Featured Historian  

Lost in Time
The story of Gary Fuenfhausen

 by Robert L. Hall







Gary Fuenfhausen is an architectural and cultural historian specializing in Missouri’s Southern history.  Currently, he is working on his thesis Little Cabins: The Slave Quarter Architecture of Individual Plantation Environments in Missouri’s Little Dixie for a Master of Arts degree in History/Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University.   

He has received several academic awards during his career.  In 1997, Gary’s paper was nominated for the Graduate Council of Excellence in Research Award.  A year later, Fuenfhausen received the top honor and monetary award for his graduate paper at the Sixth Annual Southeast Missouri State University Student Research Conference.  Gary’s other related academic accomplishments include a script written about Missouri’s Little Dixie for an independent film and he is a member of Sigma Pi Kappa, an honor society that recognizes scholarship in historic preservation.   

Fuenfhausen, whose hometown is Liberty, Clay County, received his undergraduate degrees, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and History, from William Jewell College.  Since his graduation from college in 1984, Mr. Fuenfhausen has worked for years in administration and education in the field of historic preservation.  Positions previously held by him include the Executive Director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri, and Curator/Director of the Andrew County Historical Society and Museum in Andrew County, Missouri.   

He is currently living in Prairie Lick, Missouri, in rural Cooper County, where he is restoring a 1907 Queen Anne styled home historically named “Harbor Farm”.  Gary continues his research on the Little Dixie region and hopes one-day to publish a book on its important plantation culture and architecture.   

He has already written one book on the area.  The book, A GUIDE TO HISTORIC CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI: Architectural Resources and Other Historic Sites of the Civil War, is a unique look at the Civil War in Clay County, in Western Missouri.  In this historic survey, the author Gary Gene Fuenfhausen guides readers to Clay County’s many significant Civil War sites.

The book reviews 41 historic Clay County structures – public, private, unrestored, restored, and a few demolished – built before or during the Civil War.  Most of Clay County’s important antebellum houses and other buildings are discussed in this book, such as William Jewell’s 1850’s “Jewell Hall” and the stately Greek Revival mansions Woodneath and Lightburne Hall.  Other equally important places include the Adkins House built in c. 1859 by Kentucky planter and slave owner Darwin Atkins, and the two Routt houses built by the fiery Southern sympathizer Colonel Henry L. Routt.  In this 2nd printing of this important book, Fuenfhausen includes 38 new photos with the 6 already contained in his original 1996 edition.  In addition to the history and photos of Clay County’s Civil War era buildings, their are 8 narratives with photos on other Civil War related sites. 

Included also in Fuenfhausen’s book is a chapter on the “Exploits of John C. Calhoun "Coon" Thornton, a Clay County Confederate Officer.”  John C. C. Coon Thornton was sent by the Confederate Army as a recruiting officer in North Western Missouri.  Never before the publishing of this book has so much information been available on this important person and the events that took place because of his mission.   

Fuenfhausen’s book, A GUIDE TO HISTORIC CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI: Architectural Resources and Other Historic Sites of the Civil War, is now available in its 2nd printing for only $12.00, plus $3.00 for shipping and handling. For sales and other information, please contact: Little Dixie Publications, 13338 Prairie Lick Rd., Boonville, Missouri  65233 or by phone: 660-882-9578, or contact Gary Gene Fuenfhausen by e-mail: Garyfuenfh@aol.com 

Professionally, he has worked 5+ years in Historic Preservation. Over the last decade, he has held various positions in Museum/Preservation Management. Some of these jobs include Director- Historic Kansas City Foundation, Curator- Andrew County Historical Society and Museum, and Assistant Museum Curator- (Historic)Shoal Creek, city of Kansas City, Missouri.

Currently, he is a Grad Student completing his M.A. in History/Historic Preservation. He has completed his class work and is writing a thesis about Missouri's Little Dixie. Little Dixie is a region that is roughly 17 counties, out of Missouri's 114 counties, located along or near the Missouri River. In 1860, over 52% Missouri's slave population was located in Little Dixie as was the majority of the State's slave owners and plantations.

Below are some examples of his photos and descriptions of architecture from the time:

This is the beautiful Greek Revival mansion, Prairie Park, in Saline County, Missouri. Prairie Park was the "big house" home for newlyweds William Breathitt and Mary Mildred-Breathitt Sappington. The house was the focal point of a 2,300-acre hemp and livestock plantation and was built between 1844 and 1849. Mary Mildred-Breathitt, who married William in September 1844, was the daughter of Kentucky Governor John Breathitt. The Sappington employed overseers to manage their large estate and 38 slaves. The majority of the slaves lived in a typical slave quarters village not far from the house. In the mansion's yard were additional quarters where house servants lived. Today, the house and slave quarters are the only original buildings from the antebellum period.

These symbols of a by gone Southern era are just a few of the "big house" mansions built by Pike County's planters, slave owners, and businessmen.

By 1860, Pike County was a leading producer in Missouri of several cash crops and one of the State's most important slave-owning counties. In that year, Pike's planters cultivated 3,396,000 pounds of hemp and 1,194,715 pounds of tobacco. By 1860, 28.4% of the local population was enslaved African Americans while the State's average was only 9.7%. Of the 114 Counties in Missouri, Pike county ranked 4th in hemp production, 7th in slaves, and 8th in tobacco cultivation.

Although time and space could not permit the inclusion of his writings on the “Little Dixie” area or slavery of the period in Missouri, Gary is developing a book on the subject.   

He says: “I hope that I can take all of the pictures and files that I have
compiled over the years, some 9 volumes of photographs of houses,
plantations, outbuildings, etc. (most with individual files on their history,
such as number of slaves, where the family was from, etc.) and write a book
about Missouri's plantations, mansions, and big houses.”

Left: Luce-Dyer House, built in 1857 in the Greek Revival/Italianate style, Louisiana, Missouri.
Right: Slave house, built c. 1850s, at the Luce-Dyer House.

Photo Credits: Gary Gene Fuenfhausen

Sites of interest Created by Gary Fuenfhausen

Gary Fuenfhausen
Gary Fuenfhausen's cotton business and the history of cotton in Little Dixie
Little Dixie architecture 
Example of slavery in Missouri's Little Dixie: Clay County, Missouri

This article is by Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN., writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based. Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal, When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture (or the lack thereof)”at www.wfthecoliseum.com.

He also does interviews with authors and cultural articles, as well as book reviews for www.southernscribe.com and www.arwritersassociation.cyberback.com.

A trained musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three institutions of higher learning.

© 2001 Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved