When the clock struck midnight January 1, an era ended for the old Sullens family farm in House Springs.
For the past 189 years, a member of the family has owned at least a piece of the farm property along South Byrnesville Road.
After all those decades in the family, though, Yvonne Moore, the great-great-granddaughter-in-law of the original owner, signed the papers to sell the final 10 acres of the once 200-acre farm on the last day of June.
Since that time, she has sold a barnful of items belonging to long-gone family members – old furniture, china, glassware and knickknacks. Then, after the items were sold, the old barn at 5192 S. Byrnesville Road was taken down.
“I was sad,” she said. “All the memories I have. I keep thinking about how people have come and gone in my life. I was happy there.”
Yvonne, 78, said she sold the land because her health had declined and she no longer could keep up the property.
She now lives in an apartment in High Ridge.
But, until this year, the property was home to several generations of the Sullens family.
In about 1831, three brothers – Peter, Nathan and Isaac Sullens – applied for and received grants for the land that runs along the Big River near what is now the village of Byrnesville, said Anna B. Sartori, a descendant of the family, in her book “Among My Pioneer Ancestors.”
Once the brothers acquired the property, Nathan and Peter began to farm it.
Isaac, however, had 500 acres just west of Fenton and built a house there and farmed the land with his wife, Malinda. Isaac also was a Methodist minister, owned a lumber mill and provided materials for the company that built the first bridge across the Meramec River. He also served as a judge in Jefferson County Court.
He and Malinda had 12 children, according to Sartori.
Second and third generations take over
One of those 12 – Nathan, who was born in 1836 – eventually farmed his father’s portion of the land on the Big River.
He married Eliza J. League on Feb. 21, 1861. She was from St. Louis and was not especially happy when Nathan traded the 20 acres his father gave him near Fenton for the chance to farm the land on the Big River, according to historian Della Lang in an article titled “The Sullens Brackman Connection.”
“It’s bad enough to have to live in the middle of this frog pond, but where will I go to church? My children will be uncivilized heathens,” Eliza reportedly said.
Nathan, however, learned that a circuit-rider preacher was holding services in the log schoolhouse on Local Road, and the family began attending services there, according to Lang’s article.
“Eliza was a proper lady who had become accustomed to the finer things in life. She had always worn ‘half-handers’ (a type of hat) and her finest frocks to church. But she soon learned that her ‘uncivilized’ new neighbors came to church in poke bonnets and calico dresses,” Lang said.
Nathan and Eliza built a home on the farm. Rocks were taken from the surrounding hills to construct the foundation, Yvonne said. The two-story home still stands today at 5191 S. Byrnesville Road.
The couple had seven children – Marsellus, Emery, George, William, Cassie, Lulu and Lillie.
Nathan, like his father, was community minded. He was active in church and the local school, and he was an election judge, according to his obituary.
Unfortunately, he was plagued by health issues and died from pneumonia and heart failure in 1897 at the age of 61. He is buried in the cemetery adjoining the current Cedar Hill Baptist Church.
After Nathan’s death, Eliza continued to live in the house. Two of their daughters – Cassie and Lulu – married brothers from a German family who farmed in Cedar Hill, with Cassie marrying George Brackman and Lulu marrying Charles Brackman, Sartori said.
Eventually, Cassie and George and their family moved into the old farmhouse to help take care of Eliza and run the farm. Eliza died Dec. 5, 1918, and Cassie and George remained on the farm after her death.
Fourth generation carries on
George and Cassie had two sons: Gordan, who died in infancy and Roscoe, who died at age 21; and two daughters: Grace and Ada.
Grace became a librarian, and Ada met a young pastor, the Rev. Daniel Moore.
Daniel had just graduated from the seminary when in 1926, he was called to pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Cedar Hill. He remained the pastor there until 1937. He and Ada, who was a member of the congregation, were married in 1929, according to the history of the church.
In 1939, George had a heart attack and died. Cassie already had suffered a stroke. So, their daughter, Grace, who never married, took leave from her job as a librarian to care for her mother and manage the farm.
“She stayed home to milk the cows and take care of the chickens,” said Yvonne, who lived in Byrnesville as a child and remembers Grace and Cassie.
“Cassie was blind,” Yvonne said. “My grandmother would take Grace to the grocery store, and I would stay with her mother and read to her.”
Cassie died Nov. 23, 1956.
Meanwhile, after leaving Cedar Hill, Daniel pastored at several churches in the St. Louis area. He and Ada had no children of their own and decided to adopt a child. The young boy, Larry Lee Miller from the Union area, was 4 1/2 years old when the Moores finalized the adoption in July 1945, and they renamed him Daniel “Dan” Nathan Moore, according to the adoption papers.
The last church the Rev. Daniel Moore would pastor was Pacific Presbyterian Church, and he died in 1958 after being diagnosed with cancer.
After his death, Ada and their son, Dan, moved back to the farm to live with Grace. Ada went back to school to become a teacher, Yvonne said.
“She taught third and fourth grade at Maple Grove and High Ridge Elementary, and they loved her,” Yvonne said.
Ada loved to talk and “could tell you her whole life story,” Yvonne said. “All the kids she had in school would come back later and talk and she would give them a bottle of Coke and a cookie.”
Fifth generation moves in
Yvonne, who lived in a former hotel just across the river in Byrnesville with her grandmother, met Dan when he and his mother moved to the farm.
“He’d get up on the chicken house and play the trumpet for me,” Yvonne said.
They were married in 1963 and had three daughters – Tammy, Teresa and Tina – and they adopted another, Amanda.
After Grace died in 1977, Ada moved into a small house in High Ridge. Her health was deteriorating, and she couldn’t manage the farm any longer.
“She didn’t like it up there. People didn’t come by and talk to her like they did on the farm,” Yvonne said.
So, it was Dan and Yvonne’s turn to manage the farm. They moved into a clubhouse along the river so they could rehab the main house.
Eugene Seago, a teenager in the neighborhood, and Ronnie Short helped remodel the large, five-bedroom house, with its 20-by-20-foot living areas, and once the project was finished in 1981, Dan and Ada moved in.
They leased the fields to Francis Geatley to farm, Yvonne said.
“I enjoyed the outdoors – cutting grass, having a garden. I had a big garden and did a lot of canning. The kids loved it out there. We had horses,” she said.
After Ada died and Dan’s health began to fail, the family began to sell off portions of the farm and then moved out of the farmhouse.
Dan had a stroke and heart attack and could no longer manage the house and wood-burning furnace. The medical bills were piling up, Yvonne said.
“I think when we had to let the property with the house go, that was the worst,” she said. “It had been in my life all along, and I always dreamed of having property and having a farm.”
In 2009, Dan died, and Yvonne held on, continuing to live in the mobile home on the last piece of property.
In 2020, however, she had to let go, and the last of the property was sold.