The Friends of Arrow Rock owns and cares for 13 historic structures in this National Historic Landmark Village.
The Miller-Bradford House
Originally a modest home built by Samuel Miller, c. 1839, it was enlarged by Dr. Charles M. Bradford in the early 1840s. Dr. Bradford had come to Arrow Rock in 1840 and married a granddaughter of Dr. John Sappington. Bradford added rooms to the back, and a slave kitchen was attached to the house, creating two stories at the rear with a walkout basement. The original walnut siding still exists.
The house remained in the Bradford family until 1898. By the mid-1950s the home was deserted and in a state of disrepair. In 1957 it became the property of Bill and Cora Lee Miller. They originally planned to restore it only as their home, but when someone asked if there was a place to buy antiques in town, Cora Lee set out a card table, sold an item, and was in business! At the time of the Millers’ deaths in 1994, the reputation of Miller’s Antiques was known far and wide.
One of our greatest honors for the Friends of Arrow Rock was being the recipient of the gift of the Miller-Bradford House and contents of Miller’s Antiques. The Miller’s generosity and foresightedness have provided for the continual care of this beautiful property for all who visit Arrow Rock. According to their wishes, the property is governed by a board they named.
The Lawless Farmstead
The Lawless House is a tie to an Arrow Rock founder and represents a new era of farming in Saline County.
In 2000 and 2001, the Friends of Arrow Rock received a $100,000 gift from Life Member Gladys Thomas for the restoration and maintenance of the Lawless House located at the edge of Arrow Rock. Owned by the State of Missouri, Department of Natural Resources, the Friends signed a long term lease on the property for the purpose of restoring the circa 1903 Queen Anne farmhouse that was built by her grandfather, D. Lawless.
From 1946-1984 the Edwin Barger family owned and lived in what we most recently have called “the Barger House” and is now restored to the earlier time period of “the Lawless House.” In 1985 Edwin Barger’s son, Cecil, wrote an article on the significance of the Lawless-Barger House. Following are excerpts:
“The Lawless-Barger House is significant because it is closely inter-related with the whole cultural, historical and commercial/agricultural complex of the Arrow Rock Landmark area; significant because it represents a typical Queen Anne/Eastlake rural home of the turn-of-the-century, requiring only minor restorations; significant because the house is located on land owned by Burton Lawless, who donated some of the same tract for laying out the Village of Arrow Rock; significant because until about 1969 it was an integral part of the farm which now comprises about three fourths of the Arrow Rock State Historical Site park; significant because the house was built by D. Lawless, a prominent business man, farmer and citizen of the community, and son of Burton Lawless, one of Arrow Rock’s founding fathers; and significant because, after the Arrow Rock fire of 1901, this farm house represents a decided break from the old village-plantation culture of Arrow Rock’s earlier years, and the beginnings of a more diversified farming of the 20th century.
“On June 10, 1829, a tract of land comprising 50 acres was donated by Burton and Nancy Lawless and John and Mary Bingham. In the minutes of the town board, it is recorded that in the opinion of the commissioners the land offered by these two families was the most suitable, the 25 acres nearest the river being given by the Lawless family.
“The Lawless tract of land ran south from the village along the Missouri River bluffs, and extended approximately one-half mile to the west, consisting of several hundred acres. The original deed was signed by James Monroe. The tract included all of what was later to become the Barger farm, of which the subject house was a part.
“Construction of the house was initiated about 1901 or 1902 by D. Lawless, son of the Arrow Rock “founding father….. In 1903 extra effort was put into completing the house in time for the marriage of one of D. Lawless’s daughters. The deadline was met, and in August, 1903, Will Ella Lawless was married to Samuel Preston Eads, standing in front of the big Eastlake window surrounded by stained glass panels, in the North or front room.
“By the 1900′s life in the Arrow Rock area was taking on a whole new aspect. After its big heydey as a jumping off place for the West, after the hubbub of the Santa Fe Trail, after the Civil War and its cleavages and disruptions, after the railroads began to take over river traffic, the character of Arrow Rock turned to more of a small rural village dependent on its natural and agricultural resources for livelihood….In earlier days hemp had been a major crop on the farm. But by 1900, D. Lawless concentrated more on growing wheat, oats and corn which, instead of being big cash crops, were utilized more for livestock feed or for grinding into flour or meal at the grist mill. The Lawless’s were also known for breeding fine road horses and work horses.”
“D. Lawless died in 1922, but the year before, in 1921, he sold the farm and house to Julius Brewe (pronounced “Bravy”). In 1946, it was sold to J. Edwin and Jessie Witcher Barger, both lifetime residents of Saline County.”
In 2016, the Missouri River Bird Observatory set up its headquarters at the Lawless House.
