The National Frontier Trails Center is located in Independence, Missouri. It honors the heritage of the overland trails. Independence was known as an important outfitting point for both the Santa Fe Trail and Oregon-California Trail. Because of its close position to the Missouri River, the town of Independence prospered as steamboat traffic moved further up the river.
Trade goods arriving from St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York, and even Europe would be unloaded from the boats and loaded into the large Murphy freight wagons bound for Santa Fe. These wagons, made by Joseph Murphy in St. Louis, could carry a reported 7,000 pounds of freight. Because Mexico had imposed a $500 per-wagon tax upon arrival in Santa Fe, freighters avoided paying extra fees by loading up one
large wagon, instead of using two or three smaller wagons to carry the same amount of cargo, and so only paid the wagon tax once.
Wealthier emigrants traveling the Oregon-California Trail often came from the East traveling by boat; they headed down the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers, until they arrived at Independence.
They would then buy wagons, animals, and other supplies they needed for the trip. These animals had to be trained to pull wagons and Independence was the place to do that. Thousands of traders and emigrants with their mules, oxen, horses, and wagons crowded the streets of the small village. The Santa Fe traders were prominent in the town from 1830 to1850. The Oregon-California Trail emigrants began to appear in the 1840s.