Present day site
Article originally published In Columbia Tribune on February 24, 1991
Whatever Happened to Grasslands Plantation?
By Francis Pike of the Tribune Staff and Midge Crawford for the Boone County Historical Society
The plantation has been subdivided, with a part of it today known as Grasslands subdivision of Columbia. The remodeled farm home has been converted into the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, 809 South Providence Road.
The home was called "Grasslands" as was the immediate farm land around it. Only two families owned the home before it was sold in 1954 to the fraternity. George Bingham Rollins built the house in 1880, and Claude Bruner bought it from the Rollins family in 1939.
The first Rollins to arrive in Boone County was Anthony Wayne Rollins, who was born in Pennsylvania on March 5, 1783. his father, Henry Rollins, was a native of Tyrone Country, Ireland. He came to America during the Revolutionary War and fought on the side of the colonies. Anthony Rollins became a schoolmaster and then studied medicine, practicing as a physician for 25 years in Madison County, Kentucky.
In the spring of 1830, he moved his family to a large tract of land in the western part of Boone County, for miles north of the Missouri River. He called his plantation "Richland," and now lived there until his death Oct. 9, 1845.
Anthony Rollins' son, James Sidney Rollins, who was born April 19, 1812, attended Washington College in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Indiana in 1830, then joined his parents at "Richland," where he lived one year, reading law under Abiel Leonard, a highly respected Mid-Missouri attorney. He then went to Lexington, Ky., where he graduated in law in 1934. He practiced law in Columbia and became the owner of 1,200 acres of land in what was later to include much of the University of Missouri property. As a member of the General assembly, he was influential in establishing the University in Columbia and was known as the "Father of the University of Missouri."
his homestead, "LaGrange," was located on land now occupied by the Kappa Kappa Gamma house, 512 Rollins St. A tradition of the Rollins family placed the front doorknob of "LaGrange" directly east of the front doorknob of "Grasslands." The "LaGrange" homestead was destroyed by fire on March 25, 1908.
George Bingham Rollins, son of James Sidney Rollins and owner of "Grasslands," built the original house and three cabins. One cabin was a carriage house, another was a kitchen and the third cabin was an ice house and still stands. The carriage house was later converted into servants' quarters, and the ice house was made into a study room for George's two sons, James Sidney Jr., and Frank Blair Rollins. Some of the rocks of a wall built around the plantation property by employees and hauled by hand, rock by rock from near the present day Katy trail, have been relocated to outline the fraternity driveway and parking lot. The barns and stables were on land now cut through by a street named Burman Road, west of Providence Road. A stepping stone, still in place, and once used for the convenience of carriage traffic, indicates that the elevation of the driveway has been raised. The stone is inscribed with the name of the home.
Originally, trees native to Missouri were planted. George Rolllins died on June 18, 1915, when he accidentally fell into an abandoned well while testing the strength of some rotten boards covering the well. The well was in what was called the "long pasture" on the home place. At the time, the farm was a working farm, extending west of providence Road to the MKT tracks and south to Hinkson Creek. Much of the land is now owned by the university, including the land where the A.L. Gustin golf course and the nuclear reactor are located. On the "upland pastures" Rollins had 20 mules that he looked after each day.
When local physician Bruner, bought the place in 1939, he added the columns and porch, white siding, and a sunken garden. He paneled the library with timber from the "Grasslands" acreage and imported the chandeliers from Austria.
The Phi Psis bought the house for $65,000 from Bruner in 1954 and in 1957 added a wing at a cost of $100,000.
Reproduced with permission from The Columbia Tribune