The historic Armstrong-Ramsey home was constructed around a log cabin built in 1795 by Andrew Ramsey. The Ramseys were the first English settlers in this area.
The walls of the living room of the home of Connie and Carl Armstrong reveal the huge poplar logs that were used to build the log cabin. The fireplace is also original to the house, though it has been repaired over the years.
In the 1920s F. J. Armstrong registered the estate as Silver Springs Farm. A natural spring feeds these ponds in back of the house, and one contains a cooling chamber where milk was stored.
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Armstrong-Ramsey home holds log cabin built in 1795

by Elane Moonier Staff Reporter
 





A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of writing a story about Carl Armstrong and his recently published book, The Articles of Configuration: The Genesis Project. When I went to Carl’s farm to take his picture, he and his wife, Connie, invited me to tour their stately historic home. It is such an interesting piece of history I felt it deserved a story of its own.

The home is known as the Ramsey-Armstrong House, and previous owner,  F. J. Armstrong, registered the estate as Silver Springs Farm in the 1920s. The large, white, colonial-style house was constructed around an original two-story log cabin built in 1795 by Andrew Ramsey. Ramsey came to this country from Dalhousie Castle in Scotland, which was built in the 12th century and now serves as a tourist attraction and hotel.

The Ramseys  were the first English settlers in this area and were instrumental in establishing the first English speaking school west of the Mississippi. A replica of this school, built by Earl Norman, is located near the intersection of Bloomfield Road and Benton Hill Road (County roads 205 and 206).

Ramsey was a man of some wealth and a slave owner. He was very influential in the settlement and was one of the largest landholders in the district. His plantation, complete with the large two-story log cabin, was the base for English settlers coming to the area to find farming land.

Ramsey’s sister, Rebecca, established a home at Elm-wood, built as a smaller replica of Dalhousie castle. The Dalhousie Golf course is located on the original Elmwood plantation.

Rebecca was the matriarch of a family which includes descendent Louis Houck, who brought the railroad to Cape Girardeau.

The well-built log cabin most likely remained  intact during the 1811 New Madrid earthquake, which caused devastating damage to many structures throughout the southeast Missouri area.

In 1813 the property was taken over by Andrew’s descendents, William and Eleanor Ramsey. It then passed ownership numerous times until 1925, when F. J. Armstrong purchased the estate.

F. J. lived and farmed in Puxico, with his wife Lula, and their children.  However, they were forced to move out of the Mingo Swamp area because of his wife’s exposure to swampland malaria. F. J. purchased the old Ramsey house, which had been expanded over the years to a colonial type house with four large rooms and a hall in front.

A Civil War era wing had been added in the back, with a kitchen and bedrooms. The house was unpainted and had no running water or electricity. It had two large brick chimneys on each side of the house, and the inside walls were plaster and the floors well-worn wood. The foundations of about a dozen slave cabins were found on the property. It was many years later that  Armstrongs discovered the original log cabin was still intact, hidden behind plastered walls..

The Armstrong family had a difficult struggle during the Depression years, and F. J. often paid his debts with butchered pork, beef and chickens, along with vegetables, eggs and dairy products to save the farm from foreclosure.

The Armstrongs had five children, Russell, Olive, Bonnie, Eileen and Carl. The discovery that this was the original Andrew Ramsey home was made by Carl’s sister, Bonnie Ludwig. She contacted local historian Edison Shrum after reading a 1986 newspaper article about his search for the Ramsey plantation house.

The house has been repaired many times over the years. A long support log was added under the house to shore up the flooring. F. J. had even added a concrete ‘tornado/atomic fallout shelter’ cellar, with a heavy metal storm door, obtained when the Common Pleas Courthouse ‘dungeon’ was dismantled. Ironically, prisoners from behind this very jail door were likely tried by Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin F. Davis, who purchased the house in 1899.

Carl grew up in the house, but lived away much of his adult life to pursue an engineering career. He and Con-nie decided to move back to the farm when he retired in 2004, and they began the huge job of renovating and restoring the home. Today, it is a picturesque house, filled with history, yet with the comforts of a modern home.

When you see the  home from the outside, it is difficult to imagine that a log cabin could be concealed inside, but at some point the logs had been plastered over to make the house more modern. On entering the hall and living room area , the huge poplar logs are visible.  

Carl pointed out the natural tree rings in the exposed ends of the logs which are visible in the door way areas. These indicate the age of the trees when they were cut, which was determined to be in the 125 to 135 year range. Considering that they were cut when the house was built in 1795, the trees would have been saplings in 1693, during the summer when Marquette and Joliet passed by Cape Girardeau during their exploration of the Mississippi River.

Some rooms of the house have beautiful cypress and poplar wood floors, which Connie said are original to the house. Some of the boards which were heavily worn have been turned over, but all are stained and polished to a beautiful finish. There is a stone and brick fireplace in the living room with a massive chimney on the outside which was constructed with hand-made bricks. Above the mantle hangs an oxen yoke, which came from the farm of Carl’s sister.  

The second room on the front of the house serves as an office for Carl,  and it also has an original fireplace which was uncovered when the renovation of the home began.

While the kitchen has been modernized somewhat,  the original 1936 cabinets and sink were retained,  and the room maintains the harmony of the history of the home.

Upstairs there are three bedrooms and three baths. The bedrooms are large and tastefully decorated with antique beds and pieces of furniture which are part of the family treasures.

In the hall way area,  there are some unusual antiques, including a 1901 wall map of Cape Girardeau County.

A bedroom has also been added downstairs in the back, and the back wall of the log cabin is exposed in this room, along with part of the original cedar shingled roof.  This makes for a very unique and attractive room. Another unusual addition to the house is an elevator, which Carl installed so Connie would not have to be repeatedly walking up and down the stairs.

The house is filled with so many interesting pieces of history that it would be difficult to talk about all of them. Some of the rooms have the original old gas lamps, used for lighting before electricity.

Family members have found numerous artifacts on the property, including Indian arrowheads, spear points, tomahawks, musket balls and Civil War cannon balls. A Civil War battle was fought on the western approached to Cape on April 26, 1863. Carl’s sister, Olive Keller, found a Spanish coin with the words Carolus IV Dei Gracia 1790 stamped on it, along with a portrait of King Charles IV (Carolus). This Spanish colony coin came from a mint in Potosi, Bolivia. Potosi, Missouri gets its name from a silver mining town located on a mountain in South America.

The original carriage house still stands on the property. Behind the house are several ponds fed by a natural spring. There is a cooling chamber in one pond where milk was kept cool. F. J. was in the dairy business, and the old bottling machine, as well as old milk bottles and caps, are still there. There are numerous other historical artifacts on the grounds of the farm, as well.

The area around the farm has undergone dramatic changes in recent years. The property has been split in half by Highway I-55 and Mount Auburn Road, and Silver Springs is now a wide paved road.  Southeast Health’s  new Regional Cancer Center is located just west of the house.

The original log cabin is said to be one of the oldest houses still standing between Ste. Genevieve and Memphis. Carl and his family hope to preserve the home and the land surrounding it.

From time to time, Carl and Connie give tours of the house. Those interested in a tour may contact them at SilverSpringsOne@aol.com to be advised when future tours will be scheduled.
 
 

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