The McCulloch family barn continues to be the center of the family
When Ray McCulloch and his wife, Ella established their 200-acre cattle farm alongside what is today East Highway 32 in Laclede County, just outside of Lebanon, Mo., in 1932, it probably didn’t occur to them that some of their grandchildren would one day come back to live and enjoy life on a part of that same property, even using the barn they had built there.
Kelly McCulloch Farris and her cousin, Brian McCulloch are two of those grandchildren, daughter and son of brothers, Jack and Albert McCulloch, two of Ray’s eight sons. Kelly is the owner of the unique stone barn that still stands on 10 acres of the original farm where Ray raised polled Herefords. Her cousin Brian and his wife Carmen live just to the west of the barn on the eastern most piece of the original property, three and half acres that Brian bought in 1988. When Kelly purchased the barn and the acreage around it in 2009, she had to buy it back from others who had purchased the property after Ray and Ella moved to town in 1952.
Kelly and other family members, particularly her father, Albert McCulloch went to work on the barn, transforming it into a family venue that is used today for family celebrations.
The barn was built by Ray’s brother, Eph (pronounced Eef) who built a number of rock structures around the county, many of which have now disappeared. The two had 14 other brothers and sisters. While Ray did not run a dairy farm, the old stone barn was used for milking for the family’s own use. The back side of the barn has three doors, one down the center for the milkers and two along the outside walls for the cattle to be led into the milking stanchions.
The McCulloch barn reflects its own unique history, being a part of the first farm electrified in rural Laclede County on Sept. 14, 1943, which also means the beautiful 80-year-old barn was built in 1940 entirely with hand saws, as there was no electric available at the time. Ray McCulloch was a member of the very first board of directors of the Laclede Electric Cooperative.
“One family story says that as fast as those electric lights came on, Grandma Ella looked up and was horrified to see all kinds of cobwebs overhead that had gone unnoticed before the electric lighting. She took care of those quickly but was pretty upset about it, too,” Brian said with a laugh.
The restoration of the barn is a labor of love.
“After so many years, there was lots of repair work to be done on the barn,” Kelly shared as she and Brian walked through the structure they are still refurbishing in a variety of ways. “We’ve cut new cedar posts off the property to replace some of these old posts inside,” she pointed out. “We’ve put in some new doors and we have lots of plans for the future, such as adding plumbing one day so we can have bathrooms, too. For now, we depend on porta-potties when we party here.”
“The barn’s original tin roof was removed and several of those panels have been used as wall covering to repair the interior walls,” Brian said. “A new metal roof has been added, and Albert and Kelly built new cedar shutters to cover the windows as the original ones were too rotted to repair. The upstairs, now a big room for celebrations, dances and the like, was originally the hay loft and there is still a big hay hook and chain up there.
“The McCullochs have always enjoyed their get togethers. In years past, everybody along Highway 32 knew Ray McCulloch had a good well and was willing to share water with any who were bringing in animals or herds to Lebanon to the sale barn or the railroad. Folks were always welcome to water and rest their livestock overnight, while their owners even camped nearby so their animals would be in good shape for the sale the next day.”
“Our family has always known how to celebrate any occasion,” Kelly added. “When they moved Grandma Ella out of the big house on Madison Street, she was only going next door but they loaded her piano and our Aunt Mary into the back of a truck and they drove down the street with Aunt Mary playing the piano all over town. People still love to tell that story.”
Still, for many years to come, future family members will continue to celebrate their family heritage together in their grandfather’s barn, thanks to the devotion of Kelly, Brian and many other McCulloch family members.