Salvaging history

114-year-old Easley Store will reopen as part of a tourist attraction in Nifong Park
Monday, December 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:45 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nestled near the bank of the Missouri River on a quiet gravel road is an aging and abandoned country store. Signs featuring bold red letters on the peeling white paint declare the old wooden structure to be the Easley Store.

The building has stood for 114 years and served the Easley area almost that entire time, enduring even the Missouri River floods of 1993 and 1995 before finally closing about five years ago.

But the elements have begun to take their toll, and much of the building is deteriorating. The leaky roof sags in places. Half the porch at the back of the store is gone. A side door hangs open, and shattered glass from its windows litters the ground. Inside, rotting insulation is piled on the floor.

The future of the store, however, seems bright. The Boone County Historical Society is getting ready to salvage what it can from the structure and rebuild it at Nifong Park, where the store will form part of a historic village that the society hopes will draw visitors from around Missouri.

“We think we will create a superb attraction for visitors from outside of the county and outside Missouri,” said Boone County Historical Society President David Sapp.

Sapp said the frame of the store is structurally unsound, so the society will labor to save what it can of the store and rebuild it with as much original material as possible.

The Easley Store was built in 1890 by William Easley, a third-generation Boone County resident. He ran the store and was the first of several Easleys and others to serve as postmaster for the post office that was incorporated into the store in 1893.

Sapp said the store was supposedly built a mile or two away from the site it occupies today. When the MKT rail line came through, the store was moved, presumably to get it closer to the depot. It sold groceries, drugs and hardware and, in more recent years, rented bicycles for use on the Katy Trail.

After William Easley’s death, the store was passed on to his son Hall Easley, who served as postmaster from 1924 until the post office was moved out in 1951. Hall Easley was also heavily involved with a nearby facility for mining and processing rock wool, a substance similar to fiberglass insulation.

Raymond Easley took over the store when his father, Hall, died. A four-term Boone County collector during the 1980s and 1990s, Raymond Easley ran the store until his death in 1999. The family briefly leased the structure, but it was shut down shortly thereafter.

Deborah Thompson, executive director of the historical society, said the Easley Store will be an essential component of the historic village.

“Eventually we want to have a living history,” she said.

Businesses like the Easley Store formed a social and commercial center for rural communities, and their importance was great. Few are left, however.

Sapp described the Easley Store as “one of the few remaining examples of a country store (in the county). … These things are rapidly disappearing.”

After speaking to the Easley family, the society worked out a formal agreement to take possession of the store and move it to Nifong Park.

Once the store is rebuilt, it will be stocked with vintage goods from the first half of the 20th century, Thompson said. Both she and Sapp acknowledged the project will not be easy.

Plans for the village are in the early stages, and a strategy for fund raising must be developed. Sapp is confident the society will follow through. Once all the materials that can be salvaged from the store are removed, they will be placed in storage so the society can take as much time as necessary.

The Easley Store will join the Maplewood House and the Pop Collins Cabin at Nifong Park. The society also hopes to include two other buildings. Sapp said he recently learned of a one-room schoolhouse east of Ashland and near Cedar Creek on land managed by the Forest Service.

“I immediately went down to look at it and was amazed at what I saw,” Sapp said of the school, which is in very good condition. He hopes to reach an agreement with the Forest Service that would allow the society to relocate the school.

Thompson said the society is also interested in finding a small church it could bring to Nifong Park. That, Sapp said, would complete the historic village.

“We would be representing three of the most significant institutions of a rural community,” Sapp said.

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