Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 22

A Tale
of Three
Visitors welcomed
to a night of
history and food
at the Byrd House
by Jim McCarty |


he first time James and Rebecca Beil saw
the old stone house through a break in the
trees they knew it would be their family's
new home. It took some detective work to
find the owners and convince them to sell. But in
the end, the Beils became caretakers of a remarkable piece of Missouri history, with ties to the beginning of statehood.
Stumbling on the house located north of Jackson
was just the beginning of their adventure. It would
take them seven years of hard work to restore the
home to its former glory. Now the Citizens Electric
members are again ready to share the Byrd House
- and its storied history - with the public through
a series of dinner theaters, complete with storytellers and a period-correct dinner.
"After taking time out to grieve the loss of a
beloved family member and for Jimmy and me to
reflect on our life adventure together, which included the strenuous restoration of a 200-year-old
house, we still had the desire to share our unique
historical property with others and to tell what we
know about its history," Rebecca says.
"God started opening doors and we started stepping. As the plans began to unfold we became excited to have another opportunity to give pulse to the
original owners of the old stone house - a gutsy
pioneer family by the name of Byrd."
On weekends beginning Nov. 14 and continuing
until Dec. 14, the Byrd House will again welcome
visitors to step back in time 200 years and learn
the stories of a frontier family who left their mark
on Cape Girardeau County. Titled "A Tale of Three
Brothers," the event will cover a period of time from
1799 when Amos Byrd moved his family from Tennessee to Missouri until 1820 when Missouri was on
the verge of becoming a state. It will focus on three
of Amos Byrd's sons, Stephen, John and Abraham.
John operated a gristmill, a large trading post, a
cotton gin, blacksmith shop and a distillery. Abraham and Stephen trended toward politics. They
contributed much of their time to forming Cape
Girardeau County.
It was Stephen who built the house the Beils
restored. Abraham also built an impressive stone
house that still exists just a few miles from his
brother's land. It is undergoing restoration as well.
"A friend of ours has taken on the project,"
Rebecca says. "His interest in historic preservation



James Beil will be dressed in frontier attire when the Byrd House welcomes guests to a dinner theater experience. He is shown
here in the recreation of John Byrd's community gathering room where the dinner theater will start.
Following this, the guests will enjoy a savory dinhas resulted in his purchase of four of the oldest
houses in the area, all undergoing different phases ner in Stephen Byrd's old stone house where actors
of restoration. We have expressed to our friend that will continue to provide entertainment.
The intimate event includes two group sittings
we had always envisioned the brothers' stone housof 16 people per night on Thursdays, Fridays and
es being linked together for some events."
The Byrd's story begins with a tenacious man Saturdays. Cost is $75 per person, which includes
named Amos, patriarch of a large and influential taxes and gratuities. Advance ticket purchases are
family. After serving as a captain in the Revolution- required.
Had the Beil family not come along when they
ary War, his interest in exploring the frontier was
ignited. In 1799 the Byrds would be some of the first did, and had they not recognized the potential in
to venture west of the Mississippi River in search of the 3-foot-thick stone walls, there's little doubt the
new land. They settled near present-day Jackson in beautiful house would have passed into the pages
territory that then belonged to Spain. In time, Presi- of history. In fact, it was slated to be burned in a
dent Andrew Jackson's purchase of the Louisiana firefighter training exercise. Its carefully quarried
Territory would double the size of the nation and stones would have been bulldozed and the home
that Stephen Byrd built in the early 1800s would
bring the Byrds back into the fold.
"A lot was happening during this tumultuous have been just a memory.
Ignoring the advice of friends who thought they
time of early American settlement and this brave
frontier family would not only see and hear of revo- were a little crazy to take on the project, they carelutionizing events transpiring around them, they fully undid the damage caused by nearly 200 years
of weather and neglect. A fire had damaged
would participate," Rebecca says. "In
time, with true grit and perseverpart of the house. Rot had reduced its elegant
ance they would help shape the area
two-story porches to dangerous condition.
of what would become the southeast
Trash cluttered the floors knee deep. Only
one of its original doors remained. The
corner of Missouri into a place they
restoration required months of tearing
would call home."
out horsehair plaster and tuckpointThat included helping move Missouri
from a territory to a state on Aug. 10,
ing each one of the limestone blocks.
Modern plumbing and wiring were
1821, with Stephen being one of the
added, but the original character of
people elected to help frame the new
the home was carefully preserved.
state constitution.
With Missouri's Bicentennial celGuests coming to the Byrd House
ebration coming soon, the Beils are
today will encounter changes that should
enhance the dinner experience. In 1807, John Byrd already looking ahead to the role the house will play
was issued a license to keep a "House of Entertain- in the historic milestone. The family's time in Missouri bridged the period between territory and state.
ment" on his property.
"So Jimmy and I decided to transform the area And with Abraham's home being restored with an
that was our Colonial Christmas Shop into a rec- eye on opening it to the public, the Beils hope somereation of the 1807 community gathering spot," day to link the two properties in some way.
There's talk of opening a bed and breakfast at
Rebecca says. "It is here in John Byrd's Tavern that
guests will begin the evening. We invite you to hang the Byrd House and other ideas. For now, Rebecca
says, "Stay tuned."
your hats and release your imaginations."
"No doubt this was supposed to be part of our
A professional storyteller will weave stories of
Amos Byrd's offspring into the background fabric journey," Rebecca says of the happy coincidence
of an emerging nation. The tale includes several that brought them to be the home's caretakers. "We
stand-alone stories designed to make the audience don't understand why we are part of it. But we have
faith in God's plan."
want to learn more.
"The storyteller will transport you back to a fasFor more information or to make reservations for
cinating time in history full of wrenching conflicts
and change as these bold frontiersmen are carving the dinner theater, call 573-243-3764 or visit www.
their place out of the wilderness," Rebecca says.

Rural Missouri - November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2019

Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Contents
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Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover3
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