Centaur

The Historic Community of Centaur


In 1797 James MacKay settled the area now called Centaur. It began at the mouth of Bonhomme Creek and was originally called St. Andrews. MacKay owned almost 4,000 acres. At this time the area was under the control of the Spanish government, who granted MacKay this large tract of land for his service, taking soldiers up the Missouri River to remove the British troops and map the river, and to encourage other settlers, mainly from Kentucky and Tennessee and mainly Scottish and Irish, who were offered free land.

Other settlers in this area included Alexander McCourtney, William Bellew, William Coleman, Robert Coleman, John Coleman, Henry Tyler (whose house remains at Laurey Lane), Theodore St. Onge, Adam Kesselring, Johann Sandfoss, and Anton Leiweke. German immigrants would come to the area in the 1830s.

The Centaur community came into its own between 1885 and 1891 when Anton Leiweke founded the Centaur Lime Company. This was supplanted by a stave factory owned by Henry Kelpe and his sons. Even with a modest population of thirty three, the area was a hot bed of entrepreneurial spirit due to its rich base of resources and transportation options, the Missouri River, and the railroad that had come to the area in 1887. The Missouri River also provided lime, rock, sand and gravel, used at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The railroad station in Centaur was an integral part of this community, serving generations of residents and workers.

The Centaur community, from approximately 1909 to 1933, is a story of the family of Anton Leiweke and their role in the area’s development. The man-made and physical features of the area helped the community grow, yet its distance from St. Louis and the ever present threat of floods, offers present day citizens a chance to look back at what western St. Louis County used to resemble.

In 1924 a major fire devastated the Centaur community, starting at the Centaur Lime Company Building and encompassing seven other houses and barns, as well as the local church/parsonage. Afterwards, the Leiweke family constructed a two story brick residence which stands today. Not long after the fire, the Great Depression descended on American and Centaur began a decade's long struggle.

Recently, many of the original parcels were purchased by Michael Phelan who has led a renaissance in the area with plans to restore many of the historic buildings, including the old church/school.

Sources:

Harl, Joseph, Naglich, Dennis and Nixon, Joseph M.
1990 Report of Phase 1 Reconnaissance Level Survey of Prehistoric and Historical Cultural Resources in the Wild Horse Creek Drainage Basin in South St. Louis County
Research Report – Administered by Missouri Department of Natural Resources – January 1990

Sebastian, John
1909 In the Heart of Missouri, The New Rock Island Country.
Passenger Traffic Department, Rock Island Lines, Chicago

City of Wildwood, Department of Planning
2014 Historic Centaur, Prepared for the Historic Preservation Commission


Images of the Historic Community of Centaur

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