WEB EXCLUSIVE: Caring for Barton County’s History

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Joe Davis, a volunteer at the Barton County Historical Society, announces, “Today is the day the city of Lamar was incorporated in 1870…150 years ago.”

In 1852, the Ward and Parry families came to Lamar, Missouri on their way to California. George Ward became ill and the families had to stop and wait for him to recover. For the 12 days they were in Lamar, the families grew fond of the area and decided to stay. Three years later, the Missouri State’s legislative granted Lamar to be broken off from Jasper County. Finally, plots of land were sold in 1857.

“Technically 1857 is when Lamar kinda got its start but this incorporation was a step they needed to form a board,” Davis explains.

Davis believes there is a need to save and remember Barton County and Lamar’s history. He doesn’t know who will in the future.

“I kick myself sometimes because there will be a new store that goes in and I’ll say I need to take a picture of that,” Davis confesses, “You don’t think of it as history right now but 10 years from now someone will ask about that store. We are documenting the present as well as the past.”

The Barton County Historical Society formed in 1968 and incorporated in 1971.

“Back then it was just a bunch of older people that just got together with their items: old phone books, quilts, stuff like that,” Davis says.

Since then, there’s been a desire to correctly document physical items as well as incorporate technology to protect the county’s history in the future.

He adds, “They didn’t have the resources we have today, microfilm and of course the internet.”

Davis has been involved in the society for more than 10 years. He is one of the fourteen volunteers that continue to uphold the county’s history.

“Historical societies are really important for not only small towns but big towns because you can actually lay your hands on things. We got stuff going back from the late 1800s,” Davis explains.

Physical artifacts are stored at the Barton County Historical Society and Museum in the basement of the Barton County Courthouse. Seventy-five percent of the items are donations. Other items are loans, found at garage sales or online. Davis feels it’s not easy to find factual items and it’s important to keep the items now.

“If the items are not documented, stories are lost,” Davis expresses.

The historical society is continuously preserving documents at the museum by physically keeping and digitizing them like pictures, obituaries and genealogy records. Their goal is to make it easier to safe keep the documents and accessible for residents to look for if needed.

Davis says, “You think a small town like this, it (history) would finally come to an end, you would know everything. But there’s always a surprise around the corner.”

Images of the Barton County Historical Society and Museum

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