Tell It Like It Was - Turn, Turn, Turn Ep. 1
Adapted from the original email-letters from Paul Ovaitt - Original date 5/17/21.
(Turn on your sound and press the play button to the right for the full experience!)
Pick a Title: Meet the Koenigs - The Ghost of Daniel Boone - Why Don’t They Call It Boonetown? – Meet the Matsons – War of 1812 Fort - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – Whatever Happened to That Stone Building Across the Highway from Matson?
Hello gentle readers: I may be taking on more than I can handle, but I remember at the start of many house painting jobs, I would ask myself how can one man scrape, prime, topcoat, repair all rot, reattach loose gutters, tighten up sagging shutters, reglaze windows, and paint every, last mullion…? The answer was, of course, just get started. So, here I go.
Attachments: faded photo of Glennon Stelzer’s birthplace, newspaper photo of the remaining stone portion of the Stelzer home, Piaget-Ravenswaay photo of interior wall of Stelzer house, the judgment tree, Judgement Tree Memorial sign on 94, DAR black granite monument. iPhone recording of my rendition Of Turn, Turn, Turn.
As you know, I’ve been spending time in Matson lately. As a matter of fact, I used to live very, near Matson when I owned Salem Schoolhouse, which was just below what is now the Augusta Shores dam. But back then, I was blind to all the history of the town. However, since I reinvented myself as a flaneur and a general busybody, what I can’t see, I inevitably stumble over now.
I guess you can blame Donald Struckhoff for my recent focus on Matson. If only he hadn’t told me about the MKT reservoir, which fed Matson’s water tower, which quenched the thirst of MKT steam engine trains! Because of that, I rooted around, begged, quizzed, etc., until I landed a cell number for Chris Koenig. Anon, Dave Klaas and I gained access to the kingdom of Koenig, and we got the tour with Kimberly Koenig Beer, the family historian. And what a beautiful, history-rich kingdom it is. I would like to share some of the experience with you, even if it means delving into topics I’m not qualified to discuss. I won’t let that bother me; I hope it doesn’t bother you, gentle readers.
Let’s step out into Bob Struckhoff’s field of corn or soybeans (with his permission) and face Matson. Spread your arms until you think you’ve encompassed the town and add a little more on either side. Now, in your mind’s eye, subtract the highway, the Katy Trail and the two main streets of Matson, and fly like a crow up the graveled Matson Hill Road until you reach the ridge which is Duke Road and the paved portion of Matson Hill Rd. This is Koenig territory, is native American land, is Boone Country, the home of Shobe, Matson, Blackwell, Dunard, Senator Williams, Blanton, Plough, MKT workers, Black slaves, French trappers, and probably more, in no particular order.
But I like a little order, so let’s begin with the Native Americans. Do you recall the small Indian village in the floodplain east of Matson, which was exposed by the flood of ’93? Oh… you missed that? For me it was mostly hearsay, but after the proper ceremonies were performed to remove the indigenous, human bones, and after the archaeologists and anthropologists satisfied their curiosity, Professor of Anthropology, Van Reidhead, of Moll Road, gave a little lecture in Augusta at the history museum. He disclosed that the inhabitants of that village, would have been subjects of the Mississippian Culture, which was centered at Cahokia. (Incidentally, some of you may remember that Van and Mary Ann Reidhead lived in Augusta in the mid-80s, in the house on Lower St. that some may know as Freida Koetter’s, and others know currently as Bill Ferris’ home.)
Glennon Stelzer owned that bottomland at the time of the discovery. (It is now the property of our fire chief, Bob Struckhoff.) Glennon’s daughter, Glenda Drier, was quite interested in the digging, and even filmed some of the activities. In an October 2, 2019 interview at Harmonie Verein, Glennon and Glenda recalled some of the findings. There were bird points, a ceremonial axe, teeth, pottery shards and rock mounds that were likely burial sites. (My understanding is that UMSL wanted to inspect the mounds at a later date, but the flood of 1995 beat them to it.) One 2000-year-old female was carefully removed and whisked away to UMSL for further study, but soon she was buried somewhere near New Haven, MO. These activities were accompanied by a religious ceremony involving a Cherokee woman, burning sage, and a Catholic priest.
Of course, I’m no expert, but I believe the Mississippian Culture was preceded by Indians of the Woodland Period. Now that takes us back to maybe 8500 BCE. I think even then, my fellow homo sapiens would have delighted in roaming the Koenigs’ land, with its 14 freshwater springs.
Before we leave the floodplain, I want to give a shout out to Bob and Connie Struckhoff of Schell Rd. for their donation of the strip of land that serves as the historic site of Daniel Boone’s judgment tree. If you have never pulled off Highway 94 to see it, I would recommend it. We’ll look at this famous tree later.
The territory which became St. Charles County, was populated primarily with Fox, Sauk, Pottawatomie and Osage. By the early 1800s, the Osage were the dominant tribe in the area. They all traversed the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Eventually, they traded furs with settlers in St. Louis. Chris Koenig told us his father, Frank Jr., has a stunning collection of Indian artifacts from their property. But, alas, all my hints and inquiries about seeing them yielded no results. But I believe they exist, and you would too after seeing all the stone flakes on the ground near the Katy reservoir. Unfortunately, my efforts to meet Frank Jr. failed too, but I’m told Frank remembers me from days gone by; I hope his memories are favorable. I used to hang a bit in Defiance in the 80s. As a matter of fact, that’s how I met Frank’s deceased brother, Roy, whom I remember fondly.
