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This structure was constructed in 1912 as a mule barn where Walter and Perry Jones raised and sold their its specially-bred "Missouri Mules." After winning a slew of awards for their mules at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, the Jones Brothers mule business grew substantially and their mules earned a national reputation and were sought by the military and others who relied on mule teams during the early twentieth century. The business reached its peak during World War I when it sold an abundance of mules overseas to military forces. However, by the 1930s, the availability of trucks and tractors reduced the market for mules and the Jones Brothers sold the barn in 1932 to Edwin Cassingham. Demonstrating change over time, Cassingham established a store that sold tractors and trucks to farmers and others who had previously bought the Jones Brothers' mules. The legacy of the Jones Brothers and other mule providers can be seen in the mascot of the University of Central Missouri. Owing to the reputation of "Missouri Mules" for toughness, the college chose mules for their mascot in 1922.

Jones Brothers Mule Barn in Warrensburg, Missouri

Jones Brothers Mule Barn in Warrensburg, Missouri

In the early 20th century, the Walter and Perry Jones fed on a robust regional mule market and the barn's proximity to the Missouri Pacific Railroad to build one of the better-known mule dealerships in the state. They built the Jones Brothers Mule Barn in 1912 and used it for their mule business until 1932, when changing technology coupled with the Great Depression forced the brothers out of business. After 1932, the barn served as Cassingham & Son Hardware Store for eighty-eight years (closing in 2008). 

Warrensburg enjoyed success as an agricultural town during the mid-nineteenth century, leading investors to bring the railroad (Missouri Pacific) through the city by 1864. In turn, the arrival of the railway helped Warrensburg and its ag-business grow, which helped transform Warrensburg into a regional shipping center for livestock and various farm products. By 1907, a stockyard operated near the tracks, leading to several ancillary businesses opening, such as Blacksmiths. By 1912, the Jones brothers, who had been running a mule operation since roughly the turn of the century, built their now-historic barn near the railway, one block east of the stockyard. Walter managed the mule shows and the historic sale barn while Perry managed the farms. Walter successfully displayed mules at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, winning several ribbons and indirectly launching the name Missouri Mule. He also procured what was then the highest price ever paid for mules on the St. Louis Commercial Alley: $250 per head (the statewide average was roughly $77 per head). Meanwhile, Perry lived on the farms; the brothers owned nearly 2,000 acres of land at the peak of their success. 

The Jones' success reflects the tradition of mule breeding in Missouri, which had its genesis in the development of the Santa Fe Trail during the early 1820s; traders brought mules, jacks, and jennets back from their trips to Mexico. Missouri farmers enthusiastically took to breeding the hardy animals. By the early 1830s, farmers and dealers traded 1,300 mules in a single season. By 1867, the state boasted of 60,988 mules, which climbed to 245,273 by 1890, the largest total of any state in the country. By the time the Jones Brothers built the historic sale barn in Warrensburg in 1912, there were 333,000 mules in the state. 

Although the brothers mainly dealt with local and regional famers, they also sold mules to every state in the nation. They also sold them to militaries around the world utilizing the nearby rail station as the first step of the journey. Many of the mules destined for foreign countries were purchased by military buyers, starting with the Boer War, a war fought in South Africa between the British and Dutch. A firm in nearby Lathrop, Missouri shipped more than 75,000 Jones Brothers mules to the British forces. During World War I, U.S., British, and other Allied armies purchased tens of thousands of Missouri Mules; the Jones Brothers shipped 6,500 mules and horses out of Johnson County from 1915-1916.

The brisk business the Jones Brothers enjoyed during the war led to an expansion of the company and its historic barn, but a sharp decline in sales soon followed. The end of the war meant a sharp drop in the military market and, simultaneously, trucks and tractors grew increasingly more popular and affordable. As a result, during the 1920s, mule ownership dropped more than 25% in the United States while tractors on farms increased by a remarkable 450%. Matters were made worse by rapidly deflating land values during the Great Depression. The Jones Brothers' mortgage went into default, and the property was subsequently sold in a foreclosure sale in 1932.

Edwin W. Cassingham bought the lots that contained the brick sale barn in 1932. In years past, he had served as a sales clerk for the Jones brothers in the barn. By roughly 1910, he opened a hardware store with a partner. The store went by the name Cassingham & Son a few years after opening in the historic barn, a name retained until the 1980s. The same farmers that conducted business with the Jones brothers now visited Cassingham's, but instead of buying mules, they were buying trucks and tractors. 

The Cassingham family sold the business in the late twentieth century, but retained ownership of the building. The hardware store closed in the early 2000s, and the family sold the building in 2008. 

"Jones Brothers Mule Barn - Cassingham's History Warrensburg MO." Show Me The History: Johnson County & West Central Missouri (blog). December 24, 2020.

Sheals, Debbie. "Nomination Form: Jones Brothers Mule Barn (a.k.a. Cassingham & Son Hardware Store)." National Register of Historic Places. 2010.

Stover, Paxton and Jon Taylor. "Jones Brothers Mule Barn." Historic Missouri, University of Central Missouri History. Accessed November 1, 2021.

"Warrensburg History." Warrensburg Missouri (website). Accessed November 1, 2021.

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