Last post we learned from a newspaper clipping that Emma B. Thomas had married William H. Grumley on the lawn (“one of the prettiest in Ellendale”) in front of the family home, Ellendale Home Place. The article goes on to say that “The old mansion covered with the moss and vines of many years growth can be seen from Manchester avenue.” That ceremony was on June 28, 1899. The “old” mansion was eighteen years old. We begin this post with a birth announcement that her father, William Lyman Thomas had written in his 1901 scrapbook on August 18, 1901. The new baby is named after Emma’s deceased sister and called by the same nickname, Kittie, right from the beginning.
William Lyman Thomas married Catherine “Kate” Compton Sutton on March 25, 1869. While I have none of his daughters birthdates in front of me, I know that Ella T. was the oldest, born, say about, 1870. Sarah W. was second born about 1872. Emma B. was third, born roughly in 1874. Catherine A. “Kittie” was born sometime very close to the beginning of July 1876, the centennial year of our country.
The Ratkowski Foundation has been at it again. Their agents have scoured the online bazaars for any items that even faintly smell like Maplewood. The mixed bag they have turned up this time holds some interesting stuff. These fascinating pieces of flotsam that have been orbiting Maplewood in cyberspace are like satellites that have just returned to the their launch pad. As always, these items will be gifted to the Maplewood Public Library for inclusion in their stellar collection of historic Maplewood artifacts.
Named after her mother, Catherine (Kate) C. Sutton Thomas, Catherine A. Thomas was born in the middle of the summer in the centennial year of our nation, 1876. Catherine was the youngest of the four Thomas girls and the last child to be born. At some point in her early life she was nicknamed Kittie. She would be called that for the rest of her life. There is not a lot of evidence to go on but she definitely was a treasured part of the family as this post will show.
My previous post was about Mr. Thomas’ School and Home magazine and the resemblance that I thought it bore to Die Gartenlaube, a very popular German magazine begun in the mid 19th century.
By 1878, when the first owner died, the magazine was at the height of its readership and influence. Die Gartenlaube became increasingly nationalistic and antisemitic following the creation of the German Empire in 1871 and especially in the buildup to World War I. After a couple changes of owners it was bought by the Nazi publishing house, Eher-Verlag in 1938. Not surprisingly it ceased publication in 1944. From my examination of many items that were personal to William Lyman Thomas, there is nothing to suggest that he modeled his own magazine after anything other than the finest features of the early Die Gartenlaube which was created to be “a people’s encyclopedia …committed to …an enlightened population.” See the Wikipedia article for the rest of that story.
The Garden Arbor – Illustrated Family Journal or Die Gartenlaube – Illustriertes Familienblatt according to Wikipedia was “the first successful mass-circulation German newspaper and a forerunner of all modern magazines.” Die Gartenlaube was founded in 1853 in Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony with an objective to enlighten the entire family. The founders intended to accomplish this “with a mixture of current events, essays on the natural sciences, biographical sketches, short stories, poetry, and full-page illustrations.”
Die Gartenlaube became widely read across the German speaking world. With an estimated two to five million readers, the publisher at one time claimed to have the largest circulation of any publication in the world. There is, of course, much more to this story. Those interested should definitely read the article in Wikipedia.
William Lyman Thomas married Catherine “Kate” Compton Sutton, daughter of James C. Sutton, in 1869. J.C. Sutton passed away in 1877. At some point after that William and Kate subdivided and began to sell lots from Kate’s inherited portion of land from her father’s estate. They named their subdivision, Ellendale, after their oldest daughter, Ella. I know.
Where have all the spectres gone? No new ghost stories or paranormal events have been reported for quite awhile. That’s a shame for quite a few readers seem to enjoy reading about them. I know I do. As I have said before had I been there with the witnesses of these apparitions or events I don’t know if my experience would have been the same as theirs.
The following is excerpted and condensed from the 1911 History of St. Louis County by Mr. Thomas, pages 476 through 478 of Volume II. Keep in mind as you read this that WLT wrote this about himself. Due to space limitations I have left many interesting details out. DH
William Lyman Thomas
William Lyman Thomas was born on Dec. 6, 1846 in a house owned by a well known shoemaker named Liebig, near the corner of Sixth and Elm streets, St.
As has been my habit for the last, I don’t know, decade or so, I have printed a limited edition photograph of historic Maplewood images that will be available for purchase at the Mid County Chamber’s annual auction happening this Friday night (October 12) from 6 to 10. This one is a composite of photographs of our early firefighters and policemen. This is the same image that I submitted 5 years ago but I liked it and thought maybe someone else would like to have one too. And there is still only two of them. (Seems like I could use is or are in that last sentence.
From the feedback I get some of you in the audience seem to be enjoying the forensic examination of these Thomas family artifacts. I am too. It might be safe to say there is no one who is enjoying this more than me. I am learning a lot, about our community, about what life was like here in the past and I am learning a lot about the artifacts themselves. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time. First with old houses and old furniture and then with antique woodworking tools.
For a little over a month I have been enjoying copying and learning about the historic documents, photographs and artifacts of the William Lyman Thomas family. There are six framed photographs that I have been allowed to examine minutely. I have removed all of them from their frames, cleaned everything thoroughly and fixed whatever minor things I found they were wanting. The whole process has been fascinating and enlightening. I am happy to soon be returning these items to their owner, a Thomas family descendant, some of them in an improved condition.
