Country Neighbor

John Junior Breakbill was never one to stray far from home. Born in 1935 in a farmhouse built by his grandparents, he lives in the same house today and runs cattle on the same land bought by his grandparents in 1913.

That 80 acres, part of  240 in today’s farm, is  one of three Greene County farms recognized by University of Missouri Extension as 2013 Century Farms.

Located west of Republic, near the Lawrence County line, the Breakbill farm is home today to John — some folks know him as Junior — and his bride for 59 years, the former Doris Helen Hendrickson of Halltown. Like generations before them, John and Doris continue to farm, running commercial beef cows and calves

Built nearly 100 years ago, according to John, the family’s big farmhouse was first home to his grandparents, Joseph and Lillie Rubison, and their six children. While the house was under construction the Rubison family lived in an even older structure — a two-room log cabin enclosed in a barn.

John’s parents, John W. and Opal Breakbill, bought the 80-acre farm from Opal’s parents. One of four children, John grew up milking cows by hand in a stanchion barn and working the original family farm much the same as other youngsters of the era. While milking cows at home, he also worked as a student janitor at St. Elmo’s grade school, he said. After graduating from the one-room school he attended Republic schools, where he graduated from high school in 1953.

John and Doris were wed in 1954 and lived off the family farm for about five years. “But, I was still milking cows here,” John said.

In 1961 John and Doris bought the place from his parents, who were moving to Halltown. Neither John’s two brothers, Harold and LeRoy (now deceased), nor his sister, Edna Lea Mitchell, had any interest in farming the place.

Continuing to milk a small herd of cows in the grade C stanchion barn — modernized with a bulk tank supplied by Kraft and a Surge milking machine — and later running a propane business, John and Doris raised one daughter on the farm, Karen Beamandurfer. She and her husband, John, a sign painter in Republic, have given John and Doris two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

John gave up milking cows in the 1970s. “There was not that much money in milking,” he said. “We survived, but decided to get beef cattle. We could do better, and they were less work.”

The Breakbill Century Farm today reflects the labors and dutiful care of the generations who have called it home. The old barn with a cabin at its heart stands as a reminder of the unnamed Ozarkers who hewed a farm out of  untamed wilderness and prairie, while the newer metal barn and the well-maintained old farmhouse suggest a continuing dedication to a treasured home and way of life.

In the simple words of its longtime keeper, “It’s home to me. I like living here.”

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