John Castlio: A Pioneer's Estate

On December 23, 1830, the neighbors of a long-time resident of St. Charles County gathered on a bluff overlooking Dardenne Creek about a month after his death to participate in an auction of his property.  The total value of the appraised estate was $3,101.68 ¾, and it included such items as coffee boilers, shoe brushes, guns, beeswax, and even slaves.  To help create the right atmosphere for the proceedings, the deceased’s son spent three dollars to purchase six gallons of whiskey for the day.
            Who was this early settler?  His name was John Castlio, and he was born in North Carolina sometime before 1764.  Little is known of his early life other than that he was a Revolutionary War veteran.  He served in the Kentucky Militia in the company of Captain Benjamin Logan, near Logan’s Station.  Castlio married Eleanor Harrison Lowe, a widow who claimed to be a cousin of William Henry Harrison, in 1795 (Harrison, of course, would later become the ninth President).  Their children were Ruth, whose husband Frank McDermid was killed by Indians; Charlotte; Mahala, who married Captain Benjamin Howell; John, who married Capt. Howell’s sister, Sinai; Eleanor; and Hiram, who did not survive to adulthood.
            In his book, Small Glories, Dr. Dan Brown describes the relationship of John and Eleanor:  “Mr. John was tall an’ slender, 6 foot 3 ‘r more, erect, black-haired, blue-eyed, stringy an’ muscular; give t’ a certain gauntness in times o’ trouble ‘r worry.  He was affable, but quiet—a bookish man; his dreams hidden an’ protected, his moods private, concealed, cloaked.  His ‘L’ was considered a beauty by all who knew her.  Her blond tresses, vast, amber-flecked eyes o’ grey an’ green, an’ her mysterious smile set her apart from other women. . . . He called her ‘L,’ thinkin’ as he did so o’ the letter that begun the words love an’ lady.  ‘L’ he’d say, then he’d smile—called ‘er ‘Lovely Lady.  He b’lieved but two things: that he loved his Lovely Lady beyond any other, an’, that he did not deserve her.”
            The family moved from Tennessee to what was then known as Upper Louisiana in 1806. Until 1811 they lived in the Cottleville area; after Mrs. Castlio’s death (she is buried in the Pitman Cemetery in Cottleville), they moved to Howell’s Prairie (Survey 417) where John Castlio constructed Castlio Fort, the seventh fort in St. Charles County.  The Castlio home was a two-story double log house.  Portions of this home survived for several decades; the St. Charles County Historical Society possesses an early 1900’s photograph of a frame house which still contained an original log room of the fort.  Lilian Hays Oliver, in Crow’s Nest, tells of visiting this house in 1922.  The home is gone now, but its location is easy to find.  It was situated in the area of 9719 Avondale Hills Lane, just off Highway DD. 
            John Castlio died in November, 1830, and was buried in the Walker Burying Ground.  In 1915 the local D. A. R. chapter placed a government marker on the grave.  The gravesite is now located on the campus of Holt High School in Wentzville. 
            It is interesting to note that 111 years after the death of John Castlio, one of his great-grandsons, Calvin Castlio, was the last homeowner to leave Howell (a few miles from Castlio Fort), one of the small communities removed by the U. S. government in 1941 in order to provide security for a new munitions factory.
The “Appraisement of the Personal Property and Slaves of John Castlio” is indeed an interesting document for the picture it provides of life on Howell’s Prairie in the first half of the nineteenth century.  Several aspects are remarkable.  First is its thoroughness.  A half bushel basket is listed at 6 ¼ cents, and several items are valued at a quarter or less: 1 hatchet, 7 sythes, 1 frow, 4 gimblets, 2 bred trays, 1 razor and strap, 1 lot of flax seed, 1 pair of spectacles, and 1 broken pot!  
Second is its spelling.  As can be seen from the previous list, spelling was “creative,” to say the least.  Other unusual spellings include 3 chissels, 1 riffle gun, 3 pales, 1 log chane, 1 close brush, and 1 wash bason.  One bag of jind cotton, 3 yolk of oxen, 1 adds, and 2 pairs of geers are also listed. 
Third is its reflection of the inherent irony of slavery.  Eight human beings are listed for sale, valued from $100.00 for “1 negro woman named Isabel” to $550.00 for “1 negro man named Mark.”  The total appraisal value of these people was $2,250, over two-thirds of the estate.  Clearly these slaves were considered property, hence the value placed on each; clearly these slaves were also considered human, hence the name listed for each.
Fourth are the mysteries the appraisal provides.  For instance, “60 pieces of cupboard furniture” is appraised at $4.00.  Could “cupboard furniture” refer to plates, cups, and so forth? 
Fifth is simply the number of animals for sale.  Besides the three yoke of oxen, also listed are eight horses, forty-two head of cattle, ten sheep, and approximately eighty hogs.  John Castlio was a very busy man, raising crops and caring for all of his livestock.
The geographical boundaries of the Boone-Duden Historical Society encompass many interesting lives and locations like those of John Castlio and Castlio Fort.  Other old papers pertaining to the Castlio estate are at the Office of the Probate Court in Box 23.