NEWTONIA — Shannon Schlessman is the new caretaker for the Ritchey Mansion.

NEWTONIA — Shannon Schlessman is the new caretaker for the Ritchey Mansion.
Schlessman recently answered questions about her new position:
How did you hear about being a candidate for caretaker of the mansion?
I first heard about the mansion from a local musician named Nathan McAlister. He and his family have been involved with the preservation of the mansion since the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association began. He told me that there was an opening for a caretaker and shared with me about the history of house and what the association was looking for in a caretaker.
As caretaker, what are your responsibilities?
As caretaker my primary responsibilities are the upkeep of the yard and the cleanliness of the house, but I’ll also take part in sharing the history of the home with visitors.
Is Civil War history a hobby of yours?
I wouldn’t say Civil War history has been a hobby of mine, but it likely is becoming one. I always have had a fondness for history and an appreciation for the things of the past. This house has experienced several lifetimes, and it shows. I love that.
I think age is really beautiful and often underappreciated. When I think of the Civil War, I think of those who endured it. This house endured it, and that’s pretty amazing. Being close to something that was a part of the history that shaped this nation only makes me want to understand that history more.
Have you ever been to Newtonia and toured the mansion?
Until hearing about this opportunity, I had never been to Newtonia. I find it to be a very nice area. The mansion is peaceful and the country is beautiful.
When I first met the members of the association, they gave me a tour of the house. It’s inspiring to be around people who have done so much to see that this historical property remains intact. Their passion for Civil War history and Newtonia’s part in that history was evident from the first handshake. I’m honored to become a part of the important work they’ve been doing.
What are your goals with being the caretaker?
My goals with being the caretaker are first of all to do a good job keeping up the house and the yard. Like I said, it’s a beautiful property, and I want to make sure I help to maintain that beauty.
As I learn more about all the association has done to help make this mansion what it is today, another goal I have is to help them in the continued preservation of that history and finding new ways to connect people to that history through more events hosted at the house. I want to help in whatever way I’m able, from mowing the lawn to giving tours to organizing events at the museum.
Are you looking forward to giving tours?
I am looking forward to giving tours of the mansion especially when I have a good grasp of the various stories of interest. I think it will be neat to connect with people who appreciate what this house has to offer.
How will you read up on the mansion and the history of the Civil War in Newtonia?
I want to increase my knowledge of the mansion as much as possible by being in the house and around the people who know it best. I hope to do some more reading on the Civil War and learn some more of Newtonia’s history from the locals.
What would you like to pass on to the visitors to the mansion?
When visitors come to the mansion, I hope to offer them a piece of history that they can share with others. This house has a lot of stories, fun and interesting stories. I want to pass those on to the people who travel to see it.
Aside from being the caretaker, what is your career?
I am a special education teacher with the Neosho School District. I work in the transitional living program for high school and junior high students.
How honored are you to be the new caretaker?
I’m very honored. I feel lucky that I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in caring for a part of local history. I never would have imagined that I would have the chance to live in a house with as much documented history as this one. It’s very neat to know the stories that shaped the house for which you care. It adds a lot of value to caring for it.

Background info
During the Civil War, Newtonia –about 15 miles east of Neosho on Missouri Highway 86 – saw two battles. The first battle was in 1862 and saw an unprecedented number of Native American units fight on both sides. The second battle in 1864 battle was the last one fought in Missouri, a state that had more Civil War clashes than any other besides Virginia and Tennessee.
About 350 soldiers were killed or wounded in 1862, with 650 casualties were reported in the 1864 battle. The two-story Ritchey Mansion was built in the early 1850s and served as a headquarters and a working hospital during both battles.