Independence, MO 1846

“It was still raining in early May, wagons bogged to the hubs, and one waded to Colonel Noland’s tavern or Robert Weston’s blacksmith shop through a knee-deep solution of red Missouri clay. Either was worth the miring, however. Weston’s was the most celebrated of the frontier’s smithies, though only one of a dozen or more in Independence, all overburdened with this spring’s preparations. Smallwood Noland’s inn was even more famous, the westernmost hotel in all America, the last one this side of the Sandwich Islands, with accommodations for up to four hundred guests if they didn’t mind sleeping two or more in a bed. . . .

“But in ’46 neither the gathering of the Saints nor the besom of destruction menaced Independence. It was still Eden but with metropolitan additions, and the flood poured through it. All conditions of mankind were there, in allco stumes : Shawnee and Kansa from the Territory and wanderers of other tribes, blanketed, painted, wearing their Presidential medals; Mexicans in bells, slashed pantaloons, and primary colors speaking a strange tongue and smoking shuck-rolled cigarettes ; mountain men in buckskins preparing for the summer trade or offering their services to the emigrant trains ; the casehardened bullwhackers of the Santa Fe trail in boots and bowie knives, coming in after wintering at the other end or preparing to go out; rivermen and roustabouts, Negro stevedores, soldiers from Fort Leavenworth, a miscellany of transients whose only motive was to see the elephant wherever the elephant might be. Freight poured in from the steamboat landings, the great wagons careened through the streets, day by day the freshet of movers came in from the east, the lowing of herds pullulated over the town, the smithies and wagon shops rang with iron, whooping riders galloped their ponies through the mud, the groggeries were one long aria, and out from town the little clusters of tents grew and grew.

The town was a first violent shock of the strangeness which was a primary condition of the emigration. From now on the habits within whose net a man lives would be twisted apart and disrupted, and the most powerful tension of pioneering began here at the jumping-off. Here was a confusion of tongues, a multitude of strange businesses, a horde of strangers – and beyond was the unknown hazard. “

[NB. At the northeast corner of Maple and Main Street, Solomon Flournoy built one of the town’s first hotels. Later Smallwood Noland purchased the property and ran a hotel under the names Washington Hotel and Globe Hotel. After a fire in the 1840s, Noland rebuilt and christened his new venture the Noland House .. The hotel faced Main Street and had livery stables attached to the north Guests included writer Francis Parkman and pioneer traveler Susan Magoffin. Noland’s Hotel later became known as Hickman House and the Merchant’s Hotel. Sally F. Schwenk, Cultural Resource Survey, Independence Square, p. 38]