Ozarks History Journal

Category: House History

A house history tells the story of old houses, both  the people who inhabit them and the architectural history.

The Reed-Underwood House

The  Reed-Underwood house inhabits land that was originally part of Hawthorn Place subdivision, which was platted in 1903 by John R. Hegiman, president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. The first owner of the lot was J.W. Drumwright; by the end of that year it had been sold to H.F. Denton. In 1905, the lot was owned by W.H. Johnson, as were several other lots in Hawthorn Place. By 1907, Samuel A. Reed and his wife Susan, had acquired the lot along with two others. Construction likely began on the house in 1907 and was completed by 1909. The house sits on approximately 1/4 acre and according to a 1965 appraisal, contained a total of eight rooms, with four bedrooms, one bath, and three closets. The house contains only one fireplace. Out buildings included a barn and a tool shed. The two-story enclosed porch and the garage were later additions, as is the wood deck in back. The kitchen counters are made of beautiful Phenix marble. The house now boasts five bedrooms and four baths and still claims the same 1/4 acre plot.


In 1914, a portion of Hawthorn Place was subdivided into Reed’s Addition by Samuel A. and Susan Reed. Reed was a prominent member of the Springfield community and served as clerk of the circuit court for many years before becoming a District 1 judge. The Reed family lived in their new home for a few years before moving to another house just down the street. Susan Reed died in 1934 and Samuel in 1937.

By 1920, the house was owned by Thomas F. Underwood, a mechanic for the Frisco railroad, and his wife, Jennie.  When Thomas died in 1922, Jennie became sole owner. When Jennie died in 1927, the house was left jointly to their seven children. During the 1930s, the house was inhabited by Shane M. Wallace, the Underwood’s son-in-law who was married to their daughter, Esther. 

During the 1940s and 1950s, the house saw a succession of owners and even stood vacant for a couple of years.  Thankfully, the home has been lovingly maintained throughout its 100+ year history.

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. 

Humboldt Place

On November 22, 1903, the Springfield Republican announced the imminent construction of “a very fine residence” for Paul Nicholas. The builder was A.R. Bowman who projected a cost of $16,000 to complete the beautiful home that would be known as Humboldt Place. Work was completed in 1904.

Porte cochere on the west side of the house.

Paul Nicholas was born in England on Christmas day, 1855. He arrived in the US in 1877 and was naturalized in 1890 while living in Graham County, Arizona. In 1893, he married Roselle Tierney in Morenci, Arizona. Nicholas was almost 38 years old and Roselle was 18. 

Though Nicholas was the “superintendent of mines” at the Arizona Copper Company, a trip through Springfield in 1902 led him to buy land west of town and to be a farmer in addition to his work as an engineer. Today, his 176-acre farm is no more, but the house still sits peacefully in a park-like setting on the remaining seven acres.

In the late 1890s, while working for the copper company, Nicholas began to “prospect near Humboldt hill,” which was located near the town of Morenci. It is from this mining operation that Nicholas found the name for his new home in Springfield. Initially, the copper vein in Humboldt turned out to be “small and the ore poor in grade.” However, the mine eventually made a fortune for the Arizona Copper Company and likely for Nicholas as well.

Even while living in Springfield, Nicholas continued his work in Arizona, where he went on occasional visits to “look after his copper interests.” Nicholas and his wife were also busy in the local social scene; in 1908, Nicholas was listed as an “old member” of the Springfield Club, a social organization formed in 1901. 

In addition to their frequent activities at the Springfield Club, Paul and Roselle participated in numerous other social events with Springfield’s leading citizens. In April 1909, they attended a party at the home of the Frank Fellows family on East Walnut. The guest list also included F.X. Heer (Heer’s Department Store), H.B. McDaniel (McDaniel Bank), Holland Keet (Holland Bank), J.T. Woodruff (Woodruff Building), and Miss Annie Abbot. ​ 

The couple were members of the Country Club and they also attended numerous events at the Colonial Hotel. Paul Nicholas just happened to be on the board of directors of the Colonial Hotel Building Company. This social whirl appears to have been the norm for the Nicholas family throughout their lives.

In the autumn of 1911, Paul and Roselle took their daughter Murillo to Boston where she planned to attend Chevy Chase College and Seminary. The school opened in 1903 and was known at the time primarily as a finishing school. I don’t know if Murillo graduated, but two years later she was back in Springfield attending a bridal shower given for her (and two other young ladies) at the Colonial Hotel. Later that week, the three young women were entertained again at the home of Mrs. Holland Keet.

On October 5, 1915, Murillo Nicholas married prominent Springfield banker James Claud McDaniel in her parents “spacious suburban home…west of the city. The wedding was a quiet home affair, but beautiful in its simplicity. The drawing room was beautifully decorated in palms, ferns and baskets of Southern smilax, with large baskets of pink roses.

