Historic Truman Farm Home Opens Its Doors For One Day
By Diane Euston
133 years ago on May 8th, the 33rd President of the United States was born. Harry S. Truman’s birthday was marked on Saturday, May 6th by unlocking the doors and bringing back to life one of the most important places to Truman in the area – the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.
What many would call the “Truman Farm Home” at 12301 Blue Ridge Blvd. was once known far and wide as the Solomon Young farm.
Harriet Gregg Young and Solomon Young, Harry S. Truman’s grandparents.
Solomon Young (b. 1815), Harry S. Truman’s grandfather, immigrated from Kentucky with his wife, Harriet Gregg and two young children in about 1841. The family at this time didn’t reside in the Grandview area but lived on a farm called Parrish Place that would be at 36th and Prospect today. This is where his daughter, Martha Ellen Young, Truman’s mother, was born in 1852.
Between 1844 and 1860, Solomon expanded his land holdings, buying just shy of 2,000 acres in the current-day Grandview area. To meet basic land grant requirements, he built a small log cabin on the land.
It wasn’t until the 1850s that the family left the Parrish Place farm for their lands around Grandview. Besides being a successful farmer, Solomon Young was a freighter on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. He would sometimes be gone for a year at a time, leaving his wife to fend for the family.
The Border Wars erupted and disturbed the peaceful life on the farm. Even though Solomon had signed an oath of allegiance to the Union, he was not immune from attacks by border ruffians. In 1861, the farm was raided by Jim Lane and his Jayhawkers. They killed 400 hogs, shot the chickens and forced Harriet to cook for them “until her fingers blistered.”
This experience forever scarred Harriet Young’s trust of the military. When grandson, Harry showed up to her house in his National Guard uniform, she ordered Harry out of the house.
Around 1867, Solomon settled into a brand-new frame house on the land where the farmhouse stands today.
Martha Ellen Young met and married John Anderson Truman, a farmer, in 1881. They had three children: Harry, J. Vivian, and Mary Jane.
In 1887, Truman and his family moved to his grandfather, Solomon’s home until 1890, when the family opted to move to Independence so the children could get a good education.
Solomon Young passed away at the age of 77 in 1892. His wife was further struck by tragedy when her house burned to the ground one year later. Harriet spent two years rebuilding a new home. This is the home that stands in Grandview today.
Harry S. Truman’s first cousin, Mary Ethel Noland recalled her memories of the house that stood prior to the current farmhouse. “[The house] was built on the same foundation . . .but nothing like the fine house that the old house had been. It didn’t look like the old house at all,” Noland stated.
John Anderson Truman and his wife, Martha were asked to return to Solomon’s farm to help Harriet. John couldn’t handle the work 600 acres required alone, so son Vivian returned to the farm and Harry left a job in banking in 1906 to help his family.
The 11 years that Truman spent in Grandview were some of the most pivotal of his entire life. Truman was quoted as saying, “I spent the best ten years of my life on a farm – 600 acres, south of Kansas City.”
Harry’s grandmother, Harriet passed away in 1909, leaving a fortune that became tied up in legal issues. In 1914, Harry’s father, John passed away at the farmhouse. At this point, Harry took over the management of the farm until he left for the army.
Harry’s mother, Martha continued to live at the farmhouse until she had financial troubles. As Harry’s political career took off, the more venerable the family became. According to an interview in 1965 with Charles F. Curry, real estate agent, the Democratic party lost hold of county government when Truman was running for reelection in the Senate. Harry had borrowed money from the County School Fund for the farm and had not paid the interest.
Curry stated, “They were out to embarrass the Democratic organizations and the people who had been supported by Pendergast. . . When [the Republicans] found the condition of this loan with all the delinquent interest on it, they decided to embarrass Truman by ordering a foreclosure.”
Martha was kicked out of her home. It wasn’t until 1945 that Harry’s brother was able to repurchase the farm, but Martha would never live in the property again and died in 1947.
After Truman left the White House in 1953, he was developing ideas for the next chapter of his life. Truman sketched from memory his grandfather’s house that once stood where the farmhouse is today and considered building a replica of it.
Plans to build a Presidential library were already in the works. Truman wished for his library to be in Grandview on the land where the farm stood. The city of Independence lobbied hard to have the Presidential Library built there, and the mayor was able to secure park land to build. Thus, the Truman Library was built in Independence instead of Grandview.
By the late 1950s, Harry and his siblings sold the remaining acreage for development and is known today as Truman Corners.
Truman passed away in 1972, but his contributions to the community is evident. The National Parks Service gained the Young/Truman farm property and opened the home on weekends.
By 2013, budget cuts forced the NPS to close the farmhouse to visitors. Doug Richardson, Chief of Interpretation for NPS, stated, “We hope to have the historic Truman Farm Home open more often in the near future.”
This is all budget and staffing dependent, but the NPS recognizes the significance of the farmhouse. “We strongly believe that to understand Harry S. Truman one must understand the years spent and the work done on the family’s farm in Grandview,” Richardson commented.
For now, the opening on May 6th will give the community a chance to walk through and learn about the history of the Truman Home. “Many remarked, including his own mother, that it was on the Grandview Farm that Harry Truman developed his strong common sense, and strong decision making ability,” Richardson stated.
The house will be open from 10AM to 12PM and 1PM to 3PM on Saturday, May 6th.
Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read the stories, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com.