By Debbie Robinson
A century-old landmark south of Joplin that has caught the eye of many a Sunday driver over the years may soon be coming down.
A large, round barn that had been weakened by years of weather and use was further damaged after last weekend’s snowstorm caused the roof to collapse.
“It was just too much for the old structure,” said DeAnn Kolkmeyer. The barn on Saginaw Road was passed down through family on the side of her husband, David Kolkmeyer.
The round barn sits on land originally owned by John C. Cox, who was one of the earliest settlers in the region and who is known as the father of Joplin, according to DeAnn Kolkmeyer.
“We’re looking at it coming down,” David Kolkmeyer said. “Basically, the whole south side of the barn is gone. Unless some organization wants to rebuild it totally. I can’t fix it.”
The couple still raise cattle on the farm, with their children Dalton and Dane, but the barn has not been used for years, David Kolkmeyer said, and the family has no current use for it. The barn originally was used for storing loose hay on the second floor. Horses were kept on the ground floor. A pulley system, still visible today, was used to drop hay to the horses.
But today’s farmers prefer their hay in round bales the size of small cars, and the round barn also is too small to store tractors.
“It really has been obsolete for years,” DeAnn Kolkmeyer said.
She recalls stories of the barn told by her father-in-law, Alfred Kolkmeyer, a great-grandson of Cox.
Construction of the barn began around 1909 or 1910 and took three years to complete, she said. James Cox, son of John C. Cox, built the barn after obtaining the land from his father.
Timber was cut from sycamore trees on the farm and milled through a sawmill on the farm, she said. To obtain the round curves, she said, inch-thick boards were soaked in the nearby spring, known as James Cox Spring.
The roof was constructed of oak shake shingles, David Kolkmeyer said.
The red barn has a 19-foot-wide round corn crib in the center that reaches to the top of the two-story structure. A hickory tree serves as the center post.
Some interest has been expressed in salvaging the wood, but no decision has been made, David Kolkmeyer said.
“It’s so weak, with spring storms and high winds, it will come down anyway,” he said.
The barn’s location near the road also could make the structure hazardous during high winds if debris were to fly from it, he said. The barn is uninsured and, even if restored, would be expensive to insure, he said.
The 400-acre farm has been in the family since the 1870s, according to accounts from Alfred Kolkmeyer.
In 2003, the farm was recognized as a Missouri Century Farm.
“It’s a shame,” David Kolkmeyer said about the decision to tear down the barn. “I’ve had people every summer stop and take pictures of it or paint (it).”
DeAnn Kolkmeyer recalls Sunday drives through Saginaw, Tipton Ford and Redings Mill, and she said the round barn was always a highlight of those trips.
“As a girl growing up, I always looked forward to seeing the round barn,” she said. “I was just in tears after I saw the roof collapsed. ... It’s really breaking our hearts.”
According to a database maintained by the National Register of Historic Places, only about 150 round barns are still standing in the country.
In Arcadia, Okla., a round barn, built in 1898, deteriorated for years until a retired building contractor led a restoration effort, according to www.arcadiaroundbarn.org.
Round barns were built because farmers believed they would withstand tornadic winds, the Web site says.
By Debbie Robinson
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