What a chatterbox I am. Let’s move on to Daniel Boone. You probably know, many books and articles have been written about Boone by serious historians. And then there’s me. Maybe you can kindly think of me as a neighbor, reminding neighbors, where it is we are living. Maybe when you commute to work in the city or go to a Cardinals’ home game, you glance at Matson in the same way some folks flying across the USA see fly-over states. Rest assured, Daniel Boone didn’t see it that way.
Boone’s son, Daniel Morgan Boone, was the first in his family to set foot in what is now St. Charles County. He was sent by his father, DB, in 1795. The territory was owned by Spain. Apparently DMB liked what he saw, and he secured a Spanish land grant of 600 arpents (510 acres) in 1797. DB obtained a larger grant of 1000 arpents (850 acres) in 1799. According to local historian, Ken Kamper, “Daniel Morgan Boone built a double log cabin on his Land Grant, and this is where he, Daniel, and Rebecca lived until Daniel and Rebecca moved to live with Nathan Boone along the Femme Osage Creek in 1804.” Now, I don’t think Daniel was much of a farmer or a businessman, or even much of a domesticated homeowner, but this didn’t stop him from founding his own town, Missouriton, out in the floodplain of the Darst Bottoms. You might say there were strings attached to the generous land grant from Spain. Daniel was expected to bring and draw even more settlers to the area. It’s ironic that a man who always seemed to eschew crowds would start his own town, but life is full of compromises.
A couple years ago, our renowned glass blower, Sam Stang, texted me a photo of an old Missouri map that included Missouriton. Sam asked me where it was, because maps can be vague in the way they string a long name across an area with little precision. Guys, I was clueless. But after some investigation I learned it was in the Darst Bottoms, and it was a town founded by DB.
Historian, Ken Kamper, in a 1991 paper for Boone-Duden Historical Society, used this quote of an advertisement in the Feb. 20, 1818 issue of the Missouri Gazette: “The town consists of twenty-five blocks, each block made up from (four) 132 Ft. square lots. The streets…are 66 Ft. wide. A horse mill is being built.” Kamper also used these quotes from other sources: “-there was a store.” “-the town thrived for a time, but the river cut westward over the years and eventually washed away the town bit by bit. The Post Office was the last building remaining, and stood at the town site until a farmer moved it to higher ground.” I’ll have more to say later about the PO building.
If you are on Hwy. 94 and turn in to Matson, look immediately to the left and take note of a shady grove that nearly conceals a black granite, two-sided monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution. (DB was a bit of a revolutionary war hero.) The monument seeks to illustrate the Booneslick Road, but also declares that it marks the location of Missouriton. When I expressed my doubt to a Matson resident, she replied that it’s close enough for practical purposes.
DB had other obligations to fulfill in his new acreage. In the same 1991 paper for B-DH Society, Ken Kamper said, “Daniel Boone held court under this tree when he was the Spanish Syndic for the Femme Osage District (1800-1804). The site of the tree was located for me by Mrs. Hilda Stelzer in 1987. The elm tree was still living when the Stelzers moved into the stone house nearby in 1926. …a few years later the Judgment Tree was struck by lightning and died, and that in 1951 the tree blew over during a storm. Mrs. Barbara Koenig also remembered the tree, and that her husband had to saw it up to remove it from their field…” See the photo from the December 1985 issue of National Geo, of two men standing before the massive elm.
So, what about this stone house Hilda mentioned? It was owned by Emil and Hilda Stelzer, and Glennon was born there, delivered by Augusta’s Dr. Clay. But where is it now? I have enclosed a faded photo of it, and it appears to be wooden frame on the north side and stone on the south. Also included is a photo of the remaining stone portion featured in an old issue of the St. Charles Post. (Many of you will recall driving by that building year after year; I do.) Better still, look at the Piaget-Ravenswaay photo, courtesy of the Library of Congress. It is an interior shot of a wall with a fireplace. Now if you’ve ever been to the Nathan Boone home on Hwy. F, I think you’ll see a resemblance. Years ago, at the NB/DB home, I learned that cabinets and drawers adjacent to a fireplace, would “iron” your clothing if you folded it neatly.
According to Ken Kamper, “There is a great mystery with determining the date and builder of the stone house in the river bottom just east of Matson.” One traditional version is that DMB built it. But neither DB nor DMB ever owned that exact parcel of land. There are more versions, but Kamper finds flaws in each, including the possibility that it is the Post Office that was removed from Missouriton. But Kamper concedes the PO “could have been a stone structure…built originally by Daniel Morgan Boone in ‘his’ town.” But where is the building now? I hear tell Lindenwood College has it, and that’s all I know.
Well gentle readers, I’ve probably satiated your curiosity by now. There’s more to tell, and in the next episode we’ll start with the War of 1812 fort which once stood on the Koenig property. Much of it was recycled, and there will be interesting photos to view of its afterlife. And I have included my version of the Byrds’ song Turn, Turn, Turn. The lyrics are Pete Seeger’s reworking of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The melody is Seeger’s also. A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.
Stay tuned and stay curious.