If you love history and trips to scenic Historic Missouri Wine Country, make time to stop by The Daniel Boone Hays Home at Matson Hill Park in Defiance. Built by Daniel Boone Hays, grandson of famous pioneer Daniel Boone, the beautiful 1830s stone home is now open to the public on weekends for free, self-guided tours.
“The restoration of the home and development of the exhibits were years in the making, and we’re thrilled to share it with the community,” explains Ryan Graham, Director of St. Charles County Parks. “The park is just two miles from The Historic Daniel Boone Home, so visitors can easily go to both locations in one day.”
The home and surrounding property have had several owners and an interesting history. In 1820, Daniel Boone Hays purchased the property, and he and his wife Mary lived in a log cabin on the site until the home was finished in 1835. Daniel passed away in 1866, leaving the property to John, his son. John Boone Hays married Julia Alice Howell in February 1866, just before his father’s passing, and it is likely that they lived in the home. In 1880, John sold 82 acres of the property to Charles Kruger, a German neighbor who was good friends with the Hays family. Later in 1911, John sold the remainder of the property, including the home, to Judge George H. Shields. In 1926, Judge Shields sold the property to Shelby H. Curlee, owner of Curlee Clothing Company in St. Louis. Renovations to the home, which was used as a weekend retreat, were made in the 1930s by the Curlee family. They later sold the home to the Parks Department.
Restoration of the Hays Home by the Parks Department to its original design, but with a modern HVAC system, occurred in two phases. Phase I addressed exterior renovations, including removal of a metal roof and a second story window, as well as repairing tuckpointing. A historically appropriate roof and mortar were installed, and doors and locks were repaired. Phase II involved extensive interior restoration to return the inside of the home to its original design. Walls that had been removed were reconstructed and original staircases rebuilt. The inside flooring was refurbished and walls were painted. Each phase took a year to complete. The restoration was funded through the voter-approved local use tax that supports the St. Charles County Parks Department.
Today, guests touring the home will enjoy a dynamic interpretive center on the main floor with artifacts and displays about the history of the Hays family and the surrounding Femme Osage Valley. The top floor features turn-of-the-century furnishings and more family artifacts. Guests also can visit the Hays family cemetery on the property where Daniel, his wife, and six of their 12 children are buried.
The home is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; and 12–5 p.m., Sundays. Visitors should enter the park at 3572 Stub Road. Group tours of 15 or more and school field trips are available with a reservation. Guests should wear masks and practice social distancing. For questions and more information, please call 636-798-2005.
There’s more to come by summer 2021 at Matson Hill Park, including the development of an 1830s style timber-framed barn-like shelter with historic architecture and double doors on three sides of the structure. When complete, the venue will accommodate up to 100 guests and be available to reserve for weddings and special events throughout the year. Follow the St. Charles County Parks Department on Facebook for updates.