Tree Rings in Poplar Log Cut in 1795

 A major Civil War battle was fought on the western outskirts of Cape on April 26, 1863 [see Cape Civil War Battle ].Bonnie Mae, Opal Eileen, and Carl David were additions to the Armstrong family after they moved into the old Ramsey home.  F. J.’s mother and step father, Bernard, joined them to live in the house.  Bernard was an expert fiddler and played on KFVS radio station. From time to time there were parties in the house.

The family struggled through the depression years and F. J.’s loan fell into default.  The banker would ride out to the farm to receive butchered pork, beef, chickens and vegetables, eggs and dairy products.  This saved the farm from foreclosure.

The house came through the three 1811 - 1812 New Madrid Earthquakes [ see ]. See also []. The house has been repaired many times:   Open porches were finally enclosed, the roof tinned, chimneys tuck pointed and a long support log added under the house to shore up the flooring.  The house even has a concrete “tornado/atomic fallout shelter” cellar which F. J. added. It has a heavy metal door that was obtained when The Common Pleas Courthouse “dungeon” was dismantled.   During the restoration starting in 2004, “windows” were added on the north side of the house so that those driving by could see the original logs from Silver Springs Road.

The farm has undergone rapid change.  Highway I-55 and Mount Auburn Road have cut the farm in two.  Silver Springs has changed into a wide, modern road. Southeast Missouri Hospital now owns land north and west of the house.  The modern Southeast Health Cancer Center  - located adjacent to I-55 on what used to be an alfalfa field  - provides health services to the region [see  SEHealth Cancer Center ].  This Andrew Ramsey home site has changed remarkably from the days when the first English settler arrived in France’s Louisiana Territory wilderness town of Cape Girardeau.

Below is a photograph of the house most likely taken in the 1890's with the Giboney family at the front gate.  [courtesy of Amy J. Powell]

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 Links to Newspaper articles about the Log Cabin: 

History of House

View of Original Cedar Shake Roof and Outside of Log Cabin Now Enclosed Within House

Every day, he said, new settlers would arrive from the States, and after a long and weary journey, rest along the bank of a creek that meandered through his plantation, and yet known as Ramsay's Creek, and allow their cattle to pasture in the open and park-like woods, filled in summer with luxuriant cane and grass, while they themselves, accompanied by Ramsay, prospected the country for eligible locations.  On Sundays, especially, the whole settlement would congregate at Ramsay's to hear the latest news from the latest immigrants, and to pass the day in such enjoyments as a new country afforded. ...  Andrew Ramsay was a man of substance and the owner of a goodly number of slaves.  He exercised a decided influence in the settlement, and so early as 1799 an English school, the first west of the Mississippi, was established at what was called Mount Tabor, a mile from his plantation, and in the center of the new settlement.  He was one of the largest landholders in the district.”   [Southern Historical Preservation ISBN: 089308431X]

The original two story log cabin house had been expanded over the years to a colonial type house with four large rooms and a hall in front and then a wing was added in the back with a kitchen and bedrooms.  

Two large brick chimneys are on each side of the house. It was not until many years later that the Armstrongs became aware that the old, original log cabin hidden in the structure has a rich history dating back to the Andrew Ramsey’s settlement.  Scott City historian Edison Shrum was instrumental in this discovery.  The original logs can still be viewed.

The Armstrong family over the years found some Indian arrowheads, spear points, tomahawks on land just opposite of what is now the Central High School and Career Center campuses.  It is said that the Shawnees and Delawares were once on the land.  Also, a number of Civil War cannon balls have been found on the farm.

The original two story log cabin is enclosed within the north side of the plantation style house and has a footprint of about 20 ft x 20 ft.  In 1795, eight years before the Louisiana Purchase, Andrew Ramsey (also sometimes spelled as Ramsay) came to what is now Cape Girardeau County and built a two story log cabin which still stands today.  Ramsey, along with his wife Eva and ten children, were the first English settlers in the area.  Ramsey fought in the Revolutionary War.  The following account of the Ramsay settlement is given in The History of Southeast Missouri – page 271 following.

“As has been stated the settlement at Cape Girardeau was purely American, there not being more than five French families in the entire district.  Of this settlement Andrew Ramsay was the pioneer.  Attracted by the liberal offers of land, the salubrity of climate and fertility of the soil, as well as, no doubt, by the personality of the commandant, or more properly speaking by the personality of his able, accomplished and intellectual secretary, Andrew Ramsay, in 1795, settled immediately adjacent to the grant of the commandant, and for many years his home was the point to which the hardy pioneers of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee directed their course.  An eye witness, Jesse Friend, now dead, but who as a boy remembers the encampment around Ramsay's plantation, gave a graphic picture of these hardy pioneers, who, under the inducements offered by the Spanish Government, now crowded across the Mississippi.