The wedding march began at 3:30 and the bridal procession descended the stairs (pictured above). Then the bride appeared, with her father, looking “exquisitely dainty in her gown of white satin, made short and draped with tulle, over which the court train of white, embroidered in silver and seed-pearls, hung in graceful folds. She wore a tulle veil with clusters of orange blossoms encircling the head. Her bouquet was of white orchids and lilies of the valley.” 

The wedding cake was “made in the form of a ring” and was a “marvel of the confectioner’s art, with a monogram of the bride and groom upon it in icing. Its center was filled in with white roses and lilies of the valley, out of which a dainty miniature bride emerged.”

The wedding was attended by about 150 guests and was likely one of the main social events of the season. 

View of the east side, which shows the greenhouse addition.

Nicholas is said to have loved plants and added a small greenhouse (pictured above) to the east side of the house. 

Detail on two of the six columns that support the prominent front gable.

Paul Nicholas died in 1936 of pneumonia. He was 80 years old. Roselle continued to live in the family home until around 1944, when she sold Humboldt Place and moved to a home on S. Weller. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1954 at the age of 81.

Humboldt Place is a two story brick structure and was built in the Neoclassical Style with a main central block and two wings. The front gable is supported by six Corinthian columns. The gable is decorated with a round, stained glass window. This is an uncommon house style for the Springfield area and we are fortunate that this beautiful house is still extant. 


Ancestry.com. Census Records and Springfield City Directories.
Colquhoun, James. The History of the CliftonMorenci Mining District. London:      William Clowes and Sons, 1924.
Missouri Digital Heritage. “Missouri Death Records, 1910-1964.”
Patton, James Monroe. “The History of Clinton.” M.A., 1945.
Springfield Republican.
Taylor, Mabel Carver. “Cavalcade of Homes, Part 15.” Springfield Magazine.

Photos courtesy of Alyson Yen. Used with permission.

Midtown Beauty

Springfield News-Leader, 1894: “Harry Garlick has purchased a fine residence on Washington Avenue and will occupy it in the near future.”

The beautiful house at 1451 N. Washington was quite new when the Garlick’s bought it 1894, but it was already inhabited. Harry Garlick, an insurance salesman, bought the already built home in March, but Reverend Joseph C. Plumb and his wife, Elizabeth, were already living in the house. (You may remember the Plumb’s from my book about Emma Molloy. Reverend Plumb was one of her main supporters and Emma stayed with him and his wife briefly when she first moved to Springfield.)

By October 1895, the Plumb’s had moved to Kansas and the Garlick’s finally moved into their new home. They lived there until 1901 when they sold it to Austin Blodgett, a tie and timber inspector for the Frisco railroad. By 1913, the Blodgett’s had moved to Alabama and the house once again had new owners. Walter W. Constance, a foreman at the southside Frisco shops, and his wife Viola moved in. Walter was also an award-winning coach for a Frisco baseball team. Their daughter, Rae Josephine, married Fred Hays in the home in September 1920. The lovely scene is described below:
“The house was lavishly decorated with potted plants and masses of goldenrod and other flowers, while an altar was improvised on the same…Miss Helen Moore…played the wedding march as the bride entered on the arm of her father…She wore a Frenchy gown of rose-taupe de chine and carried a bouquet of bride roses. She was attended by her sister, Miss Grace Constance, who wore a dainty frock of white organdy…Following congratulations, a wedding breakfast was served in the dining room, covers being laid for twenty. Mr. and Mrs. Hays are spending their honeymoon at Lake Taneycomo. Later they will go to St. Louis, where Mr. Hays will resume his studies at Washington University.”

(As a side note, Grace Constance later worked as a bacteriologist in Mexico. She married Clyde Hyslop in Greene County in 1923.)

By 1925, ownership passed to Charles F. LaBounty and his wife Emma. Charles worked as a machinist at the north side Frisco shops. They lived there for many years, until 1947, when Charles died. The house then went to Warren R. Hoffman and by 1959, to Albert E. Moorman.

Albert Moorman and his wife Evelyn lived in the house until they moved to Canada in 1968. Albert had been a biology professor at Drury since 1947, but the couples unhappiness with the Vietnam War led them to move to Canada where Albert accepted a position at a university. 

For more pictures of this lovely home in Springfield’s historic Midtown Neighborhood, click here.

