Saturday, November 26, 2011

The 1857 Marshall's Office and the Bingham-Waggoner

There is a package deal in Independence, as it were, during the Christmas season.  You can buy one ticket, and go through the Bingham-Waggoner house, the Vaile mansion, and the restored marshall's jail on the square in Independence.  I'll only show you a couple of pictures of the jail.  It does not have the support from auxiliaries that the two big houses have, and is not decorated as much.  However, it is full of history and very interesting. 

This folks, is a mighty homey jail cell.  It was lived in for six months by Frank James, the bank robber.  He had many privileges that the other prisoners did not get.  Their mattresses lay on the stone floor, and trust me, I stood in one of those cells for a while, and it does not smell good in there.
To wit:

Here is a "regular" cell, and there was a tiny thin mattress on the floor, to the right.  Notice the leg irons. They meant business when they put someone in jail back then.
This is the marshall's actual office, the desk is behind me.  That's the family parlor through the right door, and the first floor of jail cells through the left.  The marshall's family lived in the jail building, and their bedrooms are upstairs.  There is a room currently used as the greeter's office/shop that was probably a keeping room.  The kitchen was out back. Notice the painting of "Order Number 11 (Martial Law)" above the mantel, by George Caleb Bingham.  He painted it in response the terrible burning of much of Jackson and Clay counties by Union forces during the war when General Ewing ordered the rebel families to move out and burned their properties.  If you ever have a chance to look at this painting, it's very moving.
The family parlor, not nearly as elaborate as the two big mansions I was visiting.
When I came out of the jail, look what was parked in front:

Independence is known as the "Queen City of the Trails", because easterners took the train this far, and then bought their covered wagons, their teams of mules, horses or oxen from outfitters here, and all the things they would carry with them as they started out on the trails.  The Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails all started here, and there are numerous places in this area where you can still see swales from the hundreds of wagons that passed over the land.  This gentleman, with his half quarter horse/half Clydesdale team called Ruby (blaze) and Pearl, gives rides around the historic parts of Independence for various amounts, depending on the tour.  I wish I had had the time and money to take the tour, but it was windy and chilly yesterday (and REALLY windy and chilly today!).
I love history, can you tell?

On to the Bingham-Waggoner, rightfully called the "Lewis-Bingham-Waggoner" house because Mr. Lewis built the two-up and three down original house. The painter George Caleb Bingham lived in it during the Civil War, which was hard fought in this area.

There are eight bedrooms, because the Waggoner family, which owned the local grain mill, had a lot of children.  It is a family home, and you feel the family vibe in it when you go in the door.  The mill was just across from the house and acreage, and they had only to walk down their own sidewalk and cross the street to be at work.  In the fifties, the mill had an explosion and fire, and what is left of it, is now part of the Three Trails Museum, worth visiting!

The mill sold a product for which they were famous, a flour called "Queen of the Pantry", and there are crowns on the fireplace screens in the house.

Here is a tree in one of the two front parlours.  The theme for the Bingham this year was "A Woodland Christmas".

Notice the topper.

There were a lot of natural elements used.
The Bingham has the most wonderful dining room. It was huge, not just for the big family, but for guests as well.  I don't know if my shots did it justice.

Here is the fireplace. There was a huge tree to the right, and many vignettes in the room.
I did not get a good picture of the long table with it's beautiful red swath of netting.  That is a gorgeous lamp hanging above it... when gas came, the candoliers were changed to gas, and then when electric came... they were all converted to electric, though the family remained suspicious for a while.  Many of the earlier (front of the house) fixtures retain their gas knobs and handles "just in case".
The kitchen was surprisingly small for such a big house, but it featured something interesting... there is a wood stove, a dry sink, and a "modern" stove, used by the cook/housekeeper until the last Mr. Waggoner died in the 1970's.  This Mr. Waggoner, who never married, left the house and grounds to his housekeeper!

This bedroom upstairs is set up as a gentleman's sitting room right now, and is lovely.
This gorgeous antique clock sits over a bookcase in the same room. There are many furnishings in this house that are original to the family.

This picture, from a front bedroom, shows how progressive the Waggoners were when they built on the back of the house.  They put a washstand in every room, with running water.
I chose this picture of the "sewing room" because it shows part of the frieze painted on the walls.  Each room has it's own decorative frieze in this house.  This room, in the front of the house over the front door, was originally the upstairs hall, when the house was two up and three down. There was an original bedroom on either side of it.  That stairway was removed when the second portion of the house was built on.  I suspect this was a smoking room of some sort, because the frieze is of monkeys in the jungle.
The Bingham-Waggoner house has a third floor that is open to the public, and is used for snacks at the time of the tours.  It was the domain of the house servants, and had four or five comfortable sleeping rooms, and a large bathroom. There was a cistern up there, also, and a large common area. 

As you can see, the help had well-appointed bedrooms, all had at least one window, and this corner room, two. 
The drivers and stablemen lived over the carriage house and the stable.  They were all referred to as "the help" and not "the servants".
This look down the hallway towards two of the back bedrooms gives some idea of the size of this beautiful old house.  You notice the original frieze on the wall, and on the left you will see a tube protruding.  There was a "modern" call system downstairs when someone needed something on the second floor.  There is also a linen press visible, and steam heat from the radiator.

And here, folks, is the only "Reason for the Season" I saw in all three houses... the nativity scene in the women's parlor at the front of the Bingham House. 

On my way outside, I snapped a picture of the side of the house to give you some idea.
If you enlarge the picture, it will be easy to see the first part of the house, the second part (first addition) and the third part, which was of a different brick, because the first was no longer available.  The house at that point was painted pale green over the red brick.
And finally:

Here are some of the dependencies, taken from the car. The carriage house is just out of sight on the left, but what I wanted you to see was the bit of ramp still existing to the back of the horse stable... and the chicken house.  Only if you biggify the picture can you see the nest box on the outside wall, between the stable and the chicken house.   There is an outhouse (you can just see it to the right) and a smokehouse, as well.  Off to the right are about five acres of land, and on this you can walk by trail to a section of wagon train swales. 

I love history and the holidays, so to take a morning (about two and a half hours) and combine both was a lot of fun for me.

Next weekend, the annual horse drawn parade happens in Lawrence (another city around here with a huge Civil War history).  The only things allowed in the parade are horse-drawn equipages, and horses ridden or led.  I have a friend from work who will be riding with a group in the parade, and she has made beautiful saddle blankets for them to use. I hope to get up there early and stake out a good place to take pictures. I also hope the wind chill is not below zero, for horses and humans!

It is dark and very, very windy tonight here in Tonganoxie.  Keith has gone out to do some Christmas shopping and I am home typing this up, and listening to the wind blowing.  The dogs are restless, and barking and growling, and Keith said when I called him that they are hearing things on the wind.  We noticed, too, that when I came home from church late this afternoon that the llamas were also restless, and running up and down the pasture crazily.  I tried to get them on camera, but it had gotten too dark.  We still don't have the heaters set for the waterers, so I hope we have one a few more days of reprieve to get them out!


  1. Looks like my kind of tour! We enjoyed visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, but were too early for the Christmas season by a few days. Not QUITE as much history out here in the "young territory"!

  2. My goodness, you've been very busy. Who knew Independence had so much to see.

  3. I have really enjoyed your posts of the tours. Really brings the Christmas season to life.
    It seems all prisioners were not treated equally. Can you image your family living above a jail? Not in this day and age.

  4. Loved the tour! History is a biggy for me too!


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