Adapted from the original email-letters from Paul Ovaitt - Original date 7/2/21
(Turn on your sound and press the play button to the right for the full experience!)
"I’d rather be a free man in my grave, than living like a puppet or a slave" – Jimmy Cliff
Hello gentle readers. I can’t put this off any longer. I promised to write a little on some of the previous residents of the Boone/Matson/Koenig land, but especially the slaves. However, it’s not a comfortable topic. Even if you remove all the racial, black/white discomfort that might exist in me or in my readers, you’re still burdened with the concept of taking away the freedom of a fellow human being. No matter your race, gender or religion, no one would choose to be…oh, let’s say, the king’s eunuch guarding…let’s say, the king’s concubines (more slavery.) Bondage is probably as old as mankind, and still exists today.
Ah, but that’s one of the problems of being a human. We desire and dream bigger than what we can accomplish with our own two hands. But I can’t sweep this under the rug. If I did that very often, I’d soon be walking on uneven terrain. My next trip to the coffee maker could be treacherous.
From the moment I learned that there was some sort of slave burial ground behind Matson, I knew I would look for it and share it. (I kinda expected to find a low hanging cloud and a moaning in the wind.) You know, slavery is not the first thing I think of when I think of an American pioneer like Daniel Boone. Nor is slavery the first thing I think of when I think of St. Charles County. But we’ve had our share, as did the Boones.
Even before Boone left Kentucky for Missouri, he owned slaves. In The Old Settlers Gazette of 2010, I found an article by Lynn Morrow. She wrote: “An expansion of slavery in Boone’s household parallels perhaps the most prosperous period in his life. During the 1780s, Daniel Boone sought the benefits of wealth. These included owning slaves. By 1781, the year that his last child Nathan was born, Boone began investing in slaves. He purchased a Negro girl from his cousin John Grant, apparently to help Rebecca with household duties and agricultural work; in 1786 Will Hays sold a Negro girl to Boone, as the tavern at Limestone (modern Maysville), Kentucky, probably needed more help. By 1787 Daniel Boone owned seven slaves, a benchmark of his affluence.” Then she added, “Regardless of his Quaker family background, slaveholder Boone had no qualms about investing in the labor of bondsmen.”
In the fall of 1798, Daniel Morgan Boone and Philip Goe took three or four of DMB’s slaves to what we now call Matson. Goe and the slaves remained there to work on housing and crops, while DMB returned to Kentucky to help move the extended family to Missouri. Again, Lynn Morrow: “By September 1799, all was ready for Missouri. Some three dozen of the extended family, slaves, and a hired hand began the trek by water and by land. Daniel Boone, Will Hays, Flanders Callaway, the hired hand, slaves, and Morgan’s Negro, Sam, drove the live-stock overland.”
Years later the Boones sold their land to Enoch Shobe. I’m not ambitious enough to research if Shobe had slaves, but I’d make a small wager that he did.
The next owners were the Matsons, and everything I’ve read about them indicates they used slave labor. In her history of Matson, a young Edith Knoernschild wrote in 1941, “There were many slaves on the Richard and Harvey (William) Matson place. They had ‘buzzers’ with which to call the slaves. The slaves now rest outside the graveyard of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Matson. There are negro cemeteries on almost every farm around Matson.” (I have included a couple photos of the cemetery, but try as I might, to find a trace of a slave gravesite, I came up short. But Kim Beer tells me they were only marked with field stones, and cattle and mother nature had pretty much conspired to hide them from my view in 2021.)
Edith went on to say something I can’t pass up. (I know you’ve all heard of Chandler Hill Winery, right?) “Mr. Joe Chandler, a former negro slave boy and second oldest settler of Matson, lives about one and one-half miles north of town. He was born December 25, 1857. After the Civil War he came down from Booneville on a boat as a helper. The boatmen put him off and to this day he hasn’t gone back to his home and has never left St. Charles county. Often he tells stories about the hardships slaves had to endure.” Now to connect the dots to the fancy winery, have a look at what local historian, Bob Brail has to say about Joe Chandler. And there’s even a photo of Joe and his wife. http://justawalkdowntheroad.blogspot.com/2015/02/normal-0-microsoftinternetexplorer4_72.html
I have a particular interest in the Chandler Hill Winery story because before the winery was created, the late John Shillington, then president of Shillington Box Company, hired me to do some interior and exterior painting on his log house which was restored by a John LaPointe crew including Bill Hacker, Robert Carmon and Paul Konrad. Robert Carmon worked there from start to finish, and he was involved in cataloging and moving the cabin. He provided the photo which is included in this article. He remarked that our text conversation brought back a lot of good memories.
Little did I know that Shillington’s beautifully restored and improved log retreat was once the home of Joe Chandler. Then, Shillington decided I should paint the ancient and dilapidated frame house that first greets you when you turn off Defiance Road to enter the winery road. (Maybe I’ve got the order of events shuffled), but anyway, this building was the home of Francis Fluesmeier, who was part of the Joe Chandler story of which I was, at the time, clueless.
