Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Harry S. Truman Library
DR. BROOKS: This is to be an interview with Miss Sue Gentry of the Independence Examiner, and longtime resident of Independence, about houses and buildings in the Truman neighborhood. We are doing this on Monday, August 30, 1971. [This interview was tape recorded while Miss Gentry and Dr. Philip C. Brooks, then Director of the Truman Library, drove through the area discussed in this transcript.]
MISS GENTRY: 620 North Delaware was the Cook home, the James L. Cook home. They had a shoe store here in Independence. Yes. The Godfrey Twachtman family has been here about 25 years. He came to Lake City to work and Mrs. Twachtman, who had lived in France, was one of our important interviewees in the Examiner because she had lived in France and had done volunteer Red Cross work there. He was in the French Army and they met and married there and came to America together.
This new house here (next north of 610 North Delaware) is the site of the John G. Paxton home. Mr. Paxton was a well-known attorney in Independence. The home, the property ran from Delaware back to Union Street. It had a beautiful flower garden and vegetable garden, which was the scene of many early day parties and festivities when the Paxton children lived there.
The home that Mrs. Truman grew up in was on the site of the Graham home, 610 North Delaware Street. The Paxton girls refer to playing with Bess Truman under a large oak tree in the yard. The tree is still where the Paxton and Wallace children played.
BROOKS: And did that go clear through to Union Street, that property too?
GENTRY: I believe it did.
BROOKS: Do you know how long the Wallace family lived there?
GENTRY: Until Mr. Wallace died, which was, in 1903, I think. Then Mrs. Wallace took her children to the family home of her parents at 219.
BROOKS: And the house on the corner, the J. D. Sellers have it now.
GENTRY: The house on the corner was the home of the William Bostian family for a good many years. The Bostian family lived there from the turn of the century until about 20 years ago, when Mrs. Bostian died.
BROOKS: It is obviously one of the older and more interesting homes in this area, isn't it?
GENTRY: Yes. And across the street is the Jennings home, at 510 North Delaware, built by Aaron F. Sawyer, a well-known banker in Independence. Mrs. Sawyer continued to live there until about 30 years ago when
she died and it was sold, and the Frank S. Jennings have lived there since.
BROOKS: That's the house that's said to have been designed by Stanford White, but I've heard people say that it wasn't true. Do you know?
GENTRY: No, not for sure. 511 North Delaware Street was the home of the William B. Duke family for a good many years. Next north of it was the home of the Pendleton family. Mr. P. D. Bush, who is the father of the Bush twins (Mrs. Carl Sapper, Jr., and Miss Virginia Bush) lived there. His first wife, I believe, was a Pendleton.
503 North Delaware Street was the home of the Olney Burrus family for a good many years. He was the father of Rufus Burrus.
BROOKS: He lived there a long time?
GENTRY: The family lived there for more than 50 years.
BROOKS: Now, Mr. Truman, in his Memoirs, refers to the Burruses as neighbors. Was that when the Burruses lived there?
GENTRY: No, that was another family that Mr. Truman refers to playing with when he was a boy. The families were relatives. Olney Burrus came up here from Blue Springs.
The next house, at 500 North Delaware Street, was built by Roy Layland, who was later president of the Chrisman-Sawyer Bank. It is built on a part of the
old Sawyer lot, which Mr. Layland acquired when the property was disposed of.
Mrs. Madeleine Etzenhouser lives at 426 North Delaware Street. Mrs. Etzenhouser was Margaret Truman's teacher when she was a student at the Bryant School. The family has always lived there many years. Mrs. Etzenhouser's parents, C. W. Kellys, bought that home a number of years ago and she has continued to live there since the death of her parents.
422 North Delaware Street is a home in which the W. H. Johnsons lived for a good many years. Professor Johnson was a pioneer school man in Jackson County. He was a former superintendent of schools at the Ruskin School District, and under his supervision the first consolidated school in Jackson County was organized.
