Connie Yen's

Ozarks History Journal

Page 2 of 6

The Welsh House

Located in Springfield’s lovely Rountree neighborhood, this 1939 house is part of McMillan Place subdivision, 2nd edition, which was platted in April 1914 by Otho McMillan and his wife, Laura. Otho was a businessman of varied interests; in addition to real estate development, he was also a restaurateur and and a meat-market owner. When Otho died in 1927, Laura became sole owner of the development, which included 28 lots.

The original owner of the house was Thomas J. Welsh, who was born in Springfield and grew up in a house on S. National. He was the son of Thomas N. and Agnes Glynn Welsh. Thomas N. was part owner of what would eventually be called the Welsh Meat Packing Company. The business began operating in 1895 under the ownership of A. Clas. He sold the company to the Tegarden brothers in 1904; in 1912, they sold the plant to a group of local businessmen. One of those businessmen was Thomas N. Welsh. His partners included his wife’s uncle, Thomas H. Glynn, as well as  Dr. Robert Glynn. 

In 1930, Thomas N. is listed on the census as the secretary of a meat packing company and his son, Thomas J., as an employee of a college bookstore. The bookstore was likely located at present-day Missouri State University, where he was a student. While attending college, Thomas J. was a member of the men’s group called the “S” Club in 1929 and 1930. Also in 1930, he was part of a men’s pep club called the “Grizzlies.”

By 1940, Thomas J. was married to Mary Mildred, had two children, and was an accountant at his father’s  meat packing company. Thomas J. and his family lived in this house for over 20 years.

In 1961, Thomas N. Welsh and his wife Agnes died within two days of each other, both deaths due to bronchopneumonia. Thomas J. Welsh died the following August. He was only 53-years-old. Mary Mildred died in 1966. The house went to their son, Michael, who owned it for several years.  

The Riley House

It is hard not to fall in love with this house located in Arlington Heights subdivision. The lot was originally platted in 1910 by William G. and Mollie Swinney, along with Harrison M. and Sarah Smith. By 1915, the Swinney’s had sold their share to the Smith’s; a few years later they retired to California and never returned to Missouri.

Harrison Milton Smith was born in Ohio in 1857, but moved to Pulaski County, Missouri, in 1889. Smith started the Pulaski County bank where he was cashier for many years. In 1903, the Smith family moved to  Springfield and opened the Farmers and Merchants Bank. The Smiths had two daughters, Orpha and Wilma. Wilma married George Thompson, the owner of Thompson Auto Sales Company. Harrison and Sarah both died suddenly, within four days of each other, in December 1929.

Construction of the house was completed at least by 1931, when Charles W. Riley moved in with his wife, Carlotta and their son, John. Charles was born in Dade County and was the son of a physician and druggist in Everton. Charles chose the same path and became a well-known druggist in Springfield. He had a pharmacy in the Medical Arts building, as well as his private business, the Riley Drug Store, located at 225-227 N. Main. The Riley’s lived in this house until 1946.

The perfect spot for a mug of coffee and a good book!

The back view of the house is just as lovely as the front, especially with the double stair case. The large patio area overlooks a beautiful backyard.

Oscar C. Nonweiler, a district superintendent with the Cherokee Pipeline Corporation, and his wife Sarah lived in the house during much of the 1950s. Since then, the house has had various owners and has, fortunately, been beautifully maintained.

The Park-Jefferson House

When I first visited this late-Victorian beauty in February 2014, it was wearing a lovely shade of blue. The house had been fairly well maintained, though the grounds were somewhat overgrown and in disarray. Otherwise, the house was still beautiful, both inside and out.

View from the east side

Located in the the Rountree neighborhood, the house was built in approximately 1900. Its first inhabitants were the Park sisters, Elizabeth and Alzoa, along with their mother, Clara. The lot was originally part of the George M. Jones addition; in March 1911, the Park sisters subdivided a portion of that addition and created Zobeth’s subdivision. Interestingly, when filing the plat for the new subdivision, the sisters had to declare “themselves to be single and unmarried” before a notary. The Parks lived in the house until at least 1906.

Elizabeth and Alzoa were two of the six children born to Dr. William H. Park and his wife, Clara. William was born in Pennsylvania, but lived in Springfield by 1870. He had his own medical practice, though by 1890 he had gone into business with J.W. Crank and J.G. Davis to form the Crank Drug Company. One of their several stores was located on the corner of Commercial and Boonville, a location that later housed Skaggs Drug Store.

The Park sisters never married, choosing instead to have careers. Both sisters graduated from Drury College near the close of the 19th century. Elizabeth was a teacher for much of her life, mostly in Springfield but also in Pierce City at the beginning of her career. She taught at the Springfield Normal and Business College where, in 1916, she was the dean. In addition to teaching, Elizabeth was also a “special agent” for the Equitable Life Insurance Society which had offices in the Woodruff Building. Alzoa also taught school; in 1916 she had moved to Wyoming, where she was a public school teacher until at least 1930.

Alzoa, the younger of the two sisters, died in Springfield in 1942 at the age of 73. Elizabeth lived another twelve years; she died in 1954, just a couple months short of her 88th birthday.

