For the average person, preserving old buildings in their entirety is usually impractical and often impossible.
But the wood used to construct them can and is preserved by a limited number of people – like Cabool resident Joseph Neal.
Neal has created a thriving business – “The Barn Savers” – out of dismantling old homes, outbuildings and barns and selling the worthwhile boards and beams to people who repurpose them in the making of various new products. He wishes some of the historic structures he takes down could remain intact, but knows that isn’t feasible.
“People often say to me, why don’t you preserve the whole building instead of just the wood?’” Neal said. “I say, ‘OK, just give me the winning Power Ball ticket and I will.’ It’s just too expensive to refurbish them when they’ve sat idle for so long.”
The Barn Savers’ current primary buyer is an Amish man in Seymour who makes cabinets and other items.
Over the past year, Neal has worked on several projects in Texas County. His latest represents a fascinating journey into the history of the county and his own family’s history, as he will be dismantling several old homes and outbuildings on property owned by Tom and Violet Cavaness near Highway M in Success.
Neal said one of the structures is where the family of Charles Neal once lived that likely dates back to pre-Civil War days.
“If I was a betting man, I’d bet it was built around 1860,” he said.
The old house actually has a bay window on one side, something Neal said is extremely rare for the era.
“I’ve seen a lot of these old houses, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Neal grew up not far from the property, but wasn’t aware of what was on it.
“I rode a bike and played only about a mile from here,” he said. “I never knew any of this was here.”
Neal has made it a goal to discover the location of a cabin lived in by James Milton Neal, and see it if it’s still standing. He would like anyone with information about the structure to call him at 417-217-8418.
“I’m hoping someone can shed light on where it was or maybe still is,” Neal said. “I just love learning about the history of this area, and I feel so blessed to be able to do a job that lets me do that.”