When we were kids, we built a “log cabin” in our backyard out of old wood and mud. But this guy took it to another level – he had the idea to make a full-size pioneer village! -Ed.
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Marion Shipman first decided that he wanted to build a history-themed attraction at age 6, when he and his family visited an 1880s-style theme park called Silver Dollar City, back in the 1960s.
“As soon as I saw that place, I thought I needed to build one of these,” he told FOX 2. “I mean, it’s not something a 6-year-old kid usually thinks, but I started planning.”
At the time, he and his family lived in Independence, Missouri. His vision began manifesting when his grandmother and step-grandfather purchased 20 acres of wooded land in rural Warsaw, Missouri.
“It was trees and rocks and a little cabin, and so I thought, ‘Man, I got a place to do it now,’” Shipman recalled.
As a teenager in 1975, Shipman began building a blacksmith shop. Then came the general store.
Shipman said that his family eventually joined the passion project after realizing he “wasn’t going to give it up.” In 1979, they opened the 1800s-style pioneer village as a tourist attraction. Guests only had to pay an admission fee of $3 to get a glimpse of what life was like in the 19th century. The blacksmith shop and general store, alongside a little shed for soapmaking, were the first attractions at the park.
Shipman’s grandma Ruth and mother Hazel spent their time quilting and making products, like dolls and pincushions, to sell in the store while his father Con and brother Ross helped with building construction. The family devoted countless hours revamping the property during the winter to give visitors something new to experience each year. “So, every year, we had this little circle of locals that would come at the beginning of every season to see what new thing we had built.”
Over the years, they added more than 20 structures – including two 1830s cabins, a trapper’s cabin along a creek, a steam-powered grist mill, an old jail, a one-room schoolhouse, a tavern, a gazebo, a wood shop, a smoke house, a cook shack, a wagon shop, and a post office – in addition to the original buildings and cozy one-bedroom cottage that the owner lives in.
Shipman, now 64, said business peaked around 1982. They held festivals in October, which drew nice-sized crowds. But eventually a declining number of customers led to the difficult decision to close the park about a decade later.
Before they shut down at the end of the season in 1995, Shipman said the family initially tried to sell the property in 1989 to no avail.
“We listed it and never had a single person to come and look at it, not a single one,” he said.
Today, the property at 24025 Cumberland Gap Avenue Warsaw, MO 65355 is on the market for $295,000. It’s listed by Susan Newman of Missouri Lakes Realty. Here is the description:
Once in a lifetime property. Pioneer style settlement situated on 20 beautiful acres. Property was formally a 1800’s themed park that can only be found in a movie set. Settlement is made up of over 20 buildings/structures including 2 authentic 1830’s cabins, a trapper’s cabin along a creek, old jail, one room schoolhouse, general store, mill, tavern, blacksmith shop, post office, wood shop, smoke house, cook shack, ticket booth, gazebo, wagon shop, and a 1 bedroom, 1 bath cottage that the owner live in. Each building was hand crafted with countless hours of labor over a span of 50 years. Located about 1 mile from a Truman Lake boat ramp. This is unbelievable one of a kind place. Call for an appointment.
Shipman hopes to close a deal with the right buyer who is passionate about the pioneer era and would consider reviving the attraction. He said that he’s currently in talks with someone interested in doing just that. Wouldn’t it be cool if it’s a person who has fond memories of visiting the site as a kid. UPDATE: A sale is pending!
MORE PHOTOS: Click here to see some historic family photos.