Here, we have the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site located in New Madrid, Missouri. The property is maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and it’s a historic house museum. This house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. It's also been referred to as the Bootheel's Majestic Mansion.
William Washington Hunter and his wife, Amanda, had a 15-room house that was constructed between the years 1859 and 1860. They were a wealthy and influential family in the area. Mr. Hunter was a merchant, farmer, and invested in real estate.
Before the construction of their home began, Mr. Hunter died of yellow fever, so his wife made sure the home was completed.
In 1876, their daughter, Ella, and her husband, William Dawson, inherited the home. Dawson was a Missouri politician. The home stayed in their family until 1958, nearly 100 years. It's now a museum that has retained about 80% of Amanda's original furniture.
William Dawson (b. 1848, d. 1929) was from New Madrid. In 1870 and 1872, he was elected sheriff and collector of New Madrid County. From 1878 to 1884, he served as a U.S. Representative for Missouri. From March 4, 1885, to March 3, 1887, Dawson was an elected Democrat in the 49th Congress from the 14th Congressional district in Missouri and wasn’t renominated in 1886.
From 1915 to 1927, Dawson was the clerk of the New Madrid County Circuit Court and was also involved with real estate. He was interred in Evergreen Cemetery.
Home and family history
The Hunter-Dawson home's architectural design combined Italianate and Greek Revival styles. It's a two-story house. Hunter was a Virginian who arrived in New Madrid around 1830. Not only did his wife complete the project after he died, but she also raised their seven children.
Since 1967, this house has been a Missouri State Historic Site. The house and contributing outbuildings continue to reflect their appearance at the time of their construction.
The Hunter-Dawson House is named for two of the three families that were perhaps most deeply involved in the re-emergence of New Madrid after a series of violent earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 virtually wiped out the town. (Source.)
While a lot of people moved away after the earthquake, one resident, Robert Goah Watson, who was a native of Scotland decided to stay. He was also a successful fur trader in New Madrid. It was his daughter, Amanda Jane (b. 1818), who married Hunter when she was 18. Hunter was associated with Watson in a mercantile operation called Crystal Palace. Hunter maintained a saw and grist mill on his farm. He also had land holdings in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.
Watson and Hunter bought properties from some of the areas damaged by the 1812 earthquake. They improved the properties and sold them.
The 1860 census (enumerated in June) indicates that Amanda, her seven children, and at least some of the family’s thirty-six slaves (Phillis or Phyllis, a female, claimed to be 108 years old) were living somewhere on the property. (Source.)
With the Civil War beginning, it's believed Amanda emancipated the family slaves, however, many of them stayed with the family.
In 1876, Amanda died after her daughter, Ella, married Dawson. The property was passed down to the Dawson children.
The home was later purchased by the City of New Madrid in 1966 before it was donated to the state.
For admission costs and hours of operation to tour the home, call 573-748-5340. The house was restored to reflect the period from 1860 to 1880.
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