Rice-Tremonti Home & Aunt Sophie's Cabin
Upcoming Events

Lawn Party/Ice Cream Social

Sep 23, 2017
2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Bring a lawn chair and set a spell in the Rice-Tremonti yard. Enjoy live music, homemade ice cream and explore the offerings of several crafters. Get a tour of the house. Free admission!

Elihu Coffee Rice

Order Number 11

Judge Joseph M. Lowe

Roger Lowe and daughters

Gloria Tremonti

Louis Tremonti

An Early American Gem

The Rice-Tremonti Home Witnessed the Sweep of American History

Archibald and Sally Rice moved from North Carolina to Missouri in the 1820s, settling finally in Jackson County by the 1830s. In 1836 the Rices settled on a claim of 160 acres in what is now Raytown. The Rice homestead was located eight miles from Independence on the Santa Fe Trail.

The family cleared the land and established a new home site and by 1838 had the northwest corner of Section Five nearly under fence; seeded with corn and wheat. The Rices originally built a two-story log house and several cabins for slaves. After an eight-year habitation, Archibald and Sally built a new Gothic Revival frame farmhouse in 1844.

The Rice Farm quickly became a popular camping site for travelers bound for Santa Fe and California. There was space for wagons, springs for watering, corn and prairie grasses for feeding animals. At least 27 original accounts by travelers (dating from 1838 to 1849) spoke favorably of Archibald Rice's hospitality. During those years restless farmers and their families were undertaking the long trek to Oregon and soon thousands of travelers were rushing to the gold fields of California.

Consequently, the entire community of Jackson County was involved in some manner with the business of the trails. Farmers grew corn to feed the animals, raised and butchered hogs for trail supplies. Thousands of Spanish mules and oxen fattened on the good grass made available to travelers. Local men left their families and served as teamsters for the freighters.

During 1849 about 490 men and 132 wagons lingered at the Rice campground. Written accounts say that both sides of the trail were lined with emigrants waiting to head westward.

Archibald died on Oct. 14, 1849 at the age of 67. His estate passed to his son, Elihu Coffee Rice. When Coffee and Catherine "Kitty" Stoner White were married on Nov. 14, 1850, the slave Sophia White accompanied Kitty to her new home. Sophia attended the births of the couple's five children and became known affectionately as "Aunt" Sophie. She lived in a small cabin near the back door of the Rice home, where she cooked the family's meals in the large hearth. The old cabin went through many incarnations over the years. In 2004 the Friends of the Rice-Tremonti Home replaced Aunt Sophie's Cabin using antique logs exclusively. A cabin presumably has stood in that location since the 1830s.

The Civil War brought crisis to the Rice family. As slave holding southerners, the family evacuated to Texas in 1861, entrusting the care of their home to James Hunter and family. In 1863 following the imposition of martial law via U.S. Gen. Thomas Ewing's "General Order No. 11," all remaining southern sympathizers in Jackson County were forced from their lands. The Hunters were evicted from the house. For reasons unknown to later generations, the Rice home escaped destruction, unlike so many of Jackson County's antebellum houses.

E. Coffee Rice prospered in the cattle business while in Texas. The family returned and re-claimed their home in 1866. Aunt Sophie remained with the Rice family and continued to live in her cabin until shortly before her death in 1896. Her grave in Woodlawn Cemetery was finally marked in 2004 by the city of Independence. Coffee Rice had become a prominent Jackson County citizen, serving as road commissioner before his death in 1903. In his will, Coffee Rice stipulated the old home place be sold.

Between 1906 and 1922 the land was owned by Judge Joseph M. Lowe and his son J. Roger Lowe. Judge Lowe was a founder of the National Old Trails Association, and influenced the Daughters of the American Revolution to mark the route of the Old Santa Fe Trail across Missouri with red granite markers. The marker commemorating the Rice plantation was dedicated on May 15, 1913. Florence Lowe, daughter of Roger, remembered a nearly idyllic youth growing up in the old house surrounded by orchards and farm fields.

In 1929, Dr. Louis G. Tremonti and his wife, Lois Gloria, bought the Rice house and two adjoining lots and undertook an extensive renovation, adding six dormers on the second floor, and extending the kitchen in back. Dr. Tremoni practiced medicine in an examining room on the west side of the house. The Tremontis endeavored to retain the old house's historical integrity. Dr. Tremonti died in 1949. Gloria continued to savor life in her historic home and lived there until 1987.

The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

In 1988 Mrs. Lois Gloria Tremonti sold the property to the Friends of the Rice-Tremonti Home Association, which undertook the campaign to restore the house, which had fallen into a state of serious deterioration. After 13 years of effort, the Friends in 2000 secured state grant funding sufficient to retire the $300,000 private mortgage. The late Sen. Harry Wiggins and the Mid-America Regional Council were instrumental in securing state funding for Rice-Tremonti.

Today the Friends of the Rice-Tremonti Home Association is responsible for maintaining and preserving one of the most significant historic homes in the Midwest. The not-for-profit volunteer organization depends on private donations, memberships and admission fees for all operating income.