Eli Keen & Daniel Boone were pioneers who ventured from Kentucky to Missouri around 1800. While Boone settled in southern St Charles County, Keen built his home in the rich bottomlands of Northern St Charles at 2148 Highway V, where it still stands in its original location. It has been fully renovated to embrace its original character, and then some. This living museum offers a beauty that’s rich in history while welcoming you home.
Eli Keen, Sr owned 1000s of acres from what is currently Old Town, St Charles, to “the point” at the Missouri River, West Alton. He and his sons farmed & developed the land until his death in 1850. He ran several businesses on Main Street and constructed two magnificent homes in the bottoms. Only one of them has survived over time – it can be found in all its glory at the corner of Highways 94 & V, just across the street from Orchard Farm School.
Sometime before Seniors death, Eli’s eldest son, Eli Jr, fell in love with one of their slaves; a woman named Phoebe. He purchased Phoebe from his father and they started a family together through common law marriage. Eli and Phoebe Keen had 9 children together and enjoyed over 30 years of marriage. They constructed a school where they educated their own children along with the working children from the farm. Folklore tells us that it was the first school for blacks west of the Mississippi. Eli cared deeply for his servants and census records show freed slaves, well into their 90s and even 100 years of age, living on the farm with them.
The Keen estate was one of the most valuable in all of St Charles county and his children considered themselves “royalty” as such. His children grew, and worked the land alongside their father and made a name for themselves.
Many years later the story takes a bizarre twist and there are a couple of different versions of the tale. Since the state of Missouri did not recognize interracial marriages, Eli, Jr traveled to Virginia and married his cousin, Sephronia, and brought her back to St Charles. As the story was handed down over the generations, his white family lived in one house, and his black family in the other. It’s said that neither wife knew about the other until Eli was on his death bed and the two families surprised each other at the hospital. Although awkward, the meeting was portrayed as amicable. But the saga does not end there.
As it turns out, before Phoebe came to St Charles with the Keen family, she had a slave husband and had given birth to a daughter whom she’d not seen since her cross-country move. Before his death, Eli gave Phoebe a house where her first husband and their daughter joined her, after 50 years of separation, and he drafted a will that split all of his land into large 100+ acre parcels for each of his black children.
After his death in 1901, there were a number of lawsuits, one that made its way all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court. In the end, all of the Keen wealth was sold off or lost, but Phoebe, reunited with her family, remained in St Charles and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. Many of the Keen descendants still live in St Charles to this day.
Jeff & Trish Wolf purchased this treasure from Clinton & Tootie Eddington in 2002 and raised 4 children there while restoring the home. Local trees were hand-milled for the walnut floors, barn wood from the property was repurposed for vanity countertops, and original casings were replicated with the finest attention paid to every detail. The home is truly an inspiration and leaves visitors speechless.
From horse & buggies to electric cars – this house has seen it all. It watched as the Sioux Indians disappeared, saw the abolition of slavery, survived the Civil War, TWO World Wars, and the Great Depression. It stood quietly while the man walked on the moon and witnessed the invention of the internet. It’s astonishing to think how far this nation and mankind have come. Oh, if these walls could talk! Listing provided by Trish Wolf of Worth Clark Realty St. Louis