A two-story frame house dating to about 1864 was demolished today. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

To read this story, sign in or register with your email address. You’ll get two more free stories, plus free newsletters written by our reporting team.

You’ve read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.

Register Subscribe

James River Church Thursday morning demolished a two-story house with historical significance that dates to about 1864, despite a request from a local archaeologist to preserve the structure or, at least, pause destruction.

In addition, a small brick building nearby that likely was once slave quarters was apparently also demolished.

The Springfield Daily Citizen wrote about the house just east of the church campus in Ozark on Wednesday, as well as a small building nearby. At the time, the structures were still standing.

But by Thursday morning at 9:15 a.m., the 158-year-old house was in the final stages of demolition.

Kert Parsley, chief operating officer for the megachurch, did not respond to requests for information from the Citizen Wednesday or Thursday.

‘I am obviously saddened’

Kevin Cupka Head, the archaeologist, had asked the church to delay demolition.

“I am obviously saddened by the loss of these historically significant buildings, most of all the brick summer kitchen and potential slave quarters,” Head said.

This is what the historic farmhouse looked like on Wednesday, the day before it was demolished. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Head concluded from research that the small brick building was probably once slave quarters.

Head is director of the Bernice S. Warren Center for Archaeological Research at Missouri State University. He became involved with church buildings when contacted by P.J. Logan, a woman who once lived in Ozark but now resides in Kansas City.

Logan told the Citizen she has friends who live in Ozark who notify her of what is happening to the property.

Head said he heard from Parsley Thursday, and based on that communication, it is apparent the small brick building was demolished, too.

Head had visited the site and entered the two-story house and the small brick building in July. He had been given permission by Parsley, he said.

Finding intact slave quarters rare in state

“So little of the tangible cultural heritage of the Ozarks’ African American pioneers has survived erasure, much less in situ as was the case here,” Head said via email.

“In situ” means “in its original place.”

A two-story frame house dating to about 1864 was demolished today. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

“Hopefully, we will yet recover some of this history through archaeological excavations,” Head said via email.

“Regardless, the loss of this resource serves as a reminder that many of our historically significant sites are unknown and unprotected. History is made in the present, in what we choose to remember and preserve, but also what we demolish and forget. I’ll continue to encourage more of the former.”

Demolition was first planned 9 months ago

Head said Parsley “indicated that the demolition was first planned about nine months ago. Head wrote in an email to the Citizen:

“According to Pastor Parsley, James River Church had been in contact with various historical organizations/agencies, and private individuals seeking a party that was interested and able to relocate the buildings for preservation off-site. These discussions clearly never bore fruit, and I’m not surprised given the costs and logistical challenges of such a project,” Head wrote.

He said he again asked Parsley on Thursday, Sept. 15, about the possibility of archaeological excavations prior to any further site preparation.

“He said he would look into it,” Head said.

Head said Shannon Mawhiney, president of the Christian County Museum & Historical Society, is interested in obtaining bricks from the small building and possibly other artifacts for curation and exhibition at the museum.

Look for bricks that might have handprints

Mawhiney said the contractor doing the demolition is setting aside some of the bricks.

The house is demolished. (Video by Steve Pokin)

Since the bricks were hand-made, Mawhiney told the Citizen, she has asked that the contractor look closely for any that might have fingerprints or handprints on them.

She expressed dismay the buildings were demolished.

The buildings were on the northern part of 18 acres the church purchased in August 2021. They were at the intersection of West Hilltop Road and Farmer Branch Road.

Two barns on the property were demolished earlier this week.

No law would have prevented demolition

James River Church (formerly known as James River Assembly) is an Assemblies of God church with four campuses in the Springfield area. The flagship campus is the one in Ozark.

According to Wikipedia, in 2019, James River reported an average weekly attendance of 19,000.

The structures on the farmstead were not on the National Registry of Historic Places, and even if they were, Head said, nothing prohibited the church from demolishing them to accommodate future growth.

The entire site was significant

Head said the entire site had historical significance.

One reason, he said, is because the farmstead’s history is well documented.

In 1976, the farm was listed as one of Missouri’s initial 2,850 Centennial Farms, meaning the land had been owned by the same family for at least 100 years.

Finding slave quarters intact in Missouri is rare, he added. Most were made of logs and long ago were demolished.

This small brick structure likely was once slave quarters. It was demolished on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

One reason this particular structure might have survived, he said, is because it is unusual in that it was made of brick.

First white settler in area bought it in 1830

It is not known what the church plans to do with the property. It might have something to do with a new youth venue. Again, Parsley has not responded for comment or explanation.

In 1830, Thomas Horn bought the land from the federal government and became the area’s first white land-owning settler. In addition, Horn became sheriff of Greene County, which at the time included what later became Christian County.

His widow, Elizabeth Horn, sold the farm to Thomas Jefferson Mullins, who owned it and was living there in 1860, according to the Census.

It is documented, Head said, that both the Horn family and the Mullins family owned slaves.

One of two barns was built in late 19th century

George W. Taylor, who was a captain in the Union Army, acquired the land at the close of the Civil War.

It’s likely, Head said, that former slaves lived as tenants on the Taylor farm, and it’s likely that some lived in the small brick structure behind the house.

The study states that the cattle barn — demolished this week — was built in the mid-twentieth century.

The eight-sided barn — also demolished this week — was framed with walnut timbers on a masonry foundation. It was constructed by Captain Taylor in the late-nineteenth century.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin