This sculpture memorializes the pioneer mothers and stands within a few hundred feet of a branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It depicts a pioneer family travelling westward over the expanse of the Great Plains. These pioneers have braved the elements, battled hunger and thirst, and survived many dangers along the way such as native attacks, prairie fires and stampeding buffaloes. These pioneers are now looking for water and a place to camp for the night.
The artist, Alexander Phimister Proctor, used Kansas City businessman Howard Vanderslice as the inspiration for the sculpture. Mr. Vanderslice is the baby. The “Pioneer Mother” is his mother. His father and grandfather, a veteran of Indian wars and an appointed agent to tribes in Missouri, are also depicted. Mr. Vanderslice was a well-known businessman and patron of the arts. He donated this sculpture to the city in 1927. Also in 1927, he purchased land adjacent to where the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was being built. He then donated that land to the Kansas City Art Institute, and it became the location of the Institute’s main campus.
There is an inscription in the marble around the top of the base. It reads,
” Wither thou goest I will go. Where thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
The entire monument weighs over 16,000 pounds, is about 13 feet tall and 37 feet long. It is located in Penn Valley Park. It can be reached by a walking path off a parking lot near the intersection of Kessler Drive and Wyandotte Street, across the street from the Liberty Memorial, which can be seen in the background of some of the pictures. The sculpture was a gift to the city from Mr. Vanderslice on the condition that the price of the sculpture was never revealed and that the molds be destroyed so no duplicates could be made. Estimates have placed the cost of the statue around $100,000.