A Walk Through Howell's Praire's Past: Othaniel and Cordelia Castlio

            Since the advent of the automobile, people have traveled to visit historical places.  When air travel became commonplace, vacationers were able to visit historical locations in foreign lands.  It is, however, possible to visit places that speak of the past without even leaving one’s local area.  If one is willing to do a little walking, local history is awaiting discovery.  One such opportunity involves Othaniel and Cordelia Castlio, early residents of what was then known as Howell’s Praire.  Some very tangible evidence of their lives lingers in the southwest corner of the August Busch Conservation Area.
Othaniel C. Castlio was born May 13, 1824, in Howell’s Prairie.  His parents were John H. Castlio and Nancy Howell Callaway Castlio.  His grandparents, John and Eleanor Castlio, came to the area from Kentucky earlier in the nineteenth century.
Othaniel Castlio’s life was forever changed in September, 1848, when news reached St. Charles County of the discovery of gold in California earlier that year.  Several men from Howell’s Prairie, including Castlio and a small group of his relatives (one of whom did not survive the adventure), made the long, dangerous journey west to “seek their fortunes.”  Castlio’s group left in April, 1849.  They outfitted their expedition in Independence, Missouri, and then followed the Santa Fe Trail.  Castlio was the first of the group to strike gold.  In February of 1851, the group began their long return trip.  They purchased passage on the ship Adelaida out of San Fransisco.  At the Isthmus of Panama, they left the Adelaida and spent nearly a month crossing the narrow piece of land by foot and flat-bottomed boats.  Then Castlio and his relatives bought passage on a steamship bound for New Orleans, intending to take a steamboat up the Mississippi River.  However, for reasons that are unknown, their ship ended up in New York City instead. When the men finally reached Howell’s Prairie, each possessed about $10,000. 
This money allowed Castlio the opportunity to buy the farm where he would spend the rest of his life.  Castlio bought about 640 acres from the Stephenson family for about $8 per acre.  Part of this land included Spanish Land Grant 424, originally owned by Godfrey Krah.  Thomas D. Stephenson later purchased this land from Krah and built the house that Othaniel and Cordelia Keithley would occupy.
On May 12, 1852, Castlio married his sweetheart of several years, Cordelia Keithley.  She was born February 1, 1831, in Cottleville, the daughter of Samuel Keithley and Mary Burkett Keithley.  They were married at the home of the bride’s parents.  Dr. Daniel Brown, in his book Small Glories, describes their wedding:  “[Cordelia] wore a short, white Swiss dress, with a low neck, puff sleeves, find gold chain and tiny heart, white stockings and black slippers, with black velvet ribbon lacing from slipper to shoe top height.  [Othaniel] wore black cloth trousers and coat and a black silk vest embroidered in a small design with red silk.  He would afterward say that he thought it would have been in better taste to have worn the vest like the suit, but a friend gave him the silk vest for the occasion, ‘and I put it on for the sake of friendship.’”
Castlio and his bride moved into the former Stephenson home, calling it “West End.”  There they raised nine children: Norman, Coleman, Medora, Hortense, Serena, Wheeler, Aletha, Uncas, and Iantha.  The three-room double log house had a fourteen foot walnut-lined hallway separating the two front rooms. 
Foundations on this home site can easily be found today (692126  4286949) on the southern shore of Lake 37 in the Busch C. A.  The foundations measure twenty-six by thirty-six feet.  Also in the immediate area are the ruins of a stone foundation, perhaps the structure later mentioned in this article, and the top portion of a stone-lined well.  In 1940 when the  government purchased the 18,000 acres from which the August Busch and Weldon Spring Conservation Areas would eventually come, this home was located on Toedebusch Road at the end of a lane; Toedebusch Road now dead ends at the Busch Conservation Area boundary very near the southwest corner of the former Castlio property.  
 On January 19, 1857, the Castlios sold an acre of land for one dollar in order to start a school.  The land was “situated on the east side of the tract of land purchased by the said Othaniel C. Castlio of Stephenson heirs and adjoining land owned by Francis Howell [Jr.]”.  The approximate location of this school would be just to the north of Lake 21.  During the Civil War, Union sympathizers burned the school.  Castlio then defiantly  moved the teacher and pupils into a small stone structure next to the Castlio home.  Soon, however, he discontinued the school, fearing reprisals against his family.
Othaniel Castlio spent his entire life, including his childhood, working with livestock and apparently became quite good at it.  In fact, “Othaniel was such a good judge of stock that . . . [m]any times he accompanied neighbors [to buy livestock] who preferred to depend upon his opinion . . . rather than their own.”  Ironically, Castlio’s death would be caused by a sheep he was shearing that kicked him in the stomach.  He died on May 31, 1871, less than three weeks after his forty-seventh birthday.  The next day he was buried, and his wife, “dazed, stunned, and grief-stricken, was left when she was forty years old with nine children, the youngest three and the oldest seventeen, and a 600 acre stock farm.”  On August 10 an auction of the estate of Othaniel Castlio was held at his farm. The items sold consisted of what must have been nearly all of his farming equipment, grain, and livestock.  Nearly five hundred bushels of wheat and oats were sold, along with more than two hundred head of livestock, half of which were sheep.  It is interesting to note that Cordelia Castlio bought one wagon and a hay frame.  The sale netted $3,316.25.
                                          The Castlio Cemetery (691921  4287120) originally sat at the top of a hill, overlooking the creek at the bottom of another hill upon which the house was located.  Lake 37 now separates the cemetery from the home foundations.  Thomas D. Stephenson, who died in 1848, and his son are buried here, as are two infant children of Othaniel and Cordelia: one stillborn son in 1868 and five day-old Samuel in 1870.              
Othaniel and Cordelia, who died on February 28, 1904, in El Paso, Texas, share an obelisk-shaped marker in the cemetery’s southwest corner.  Othaniel and Cordelia’s infant grandson, Faunt Castlio, who died in 1888, is buried to the north of his grandparents. When Uncas Castlio, the Castlios’ son and Faunt’s father, died in 1949, his ashes were scattered over the grave of his son.
History is almost always available near anyone’s doorstep.  Sometime between fall and spring, when leaves and brush can’t obstruct the view, take an hour or two and explore the Othaniel and Cordelia Castlio home and cemetery.  It will be worth the effort.