Independence began as the US Army Camp Independence (two miles north of the current town) established by Lieutenant Colonel George S. Evans on July 4, 1862. Col. Evans established the camp at the request of local settlers who feared Indian hostilities. The camp was soon closed, but was re-established as Fort Independence when hostilities resumed in 1865. The fort was finally abandoned in 1877, and it is currently a reservation for the Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians.
Independence became the seat of Inyo County in the 1866 when its chief competitor for the site, a mining camp called Kearsarge, disappeared under an avalanche.
The first post office at Independence was established in 1866.