Rough stone and creaking timber in the homes of pioneers; the smell of kettle fires as historians make dyes and soaps from scratch; water splashing from steam-powered pumps—there’s more than playgrounds and hiking trails to find at St. Charles County Parks. At Parks historical sites, visitors can step into the past and experience the life of pioneers and early residents through hands-on education.
The Parks Department History Team maintains multiple historical sites in the county, most notably the home of famous trailblazer Daniel Boone, alongside a village of relocated pioneer buildings located at Lindenwood Park. Other historical homes open to the public include The Boyd Home at Towne Park and Hays Home at Matson Hill Park, and the County Heritage Museum at Heritage Park.
Each site has something to teach about how the first American settlers and American Indians impacted modern life here.
“People encounter history every day, whether they know it or not,” says Parks Historian Ben Gall. “We help people build connections and use the past to understand their modern experiences. We can talk about ‘How do we interact with our environment?’ by talking about traditional woodworking and agriculture. We can talk about ‘What does innovation mean?’ by talking about things like the invention of rifled guns. And then we ask, ‘What are the innovations now, and what are their good sides and bad sides?’”
Many lessons about pioneer life come through historical reenactments and “lifeways” classes, where anyone can learn skills pioneers relied on for daily needs. It’s particularly fulfilling to get kids involved to broaden their understanding of their community and appreciate where they come from, Gall says.
Pioneer structures at the parks are actively preserved using historically accurate construction methods. Specialists in the Parks Department consult a variety of references to ensure any hand-crafted repairs remain true to the original state of the buildings.
Find out more about visiting historic sites in County parks.