Crack in Log Wall That Went Through The New Madrid Earthquake of 1811 - 1812

Ramsey, Sr., of Dalhousie Castle lineage in Scotland, had the property from 1795 to about 1813 when it was taken over by descendents William and Eleanor Ramsey.  Ramsey, Sr. went to Batesville, Arkansas where he died from an arrow in an Indian war.  The “Elmwood”  house was built by Andrew Ramsey’s sister – Rebecca Ramsey Giboney.  This house is a replica of Dalhousie Castle which was built in the 13th century in Scotland and is a tourist attraction today [ see ].  The Dalhousie Golf Club takes its name from this facility.  Rebecca Giboney’s granddaughter married Louis Houck who was instrumental in Cape Girardeau’s development as a rail and education center.

Subsequent owners of the property were:  Rebecca Harbison (April 14,1818), John Cross (Sept. 28,1833), William Cross / Miriam T. Cross (Oct.10,1864, Robert Wilson  (taken over for debt on Dec. 7,1882), Miriam T. Cross (Mar. 25,1887), L. R. & E. R. Johnson (Mar. 25,1887), Horeph & Ella Johnson (Mar. 22, 1895),Benjamin F. Davis (April 6, 1899), Daughter Olivia W. Davis (Sept. 20, 1918), Otto F. and Caroline Willa (Dec. 26, 1918), Bowman Brothers. Co. – realtor - Florian James and Lula Jane Armstrong, April 6, 1925.   John Cross was one of the largest slave owners in Cape County and at one time had about 50 slaves for the plantation that stretched all the way from the Mississippi to Ramsey Creek which runs west of I-55.

F. J. Armstrong died August 14, 1992 and left the house to  four descendents:  Olive (Mrs. Albert) Keller of Cape Girardeau, Bonnie (Mrs. Vernon) Ludwig, of Jackson, Eileen (Mrs. Martin) Gannon of Stillwater, NY and Carl D. Armstrong - who retired from an engineering career in 2004 and restored the home. Another son, Russell Armstrong of Cape Girardeau, preceded his father in death. Carl recently authored a book  - under the Morty and Emily pen name - entitled Waters of Creativity. See Special Books page of this website for list of books written by Carl    

The  house is located at 835 S. Silver Springs Road between the Shawnee Parkway (SH 74) and Mount Auburn Road  (about one-half mile east of Interstate 55).  The original two story log cabin still stands today and is said to be one of the oldest houses still standing between Ste. Genevieve and Memphis.  A larger house was built around it.  F. J. Armstrong’s father, James Alexander Armstrong, came from Glasglow Scotland.  He was the son of a wealthy doctor, who disinherited him for changing his career from medicine to engineering.  He worked on the Suez Canal, Ead’s Bridge in St. Louis, and at the glass plant in Crystal City where he started up one of the world’s largest steam engines.  He died of pneumonia on March 4, 1898, exactly three months before F. J. was born.  F. J.’s mother, Matilda (Gasche) later married Bernard Schneider and moved to Marquand, Mo.  There, he met and married Lula Jane Smith (of English and Cherokee descent from Lenoir, NC) and had their firstborn, Russell Edwin.  F. J. and family then moved to Puxico, Mo.  Here, Olive Marie was born.  F. J. cropped the rich farmland, sold meat, milk and garden produce in Puxico.  With two neighbors, he groveled fish in the Mingo Swamp and sold them to the Houck Railroad.

Lula was with child (Bonnie Mae) but the pregnancy was complicated with the onset of malaria.  The doctor warned F. J. that she must leave the Mingo Swamp area or die.  On March 4, 1925, F. J. scouted for a new home.  The cattle and machinery were loaded on two cars on Houck’s railroad.  The furniture rode by team and wagon driven by a hired boy and the Armstrongs navigated the dirt roads to Cape County in a model T Ford.

On March 23, 1925 F. J. drove on the dirt road leading to the old Ramsey house and showed Lula the large house that would be their home.  No running water, no electricity – but work galore to be done.  However, the farm did have two, all weather springs and F. J. later registered the farm name “Silver Springs Farm” with the state. Milk was kept cool in the spring water.  The springs are the favorite habitation of a flock of pet ducks.  Our ducks have really unique personalities. See theSpecial Books page of this website for more details of the escapades of our ducks.