from other races, and 2.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.84% of the population.

There were 4,149 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32, and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out, with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,574, and the median income for a family was $37,134. Males had a median income of $26,552 versus $20,017 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,496. About 11.4% of families and 13.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.

History

Founded on land taken from the Osage Nation by a treaty of questionable reputation, Independence was home to many families made wealthy by the oil and gas boom of the turn-of-the-century. Successful merchants like Henry Baden and August Zutz and bankers like A.C. Stich and George Guernsey were also prominent in local society. Ornate Victorian homes still attest to the prosperity of pre-Depression days. Best known is oil magnate Harry F. Sinclair, who founded the Sinclair Oil Company with its dinosaur logo. Sinclair also became embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding presidency. The town once featured a vitrified brick factory, a glass factory [the Midland Window Glass Company, which had a small "company town"], the Uhrich planing mill, the Atchison Revolving Door factory, a portland cement plant, iron works and other industries. Independence Community College was founded in 1925. By the 1930s, Independence boasted 20 restaurants, over 40 retail groceries, 12 meeting halls and 4 hardware stores . Politically, the town voted mostly Republican-- in contrast to [Democratic] Coffeyville, KS-- a rival city of 12,000 located 15 miles to the south. From 1910 to 1947, Independence was connected to surrounding communities by the Union Traction Company which provided interurban electric rail service and 4 street trolley lines. The Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads also provided steam/diesel rail service from two separate stations. Kansas Gov. Alfred Landon hailed from Independence, as did the famous 1950s playwright William Inge.

African Americans numbered over 1000 by the 1930s, and they attended 5 houses of worship including Quinn's AME Chapel, St. John's Baptist Church, the Maple Street Baptist Church, the Holiness Church and St. John's Methodist Episcopal. Blacks went to the Independence public schools but played on segregated sports teams, and the electric interurban railway's downtown waiting room had a "colored only" section. At the local Booth Theatre, African Americans sat up in the balcony, and ushers would remove white children if they attempted to sit upstairs with black patrons. Riverside Park featured a "Jim Crow" swimming pool as well as one designated for whites. The local Buick auto dealer was proud of the "elite" product his company offered, and pointedly refused to sell Buicks to African American customers. The city had witnessed a near-lynching on Dec. 16, 1920 that escalated into a gun battle followed by curfews and martial law. The violence injured several white vigilantes accidently shot by their fellow mob members, and a dozen bullets fired at point-blank range cost a black WWI veteran, Arthur Harper, his life. At the Mount Hope Cemetery, blacks were buried in their own section, as were Roman Catholics [mostly Irish & German] and German Lutherans. There was no single black neighborhood, but African Americans tended to live in enclaves including a SW region (around south 17th, 18th & 19th streets) and the Aganippe Park area located SE near the cement plant.

Another distinct community in Independence was/is the German Lutherans, who organized Zion Lutheran Church and School during the 1880s. This group eventually numbered in the hundreds, with most tracing their ancestry back to villages in the Kingdom of Hanover [now Lower Saxony]. Other families moved west from settlements in Missouri-- especially the town of Cole Camp in Benton County [another Hanoverian settlement of pre-Civil War vintage]. Some households also hailed from the Baltic coastal region of East Friesland. In the 19th century, many spoke Low German dialect [plattdüütsch] at home, standard German [hochdeutsch] at church/school and English with their Anglophone neighbors. The last German-language church service occurred in 1941, and the last local German-language gravestone inscription dates from the 1980s. Intermarriage with non-German-Lutherans only became commonplace after World War II. There was no exclusively German neighborhood in Independence, but socially the Lutherans remained a tightknit group whose members did not join clubs like the Lions, Masons, or Rotary before the 1950s. In recent years, a public German Fest has been held each October... the only celebration of its kind in southeast Kansas.

On April 28, 1930, Independence was the site of organized baseball's first night game. The Independence Producers lost 13-3 to the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Chiefs , its Western Association rival.

Mickey Mantle played minor league ball at the Independence field.

Points of interest

  • Independence hosts the annual Halloween "Neewollah" festival in late October.
  • Independence Community College is home to the William Inge Center for the Arts , which maintains the archives of playwright William Inge (an alumnus), utilizes the writer's boyhood home for a playwrights-in-residence program, and sponsors the annual William Inge Festival. Each year during the festival a lifetime achievement award is bestowed on a nationally-recognized American playwright.
  • Journalist Bill Kurtis once worked for radio station KIND-AM & FM and is now a part owner of the local stations.
  • The State of Kansas designated the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Ingalls family at Independence as a historic site, which is open to visitors. It is the location from which the events of the book Little House on the Prairie take place. It includes a cabin modeled after the original and the post office that was originally located at nearby Wayside, KS. The Sunnyside School, a one room schoolhouse that was moved to the site is also featured. Much of the surrounding countryside retains its open and undeveloped nature. It is located on the William Kurtis Ranch about 13 miles southwest of downtown Independence.
  • Miss Able, a rhesus monkey, was born at Ralph Mitchell Zoo. Miss Able along with Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, became the first animals to fly in space and return alive on May 28, 1959.
  • At the 1964 New York World's Fair, Sinclair Oil sponsored a dinosaur exhibit, featuring life size replicas of nine different dinosaurs. On flatbed trucks they toured the United States. Sinclair was acquired by Atlantic Richfield (ARCO). After the acquisition by ARCO, one of the nine dinosaurs, the Corythosaurus was donated to Riverside Park.

Notable natives

Education

Independence Community College is located in the city.

  • Independence High School, grades 9-12
  • Independence Middle School, grades 6-8
  • Washington Elementary School, grade 5
  • Lincoln Elementary School, grades 3-4
  • Eisenhower Elementary School, grades Pre-K-2
  • Zion Lutheran School, grades Pre-K-8
  • St. Andrews School, grades Pre-K-8
  • Independence Bible School, grades Pre-K-12
  • Tri-County Education Co-operative, special education, all grades

Transportation

Independence is located at the intersection of US-75 and US-160. Rail freight service is provided by the Union Pacific Railroad and South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad. The Independence Municipal Airport (IDP) is located 5 miles (8km) southwest of the the center of the city.

References

Further reading

  • Brown, Ken D. A Guide to Historic Homes in Independence, Kansas Independence: Tribune, 1993.
  • Humphrey, Lyman U. History of Montgomery County, Kansas. Iola: Duncan, 1903.

External links

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