For you readers who are not old enough to remember “To Tell the Truth”, the quiz show from the 1960’s, the last part of that sentence would be, “Please Stand Up”. Then the panel would find out if they had guessed correctly the real whoever after quizzing three guests, two of whom were imposters. If one of the imposters had succeeded in fooling the panel he was rewarded. In this case we know that Maplewood’s James C. Sutton will not be standing up anytime soon. But he may be rolling over in response to some of the comments that have been appearing here lately.
Some parts of my job here at Maplewood History are very easy. When the Bill Jones light comes on and another one of his excellent recollections (typed by his wife, Barb, of course) appears on my screen…that’s easy. All I have to do are add a few appropriate photographs and it’s ready to go. But I am involved in other events that the casual reader can’t imagine. Recently my lust for historic Maplewoodiana has taken me as far west as Wildwood and as far east as Sauget.
Those of you that have been following this blog know that I have had the unbelievable good fortune to be examining many artifacts that have been preserved by the descendants of the Sutton family. Some of them you have already seen in four previous posts. The main subject of those posts was the family patriarch, James C. Sutton. I wanted to clear him out of the way before trying to tackle the information and artifacts connected with his son-in-law, William Lyman Thomas. Thomas married Catherine Kate Sutton at her father’s mansion on March 25, 1869.
If you have not seen the outstanding socko boffo exhibition of panoramic photographs at the Missouri History Museum (5700 Lindell Blvd.) get on over there! Called “Panoramas of the City” it has been up for nearly a year so don’t wait because once it’s over, it’s over. You’ll never have another chance. Vintage photographs are a large part of what drew me into this retirement hobby of mine. I love them.
Both of the two largest farms of Maplewood’s pioneer families, the Rannells and the Suttons, held slaves. Both were carrying on business in the same manner as many other hundreds or thousands of people doing exactly the same thing. That this shameful institution existed on most of the property that would one day become Maplewood indicates how widespread it once was. This is probably the most important post I have ever made. This is a bill of sale, the text of which follows.
In 1939, our English teacher was brilliant. He taught us creative writing when we did not know what the term meant. He began with the short story and had us bring our favorite short story to class and read it aloud. I used the Mark Twain/Tom Sawyer tale of “Whitewashing the Board Fence” and the class enjoyed my reading. Next, we, as students, were requested to compose our own short story from our own experiences. We were excited! My composition, as I remember, was “Snipe Hunt,” a true story about my Boy Scout years. A synopsis of the story from decades ago:
Our Maplewood Boy Scout Troop was on a weekend camp-out out at Lions Den, a Scout Camp spot about an hour south of Maplewood. With our mess tent and pup tents erected, we settled in for our initial night of camping. I was only a Second Class Scout, so I watched as the older scouts gathered our half-dozen “tenderfoot” scouts and handed each a burlap bag. “You are on your first camp-out and get to try to capture the little fowls know as ‘SNIPES’ and bring them back to our camp We will turn them loose but you each will get credit.” The tenderfoot scouts took their burlap bags and went happily on their way. We stoked up our camp fire and told stories and laughed at the youngsters’ foolish venture. About an hour later, there was a real commotion and the tenderfoot scouts brought the burlap bags to the camp fire and took out one of their squawking “guinea hens”. I knew what they were because my own grandmother kept guinea hens at her own country home to act as an “alarm” for foxes or other intruders. The little hens squawked so loudly they awoke everyone. Our Scout master said the boys would take the guinea hens back to the farmer and the older scouts would apologize to the farmers after dawn. We toasted marshmallows for the tenderfoot scouts and let them feel good about themselves. Our teacher retyped my “SNIPE HUNT” story and submitted it to our Boy Scout magazine, “Boys Life”. The tale was published and they sent me a check for $27.00. Dad cashed the check in singles and I gave it to our English teacher for treats for our class. In 1939, $27.00 kept us in treats for eight weeks so we celebrated Billy Jones’ first published article.
Beginning in 1832 and for the next 122 years, about 7 miles from downtown St. Louis, anyone headed west on Manchester Road would have noticed a large mansion, solidly built, on the north side. This would have been the homestead of the Sutton family. For the first 45 of those years, I have the feeling that James C. would have been firmly in control. Then as we have seen in the last couple of posts the property was divided among his heirs following his death in 1877.
In my last post I began the dissection of the Mark Twain brand scrapbook that once belonged to Kate Sutton, daughter of James C. Sutton. Beginning on page 3 Kate had pasted an obituary about her father who passed on July 19, 1877. Since it contained many details about the history of Maplewood, I reproduced it in its entirety. Immediately after that first obituary, Kate pasted a second one that appears to be from a different newspaper. It contains many interesting details about the buildings and people near the location of Sutton’s blacksmith shop in downtown St. Louis. It also mentions that a few of these buildings were destroyed in the great conflagration of 1849. We know now that the boundaries of that great fire were entirely within the area that is now the grounds of the Gateway Arch. Consider that on your next visit there. Somewhere very close by was the Sutton’s shop. I didn’t hear anyone complaining so I’m assuming you all were able to read the obituary in my last post. Once again our thanks to Chrissie Hayes McConnell for sharing these bits of her family and our community history.