Pieces of Ray County history contribute to Clay landmarks

The Pharis Farm near Liberty has many Ray County connections, including a log cabin that was disassembled and moved from Richmond. (Photo by Linda Emley)

The Pharis Farm near Liberty has many Ray County connections, including a log cabin that was disassembled and moved from Richmond. (Photo by Linda Emley)

By Linda Emley

This story is about pieces of Ray County that I found in Clay County.

On April 21, I went to Liberty to attend a CHRISMA meeting. We are a group of Clay and Ray county historic sites, museums and archives that meet to share ideas.

I’m the only member from Ray County, so I feel very lucky that they let me be a part of this group. A few months ago we all met the Ray County Museum and I really enjoyed sharing our story with everyone.

This month’s meeting was held at the Pharis Farm, which is a few miles east of Liberty. I’ve heard about this farm from my friend Jenne Sue Layman, but I had never been there before.

After running a few errands in Liberty, I headed out of town to find the farm. I followed the signs and soon was driving up to an old white home with a beautiful front yard covered with daffodils.

I felt very blessed to be seeing this beautiful sight because I know daffodils only bloom for a short time each spring. I parked around back and joined the group that was inside eating their sack lunches.

Our meeting was interrupted when one of the ladies looked outside and saw a small calf walking around in the front yard. We all went running outside to try and help get him back in the field where he belonged. While outside we noticed that one cow had just given birth to a calf that wasn’t getting up yet. We then watched the cow walk off and leave the poor little calf standing there. She would walk a few steps and then turn around and let out a big moo as if she was telling him to get up and follow her.

We all got worried when it didn’t move, but none of us knew what to do.

I decided to call some of Ray County farmer friends and see what they thought we should do. There are several farmers on the Historical Society board, so I started down my list. I called Jimmy Carter and when he didn’t answer, I called Mac Proffitt. I told Mac where I was and what was going on and he told me that it should be getting up soon unless there was a problem. Mac then started telling me a story that I had heard before but had forgotten.

The Pharis Farm in Clay County has several Ray County connections. Donald Pharis had been an agricultural teacher in Richmond many years ago. I found one of the “Friends of Pharis Farm” brochures and started reading. I loved the cover picture that had a caption on it that said “People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them. – James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son.” 

It got even better when I opened it and found the whole story about how Donald Pharis had retired from being a teacher and bought this farm in 1927. He and his wife fixed up their 1858-era home and used their farm as a teaching tool for local students. Donald didn’t die till 1992, so he spent many wonderful years on his farm.

I thought this was a really interesting story, but it gets even better. Out behind this house there is a little log cabin-style house that they used to show the students what it would have been like living in a one-room log cabin.

This log cabin has Ray County connections, too. It was originally sitting just southeast of Shirkey’s Golf Course in Richmond. In 1965, Donald Pharis took it apart piece by piece and moved it to his farm near Liberty.

I’ve heard rumors that it was standing inside a big barn and was being used for grain storage. It didn’t have a roof, but the rest of the log cabin was intact.

In 1970, Donald and his second wife, Laura, finished restoring the log cabin and furnished it with antiques that would have been used in that time period. The cabin was used by local schools that brought children to the farm so they could see farm animals up close.

When Mr. Pharis died in 1992, he left his farm to Clay County and the county government added it to its network of historic sites. The fields are leased out to a cattle rancher, and that’s how we got to witness the miracle of a baby calf. Sometime during our meeting, the new born calf got up and moved to a new stop on its journey across this Clay County field.

After I left the farm, I drove back to Liberty looking for another piece of Ray County history. In 2000, the Dale-Patton one-room school was moved from Ray County to the William Jewell Campus in Liberty. I remember hearing about this school, but I didn’t know much about it until a few months ago I got a call from William Jewell College and they wanted to know about the school.

The following information was given to me by William Jewell’s archive librarian. “The Dale-Patton School House was relocated to (the) campus in 2000. This historic one-room school originally was located in Ray County near Richmond, as was Grand River Baptist Church. It served generations of students in the first through eighth grade. It was build on land conveyed to Colonel Alexander Doniphan in 1843 by United States President John Tyler. It serves as a meeting place and reception area (on the Jewell campus). This piece of history reminds us of our educational heritage.”

This didn’t give me much to go on but I love a good history challenge.

I was a member of the Liberty 4-H Club growing up and I remember one of the other clubs in Ray County was the Dale-Patton 4-H club. I knew we were the Liberty club because it started at the Liberty school, so I assumed it was the same for the Dale-Patton club.

Accord to the 1981 Ray County History Book, there were 120 public schools in Ray County. Since the schools weren’t listed there, I went to the 1973 edition of our history book. It had a map that was printed in 1914 and there were 91 schools listed. I used this map to locate the Dale School and the Patton School, and then compared the map to the 1877 Ray County Plat Book. I found the Dale School on the land of Moses Dale, and a few miles northeast of it was the Patton School on the land of R.W. Patton. Some Missouri schools combined around 1949, but these two schools were not combined until 1957.

It took a little detective work to find the 1957 date. I started my search by talking to Allen Dale, because Moses Dale was his ancestor. Allen sent me to his sister Veronica Dale Shane. She was the last Dale to attend the Dale School, having gone there from first through fourth grade before it was closed and consolidated with Patton School.

We have some old school records at the museum, and I found Veronica’s class roster at the Dale School. Her first day of school was Aug. 31, 1953. The Dale School had three first -graders, three second-graders, three third-graders, three fourth-graders, one fifth-grader and one seventh-grader. Fifty- six year-old Achsale Kugler was the teacher, and she was paid $210 a month. She graduated from Richmond High School in 1921 and attended CMSTC, which was Central Missouri State Teacher’s College in Warrensburg.

These class rosters have a wealth of information. The bottom of the front page has 20 questions, some of which were pretty funny. The condition of the yard was good, the fuel house was good, the walks were poor, the toilets were good, and the flag pole was good.

They had a wastebasket and broom, but no dust pan or sweeping compound. The Dale School had a first-aid kit and the floor had just been painted. They used a well to get water and had washing appliances. I’m not sure what this was, but they had a covered water container. They had good windows with shades, but no screens. Their heating plan was oil and their musical instrument was a Radio Phonograph in good condition. They had blackboards, maps, a globe, a bulletin board, a primary reading chart and cards. And last but not least, they had a poor quality duplicator.

During their summer vacation, the Dale School had its floors painted and desks varnished. I assume these projects were monitored by their seven-person school board. Junior Lee was the president and Mrs. L. B. Stewart was the clerk. Other members were, Earl Carter, J.W. Herod, Paul Smith, Melvin Gill and Clyde Holman. The phone numbers were listed for each member. If you needed to get reach Junior Lee you would call 53F32.

In my private collection of books, I have one from the Dale School. The Dale School mentioned in this story was the 2nd one at this location. It was destroyed by a tornado after it closed.

Coming up next are more stories about the Dale and the Patton schools. I’m sure there are many details about these schools that I don’t have so please let me know if you have any stories to share.

Write Linda at



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