Bob Mitchell: Old Cassville homes with cellars and outhouses

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Thinking back farther than it’s possible for me to put a date on the period, there were a couple of Cassville homes that really dated back into the period of log timber foundations.

Each was like most homes in that time period; they had a cellar that probably served several purposes.

In addition to providing protection from a storm, or for protection during the Civil War days to provide a place of hiding should any conflict or thievery happen to come along, another purpose was as a place for food storage, since canning in those days was a necessity.

Accessing these cellars was a real experience for young people in those days. They often formed games and experiences around one or the other of the underground facilities.

Trolinger house

One of the homes was the Trolinger house that once stood at Seventh and Townsend. Mrs. Trolinger’s daughter and family resided there for many years. If more detail is necessary, Maud Wilson was her daughter, and one living room in the home served as Maud’s piano teaching studio for more years than most can remember.

Youngsters or students would come and go throughout the day, except when Maud would make her way just over a block to the Music Store to get her twice-daily Coke.

The home also served as the residence of Maud’s son, Trolinger and her husband, Troy, who served a term as sheriff of Barry County.

A space between the home and the Methodist Church saw many a touch football game over the years that might even expand into the Lathim property to the south.

Today, the site serves as a playground for the church nursery school.

Back porch door

Almost in the middle of the back porch was a rather large door in the floor that led to the obviously hand-dug cellar.

Once in the deep cellar, it was obvious the home had once been a log building, since the timbers were still in place, serving as part of the foundation for the home. This was exciting to the young folks who made several uses of the under-floor facility that even later in those years had some jars of canned food that was never used.

The existence of the logs as part of the home was always a tale of what might have been in progress during those youthful years.

Ray house

The other similar situation was more familiar since we spent some periods as our residence in the Ray house. Located at Ninth and Townsend, which is now an apartment house.

Unlike the Trolinger home, the Ray house cellar entrance was under a door located at the northeast corner of the wraparound porch and was heavy enough that it required a couple of youngsters to lift. Unlike the other cellar, there was no wiring in the Ray facility, which required a note of caution from the adults to be careful with lighting your way.

Here too there was evidence of some timbers once used in part of the original home, which was not usual for other homes in Cassville.

My grandmother, Jennie Ray, had many tales about the cellar, how it had been robbed, how some family members helped themselves of the contents and how the underground spaces had been used in emergencies. About those instances of possible danger she never would go into detail, possibly assuming the information might not be suitable for young ears.

We were always cautioned by one of the adults of the house about using care when we went to the depths of that cellar.

A last outhouse

The Ray house boasted one of the most spacious outhouses of the neighborhood. It was a ‘three holer,’ making the saying about the “middle hole in an outdoor toilet being the most desirable.”

There was always plenty of catalogs or other paper available in the facility and the upkeep always has a family member to take daily inspection trips to the edge of the yard.

Next-door neighbors never had an opportunity to complain about the odor due to the diligence of the daily supervision.

Believe it or not

The story goes something like this, you can believe it or not.

During these days of masks and cleanliness, it was stated that an individual was supposed to have gone outside to check on some plants. After reaching outside, he felt something cold and wet on his arm. Looking down he saw a mosquito using a wet wipe on his arm before it bit him!

That’s one of the best stories to come out of this situation we find ourselves in these days.

My best advice is; continue to follow the information that scientists and medical professionals have to offer, wear a mask and social distance. With this in mind we’ll overcome this coronavirus.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.