Springlawn, Hatchet, Winoka: The truth behind the tales

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Springfield’s urban legends have been a great source of fun (and frustration) for generations. But such tales are chock full of something besides their eerie details: There’s also history, which is something everyone can learn from. Read on to discover — or perhaps remember — three of the area’s most well-known stories.

Springlawn Farm

Springlawn 1

The remnants of Springlawn Farm are quickly disappearing into the trees, but the namesake spring doesn’t know time has passed.

All that stands between the modern world and a mysterious past is a row of trees. Their branches speak as they wave in the wind, but whether they beckon closer or warn away is unclear. After all, they are the keepers of a legend spiced with fear, speculation and murder. And today, they’re the only ones who know the real story of Springlawn Farm.

Or, as it’s also known — the Albino Farm.

A seed of truth

As most legends do, the story of Springlawn Farm is based in reality. The farm itself predates the Civil War, and went through several owners — including a general — before being purchased by a man named Frank Headley.

Remains at Springlawn Farm
Remains at Springlawn Farm jut through the trees.

Mr. Headley, who was college-educated in agriculture, added numerous “houses” to the estate: The list included a stone pump house, bathhouse, ice house, and one in which to live. The farm prospered under his ownership, and was known for its dairy, draft horses, collies and even a cattery.

Then there was the land itself. On Feb. 3, 1911, the Springfield Republican noted that Springlawn (there called Spring Lawn) Farm’s “environment for handing live stock is ideal, situated as it is in the heart of a section of blue grass county that is surpassed by none other in the world. Many of these acres have never been plowed and are covered by a thick, tough, velvety sod, so dear to the eye of the stock man.”

If those things weren’t enough, Springlawn was also a local recreational spot. “In the 1800s the public came out here to race, ride horses and just generally enjoy themselves,” said local attorney and historian John Hulston in an article in 1980.

Mr. Headly owned the farm until around 1914. At that time, he sold it to Mike Sheedy, an Irish Catholic immigrant who was described by the “Past and Present of Greene County Missouri” as having “prospered through close application, good judgment and honest dealings.”

Mr. Sheedy was indeed a self-made man. He moved to the United States when he was 15 years old, and jumped between Ohio and Louisiana before initially moving to Springfield with the Frisco Railroad in 1870. After purchasing the farm north of Springfield, he set about raising a variety of crops as well as nine children. The farm grew in size and “and it was known for being one of the more prosperous, wealthy farms in the county,” says local historian Todd Wilkinson, who is also a librarian at Ozarks Technical Community College. “Stone towers and turrest remanant of Ireland, that sort of thing.”

Take a tour of Springlawn Farm today