By  1915, the house was owned by the Anderson family. Arthur L. Anderson was born in Kentucky in 1875, but his family later moved to Missouri. By 1910, he had been married to Gertrude Jefferson for five years and the couple had two children. Arthur was a doctor and had an office at various locations in Springfield over the years, including the Woodruff Building and the Medical Arts Building.

For a time, Arthur’s mother also lived with them; the family was eventually joined by two more children, as well as Gertrude’s elderly father, Benjamin, and her sister Anna. Benjamin was a retired farmer and Anna was a teacher at the nearby Jarrett Junior High School. The home also included, at various times, one or two servants. 

Arthur died in 1940 and Gertrude continued to live in the house, along with her sister-in-law Anna, until at least 1959. 

Back view

At the time of my 2014 visit to the Park-Jefferson house, it had been empty for a while and was looking for a new owner. The house has since been sold and appears to be in good hands. The exterior has been updated with a beautiful new paint color. The grounds have also been cleaned and cleared, making the house easier to view.  

I do love a yellow house!

The new paint color and the lack of debris around the house makes it look warm and inviting.


Keet-McElhany House

This gem in the heart of Springfield was built in 1881 by J.E. Tolfree. Two years later, Springfield banker and businessman, James E. Keet, purchased the house from Tolfree and transformed what was originally a fairly standard two-story, Italianate brick structure into the extravagant beauty now known as the Keet-McElhany house.  

Front porch

James Elijah Keet was born in Washburn, Missouri, in 1849 to Josiah Thomas and Elizabeth West Keet. At that time, Washburn was known as Keetsville and was named after Josiah and his brother, James T. Keet.  Josiah later moved his family to Springfield where he became a merchant, first in partnership with William Massey, and subsequently with Newton Rountree. Their business became the well-known Keet-Rountree Dry Goods Company. James E. Keet worked for many years as the secretary and treasurer of the family business and eventually served as its president.

Front porch detail

By 1886, James Keet and his wife, Katherine Holland, had made substantial changes to their new home. The porch was enlarged and became considerably more elaborate. They added the turret on the west wing, as well as an additional building in back that contained a kitchen and servants quarters. They later added a third floor to the house with a Queen Anne-style roof.

The turret, along with a bedroom and fireplace, were added to the west side of the house in 1886.

Though the primary renovations were done in a couple of different phases, there were ongoing changes to the house that are typical of long term home ownership. Since the Keet family was prominent in Springfield business and social circles, some of those changes were considered newsworthy. 

Springfield Leader, November 30, 1887

Door bell by the front door. I don’t know if this is electric, but it certainly is a beauty!

Stained glass above the front door.

Springfield Leader, June 1, 1886

And indeed he did have a “substantial” cellar, one that included a tunnel!  The tunnel extends from the basement of the house to the servants quarters in back. Its arched roof is visible above ground. 

What a beautiful brick archway!

Now let’s take a look inside the house. 

Front door knob with intricate design.

The house contains over 6,000 square feet, including the basement and tunnel area. It contains 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, and numerous fireplaces. Though it is over 100 years old, the house has been excellently maintained and even retains many of the original features.

Detail on the beautiful front parlor fireplace.

An original gas lamp, converted to electric.

Another original lamp in what was once the dining room.

It may have been in this dining room that the Keet’s held their Thanksgiving dinner in 1899. The Springfield Republican reported that “Mr. and Mrs. James E. Keet’s guests at Thanksgiving Dinner were; Mr. and Mrs.  J.L. Holland, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Holland, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Holland, Mrs. E.J. Robberson, Mrs.Arthur Taylor, Miss Lida Robberson, Miss Emily Otterson and Mr. Jamie Holland.” The Holland family were prominent in Springfield business and banking and were relatives of Katherine Keet. 

One of many beautiful fireplaces in the house.

The activities of the Keet family were consistently reported in local newspapers. In June 1888, an “elegant reception” was held in the home of Mrs. L.A. Campbell “at the home of her father, Major McElhany.” Mrs. James Keet wore “blue and white French gingham, puffed sleeves and front fichu style, garnished with picot edged ribbon.” Major Robert J. McElhany was a Springfield banker; his grandson, Claude, would later marry Katherine E. Keet, one of the daughters of James and Katherine.

Another beautifully detailed fireplace.

Three prominent Springfield families, the Keets, Hollands, and McElhanys, all three bankers and merchants, intersected in this one house. Though this beautiful home is now surrounded by businesses and parking lots, she was once surrounded by numerous beautiful homes. Those homes are no longer extant. Somehow,  this house alone survived the expansion of the central business district.

James E. Keet died in July 1900. The St. Louis Republican took note of his passing: “James E. Keet, one of Springfield’s most prominent businessmen, died today. He was president of the National Exchange Bank, president of the Keet-Rountree Wholesale Dry Goods Company, and a moving spirit in a number of other [illegible] concerns.” 

In his 1895 will, James stated that he had complete “faith and confidence in [his] wife, Kate,” and believed that she would ensure the welfare of their children; therefore, he left the entire estate to her. In a codicil, written barely a month before his death, he bequeathed one thousand dollars to each of his siblings. 

Katherine Holland Keet lived in the house until her death in 1920. James and Katherine’s daughter, Katherine E., was already living there with her husband, Claude McElhany. Claude died in 1956 and Katherine E. remained in the family home until her death in 1983. 

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