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Barn restoration piques couple's curiosity about local history


James and Jessica Brimsberry have a bit of a mystery on their hands, but one that adds a touch of interest to their work in restoring outbuildings on their property near the western edge of town, an area that has seen quite a bit of expansion over the last 40 years or so.

They have about three acres, a house and a few outbuildings near the corner of Gleghorn Street and Christopher Drive. Barns and sheds aren't uncommon, particularly on those properties near city limits, but often they are torn down as parcels are divided and new houses go in. Not so with the Brimsberrys’ little red barn, thought to have been used as a dairy shed. They are more interested in keeping, restoring and improving some of their buildings; another is a former chicken coop they believe was built around the same time of the barn, with a similar concrete floor inscribed with "Pearl Mize October 26, 1934."

James says a recollection of a local man he knows is that eggs and milk were once sold there, offering up another clue, and the couple are interested in knowing more about its history.

They moved here in January 2019 from Texas, where some of James' children are based in the Austin area, and he grew up in Doniphan. Jessica works from home with a company in Green Bay, Wisc., and the two figured West Plains was a good halfway homebase.

James also has a local connection in his sister, Nancy Boyles, who was a Ramey Supermarket cashier for many years.

The restoration has taken shape as decayed oak boards were replaced with cypress, thanks to a good deal James was able to get from a local sawmill. Cypress is a wood that is more resistant to water damage and rot.

At about 1,600 square feet in size, the barn took about 13 months to repair, including the search for replacement boards and carpenters to lend a hand.

The finishing touches are a sunflower barn quilt painted by Jessica, a bat house, and the barn is topped with a weathervane on a new metal roof. Jessica plans to plant sunflowers around it in the spring. The work on the building isn't finished yet, but Brimsberrys look forward to having residents in the bat house to help keep the insect population down.

The flying mammals will also provide entertainment for the two as they sit around their fire pit on future evenings, Jessica says. They also have an interest in planting native species, like redbud trees, for landscaping.

"This property is a marathon, and we wanted to preserve as much as we could," she said.