The Sites House
The downstairs of the house dates from the 1830s beginning as a Federal style cottage. Johnny and Nannie Sites bought the house in 1866 and by the mid-1870s were remodeling it. They literally raised the roof and added two bedrooms upstairs and the more elaborate front porch. When finished the Federal style cottage had become a Victorian home.
Johnny and Nannie Sites had only one son who died at age ten, thus there were no direct descendants. When both Johnny and Nannie died shortly after the turn of the century, their belongings were sold and no records have been found to document their home furnishings. Therefore, in the restoration of the home, the committee focused on furnishing the house with the kinds of items that would have been available in Arrow Rock and would fit a more country-style Victorian home. We think they have accomplished their goal for many people have told us the house looks like the Sites have just stepped out for a moment and might return at any time.
Successful second restorations of both the Sites Gun Shop and House in 1991 earned the Friends of Arrow Rock the Albert B. Corey Award, the highest national award given a local historical organization by the American Association for State and Local History.
Historic Commercial Buildings
J.P. Sites Gun Shop
John P. Sites, Jr. was born in Virginia in 1821, three months before Missouri was admitted to the Union. At age 13 he journeyed with his family to Cole County, Mo. and then to Boonville where his father plied his skills with guns. From him, “Johnny” Sites learned gunsmithing. Young Johnny never learned to read or write, but he knew guns.
In 1844, at age 23, Johnny Sites moved to Arrow Rock where he became the town’s gunsmith, and one of the most skilled artisans in the country. His gunsmithing coincided with the great Westward migration in the last half of the 1800s.
Here at the Sites Gun Shop you could have your rifle repaired, converted from a flintlock to a percussion rifle, or buy the indispensable balls, lead, powder and caps to fire it. While most supplies were bartered for, the one cash-money outlay was usually for a rifle, and at considerable cost. Compare a good rifle at $25-$50 while a wagon might be $60 and an acre of land $1.25.
While the shop is shown regularly on tour, to see gunsmiths at work, attend the Annual Heritage Craft Festival the second full weekend of October.
The Friends of Arrow Rock are also proud to own the Christopher Collection of Early Missouri Firearms on display throughout the year in their Main Street Office. The collection is the gift of Byron Christopher Shutz.
Friends Of Arrow Rock Office & Arrow Rock Post Office
Along the block of storefront buildings known as “the boardwalk,” you will find two of our properties, the Friends of Arrow Rock headquarters and the town’s Post Office. Both were restored in the early 1990s supported by tax credits through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). Designed by architect Stuart Hutchison, these buildings carry out the early 1900s feel while meeting the modern needs of the businesses they house.
The Friends of Arrow Rock office, which was the Arrow Rock Stock Bank from 1901 to 1927, is the starting point for seasonal tours of Arrow Rock. We also offer a wide variety of historical books for sale and free brochures about the Arrow Rock area. We invite you to stop by to see the Christopher Collection of Early Missouri Firearms, as well as works by artist George Caleb Bingham.
The first buildings on this block of the public square were built in the 1850s as two-story structures. They housed millinery shops, drug stores, banks, dry goods stores, groceries, hardware stores and other mercantile establishments to supply goods and services to a bustling frontier town that was nearing a population of 1,000. A fire in 1901 destroyed this block; the one-story buildings that were rebuilt are what you see today.
Historic Lodge Halls
I.O.O.F. Lodge Hall (Odd Fellows No. 40)
Although the I.O.O.F organization was founded in 1849, the building standing today was built in 1868 for $3,000. (The Masonic Lodge right across the street was also constructed in 1868.) Meetings were held upstairs from 1868 to 1927. The downstairs was rented out to various commercial interests including a newspaper.
The Odd Fellows organization was started in England by working-class men for social activities, for giving aid in finding work, and in providing for a member’s family at time of illness or death (much like insurance and social welfare programs of today). Their motto is “Friendship, Love, and Truth” as symbolized in three links of a chain.
The Arrow Rock Lodge was known for its winter oyster supper and summer fish fry. Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham was a member.
The Lodge Hall upstairs is furnished by the Grand Lodge of Missouri-I.O.O.F. The downstairs houses a collection of early printing equipment owned by the Missouri Press Foundation.
The Masonic Lodge Hall
On September 22, 2007, the Friends of Arrow Rock purchased the historic two-story brick building on Main Street in Arrow Rock, which has been the home of Arrow Rock Masonic Lodge #55, since the building was erected by the lodge in 1868.Brief Account of Some of the Early Masons of Saline County
In 2007 Robert Campbell donated a small brochure which was the October 7, 1942, Centennial Program of the Arrow Rock Lodge No. 55 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Listed are some brief accounts of early Masons in Arrow Rock that appeared in the program.
