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.
My neighbor’s wife is a scrapbooker, I’ve heard. I’m not sure exactly what these scrapbookers are doing or what their scrapbooks look like. I’ve seen only a couple in the past. My grandmother started one when my father was born. My sister has that one.
Perhaps 15 years ago I first heard of the existence of a trove of historic images and documents belonging to the Sutton Family. The information came from a man named Bill Hayes. He was a descendant of James Sutton. I believe he had lived in a house at 7345 Elm when he was a child. This home had once belonged to one of Kate Sutton’s daughters.
When first I visited Larry and Jean Wiss McDaniels (whose historic family photographs we saw in my last post) they had laid out on their table in addition to their impressive collection of family photos many other interesting items. Larry had books about Bataan and Corregidor, two islands where important battles took place during WWII for control of Manila Bay in the Philippines. He also showed me newspaper clippings about a hero named Arthur E. Huff. It was on the island of Corregidor in 1942 where Captain Huff made news when he and several other men restored the flag of the United States to the top of a flagpole after Japanese artillery had shot it down. For their bravery they were awarded the silver star. All well and good.
If this Maplewood History blog were a wagon it would have been stuck in a rut for about the last month. The touch screen on my Lenovo All-in-One computer began to act up about the beginning of April. Thus started a chain of events that I won’t even try to repeat here. Mostly I just want to forget them. That computer would have been two years old this November.
This will be the last post about the Shaw-Stephens Post 103. In 1956 the name was officially changed from the Maplewood Memorial Post 103 to the Maplewood-Richmond Heights Memorial Post 103. The document concerning this (posted below) states that the post was originally chartered as the Maplewood Memorial Post 103. This seems to be inaccurate. According to a 1919 article from the Post-Dispatch (copied in my first blog post on this subject), the unit was organized as the Shaw-Stephens Post 103.
What follows are more images salvaged from the large pile of stuff the folks at Post 103 were forced to leave behind when they closed their doors. If you missed the first blog post about 103, you can find it here.
On October 1, 1919 what would become the Maplewood American Legion Post 103 was organized as Shaw-Stevens Post 103. In 2007 I got a call from Evelyn Detert of this post. She invited me to come by and photograph anything that appealed to me from their 88 year accumulation of artifacts. This I did. Then a few years ago I got another call from a woman at the Legion Hall whose name I have unfortunately mislaid.
When I published the first half of my images of Gene Kitson’s unusual matchbook cover collection, I wanted to come up with an unusual and clever title. Failing that I decided to use the one above. My thinking is that if the title is clever or unusual enough it will attract more clicks than Miner’s. Should that occur I’ll consider myself the winner of Editor Miner’s weekly “Most Viewed” designation that his articles usually always win. Anyway, the subject – Matchbooks – started me thinking about burning which led to Elvis’ “A Hunk, A Hunk of Burning Love” song which is definitely a strange title for a song.