The age we live in is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying. There is no clear indicator as to whether our technological advances will save or sink us. Wonderful tool that it can be, the internet is both a boon and a curse. There is plenty written every day about the curse side of it. This post is about the boon.
The boon in this instance is my internet subscription to Newspapers.com. From this I was able to learn some very interesting details about my neighborhood. It is identified as Shields Subdivision on the Maplewood map in the 1909 Plat book of St. Louis county. That is all I knew about it. The boundaries are Big Bend on the west, Sutton on the east, Elm on the north and the railroad tracks on the south. The only streets other than those just mentioned are James, Walter and Edgar. Just who were those guys?
Newspapers.com was able to provide some very interesting details which you are about to see. Try to imagine the impossibility of obtaining this kind of information just a few years ago.
Home, sweet home to me. From the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County.
What a find this little article was! From the Friday, December 19th edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The year? 1890! The tract George Shields bought was 25 acres. He paid J.P. Thomas, brother of W.L. Thomas, ten times the amount he paid for it just five years earlier. It was adjacent to the “cozy” MoPac station. Maplewood the city did not exist until 1908. The Maplewood referred to in this article is the original Maplewood Subdivision bounded by Sutton on the west, Marshall on the east, Manchester on the north, and Flora on the south.
Our cozy little depot in 1885. The location can be seen on the first image of this post. Courtesy of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. Historical and Technical Society, Inc. Issue 30. Summer 1994.
A real estate transaction by George Shields and his wife Margaret R. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat Dec. 22,1887. I have not found any record of a middle initial for our George. There is another prominent George Shields , a military man, that shows up in my searches.
A man named James Shields managed to get himself in the papers several times during my period of interest. Remember the street names in my neighborhood, Walter, Edgar and James. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 26, 1884.
James makes the paper again. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 15, 1890.
James again. This time from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sept. 13, 1900. He is definitely an interesting character but so far I don’t know if he is who our street, James, was named after.
George dies on May 4, 1891. From this we get quite a bit of information. He came from Nashville to St. Louis in 1886. His home was at Delmar and Cabanne. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
I remember an old saying. Something like when a man dies he kicks the dust. George certainly did. He died on May 4th. This ad appeared in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the 10th. Nice place. The family must have decided they’d rather have the money. It is hard to divide up a mansion amongst the family. But who were the rest of the family?
Here it is folks. This is the reward to me for a lot of searching. This is my neighborhood. B.F. Shields was one of George’s and Margaret’s sons. This ad appeared in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 17, 1891. George had only been gone 13 days. Things were moving pretty fast, don’t you think? Apparently the property had already been subdivided but none of the lots had been sold.
Here is the ad again on My 24th. Now we are “The cream of all residence lots between Kirkwood and St. Louis.” I always knew we were special.
The man had a lot of property. He laid out Clifton Heights as well. That’s a very charming real estate development. If you are not familiar with it, the centerpiece is a small lake situated in the middle of a little park with some of the homes surrounding it. The beauty of the setting makes it very desirable property these days. This ad was in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 15, 1891. One of the auctioneers was Henry Sutton, son of two of Maplewood’s earliest settlers, James and Ann Sutton.
Apparently the mansion didn’t sell at the auction. This notice in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 19, 1891 indicates it was sold privately for $500 more than the highest bid at the auction. $14,000 in 1891 would be worth about $386,000 today.
This article appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on June 29, 1905. Here we learn that B.F. Shields is the son of George and Margaret R. They also have two children both named after each of them, Margaret and George. Then, I guess, when Margaret marries and George arrives at the age of maturity the estate will be equally divided between the following children (all theirs?), Mrs. Georgia Hopkins (a married daughter?), B.F., Albert C., Walter, Margaret, George and Edgar. Seven children in all. I feel fairly certain that the streets, Walter and Edgar, in my neighborhood were named for those two of their children. But what about James? There is no James among them. Surely the criminal, James Shields, is not of their family. I have found no connection. What say you, Ancestry.com subscribers?
Daughter Margaret, “still quite young” married Charles Kohl from Chicago two years after her mother passed. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 8, 1907.
Things did not go well for B.F. Shields. I have not found in any of the articles what names the B and F stood for.
From The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 16, 1909. This is a hell of a note to end on so I won’t.
I’ll go out with this article which ran in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 30, 1933.
That’s a lot of reading, I know. I wonder how many of you will get through it. Believe it or not there are quite a few articles that I didn’t include. Be thankful for that.
I received quite a few interesting comments on the 1970s era photographs that ran in the last few posts. Much thanks to all of you who took the time to chime in. I certainly learned a lot.
Summer is fading. Soon we’ll be into the holiday season. At this time of year I usually think of a favorite Dave Barry quote which I couldn’t find so I’ll say it from memory. I know from the decorated pine trees, the colored lights, fake snow and tinsel that very soon it will be…Halloween. Apologies to Dave. If anyone knows that quote send it to me. His is much better than my rendition.