Rudolph Hawpe: First Master of Arrow Rock Lodge. He, with Bros. Joseph and Benjamin Huston, were among the organizers of the Methodist Church at Arrow Rock.
Joseph Huston: Came to Arrow Rock from Virginia in 1819. He was a member of the first County Court in 1821. He erected the Tavern in 1834, and resided there until his death in 1865.
Thos. McMahan: Lived south of Arrow Rock in Cooper County. Very early settler.
Henry Nave: From Tennessee. He and his family were among the first settlers.
Bernis Brown: Was said to have owned 2,000 acres of land. County Surveyor in the 1840s.
Ezekiel F. Scott: Came from Virginia in 1830, settled on large farm near Hardeman.
Dr. Wm. Price: Son-in-law of Dr. John Sappington. Owned large farm southwest of Arrow Rock. Educated several sons in Europe. Built the large brick house on south side of Main Street known as McGuffin place.
Philip M. Thompson: Santa Fe trader. Owned Chestnut Hill farm about one mile west of Arrow Rock in front of which stands the red granite Santa Fe Trail marker.
Wyatt Bingham: His brothers were John and Henry. The latter was father of George C. Bingham.
Wm. P. Roper: Saddler. His shop stood at lower end of Main Street, north side. It was over his shop the lodge dickered for “Sky title” for lodge room. Roper was an early member of Concord Church 5 miles northwest of Arrow Rock.
Henry S. Mills: Merchant and banker at Arrow Rock. Anthony O’Sullivan worked in his store and bank. Mills moved to Kansas City in the ’80’s and established the Western Exchange Bank.
Dr. Matthew Hall: Practiced many years in Arrow Rock and Saline County. His residence still stands to the east of the Tavern. Raised large family with three sons as doctors.
Dr. Oscar F. Potter: Born in New York State. To Arrow Rock about 1840. Was personal friend of George C. Bingham and O’Sullivan. To St. Louis in 1860 where he continued private practice. Filled chair of Materia and Medical Botany in St. Louis School Pharmacy 1868-69 and ’70.
Anthony O’Sullivan was the most widely known member of Arrow Rock Lodge No. 55. He was initiated May 9, 1846, when he was 38 years of age. He served in numerous capacities. It was through his work as Foreign Correspondent of Grand Lodge and Grand Commandery that he became widely and favorably known in Missouri and other jurisdictions. A plaque on the building recognizes his services.
Brown Lodge No. 22
Brown Lodge No. 22 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was the first black lodge to be established in Arrow Rock, maybe as early as 1877. We do know they purchased the land on which the lodge was built on March 2, 1881. The Ancient and Accepted Masons of the United States trace their origins to an eighteenth century free black man named Prince Hall who established the first all-black Masonic Lodge in America in Boston, Massachusetts, in the mid-1780s.
In Arrow Rock there were at least four black lodges and three lodge halls (one never owned a building but rented space from another lodge). Brown’s Lodge is the lone remaining hall. Lodges provided social functions for their members, but more importantly they provided a network of caring and financial support in the days before insurance and social welfare. Lodges sponsored women’s auxiliaries and juvenile groups, also. The Great Depression forced the closure of this lodge.
This site has also been the location of a summer archaeological field school beginning in 1996. Not only are archaeologists gathering valuable information about African American life, they are also discovering much about a pre-Civil War pottery business that was located on this block. Dr. Tim Baumann was the supervising archaeologist.
After the building was vacated in the 1950s it was pretty much in a state of “demolition by neglect.” Purchased by Virginia and Ted Fisher, with an eye on its future restoration, the Fishers donated it and Brown’s Chapel to the Friends of Arrow Rock in 1996. Its restoration was made possible through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credit program of the State of Missouri. The building now houses a museum dedicated to telling the story of Arrow Rock’s black history.
1872 Christian Church
“We the undersigned do mutually agree on this the tenth day of April 1872 to unite in forming a congregation of the Church of Christ at Arrow Rock, Saline County, Missouri.”
Among those 47 people who signed this agreement were John Sites (the local gunsmith) and his wife Nancy. Other prominent names on the membership roster were Bingham, Eastham, Roper, Kibler, Grimes, and McMahan. The congregation remained strong and active until the 1920s.
The Great Depression took its toll on Arrow Rock; the population was declining and so was the size of the congregation. When a big tree fell across the roof of the building in 1937, there weren’t enough resources to repair it. In 1942, some members of the Saline County Conference of Christian Churches tried to get the roof repaired. However, since it was not an active church with regular meetings, they could not obtain the necessary wartime priorities to authorize repair material. In 1947, they tried again and a plan was approved to fix the roof and other damages. Services were begun in May of 1948. Evening services continued once a month until August 1949. At that time a prominent member of the church announced plans to form a federated church in Arrow Rock and regularly scheduled services at the Christian Church ceased.
