“The boys sat in a circle on the porch of Doug and Tom’s house. The pale blue painted ceiling mirrored the blue of the October sky.” So begins Chapter Fifteen of Ray Bradbury’s “Farewell Summer”. I don’t know when I first became aware of blue porch ceilings. There were no porch ceilings on the house where I was raised. I built the porch ceilings on the house I have lived in for the last 43 years.
One of the great privileges I have had in my role as historian of our small town is that of having been allowed to closely examine many of the documents and artifacts preserved by the descendants of past members of our community. The families of our very earliest settlers, the Suttons and the Rannells, have trusted me with many of their rarest items. I am humbled by that. I take the responsibility very seriously. Followers of my blog know that recently I have been reconstructing a very small part of the lives of some members of the Sutton family. One man in particular is a standout.
Forget stopping, he’s not even slowing down. Just in time for what is left of Valentine’s Day, here is not one but two new historic sketches from the life of Maplewood’s premier memoirist, Bill Jones. A doubleheader! And keep in mind…they’re typed by Barb. WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY – 4th Grade,
Lyndover Grade School – Maplewood
Our 4th grade was invited to write a tribute to George Washington for his birthday at a program on February 22nd. KFUO was our Lutheran radio station and the manager’s little daughter, my classmate.
In his landmark 1911 History of Saint Louis County – Missouri, WLT devoted Chapter IX to The Civil War Period in St. Louis County. On page 105 in a section titled, “Slavery in the County”, he wrote, “Many families owned slaves; a great many did not. So far as our personal knowledge extends we never knew or heard of ill-treatment of slaves in the part of the county that was outside the city. The white boys played with the black ones, went a fishing with them in numerous instances, pulled weeds, hoed potatoes and shared in their tasks.
Five generations began with a blind date on Friday in early 1945. My two buddies at Maplewood High invited me to a Friday supper at the Candle Light Supper Club at Clayton and Hanley. I said, “I work Fridays on my dispatcher job at Missouri Pacific and am not dating because of school and my 40-hour evening job.” My buddies said “BLIND DATE, pretty lady, top student at Rosati Kane Catholic High”. I was a bit shy but couldn’t resist. I called my fellow dispatcher and traded shifts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.