The house at 423 North Delaware Street was built by Mr. Joe Bridges, who was a former president of the school board and a groceryman in Independence. Next door at 417, I believe it is, was the home of Mrs. J. Roger DeWitt, former Historical Society president. She lived there when she grew up. Her father was Bernard Zick, president of First National Bank and well-known Independence businessman.
Mrs. DeWitt said her grandfather, Joseph Mercer, bought the house which was one of the "Walnut Park" houses and moved it to that site. Her aunt, Annie, and her first husband, Ben Bartlett, lived there. After his death her grandfather gave the place to her mother on her marriage to her father, Bernard Zick, Jr.
The dark brown shingled house is the home of Mrs. Tom Twyman, widow of Dr. Tom Twyman, well-known Independence doctor. Dr. Twyman represented a fourth generation of doctors in Jackson County. Mrs. Twyman was the daughter of Chris Casper, an early day Independence merchant, who was in business with Mr. Walter Shimfessel. They had a store on the north side of the square. After Mrs. Twyman's father died, she and Dr. Twyman moved from over on North River Boulevard to this home to be with her mother, and she just continued to live here. The house was built by a Clark family who sold it to Casper.
408 North Delaware Street is the present home of the George McMahans. Mrs. McMahan was the wife of former superintendent of schools W. E. Matthews, and upon his death she married Mr. McMahan. The home was formerly that of the Bowdle family. I remember the girls were active in social events,
and one of them was a piano teacher here in Independence.
BROOKS: We lived here, at 408 North Delaware, in the spring of '57 for a short time. I was then told that it was built in 1874.
The next one, 400 North Delaware, we call the Truman Library dormitory because I think at least seventy-five visiting researchers have roomed there. Mrs. Howard Carvin, the owner, keeps a register and corresponds with many of them after they are away. I don't know much about the history of the house or how long Mrs. Carvin has lived there.
GENTRY: Before the Carvins, Mr. Jordan lived there. Mr. Jordan was a school teacher at Northeast High School in Kansas City. The old house which stood there before the bungalow was built was the home of the J. W. Robinson family.
The present home of Mr. and Mrs. L. L. Compton (Mr. Compton is better known as "Polly" Compton), a spacious rock home at 308 North Delaware Street, was built, I believe, by Mr. Sollars. His daughter was married to W. C. Dunn, Jr. Mr. Dunn bought the home from Mr. Sollars when he went back to Warrensburg to live, and the Dunns continued to live there until the death of Mr. Dunn, I believe, then they went to
Florida to live, and they have lived there since. Mr. Compton has owned it probably close to forty years now. A Miss Pittman, a school teacher, and her mother lived in the first small house there.
In the next home, the gray house at 403 North Delaware, the W. G. Charleton family, I believe, lived a good many years. Mr. Charleton sold real estate and insurance, and Mrs. Charleton was a well-known dressmaker in Independence. The two daughters both worked for Western Union here in Independence and in Kansas City. They sold the home about thirty-five years ago.
No. 319 belonged to the Triplett family. Who lived there before that, I don't know.
No. 315 North Delaware was the home many years of Dr. N. P. Wood, who was a well-known family doctor here in Independence. Following the death of Dr. Wood, Mrs. Wood sold the home to Mr. William A. Merrifield, who moved in from the country. His widow later married Rev. Lawrence Proctor, who was the pastor of the First Baptist Church here for a good many years.
No. 305 North Delaware Street, now belongs to the Presbyterian Church; it is the Presbyterian manse, occupied by Dr. Thomas Melton.
306 North Delaware Street is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Sapper, Jr. and Mrs. Sapper's sister,
Miss Elizabeth Bush. The home had previously belonged to their parents, Mr. and Mrs. P. D. Bush, The Bushes acquired the home from the Buchanan family. An old home stood there before the Buchanans built the new Spanish-type home. The F. R. Allen family (Mr. Allen was a well-known real estate man here) occupied the old home there for a good many years before it was razed and this new home built.
304 North Delaware