The Arrow Rock Federated Church (still active today) was formed by other churches that were also having trouble sustaining themselves because of declining population. Thus, the Methodist Church, Baptist Church, and Christian or Church of Christ became the Arrow Rock Federated Church.
The Arrow Rock Federated Church meets in the former Methodist Church. The Baptist Church was sold and in 1960 became the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre. The Friends of Arrow Rock obtained a 99-year lease on the Christian Church and supported the Craft Club in its restoration of the Christian Church. With its original furnishings it is a favorite site for weddings. In the 1972 filming of “Tom Sawyer” Tom’s funeral took place in this chapel. It and Brown’s Chapel were used also in a 2007 film directed by Connie Stevens called “Saving Grace B. Jones.”
Rental fee: $250. Contact Friends of Arrow Rock at 660-837-3231 or by e-mail.
Brown’s Chapel and the Black Lodge are two of the newest properties of the Friends of Arrow Rock, gifts to us in 1996 from Ted and Virginia Fisher. These are two of the last three public buildings that remain of a once vital African-American Community in Arrow Rock. (The third building is the former school, now a private residence.) Arrow Rock was predominately settled by southern immigrants who brought with them their slaves. Following emancipation, the first community building to be erected was a church probably as early as 1869. We believe this first church building also served as the first black school with 65 students.
Originally built just north of the town limits, Brown’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church was moved to its present location in 1883 by Zack Bush. Oral tradition tells us they moved it with a team of mules. In the 1920s, Brown’s Chapel hosted the annual Association meeting with up to 300 people attending the week-long meeting.
Brown’s Chapel was rededicated September 20, 1998, with 125 people in attendance at the Homecoming Celebration. In honor of Arrow Rock’s African-American heritage special events will continue.
With a kitchen and two restrooms, the building is suitable for small weddings, receptions and meetings. There are tables and chairs for 50, plus additional movable pews. The building has heat and air conditioning. Rental: $150. Contact the Friends of Arrow Rock Office, 660-837-3231, or send us an e-mail.
The Shelby Log Cabin
It doesn’t look like a log cabin, you say, but in fact it is a common style log cabin of the early part of the 19th century. Logs were “squared” and placed one upon another. Then clapboard was placed on the outside to protect the logs from weather and to provide additional insulation. In this case walnut siding was used with a linseed oil applied for protection. Lathe and plaster were often added to the inside walls.
This log cabin is a portion of one of the oldest buildings in Saline County built in 1835, one year later than the J. Huston Tavern.
It was part of a larger log cabin home which originally stood in what was known as the “Shelby neighborhood” six miles southwest of Arrow Rock. In 1972, this structure was donated to the Friends of Arrow Rock by Roberta Lanier (Cordell) Smith, a great-granddaughter of its builders, Richard and Rebecca Shelby. The building was taken down log-by-log and reconstructed where it now stands by J. Logan Buntin of Napton, Mo., near the Shelby neighborhood. Buntin was then 86. The cabin was originally covered with walnut weatherboarding to protect the logs. The stone chimney is original to the 1835 house. The mantel is not original. Saline County pioneers Richard Pindell Shelby and his wife Rebecca Lanier (Williams) (Mitchell) Shelby moved to Saline County in 1835 from Lexington, Ky. Richard was the grandson of General Isaac Shelby, the first governor of the state of Kentucky (1792).
Dr. Sappington Museum
The one modern building owned by the Friends of Arrow Rock and built in typical Greek Revival architecture, honors Dr. John Sappington, entrepreneur and pioneer doctor. Dr. Sappington (1776-1856) was one of the first doctors to use quinine to treat fevers, especially malaria. A nonconformist, Dr. Sappington attacked the common practice of bloodletting and began treating patients with his own “Dr. Sappington’s Anti-Fever Pills.”
Much more than a country doctor, Sappington was a frontier merchant, a land speculator, a progressive agriculturalist, a moneylender, and a political confidant in Jacksonian politics. Original portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Sappington, by Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham, are on display at the Arrow Rock State Historic Site. The Site also cares for the Sappington Cemetery located five miles from Arrow Rock on Hwy AA. The Sappington Negro Cemetery is also located nearby.
We are indebted to the tireless efforts of the late Dr. Thomas B. Hall, Jr. for the gift of the Sappington Museum to the Friends of Arrow Rock along with publications about Dr. Sappington researched and written by Dr. Hall. Today his son Dr. Thomas B. Hall, III carries on his legacy by serving as a Friends of Arrow Rock President and chairman of both the Sappington Museum and the J.P. Sites Gun Shop, another project his father enthusiastically supported.
The exhibit was closed in 1999 for a complete renovation and recently reopened with new displays.