Society invites public to learn family histories

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Barry County records date back to 1840s

The Barry County Genealogical and Historical Society is turning over a new leaf and inviting the general public, researchers, historians and anyone interested in family and area history, to come see what the society is all about.

Active since 1990, the society maintains marriage records, funeral home records, and miscellaneous records, some dating back to the 1840s, according to President Ted Roller.

"The records would be interesting to most people who are curious about their family history," Roller said. "We put out quarterly newsletters that are very intriguing to read. Members of the public are welcome to come to meetings and learn about family history."

The society is always looking for new members of all ages who are interested in history, family records and research, to join.

"I'd love to see younger people get interested in their family," Roller said. "I think if we could teach them the importance of their family history, we wouldn't have people doing drugs on the street. I think that would help a bunch. And, we need older members to get the information. A lot of us older members can't do the work we used to do.

Both 75, Roller and his wife, Iva Roller, who works as registrar and corresponding secretary, have been working out of the historic Bayless House, which the society now owns. The house is their base of operations, and once the society finishes organizing the records, they plan to store them at the Bayless House.

"Our future goals include moving into research rooms at the house, opening it up to the members to do their research and eventually opening up the Bayless House to the public," said Roller, who has been renovating the house for the last 15 years.

"We want to name the rooms after previous members," Roller said. "One of the rooms will be named the Roden Room, after Mildred and Loren Roden. Mildred was an early member and researcher since he was 18 years old."

The other room will be the Lea Room, named for Bob Lea and his wife Lorine from Shell Knob.

"Lea donated quite a bit of money in memory of his wife," Roller said.

The Bayless house, dating back to 1879, has a storied history, and plans to restore the stately home are a work in progress. Roller said the last owner of the house, Mrs. Johnson, wife of Dr. Johnson, wanted to sell the house for $20,000, but John Quincy Hammons, who at one point lived in the house as a young man when it was an apartment style home, gave $10,000 to the society and challenged the society to match it. Otherwise, it was going to be condemned into a public parking lot. Hammons was born in Fairview and, at one point in time, was a sixth-grade basketball coach at Cassville, sharing a room at the house with Truman Baker, a Cassville banker.

"That's what attracted Hammons to read the Cassville Democrat and take up the challenge to preserve the house," Roller said.

The house, which sets behind the Cassville Post Office, has a rich history which visitors can learn more about from the society or the local chamber.

"We have a lot of visitors to the house, and we appreciate that," Roller said. "It will be the last of June or first of July before we get everything organized. But, research work has been stored at the library and the Bayless House as we fix it up.

"One of our original goals was to start a museum and do the quarterly newsletter, which we have published since 1990. We haven't done a lot with the museum, but Jerry Watley, a charter member, started the Barry County Museum, and we have many holdings there. We meet there the third Monday of every month."

The society has board members with elected officers. Of the original members, Ted Roller, Iva Roller and Jerry Watley are the only three remaining. At the end of 2014, the society had about 54 members.

The society sets up periodic work days and will have another on May 18. They also have speakers lined up for upcoming meetings. In May, the McDonald County Historical Society is coming, and in June, the Monett Historical Society will be there.

Membership dues are $15 a year for an individual or family, and members receive four quarterlies. The society is a non-for-profit organization and relies on donations to operate.

"So far this year, we've had $200 donated," Roller said. "Last year, a donor put us in her will and we received over $50,000. That's what put us in business and has helped us finish up the work we've been doing."

As for when renovations will be completed at the historical Bayless house, Roller said it's hard to tell.

"I'd hate to predict when the house will be finished, but we will have our research done around the first of July," he said. "We will announce when it will be open to the public, and when we do, we plan to have a grand opening. The society is open to the possibility of using the historical house for events, but due to its non-profit status, the decision and how that will be handled is ultimately up to the board and members, Roller said.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the society may call 417-489-4839, or write to Barry County Genealogical and Historical Society at BCGHS, P.O. Box 291, Cassville, MO 65625.

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