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Liberty School will soon have new home at Gray-Campbell Farmstead at botanical gardens

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By GEORGE FREEMAN
Editor of GREENE Magazine

It may come wrapped in red tape, but it’s a labor of love, to be sure. It will certainly come in pieces, with plenty of restoration work to be done over time. But Liberty School, an authentic one-room school house, will soon have a new home at the Gray-Campbell Farmstead where it can be restored and appreciated as a piece of history.

It may even be a work in progress during the upcoming Gray-Campbell Farmstead Lifestyle Exposition on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21-22 at Nathanael Greene Park. Gray-Campbell is just one of the attractions at the Springfield Botanical Gardens.

“We’re ready to move forward,” advises Norma Tolbert, who has chaired a fund-raising committee. But she cautions that the fund-raising must continue. “Hopefully, now that people see that something is happening, people will come forward with more donations.”
Funding to begin the move will come from the Cephas M. and Annie W. Close Trust at Community Foundation of the Ozarks administered by Major and Marthe Close, who created Close Memorial Gardens adjacent to Nathanael Greene Park.

Estimates of the cost to move and rehabilitate the school range from $60,000 to $100,000. State requirements for insurance and a requirement to pay prevailing wages for the project have added to the original estimate of $30,000, and that was several years ago. The owner of the school had set a deadline to have the school moved from his property this year.

Tolbert hopes that Ozarks will donate school desks and other items that will help recreate the old school, which has been a regular field trip each spring for many fifth graders, some now well into adulthood.

Tolbert and her sister were among the last students who went there in the 1950s.

The Lifestyle Exposition honors the pioneers who settled Springfield in the 19th Century, demonstrating the old ways for those to young to have experienced and a few who attended classes at Liberty. It runs from Noon until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Opening the doors to several historic buildings in Nathanael Greene Park with music, activities and demonstrations is as much a part of the Ozarks heritage as Sears catalogs and party lines, tent revivals and washing clothes over an open fire.

The Gray/Campbell Farmstead is the oldest house in Springfield (circa 1856), and includes a separate log kitchen, barn, and a log granary. By necessity, it was moved to the park in 1984 when the Kansas and James River Expressways were about to be constructed.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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