FARM, FORK & FIDDLE

A shop and restaurant for the community, by the community

391 Third Street - Gainesville, Missouri
Hours: Monday - Friday 10 AM - 7 PM
DONATE TO THE PROJECT

THE OLD YELLOW HOUSE

   Peeling back the layers of history in the iconic "old, yellow house" in Gainesville is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Each layer a chapter in the home's extensive history. If walls could talk, I'm sure we'd all be amazed.  We're excited to be bringing life back into such an important home in the Ozarks, and writing a new chapter of historic wealth.
 
The earliest recorded history of the home is found in the June 23, 1898 edition of the Ozark County News. It says:
"H. Walker has begun the work of erecting a new residence on his lot on High Street. A. J. Conklin has the contract."
 
Then in the July 14, 1898 edition:
"That new residence of Hawk Walker’s which has been talked of so long is now under way of construction. The foundation, which is one of the neatest and most serviceable in our town, is laid from faced stone, in white lime and is complete, the frame work is rapidly going up. When this is complete, it will be another improvement to High Street and a valuable addition to our town."
 
Hawk Walker was married to Hannah Walker, who died in 1904, citing Hawk as her executor in her will. The will instructed Hawk to sell all her lands in the town of Gainesville – and the proceeds be divided equally between her children, Lillie E. Stevens, Frank W. Walker, Harry E. Walker and Oliver H. Walker. Title records show that the Walkers sold the home to James E. Wood in 1904.
 
According to Reminiscent History Of The Ozark Region, published 1894, James E. Wood was a member of the well-known mercantile firm of Wood & Reed. "He was a Republican politically, was a strong Union man during the war, and was a farmer, mill wright and carpenter by occupation. He held the office of justice of the peace two or three times after coming to this county, and was long, and prominently connected with the Methodist
Episcopal Church."
 
The Woods then sold the house to Mary C. Cromley in 1916. Cromley sold the house to Rebecca Wood the same year, and then the Woods sold the home to John Willhoit in November of 1919.
 
Old-timers remember Willhoit for a number of things, including running a telephone exchange in the old home. He was an elected probate judge in the 1920s. The Nov. 29, 1929 edition of the Ozark County Times idicates Willhoit was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison at Leavenworth after pleading guilty to the charge of transporting liquor. It's recorded that 150 officials, business men and citizens of Ozark County had signed a petition asking for clemency. He's then mentioned in a brief note in the Oct. 2, 1930 edition of the Times indicating that he was back home and busy greeting friends and relatives, so apparently he did not serve the entire 18 months. He was reelcted back into office after returning. He was noted in the mention as a good fiddle player.
 
Title records indicate that the home switched hands several more times, before being purhased by O.B McClure and run as the McClure funeral home from 1940-44. McClure sold the home to Denver Roller, then to Mary E. Clinkingbeard, and the Clinkingbeard's ran a funeral home from 1946-50. It's said that the home used to have an elevator in which the deceased were transpoted to the upper floor of the home for viewing ceremonies. The bodies were then said to be taken outside of the house via an upstairs door or window.
 
The home exchanged hands several more times, and yet another layer unfolded from an era when the home was widely known as the "Mearl Rose house." John and Mearl Rose bought the home in 1953 and owned it until 1988. Ozark County native Dale Gunter, the Roses' grandson, recalled his time visitng here.
 
"A large maple tree stood in the  corner of the yard, barely visible in the photo, and the small sapling in the photo had become a mature elm tree. I remember the quiet sounds of the small town after I had turned off the lawnmower on a warm early summer morning and enjoyed the cool shade that big maple provided and the smell of the fresh-cut grass. I also remember Sunday dinners after church at the old house. To borrow a line from “Steel Magnolias,” the menu was usually “chicken fried by southern Christian women.” Those Christian women were my Grandma Merle Rose and my mother, Verda Mae Gunter.
I also remember some sad events that happened at the old house. That was where my Grandpa John Rose died in 1968. It’s been more than 30 years since my shadow last crossed the threshold of the old house and Grandma Rose sold the property."
 
The home was sold to Alva & Verda Gunter in 1988 and then to Wesley Hall in 1992. Robert Thompson owned it in 1995, and Megan Pueppke and Kasey Pueppke, the current owners, bought it in 2005. The Ozark County Homegrown Food Project signed a lease for the home to house Farm, Fork & Fiddle on Jan. 1, 2016.
 
We love hearing about the history of the old place, so if you have anything to add, please email us at ochomegrownfoodproject@gmail.com.

The "old yellow house" can be seen in the background of this photo, taken in 1901, as the Gainesville community mourned the death of W. A. Love . Love, a Civil War veteran, served Ozark County in several elected offices, including county and circuit clerk, state representative, and prosecuting attorney. It’s believed this photograph was taken as his casket was carried down what is now Third Street/ High Street from his home probably to the Methodist Church near the square.

Clinkingbeard funeral home owned the old yellow house from 1946 to 1950. They used the home for funerals during the time.

The home in its current state is in need of a little TLC. The Ozark County Homegrown Food Project is putting in hundreds of hours of volunteer time to spiff up the place before the opening of Farm, Fork & Fiddle.