f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Cape's last Civil War link

Posted Monday, April 18, 2011, at 7:30 AM

June 1, 1956 Southeast Missourian

The old Haas house, built about 1858, will soon be torn down, removing the city's last physical link with the Civil War and one of the oldest landmarks in the community. The house was built by Alfred T. Lacy, cashier of the city's first bank and mayor of the town in 1851 and 1852. If Thilenius street should be relocated, the large trees would be removed and the street would come almost to the front porch of the house. Razing of the house has been ordered by the Board of Education. The school district owns the property. (G.D. Fronabarger photo)


The house was located one block south of Broadway near the current Central Middle School, formerly the junior high. The high school building (currently the junior high) was built to the south on the same campus.

Haas House, Old Landmark in Cape, to be Torn Down

Another old Cape Girardeau landmark, its last physical link with the Civil War and a showplace in days gone by, will soon be razed because it has fallen into poor repair and there are no funds with which to restore it to its one-time beauty.

It is the ancient gray brick house that sets atop the hill facing Broadway on the new high school tract. Now known as the Haas House for its last private owner, the large dwelling knew better times in ante-bellum and post-bellum days as the Lacy House.

The Board of Education this week ordered advertisements to be run for the razing of the structure. At one time, when the grounds were purchased, there had been a thought that the house might be converted into administrative quarters.

Used for Storage

This idea was soon abandoned, however, and for several years it has been planned to remove the structure. Before the school district acquired the property it had deteriorated. Since then there has been little effort to maintain it, although it was used for storage at one time.

School officials report it would take a considerable sum of money to put the building back into shape, and with the need for new school rooms and space they cannot justify such an expenditure of school funds.

Historical notes show the house was built about 1858 by Alfred T. Lacy, cashier of the city's first bank and the mayor of Cape Girardeau in 1851-1852. The ground on which it was built was first owned by Louis Lorimier, founder of the city 150 years ago.

Miss Amy Kimmel, in a series, "Historic Houses of Cape Girardeau," written for The Missourian in 1933, recalled that at one time there was a pond near what is now Broadway and a small stream meandered through a nearby meadow.

Quarters for Servants

She said the house had a flower garden to the east and in front, and a vegetable garden in the rear. Miss Kimmel said she had been told that in its early days the two-story residence had a porch across the entire front. Servants quarters were in the yard, with two rooms upstairs, and a laundry and two rooms downstairs. There was a large brick barn and a spring and spring house nearby.

Several accounts have been told of the house during the Civil War skirmish that has become known as the Battle of Cape Girardeau. One is that it was a command post for the Federal troops which occupied the city.

At any rate, there is no doubt that it was directly in the line of fire between the besieging Confederate forces and the Federals who manned the city's forts. The battle raged all around it Sunday, April 26, 1863.

Historian R.S. Douglas reports that the Lacy family took shelter in the basement during the skirmish. A shell set fire to the roof and a Negro servant risked his life to go up to extinguish the blaze.

Torn by Cannon

The story has frequently been told of a cannon ball smashing through the walls of the dwelling into a pantry at the rear, then through the walls of the parlor, coming to a stop as it rolled beneath a piano. Another tore a huge round hole through a wall of the brick barn.

Several Confederate soldiers were reported buried beside the spring that served the house. They were buried by Mrs. Rodney, a sister-in-law of Mrs. Lacy; Alfred Lacy, a son; Miss Priscilla Autry and Ika, a colored man, history relates. For a number of years afterward, it is told, the Negroes of the neighborhood told stories of the "haints" of the soldiers returning.

Shortly after the war the property was purchased by Amzi Leech, who christened it Melrose. James Fullerton purchased it from Mrs. Leech, and Joseph Haas obtained it from the Fullerton estate. It passed into school district hands from the Haas estate.

Record Missing

Just after the war, apparently before Leech acquired the property, it was owned by S.R. Burford, member of a pioneer family, who announced in the June 26, 1867 issue of the Marble City Weekly News that on Sept. 2 he would have a shooting match to dispose of the 60-acre tract which included the house and outbuildings.

The house contained, he said, a good cellar, brick meal and meat house, brick ice house, a large and well-constructed two-story stone and brick barn built in 1865, a frame cottage with three rooms about 200 yards back of the dwelling, a smokehouse, three good cisterns, a young orchard with 100 choice fruit trees.

