Gary Gene Fuenfhausen recognized with Missouri Humanities Council award

Missouri’s Little Dixie Heritage Foundation News Release

For more information about the Missouri Humanities Council, or the Exemplary Community Achievement Award, contact:
Maura Gray, Director of Public Relations
Missouri Humanities Council
(314) 781-9660

For more information about Missouri’s Little Dixie Heritage Foundation | Arrow Rock, contact:
Gary Fuenfhausen, Missouri's Little Dixie Heritage Foundation

Gary Gene Fuenfhausen recognized with Missouri Humanities Council award

Gary Gene Fuenfhausen, one-time Kansas City and Liberty resident, local historian, local author, and Jewell graduate is recognized by the Missouri Humanities Council with an award for Exemplary Community Achievement with Missouri's Little Dixie Heritage Foundation, at Arrow Rock.

Fuenfhausen grew up in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, attending St. James Catholic School and Liberty High, when it was once a small rural Missouri town. As a young man, he was immersed in the area’s local antebellum, Civil War and Southern history, during the last breath and end to years of local segregation. As a boy, he was intrigued by the stories of days gone, told by elders in his family and community. Although, he knew of the surrounding antebellum sites, lost Civil War battle fields and the legends of Jesse and Frank James, he was also acutely aware of the segregated and divided society that he lived in. Curious about how all of this came about, Gary began to read and research the history of his rural hinterlands, which soon fostered an interest in material cultural history, architecture, and the preservation of these resources.

Fuenfhausen is president of Missouri’s Little Dixie Heritage Foundation and is recognized as an architectural and cultural historian who specializes in Missouri Southern history and slave cabin architecture. He lives in historic Arrow Rock, Saline County, Missouri, where he and his partner are restoring the historic property “Thompson Villa,” and the recently purchased 1820s Spencer/Shreve house in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Fuenfhausen has worked in the field of Historic Preservation for nearly two decades, holding such positions as: Architectural and Museum Consultant to the celebrated African American museum King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation in Savannah, Georgia; Curator and Director at the Andrew County Historical Society, Savannah, Missouri; Executive Director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri; and an Assistant Director with Shoal Creek Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri. In addition, Fuenfhausen has also served as a Historical Consultant to various independent and public film productions, such as the 2007 PBS documentary Bad Blood. His research has also been cited in dozens of historical papers and publications, such as the 2010 On Slavery's Border: Missouri's Small Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865, by Diane Mutti Burke. His academic accomplishments include a book, A Guide To Historic Clay County, Missouri: Architectural Resources and Other Historic Sites of the Civil War, and several articles on Little Dixie’s Cotton Culture, architecture, and travel, which have all appeared in professional journals and magazines.

Fuenfhausen has also received nominations and awards for his work, such as the Graduate Council of Excellence in Research Award and the Annual Southeast Missouri State University Student Research Conference‘s award (1996-1998). In 2012, he was recognized by Ingram’s magazine as one of the 50 Missourians You Should Know. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in Business and History from William Jewell College, and finished his course work for his master’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University in 2001.

Fuenfhausen was born in 1961, and attended kindergarten in what was once Liberty’s public “colored” school. Not far from there at the divide of one of the town’s many segregated African American neighborhoods, he spent his youth at St. James Parish, Catholic grade school. While attending local high school and college, he worked in the offices of the Clay County government. After graduation, Fuenfhausen was a professional multi-lines underwriter for insurance corporate offices in both Kansas City, Missouri, and Columbia, South Carolina. Unhappy with corporate life, he operated several antique businesses.

His first job in the field of historic preservation was working alongside his brother at the Clay County Museum and Archives, and later as Site Interpreter, at Shoal Creek museum, Kansas City, Missouri. While there, he conducted extensive research into the family and mansion owned by the Thorntons, owners of Western Farm plantation of Clay County.

In later years he also developed an interest in the once thriving cotton culture of Missouri’s central Little Dixie counties, collecting and building several period working cotton gins, growing cotton, and developing interpretive programs for children and adults. For years, the school children of Boonville, and visitors in Arrow Rock, knew him as the “Cotton man.” Fuenfhausen continues his interest in Missouri’s Little Dixie history, presenting several programs on its slave quarter architecture, plantation, and African American slave history.

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