INDEPENDENCE WAS ONCE THE GATE CITY. ~ Pioneer Recalls the Days Before the Railroad Reached River.

January 3, 1910

Pioneer Recalls the Days
Before the Railroad
Reached River.

Enchanting is the romance of the Golden West, the story of mountain and plain. Forming the most striking drama in American history, the record, alas, is but fragmentary -- the half has not been told. For, imperfectly have the annals been kept of the vast domain west of the Mississippi river from the time of early settlement to the present. Evidences of marvelous transformation are at hand, fruits of pioneer privations are enjoyed, but the annal of achievement in details has been neglected by historians. Reminiscences of early settlers can now alone supply the deficiency.

To a great extent has the history of Independence, Mo., to do with that of the West. This city was the scene of the initial step in the march of progress. Preparatory to crossing the desert, westward bound caravans procured supplies there. Frontiersmen, explorers and prospectors, returning home, brought to Independence the first news of discovery, for this city was then the greatest trading post in the West.


Prominent among the pioneers was Henry A. Schnepp, who is now a resident of Galesburg, Ill., but is now visiting his brother, David Schnepp, at the latter's home, 413 Whittier place. Mr. Schnepp was conspicuously identified with the early growth of Independence and lived there for fifteen years, leaving during the year 1890.

"In the early fifties Independence was the outfitting point for all the country west of the Missouri river and was the headquarters for frontiersmen," said Mr. Schnepp yesterday afternoon. "The paramount issue was to retain this lucrative trade and active measures were adopted with that end in view. This gave impetus to the construction of the first railroad in the West, which ran from the river to this city. A depot was built at Wayne City and a terminal established at the postoffice. The cars, which ran over wooden rails, were drawn by horses.

"Before the construction of the Hannibal & St. Joe Railway in1856 all transportation was by river. Apropos the recent agitating with regard to navigating the Missouri, it seems to me that as the river was navigable then, it should be now."


Mr. Schnepp staged through Iowa when that state was but sparsely settled. When he traveled along the Hawkeye frontier in 1854 the capital of that state was located at Iowa City and the territory west of Des Moines, the present capital, was inhabited almost exclusively by Indians.

"I could never forget the first overland mail route to Salt Lake City. The mail was carried by stage coach and the trip required many days under favorable weather conditions. The route extended from Independence to Westport, thence to Fort Riley, in Kansas; Fort Bridges, in Wyoming, and on to Salt Lake. The charge for carrying each letter was 25 cents, collectable on delivery. Prior to the establishment of the pony express in 1853-4, mail from the West was carried by a boat around Cape Horn."

Mr. Schnepp says that the gold fields of California were discovered by Joseph D. Childs, an uncle of C. C. Childs, an Independence banker. A contractor by profession, Joseph Childs was erecting a mill near Sacramento when workmen excavating a race found gold. This discovery started the rush to California, and Mr. Schnepp was one of the first to go for a fortune. He did not acquire fabulous wealth, but returned home with enough gold that he has not since been called a poor man.