‘Til next time,
Doug, Just at the Missouri Historical Society .library and Research Center yesterday (Thursday) in an in-depth visit with my AAUW group of geneology folks (general tour of collections) The gentleman there had that piece of map out on an entire spread of Maplewood in 1909 in very large size in plastic. SO very interesting!! My block of Elm showed almost all lots built on except my house which was built in 1910. (See edge of your photo 5th lot north side east of Sutton ). Gentleman there SO accommodating! I was early to our appointment and he was very interested in hearing of the activity (your) in Maplewood! Still very interested in adding original information to their collection! Thank you Doug. You are a treasure!
You are welcome, Pickett. Thank you for the “treasure” comment. Somebody tell my wife.
Readers, the map that Pickett refers to is from the excellent 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County. They have a much used copy in the reference rooms of the Headquarters branch of the STL County Library and also the Central Library in downtown St. Louis. If you have never taken a look at it, it is worth the trip.
Thanks for the information, Pickett. I’ll see that they get copies of both of my Maplewood history books provided, of course, that I can get the second one printed.
Fun and interesting! Now I’m wondering if he poisoned himself or if one of his customers did it!
Hey Patty, There were a number of articles concerning the death of B.F. Shields. It was a sad ending for him. I didn’t want to go overboard on that part of the story. His death was ruled a suicide. No doubt some of his customers felt the way you suggest. Thank you for your comment.
Great work on digging up a little history of our neighborhood. I’m sure that you are correct that the streets Walter and Edgar must have been named for the Shields children. Up until this point I was convinced that Walter Ave. was named for Walter Gebelein who lived with his two brothers and their father in a house that they built in 1906 on Walter Ave., which is where I currently reside.
An observation on the timeline in the above clippings: It appears that George bought the subdivision in 1890 then died in 1891? Elsewhere you state that George came from Nashville in 1896. Very interesting nonetheless.
Whoops! That was a slip of the finger, Travis. It should have been 1886. I’ll make the correction above. Thanks for pointing it out.
Dear Doug, Really cool reading. I grew up in the 3100 block of Walter. Always wondered who he was. Nobody I asked could tell me much of anything other than all the land used to be Mr. Sutton’s farm. I enjoyed reading your other articles as well, particularly about the K-Mart debacle. I remember they raised our athletic field across Big Bend for an industrial park. Then they built a brand new complex down by Laclede Station, which just a few years later they raised for a shopping center. And they wonder why kids turn 18 and immediately leave town. Thanks for all your hard work.
You are welcome, John. I left where I grew up when I was about 20 or 21. I think that is just something many young folks do. I was 26 years old when I moved to Maplewood and I’m still here. The athletic field on Big Bend was right across from my house. I remember thinking I could watch a softball game from my front porch. Then they sold that property and a commercial building was put up. As you mention a new ball field was made at the eastern end of the property with the Venture store. It even had a new pavilion. I don’t remember how long it was before it fell to the expansion of the shopping center. The ball field was then moved to Deer Creek park. From what I can tell it seems to be doing good business there. Much thanks for your comments.
This from Esley Hamilton by email: Doug, I loved your article today, quite a shock at the end. I made a comment online and subsequently have been doing some more digging. I looked up every subdivision named “Shields” in the plat index at the recorder of deeds, and I found that the reason I couldn’t find it before is that there are two that are indexed only as “Shields.” The earlier one, April 9, 1890 (Book 1, page 94) turns out to be Shields Subdivision in the Town of Kirkwood, owned by Mr. George Shield. The second one, platted June 10, 1891 (Book 4, page 20), is Shield’s Sub-Division of Part of Lot 9, Subdivision of J. C. Sutton’s Estate, U. S. Survey 2037. The surprise is that the owner is Jeptha H. Simpson. His name also appears in connection with the Ferguson property. Shelds’ and Ashby Addition to Ferguson was platted Nov. 13, 1890 by two couples, George Shields & Margaret R. Shields and W. W. Ashby & M. Octavia Ashby. Shields & Ashby Second Addition to Ferguson followed June 9, 1891 (Book 1, page 105), but it was owned only by Jeptha H. Simpson and M. Octavia Ashby, although W. W. Ashby also visited the notary with them.
The other subdivision I found was Shields’ Barracks Subdivision, April 17, 1899 (Book 5, page 41), owned by B. F. Shields. It was somewhere in the Lemay area (Carondelet Suburbs).
I looked for probate records for George. The state index has his name and date but apparently no inventory or receipts, etc., at least not in City records.
What can I say, Esley? Much thanks. You have given us much to think about.
So much for the “good old days”. Real estate scammers, knife fights, folks dying of poison.
Interesting history of Maplewood that is for sure.
I’m with you on this, Mark. The good ol’ days were certainly overrated. Thanks for your comment.
My grandmother (who died in 1987) said there were no good ol’ days. She lived her life in South Dakota.
These days Delmar and Cabanne are parallel streets that don’t cross. 3805 Delmar would be in the front yard of Cardinal Ritter High School on Spring Ave., just west of Grand Center. Sure enough, my index to St. Louis City Ordinances shows that a street named Cabanne running between Chippewa and Bell Avenues was changed to Spring by ordinance number 17,121. That stretch of Delmar is now Grandel Square. Before the streets were closed and houses demolished for the high school, quite a few houses from the 1880s were still standing on that site, and I wish somebody had taken pictures of them before they were cleared.
I do too, Esley. Much thanks for this tremendous amount of information.