Except for a whim, the historic 1872 colored school in Neosho, where George Washington Carver received his first education, would be in the trash heap.
When the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association (CBA) received the property in 2004, it was in sad state of repair and considered a junky rental property of no historic value.

Except for a whim, the historic 1872 colored school in Neosho, where George Washington Carver received his first education, would be in the trash heap.
When the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association (CBA) received the property in 2004, it was in sad state of repair and considered a junky rental property of no historic value.
After receiving the property at 639 N. Young Street in Neosho, MO, CBA intended to remove the eyesore and erect a marker on the site. But just before demolition, Scott Bentley, Carver Monument Superintendent at the time, invited Al O’Bright, historic architect for the National Park Service, to investigate.
To everyone’s surprise, O’Bright discovered the junky rental to in fact be a cobbled together structure encasing the actual schoolhouse. Calling it the greatest discovery of his career, he recommended a comprehensive study, completed in 2012.
Upon learning of the treasure they possessed, CBA determined to restore the schoolhouse to its 19th century condition. But the resolve proved formidable: historic restoration is expensive.
Jim Heaney, current Carver Monument Superintendent, along with Lana Henry, management assistant, guide the project forward. Ann McCormick, executive director of CBA, remains a tireless supporter, and Kay Hively, former CBA board member and reporter for The Neosho Daily News, publicizes the project at every opportunity. As former chairman of CBA, I am enthusiastic about the future as I watch new heroes emerge.
Current CBA chairman, Dr. Luther Williams, distinguished professor of Biology and Provost Emeritus of Tuskegee University, provides dedicated leadership and has tremendous vision for the educational meaning of this project for young people. Dr. Walter Hill, Dean of Agriculture and Vice President for land grant programs at Tuskegee University, also serves on the board and is building a consortium of universities to support the educational possibilities.
Dr. Ben Allen, former President of Northern Iowa State University, and provost/professor at Iowa State University, is a valuable Iowa connection.
Joining forces with HistoriCorps in 2016 was a watershed moment. The “workforce for saving places” mobilized volunteers from across America for a three-week project.
All non-period additions were removed, necessary structural repairs were made, and the schoolhouse was repainted the original color. Kim Mailes of Neosho first brought HistoriCorps to CBA’s attention, and his blog (www.1872carverschool.wordpress.com) chronicled day-by-day progress.
CBA is not a government entity, so no public funds are available. Therefore, the biggest challenge is raising funds necessary to finish the job. But I have no doubt the challenge will be met. New heroes are emerging, and new funding sources are being discovered. Someday very soon, this “little building with a big story,” George Washington Carver’s first step toward becoming a legend, will be restored to tell its story to children of the 21st century.

Roy Shaver writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.