The former home of a man who never married is set to become a venue for outdoor weddings and barn receptions.
The start-up of a wedding venue at the historic Haue Valley Farm on North Thornton Road has transformed the hillside farm into a showplace.
A planned visit to the farm now offers an opportunity to explore overlooked snippets of the history of the site, according to Meramec Valley Genealogical and Historical Society (MVGHS) officers.
The Society was invited to hold a supper meeting there Tuesday, Sept. 10, and decided to invite the public to join them.
“Meeting at the farm offers an opportunity for people to get to know our group and talk about what subjects would be of interest to the community,” said Therissa Schlemper, MVGHS treasurer and supper meeting planner.
“We think they’ll like what’s happening at the farm too,” she said.
Haue Valley Farm is identified locally as the former home of horticulturist John Howe, well known for his daffodils and grafted nut trees.
John’s parents, Frederick Jensen Howe and Caroline Lindhorst Howe, bought the farm in 1891 and moved there with their three daughters and three sons in 1894, when John was 16. He would live there until 1970.
During his lifetime, Howe welcomed many visitors to the hillside farm, including University of Missouri horticulture students, gardeners who bought bulbs of some of his 300 varieties of daffodils and a string of St. Louis newspaper reporters that left newspaper articles on his work.
Reporter Dorothy Brockhoff, who visited Howe in 1962, offered her impression of the farm in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.
“His farm, which is just about a mile long, is not a typical rolling Missouri tract of timber and cultivated land, but a kind of arboretum and botanical garden where dozens of strange and beautiful trees shade thousands of daffodils,” she wrote.
In one article, Howe told a reporter that he set his first graft in 1924 or 1925. He gained worldwide fame for creating new varieties of nuts and was still grafting nut trees in the last years of his life. Some still survive on the farm.
Howe’s grand-nephew Bill McLaren recalls helping his uncle set grafts when he (McLaren) was a boy. McLaren’s mother Edith Howe McLaren inherited the farm from John.
At one time, John and his brother Albert (Edith’s father) lived on the farm together. After marrying Edith Leutzinger, Albert bought a farm on Phelan Road and John Howe remained on the Thornton Road property alone. He never married.
McLaren, his wife Linda and daughters Kristen Binford and Kesha Nichols, are crafting a future for the property that would have pleased John Howe. They constructed a large pavilion over the kitchen of the old Howe home and plan to offer the property for weddings and wedding receptions.
They also have planted 300 grape vines on the slopes north of the house and have developed the art of making wine.
“Some time in the future there may be a winery here,” said Binford, who is managing the wedding reception business.
Among the family’s memorabilia of John Howe’s life is a large framed certificate from the 1904 World’s Fair naming him as a silver medal winner for his grapes.
In 1904, Howe was awarded a silver medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair for his grapes. The honor was recorded in a 14- by 18-inch framed certificate from the United States of American Universal Exposition St. Louis MDCCCIV Commemorating the Acquisition of the Louisiana Territory, noting that the international jury had conferred a silver medal on Howe and his grapes.
In the fall of 1910, when he was 32, John Howe made a trip to Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin to study Shropshire sheep that he heard about. He worked in a sawmill and wrote letters to his brother, who shared them with the local newspaper. The farm would later be known for Shropshire sheep as well as flowers and trees.
“It’s an interesting place,” Schlemper said. “We hope people will want to see it and will joins us on Sept. 10.”