He planned to sell 400 tickets for $5 each. Numbers of these would be placed on a circular piece of paper placed on a board. The board was to be hung by a nail in the center so it could be spun like a pinwheel. Then a shotgun was to be fired at it from a distance of 40 yards as it spun. Only one shot was to be fired. Numbered squares with shot nearest the X in the center were to be winners.

There is no record of what happened after this announcement. Additional copies of the Marble City Weekly News cannot be found, and it has not been determined if the match was actually held. At any rate, Amzi Leech became next owner.


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  • I'm not so sure about the "last physical link to the Civil War."

    The main house on the Burrough Farm was used as shelter by the Confederates during the Battle of Cape.


    And, the house at 444 Washington quartered officers and was used as a smallpox hospital during the war.


    Maybe I'm misreading the headline.

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 9:25 AM
    Fred Lynch
    Excellent point, Ken.

    Perhaps the writer of the story in 1956 was thinking "physical" because of cannon balls flying during a skirmish at the site known as the Battle of Cape Girardeau.

  • I agree, ksteinhoff. I've known about the Minton home (which also is the building that what later became SEMO was started out of in the 1870s before the original main building was built) was understood to be the local hospital for union troops during the war.

    -- Posted by AtheneBelle on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 10:28 AM
  • Well, just another example of how short-sighted an education organization can be. (First SEMO and their parking lots, an now we read about the Cape district.)

    What a stately home - now gone forever. It's also disappointing to see what has become of the Burroughs home, now with all the sand-blasted brick and uplighting.

    -- Posted by jacksonjazzman on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 12:19 PM
  • We still got Fort D.

    -- Posted by Old John on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 1:16 PM
  • I think the building at Fort D was built in the late 1930's by the American Legion.

    -- Posted by Yankee Station on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 4:01 PM
  • The American Legion bought the Fort D property in 1936 to save it from development. The WPA built the structure we think of as Fort D in 1937.


    Here's what it looks like from the air:


    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 5:02 PM
  • I think the headline may refer to the actual battlefield. When the photo was taken the St Charles hotel still stood, and that is mentioned in US Grant's dispatches.

    Later in Cape's sesquicentennial summer the young pagent participants were relegated to the Shawnee TPs. I vividly recall my jealousy of my older cousin who got to be a Confederate in the Battle of Cape Girardeau segment.

    -- Posted by semowasp on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 5:04 PM
  • The St. Charles Hotel in Cairo was where General Grant was quartered while there. It was later known as the Halliday Hotel.

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 5:11 PM
  • Gee, I never dreamed I would stir up such interesting stuff by mentioning Fort D!

    Thanks to all for an education.

    -- Posted by Old John on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 12:23 AM
  • If Grant stayed in the Ciaro St Charles, where were his Cape lodgings? Or, was there a Chain of such hotels?

    -- Posted by semowasp on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 6:36 AM
  • The entire story of General Grant's stay in Cape Girardeau has been greatly overrated. He arrived in Cape Girardeau on the evening of August 30, but by September 2 he had established his new headquarters in Cairo. At the most he was in Cape Girardeau less than three full days.

    -- Posted by hoopsguru on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 7:10 AM
  • Here's what the St. Charles looked like when it was being razed.


    One of my blog readers noted, "I remember this dump... Grant did sleep there, and I remember my dad joking that if you stay in the hotel's General Grant Room, you, too, could sleep on the same sheets!"

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 9:24 AM
  • So, where did Grant stay while in Cape? And, what was the significance of the Magnolia Manor in Ciaro?

    -- Posted by semowasp on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 10:37 AM
  • President Grant stayed at the Magnolia Manor when he visited friends he had made while stationed in Cairo. That is not where he stayed during the war.

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 11:38 AM
  • semowasp, I guess you are talking about Cairo since I am not sure if Ciaro has any Civil War/U.S. Grant significance.

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 11:39 AM
  • The Magnolia Manor was later the home of Fain King. He is the person that made Ancient Buried City in Wickliffe, Kentucky a tourist attraction. Now known as the Wickliffe Mounds State Park, I recommend this as a day trip.

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 11:44 AM
  • I take it from the above comments that the St Charles remains the best choice for USGs sleeping options in Cape.

    -- Posted by semowasp on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 4:45 PM
  • The St. Charles is no longer in existence. It was torn down in the mid 1900s (the year eludes me at the moment.)

    -- Posted by AtheneBelle on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 7:51 AM
  • It was considered the nicest hotel at the time. Some of the more important people who traveled through town stayed there (if I'm not mistaken, Twain and Dickens among others.)

    -- Posted by AtheneBelle on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 7:53 AM