Revitalizing history


Down winding dirt roads between Jenkins and Cato, near the 150-year-old McKinney Cemetery and a stone’s toss from Rockhouse Creek, a piece of Barry County history is getting new life.

At one point, Barry County had at least 115 rural one- or two-room school houses, one of which was the Hailey School House in Mineral Spring. Now on the 1,000-acre Mountain Creek Ranch, owned by Phil and Kim Melugin, the Hailey School will soon become an event venue, revived from its many decades state of dilapidation.

The Melugins owned a ranch in Kansas before acquiring Mountain Creek Ranch in 2018 from Rhett Mason, who owned the property after Dr. Dwayne Dickey.

“We built our first barn on the property in 2018 with a barndominium, which allowed us to be on-site,” Phil said. “We tore down the house and built a new one, and aside from three metal barns, all the structures are new or replaced.”

Phil said the original purchase was for 650 acres, and four more land buys grew the ranch to 1,000. On the property, there are two homes, one for the property manager and another serving as guest lodging. Overall, about 10 people can stay at the ranch in three structures.

“Our vision has grown over the years,” Phil said. “We are a guest ranch with upland bird shooting, long hand cattle drives and trail rides. Predominately, we do beef sales, but we have a cow-calf operation and raise and train quarter and crossbred horses, and we also have a shooting center for shotgun enthusiasts.”

Another lodging structure is in the works, and the Hailey School House renovation will turn it into the event center of the property, where guests may gather for meals or host weddings, family reunions and more.

“The exterior is being restored as close to original as possible, and the interior we will modify slightly,” Phil said. We’ll also be adding another structure called the Hailey Mercantile.”

“This is really helping us turn into an executive retreat location,” Kim said. “Most come for two nights and three days, and we have several family reunions already booked. Everything at Mountain Creek Ranch is just becoming available.”

Recent visitors to Mountain Creek have fed cattle from a wagon, seen calves being born, enjoyed a full petting zoo at the picnic complex and enjoyed the 33-foot deep swimming pond, which is also stocked with trophy bass.

The Melugins may have come from Kansas, but they are no strangers to the area.

“I have family in Golden City, and we used to come to southwest Missouri often to float and canoe,” Kim said. “We’d also bring our kids to camp and fish at Roaring River. Work took me to Springfield, but I really love this area.”

Kim said her realtor, Carolyn Mayhew, helped her and Phil find the Mountain Creek Ranch property, which had previously sold at auction.

“He said what he was trying to get for it, and we took it on a handshake,” Phil said. “He knew we were serious, and we got it done.”

A Hailey School House renovation was always in Kim’s plans, and work began mid-April and is expected to be completed in December.

Another original piece of Hailey School House history will be returning to the peak of the building. The school house’s bell was stolen many years ago, and Phil was looking for a new bell to put on the building when he learned of the original’s whereabouts.

“We have a lot of local people working on the building, and they have been instrumental on teaching us the history,” Phil said. “We learned Ruth McKnight’s father, Calvin Alfred “Cab” Stockton, knew some law enforcement and was determined to figure out who stole the bell. He led the effort, and they found it, and he gave it to Ruth to keep.”

Ruth had attended Hailey School House, and her son, Robert McKnight, donated the bell to the Melugins to go back atop the building.

Phil said the school house was built in the early 1900s, though there are mentions of Hailey school in the 1800s. A Cassville Republican article from 1894 lists A.J Clevenger as the teacher at Hailey. Clevenger had lived in Barry County for 22 years, educated in the district schools of Barry County, and taught 11 terms. For six months of teaching, Clevenger was paid a salary of $35.

According to information provided by Jeremiah Buntin, historian at the Barry County Museum, the population of Barry County was about 25,000.

“There were families trying to scratch out a living on every 20 acres throughout the county,” a Security Bank calendar photo said. “To see that children were educated, these one-room school houses were constructed all over the county. There was one every mile or two, as transportation was limited to mostly foot traffic. There was a County Superintendent of Schools who coordinated the educational activities throughout the county. Charles Vaughan was the last County Superintendent, serving for a period of seven years until finally in 1972 all the county schools were consolidated into the city schools. The number of one- and two-room school houses throughout the county totaled 115 at the high point.”

In April 1939, a gathering was held at the Hailey School House, and later that night, the building burned down. Robert Brandon, of Mineral Spring, was the low bidder for the contract to rebuild. The contract was awarded in July, according to a Cassville Republican article, and the structure was to be completed by Sept. 1 for the start of the term. That year, Donald Sater was to teach at Hailey.

Classes at Hailey School House ended in 1964, and youth living in the Mineral Spring area now attend the Cassville R-IV School District.

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  1. Thank you Kyle. Kimberly and I appreciate your help in getting the word out in our efforts to restore history and develop a business interest simultaneously.