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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Bushwhacker Jail's old 'kitchen' razed

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dick Meisenheimer, left, and Joe Johnson of Missouri Mule Mud Co. of Milo watch as the historic "summer kitchen" building adjacent to the Old County Jail is pulled down Friday afternoon. The building was razed because it had become dangerous and would have been too expensive to restore, Vernon County Historical Society officials said.(James R. Campbell/Herald-Tribune)
Fatally wounded by the relentless onslaught of time, a little brick building central to local history was reduced to dusty rubble Friday.

Called the "summer kitchen" when it was used to cook meals for prisoners, the building adjacent to the Bushwhacker Jail at Main and Hunter streets was later employed as an office for some four decades by the late Vernon County Historical Society founder Patrick Brophy.

Society President Jean McQueen said just after it fell that it had become dangerous and would have been too expensive to renovate. McQueen's husband Don drove a dump truck with chains attached to bring it down about 2 p.m.

Volunteers Dick Meisenheimer and Joe Johnson of Missouri Mule Mud Co. of Milo supervised the demolition, and they planned to bury the debris in the building's cellar, Jean McQueen said. "We're going to clean one of the bricks and put it on Pat's Grave at Deepwood Cemetery because he was so instrumental," she said.

Bushwhacker Museum Coordinator Will Tollerton said the nails shown by Meisenheimer immediately after the demolition were a reliable reference to the summer kitchen's origin. "The square nails indicate the late 19th or early 20th century," Tollerton said in an e-mail.

"By 1913, 90 percent of the construction used round wire nails, so the structure was probably pre-1910."

Historical society representative Donna Logan said the building had to be razed because of its "dilapidated roof, caved-in wall and rotting wooden floor.

"It was where the wife of the sheriff or deputy sheriff prepared meals for her family and the prisoners, keeping the oven's heat out of the jail building," said Logan in an e-mail.

She quoted a 1990 society newsletter, "Bushwhacker Musings," and a 2002 compilation by Brophy, "Bushwhacker Jail Tales: 100 years of Fact and Fancy from the old Vernon County Jail (1860-1960)."

"The country-dwelling county court judges cadged meals there when in town, dining with the sheriff's family in the room just inside the south door of the jail," Logan wrote.

"The summer kitchen was built of brick as an afterthought because the quarry stones of the original jail were no longer available. Gertrude Higgins, niece of Sheriff Elkanah Minitree Scroghem (1892-'96), wrote, 'I spent many happy times with my aunt, assisting in preparing meals for the 25 or 30 prisoners and uncle's many friends, whom he would bring to the jail for meals.

"'She never knew how many he would bring.'"

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