I believe I already told you that the bricks that went into the two brick homes on the Koenig’s property were manufactured there on their land with slave labor. William Matson, who built the home which Kimberly Koenig Beer now lives in, fought on the side of the confederacy during the Civil War. For additional information on William, check out this article by Bob Brail:
Speaking of bricks, have you ever admired that stately brick house that looks out to the river and down on Defiance? You know…the Parsons house. I guess you can deduce where I’m going with this. Let me lean again on Schiermeier’s Cracker Barrel Country. This is from a 1976 article: “This imposing three story brick home on the hill in Defiance overlooking the beautiful Missouri River Bluffs, was built for Tom and Phoebe (Ward) Parsons in 1842 by slave labor. Bricks for the home were made on the site, and remains of the kiln, plus fragments of bricks are visible today. Mr. Parsons was born in Virginia and came to St. Charles County in 1840 as a farmer and stock raiser.”
Augusta, likewise, participated in the institution of slavery in the town’s early days. In the course of my whimsical, scattered research, I once read that our town founder, Leonard Harold, owned slaves. But I had no idea where I could find my source again, so I deemed it easier just to call Ellen Knoernschild at Centennial Farm. She owns the house which Leonard Harold built in Augusta. It turned out to be a good move on my part. Ellen was very cooperative and even let me record our conversation. I ask you, gentle readers, would you let me do that?
Ellen told me that the 1852 census record said, with regard to slaves in the household, “there were three males and two females, and none can read or write.” She added, “I would assume he would have had them before that. I’m sure he needed slaves for growing tobacco and for building his house. I think all of these people from Virginia, if they could afford it, they had slaves.” Ellen went on to tell me her late husband, Bob, told her that he remembered two slave cabins in the back yard.
In her book, Augusta’s “Harmonie”, Anita Mallinckrodt makes it clear that the German immigrants in Augusta were strongly opposed to slavery. Our town historian wrote, “Perhaps the immigrants quite simply thought that, as European settlers, the situation of slavery would not concern them. As one of their leaders, Friedrich Muench, later observed, ‘we were sorry that there were slaves here, but we could do nothing about it; we ourselves wanted nothing to do with slavery but also expected that we would not be burdened by it.’”
I suppose a person could write volumes about slavery in Missouri, but no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe – B. Dylan. Instead, let’s look at a few other previous residents of the Koenig spread.
In a past Turn, Turn, Turn, I mentioned a retired U. S. Senator named George Williams who also lived in the land of Koenig. I’ll tell you right now, it’s a lot easier to find information on US senators that on you or me. Wikipedia tells me George was born December 1. 1871 in California, MO. Man, that’s my old stomping grounds. I was born and raised in Jefferson City, but I played more than a few gigs at the California Country Club, various weddings, and a little further west at the Tipton high school. It seems those two towns couldn’t get enough of my dad’s band, the Frank Ovaitt Orchestra, in which I sometimes played, and my band, the Ovaitt Brothers, rock and roll band. Yes, it doesn’t take much to get me off topic
Anyway, George became a STL lawyer, and he was super active in Missouri Republican politics. He climbed all the ladders, and with the unexpected death of Senator Selden Spencer in May 1925, George was tapped by Missouri Governor Sam Baker to fill the remaining eighteen months of Selden’s term. Mr. Williams dutifully took the job and at the end of his term, he ran for another term in Washington, but he lost to Democrat, Harry B. Hawes. Then George returned to his STL law practice until he retired to Matson, MO in 1943. In Matson he apparently caught Daniel Boone fever, and he became a leader in the movement to preserve the Nathan/Daniel Boone home on Highway F. Clearly, the effort was a success. (Seems like I have heard that Andy Maschmeier of Schleursburg was also involved in that preservation. Anybody know about that?)
George Williams also left his mark on the Koenig property, but I don’t care to talk about that now. It comes up again in my interviews of different members of the Koenig clan, so stay tuned.
Okay then, slaves to senators…how about some middle ground? Those of you who actually remember anything I write, will recall my story about Matson and the Katy RR. Matson was a water and fuel station. That means the railroad would need workers for that purpose, but laborers were also needed as track walkers to keep the track in shape. Turns out, some MKT workers lived on Kim Beer’s side of Matson Hill Road. I’ve included a photo of the foundation of one of their humble dwellings.
How about Dunards? In one of my conversations with Edith Knoernschild Morgan, distant cousin to Glenda Drier, Dave Nadler and Leroy Nadler, she said the Dunards farmed somewhere uphill from her father’s store. Well, I have a nice photo of Fritz Dunard’s tombstone I encountered in the white section of the graveyard. But it was only a week ago that I focused on the fact that Edith’s history of Matson came to Schiermeier’s Cracker Barrel Country from a Martin E. Dunard of Troy, MO. I’m sure there’s a Matson connection there.
Hey, that’s all I’ve got. Please stay curious enough to read the fourth episode, in which I interview various members of the Koenig clan, but especially Kimberly Beer. If all goes well, next time you may even see a photo of Patsy Kemner Baravik horseback riding with Kim. Meanwhile, enjoy today’s photos and my iPhone recording of Jimmy Cliff’s, The Harder They Come. (It sounds so much better with earphones.)