     Springfield News Leader
     Springfield Democrat
     Springfield Leader and Press
     Springfield Republican   
     Springfield Daily Republican 
     Springfield Daily News
Greene County, Missouri, Tax Books, 1895-1898
Springfield City Directories
Find A Grave
Greene County, Missouri, Recorder of Deeds, Marriage Records
Missouri Digital Heritage, Death Certificates, 1910-1969
Missouri Department of Natural Resources: Greene County National       Register  Listings,  Mid-Town Historic District

The Lewis-Elliott House

This sad little house was auctioned recently and its fate is as yet undetermined. It has some interesting features, but is in need of considerable work, both inside and out.

The house is located in M.K. Smith’s 4th addition which was platted in Springfield in March 1884. Smith was a well-known local businessman and was the owner of Springfield Woolen Mill.

The house was built at least by 1890 at which time it was inhabited by Thomas B. Lewis and his wife, Sarah. Lewis was a self-employed carpenter, though he later worked for Queen City Wood Works.

Lewis lived here until 1918 when ownership passed to J.E. White, who also owned the lot next door. James E. White, along with his partner, Loran C. Sechler, operated a grocery store located at 312 W. Commercial. In 1920, White sold the house to John W. Welch and his wife, Flora.

John Welch was a chairman with the General Council of the Assemblies of God, which is headquartered in Springfield. By 1925, Welch was the manager of the Gospel Publishing House and by 1936 he was president of Central Bible Institute, now part of Evangel University.

The bedroom closet!

Welch owned the home only a short time before selling it to John C. Cramer and his wife, Ethel. Cramer, along with his partner, G. F. Smith, owned a lunch counter located at 444 E. Commercial. By 1927, Cramer had sold the house to grocer Fred Elliott and his wife, Bertha.

Fred Elliott owned a grocery store at 884 N. Campbell for several years, before taking a job as driver for the Springfield Special Road District in 1932. He was employed at several jobs over the next twenty years, including a position as a watchman at Oberman Manufacturing Company (Oberman’s was a local garment factory.) and later as a custodian at Campbell’s 66 Express. Ethel also worked at Oberman’s for a few years as a machine operator. The Elliott family lived in the house until at least 1959.

Back view

The five-room house has approximately 900-square-feet with two bedrooms and one bath. The house has pine flooring and has a 10 x 12 concrete basement. There was once a one-car garage in back but it is no longer extant.

Detail on the front corner of the house.

After the Elliott’s moved, the house had several other owners prior to its recent auction. It appears to have been vacant for some time.

Maybe a former door?

**Update: I wrote this post in late 2015. The house has since been demolished.

The McLaughlin House

On July 25, 1894, “George McLaughlin,the handsome young attorney, presented to  the local department of the [Springfield] Leader today a tomato 15 inches in circumference.This gigantic vegetable was grown in his own garden.”

That “handsome young attorney” was born in Springfield, Missouri, in 1873. He attended Central High School and Drury College and then moved to Lebanon, Tennessee, to attend the Cumberland School of Law.

In 1899, George married Rosa Nell Batch, who was known affectionately as “Nellie.” The couple had three children that lived to adulthood: Stephen W., Lillian, and Anna.

Another house preceded the circa 1904 construction of the McLaughlin house on this lot in M.M. McCluer’s addition, which was first platted in 1867. Local folklore says that George built the  house for Nellie, but it does not appear that the McLaughlin’s were the first occupants of the home. From 1903 to 1906, William J. Wood and his wife, Nellie, lived at this location. At the time, William was a travelling salesman for the McGregor-Noe Hardware Company, but he eventually became president of the Wood-Beazley Seed Company.

George and Nellie lived in this beautiful Queen Anne-style home from 1907 until 1914. Though George was an attorney, he also dealt in loans and real estate and, in 1909, had an office in the Union National Bank located on the public square. Curiously, he is listed as a farmer in Wilson Township in the 1900 census. Even more curious is his listing in the 1910 census living with Nellie and their three children in McDonald County, Missouri, where they were renting a home and even had a servant. The next record, from 1912, has the family back in their home on W. Walnut Street with George working in real estate. By 1915, they had moved to a new home outside the city limits. In 1920, they were back on Walnut Street, living near the Keet-McElhany house in a home that is no longer extant.

Typical Queen-Anne gable with shingles.

James L. Robertson and his wife, Mollie, were the next family to live in the house. James was the president  of Robertson Grocery Company. By 1920, he was a merchant at a local seed company. James and Mollie lived in the house for several years before moving to Elm Street.

By 1925, Elizabeth Graffius was the new owner and by 1931 she had converted the former family home into apartments. As a widow, she may well have needed the money that renters would provide. The house experienced several owners throughout the following decades and remained an apartment building during most of those years. At any given time, the McLaughlin house was home to anywhere from four to six tenants.

The 1957 assessment shows the house contained 14 rooms, though how many of those were due to being divided into apartments in unknown. The house sits on a quarter of an acre near the downtown area and, despite interior changes, has thankfully been preserved. 

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