The History of the Hawken House
The Hawken family ancestors came to America from Switzerland in the 1700?s, settling first in the Maryland area. With a family history of gun-smithing, some of Christopher’s ancestors eventually plied their trade at Harper’s Ferry arsenal making rifles for the army. His father, Jacob, came to St. Louis in 1807 from Hagerstown, Maryland, and began crafting his famous rifle in a shop on the Mississippi Riverfront. In 1822, Jacob purchased a house from Thomas Hart Benton at Main and Washington Streets, across from the Pierre Chouteau home. These homes were located about where the St. Louis Arch stands today.
Jacob’s brother, Samuel, joined him in producing the Hawken rifle in 1822. Also that year, Jacob married Catherine Allison. They had four children, Christopher being the second child.
History notes the Hawken rifle as the “gun that settled the west.” It was coveted and carried by many famous westward explorers and trappers, including Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, John Fremont, Jim Bridger, and Robert Campbell, the famous fur trader of St. Louis. To find out more about Hawken rifles visit The Hawken Shop
Christopher (1825-1905) left his father’s shop after Jacob died in 1849 of cholera, and headed west to California during the Gold Rush. It is told that he took along his father’s last Hawken rifle. He returned in 1854, and married Mary Ann Kinkead Eads (1836-1878) in 1855 when she was 18 and he was a month shy of 30. He purchased 100 acres of land in the country at 25 cents an acre and began farming and building Hawken House. As a “gentleman farmer” Christopher increased his land holdings to 265 discontinuous parcels south of Big Bend Road stretching west toward Kirkwood and south to what is now Crestwood.
Mary Ann Kinkead Eads was the daughter of Granville Eads, and Lucinda Sappington. Mary Ann and Christopher had nine children; eight boys and one girl. Only three of the children survived to adulthood including their only daughter, Mary Emma. It is believed Mary Ann died of typhoid fever in 1878. Christopher never remarried. Following a fall from his hayloft in 1900, he left Hawken House to live with his son, Jacob, a graduate of Washington University who practiced law and lived in Kirkwood. Christopher died in 1905 at age 79.
The Hawken family plot is located at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, along Big Bend Road to the west, just beyond I-44. Oak Hill is also the burial site of several members of the Sappington and Eads families.
For more information on the Hawken House come vistit us and take a tour of the house.