Lawless House is Tie to Arrow Rock Founder,
Represents New Era of Farming in Saline County
In 2000 and 2001, the Friends of Arrow Rock received a $100,000 gift from Life Member Gladys Thomas for the restoration and maintenance of the Lawless House located at the edge of Arrow Rock. Owned by the State of Missouri, Department of Natural Resources, the Friends have signed a long term lease on the property for the purpose of restoring the circa 1903 Queen Anne farmhouse that was built by her grandfather, D. Lawless.
From 1946-1984 the Edwin Barger family owned and lived in what we most recently have called “the Barger House” and now is being restored to the earlier time period of “the Lawless House.” In 1985 Edwin Barger’s son, Cecil, wrote an article on the significance of the Lawless-Barger House. Following are excerpts:
“The Lawless-Barger House is significant because it is closely inter-related with the whole cultural, historical and commercial/agricultural complex of the Arrow Rock Landmark area; significant because it represents a typical Queen Anne/Eastlake rural home of the turn-of-the-century, requiring only minor restorations; significant because the house is located on land owned by Burton Lawless, who donated some of the same tract for laying out the Village of Arrow Rock; significant because until about 1969 it was an integral part of the farm which now comprises about three fourths of the Arrow Rock State Historical Site park; significant because the house was built by D. Lawless, a prominent business man, farmer and citizen of the community, and son of Burton Lawless, one of Arrow Rock’s founding fathers; and significant because, after the Arrow Rock fire of 1901, this farm house represents a decided break from the old village-plantation culture of Arrow Rock’s earlier years, and the beginnings of a more diversified farming of the 20th century.
“On June 10, 1829, a tract of land comprising 50 acres was donated by Burton and Nancy Lawless and John and Mary Bingham. In the minutes of the town board, it is recorded that in the opinion of the commissioners the land offered by these two families was the most suitable, the 25 acres nearest the river being given by the Lawless family.
“The Lawless tract of land ran south from the village along the Missouri River bluffs, and extended approximately one-half mile to the west, consisting of several hundred acres. The original deed was signed by James Monroe. The tract included all of what was later to become the Barger farm, of which the subject house was a part.
“Construction of the house was initiated about 1901 or 1902 by D. Lawless, son of the Arrow Rock “founding father….. In 1903 extra effort was put into completing the house in time for the marriage of one of D. Lawless’s daughters. The deadline was met, and in August, 1903, Will Ella Lawless was married to Samuel Preston Eads, standing in front of the big Eastlake window surrounded by stained glass panels, in the North or front room.
“By the 1900’s life in the Arrow Rock area was taking on a whole new aspect. After its big heydey as a jumping off place for the West, after the hubbub of the Santa Fe Trail, after the Civil War and its cleavages and disruptions, after the railroads began to take over river traffic, the character of Arrow Rock turned to more of a small rural village dependent on its natural and agricultural resources for livelihood….In earlier days hemp had been a major crop on the farm. But by 1900, D. Lawless concentrated more on growing wheat, oats and corn which, instead of being big cash crops, were utilized more for livestock feed or for grinding into flour or meal at the grist mill. The Lawless’s were also known for breeding fine road horses and work horses.”
“D. Lawless died in 1922, but the year before, in 1921, he sold the farm and house to Julius Brewe (pronounced “Bravy”). In 1946, it was sold to J. Edwin and Jessie Witcher Barger, both lifetime residents of Saline County.”
Restoration Work on the Lawless House: