Preserving, restoring, and sharing the history, heritage and habitats of this wonderful area for our children, tourists, and our future
An early morning bird walk through the property
The Bonebrake-McMurtrey Foundation, Ltd. was created to acquire, develop, and maintain an historical structure and site for educational purposes. In June, 1988, a group of interested citizens met to "brainstorm" the possible uses of the two-story home and the twelve-plus acres located within two blocks of downtown Salem. Proposals were developed and presented to the owners, the grandchildren of Albert Bonebrake, the children of Dr. "Mac" Bonebrake of Springfield, MO. The proposals were favorably received by the Bonebrake family, and, on December 26, 1989, the property was officially transferred to the Foundation.
Even prior to the official donation, the Foundation was allowed to improve and use the property under the name of "The Bonebrake Center of Nature and History." Activities have included musical presentations (vocal, bagpipe, dulcimer, guitar, and fiddle), star-gazings (led by Dr. John Schmitt of UMR), bird watching walks (led by nationally renown bird artist David Plank), school field trips, Halloween night walks (with entertaining, small-child oriented themes), Christmas celebrations (in music, story, and activity), story-telling for children, nature study opportunities ( led by qualified local naturalists), college coursework ("Planning, Development and Utilization of the School Outdoor Classroom" offered by CSMU), and tours of the house and property.
On the property, more than six hundred trees have been planted during the last four years. Pin oak, dogwood, ninebark, redbud, oak, cypress, sycamore, pine, hawthrorne and maple are among the many trees planted along the mown trails. Areas have been designated for development or maintenance of natural prairie (which has been planted), wildflowers, pine groves, and marsh. Trails have been marked and mown, and birdhouses erected by individuals and local school children. A natural spring (which historically was the spring around which Salem developed) was drained and dredged by the Missouri National Guard so the dam could be repaired and spring pond become the sparkling body of water it once was. Work has begun on erosion control along the creek that runs through the property, and a group of engineering students from the University of Missouri-Rolla have built a bridge over the creek, walkway over a swampy area, and an outdoor amphitheater, and, most recently, an observation boardwalk over the spring pond. Additional walking trails, resting and observation benches, and study areas will be included in future development of the land.
The inside of the two-story house is being restored. Plans have been developed to complete restoration of the house within the next few years. Efforts are being made to retain the Victorian aura of the 1880's home while making it functional for a variety of community activities. This includes a modern kitchen, heating, air-conditioning, and bathroom facilities.
Individuals from nearly every walk of life and public agency have been involved in this project. Input from agencies, such as the Missouri Department of Conservation, Master Naturalists, the U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, A.S.C.S, University Extension, Missouri University of Science and Technology, as well as local individuals and resources have helped guide the development of the property. Manpower has been generously donated by many individuals. While individuals and businesses have been generous in helping the Foundation with immediate financial needs, the Foundation has struggled to raise the money needed to do large scale projects. In 1990, the Foundation received approval as a three-year Neighborhood Assistance Project, which allowed many donations to count as significant tax credits. During the first fiscal year of this project, several donations were made, including a major contribution of $25,000 from Cominco Lead Company. This, along with a Central Ozark Private Industry Council grant for labor for that summer, allowed the Foundation to proceed with the first stage of major renovations of the house, and large scale clean-up of the land. Part of the donation from Cominco was also set aside to establish an endowment fund as seed money for an ongoing source of funding. Another very generous donation of $20,000 was made by the Dent County Bank in 1993, which allowed for more progress on the restoration of the house, the purchase of some sorely needed equipment for taking care of the land, and the funding of an executive director for 18 months.
"Charles' House" is a mid-1800's cook cabin
An addition to the Bonebrake Center of Nature and History is "Charles' House," as it is affectionately called by the members of the Board of Trustees. This is actually a cabin built by Sid Wingfield, whose parents came to Dent County around 1838. At what is now Second and Iron Streets, Sid and his wife Amanda built a log home and log cookhouse. Unfortunately, the original home did not survive "progress," but due to a resident who dramatically threatened to block the destruction of the cookhouse with her own body, and the time, energy, and expense of moving the structure (donated by several interested individuals), the cookhouse was saved. The cabin has been a "pet" project of Charles Stacey, a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Bonebrake-McMurtrey Foundation, therefore acquiring the nickname of "Charles' House." The cabin was carefully reassembled on the Bonebrake property by a local construction company, and stone work around the cabin and the house is being restored by an area stonemason.
An original City of Salem gas street lamp that once stood at the corner of McArthur and Third Street was erected on the south side of the parking lot. This was lovingly restored and installed, also by Charles Stacey, and, now electrified, lights the path to the house. This lamp is in the foreground of a notecard designed by David Plank, renown bird artist, to be sold as a fund-raising project for the Center. David, a member of the Board of Trustees from the inception of the Foundation, is donating all proceeds of the stunning pen and ink creation to the Bonebrake Center.
The Bonebrake Center is being used more and more each year, both by public and private groups. This is an exciting project that has unlimited possibilities. Community meetings, cultural, natural, and historical programs, educational opportunities (for pre-school and school-aged children, and adults), and recreational uses are just some of the activities viewed as appropriate for this property, and the future users are bounded only by imagination!