COLUMBIA — Carol Miller sat on an old wooden bench in Nifong Park, munching on blackberry pie and ice cream. A manual 110-pound coffee grinder with a patent date of Oct.21, 1873, rested on the counter behind her.
Next to it sat a canning machine with the stamp “automatic master sealer” that only seals cans after one manually lifts, adjusts and cranks.
This is not an ordinary park.
Miller sat in the Easley Country Store, part of Boone Junction, a historical village in Nifong Park.
Filled with hundreds of artifacts from the late 1800s through the 1950s, the Easley store was reconstructed by the Boone County Historical Society this year. It joined the Maplewood house and Gordon cabin to create Boone Junction, which opened for tours in June. Guided tours cost $4 for adults and $2 for children.
“I’m always interested in historical artifacts because I think history is very important in everyone’s life,” Miller said.
The tour of Boone Junction begins with the two-story Maplewood home, built in 1877 by Margaret and Slater Lenoir. Their daughter, Lavinia, married Frank Nifong, and the couple later lived in the house. The maple china cabinet, parlor room piano and upstairs hall carpeting, along with most of the other furniture in the house, were used by the Lenoir and Nifong families, Historical Society Board Member David Sapp said.
Maplewood, which is in its original location in Nifong Park, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The next stop on the tour is the Gordon log cabin. Built around 1820 near Stephens Lake, the Historical Society believes it to be one of the oldest log cabins in Boone County.
The cabin was dismantled log by log when it was moved from Stephens College to Nifong Park in 2005. The dark, creaky cabin, whose spiderwebs now string across some of its furnishings, once sheltered the Gordon family while they built a manor house nearby.
The cabin later housed slaves until the Civil War, Sapp said.
The 20-by-20 foot cabin has an upstairs children’s sleeping area and could have accommodated a family of six to eight people in its one and a half floors, Sapp said.
The tour ends at the Easley store, built near Boone County’s Missouri River shore in 1890 by William Greene Easley. Passed down by family members, the store remained operational into the 1990s, according to the Historical Society.
But because of its location, the store often flooded, and little could be recovered for the renovation project. The society spent about $60,000 to reconstruct and finish the store based on its appearance in the 1930s. The items now present, such as the horse reins hanging on the wall and kerosene lamps lining a shelf, represent what customers of the store could have purchased in the past.
To integrate the past with the present, the store sells stamps featuring a photo of the store taken in 1951. Visitors can then mail letters or postcards from the store.
“This is so cool,” 12-year-old Andrew Neugarten said while visiting the Easley store Saturday. “I’m glad we stopped by.”
The Boone County Historical Society wants to expand Boone Junction. The full expansion will take 3 to 10 years and cost at least $250,000, Sapp said.
The Historical Society has raised $3,000 for a one-story Victorian-style farmhouse located on Pitch Fork Ranch, Sapp said.
But the house’s transportation and renovation may cost about $60,000, said Deborah Thompson, director of the Boone County Historical Society.
The Historical Society has also acquired a post-World War II Lustron house. Lustron houses were built to ease a housing shortage the government anticipated after the war.
The house was donated by an insurance company, and volunteers contributed what would have amounted to more than $25,000 in volunteer labor for restoration, Sapp said.
The Burnett School, a one-room schoolhouse in Mark Twain National Forest, may also soon have a home in Boone Junction.
“We’d like to make it available to teachers who want their students to feel how it would have been to learn back then,” Thompson said.
The Historical Society is still negotiating with the U.S. Forest Service to acquire the school, Sapp said.
The group also wants to add a church the public can use for ceremonies such as weddings, Thompson said.
And a one-room jail is another possibility for Boone Junction. A 10-by-12 foot jail in Ashland may be donated and added to the village.
Sapp hopes the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau can fund future projects, as it did the Easley store.
Lorah Steiner, executive director of the bureau, said she has enjoyed her time spent at Boone Junction.
“I love everything that is in Nifong Park,” she said.