This past week, my mom and I toured the amazing Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site. Located in New Madrid, Missouri, home to the largest Earth Quakes in American history, the home is a lovely grand home built by William and Amanda Hunter. The Hunters had a dry goods store they called “the Crystal Palace” as well as a floating store that went up and down the Mississippi River.
Before the Civil War, this river town was thriving and so were the Hunters. They had the store and huge land holdings (15,000 acres in four states!) along with other business ventures. In 1859 they decided to build a new home, or really do an add on since there was a previous home onsite that they literally built onto.
The home has 15 rooms and 80% of the furnishings were bought new by Amanda Hunter and still remain. The house has nine fireplaces and is located on eight lovely acres. While building the house, William Hunter contracted Yellow Fever and passed away leaving Amanda and their seven children to move into the house between 1860-1861.
We loved the furnishings and the history that also included some Civil War History as well. During the war, one of Amanda’s sons served in the Confederate army. During the Battle of Island #10, the house was taken over by Civil War General John Pope. While no documentation substantiates this, the story has been passed down and was told to the guides by Amanda’s grandson.
The Hunters owned 36 slaves and they may have played a part in building the home that is constructed of Yellow Cypress. The home is a combination of the Georgian, Greek Revival and Italianate style. They know of at least one slave that remained with the family after the War, she lived in the smallest room on the second story. The top story has a door that literally opens into the porch of the upper story of the original home. The slave lived to be over 100 years old.
Ella Hunter, the youngest daughter of the Hunters, married William Dawson on Christmas Eve of 1874. After Amanda died in 1876, they moved into the house. William Dawson was a 3-term Missouri State Legislature and he also served in the US House of Representatives. The Dawson family remained in the home until 1958 when they sold it to the city who donated it to the State.
We enjoyed our visit, and we were glad to find this amazing home. This was not our first attempt. On another travel south, we decided to take a break in New Madrid after seeing the sign for the Hunter-Dawson Historic Site. Loving old homes, this was right up our alley. While driving around we saw an amazing historic home that took up an entire block and was surrounded by a fence. “This has to be it,” my mother said.
Despite the fact that we saw a BBQ grill on the columned front porch we knocked on the door. If it wasn’t the right place we thought they could direct us to the home. Amazingly enough, the lady of the house invited us in and gave us a downstairs tour of her beautiful home. Like the Hunters her family had business related to the River and she said that people were always stopping there by mistake.
Amazing southern hospitality!
This second time around, we found the correct home and loved the tour before a family tragedy made us turn around and head back home. For more information on the Hunter-Dawson Historic Site, call (573 748-5340) or log onto www.mostateparks.com