Warning: Less Than Hardcore Maplewood History Fans Should Proceed With Caution. This is just a reminder that the William Lyman Thomas collection of images and documents that was recently donated to The State Historical Society of Missouri is actually the fifth Maplewood trove to find a home there. The first was the Charles and Mary Rannells collection which was composed of donations from many descendants now located in various parts of the country. Elise Rannells Todd was crucial to bringing that collection together. As the family historian, Elise possessed a great store of knowledge and was kind, generous and open about sharing it. Not long ago I learned that Elise had passed away early in 2021. I feel the loss and wish her husband, Glenn, the best. Elise’s nephew, Greg, who lives in Maplewood, gave me her contact info in 2004. At that time I was engaged in trying to save the Rannells family’s historic home, Woodside (Maplewood’s oldest building). As luck would have it, my brother was getting married in Richardson, Texas, where Elise and Glenn were living. When I told Elise that my wife and I were headed in her direction, she invited us, without ever having met us, to stay in their home. We didn’t take her up on that but we did visit her. On that visit, Elise showed us and allowed me to photograph her incredible collection of artifacts that had once belonged to Charles and Mary 150 years earlier. Many of these I have documented in my books and blog. Under a bed was a carpenter’s tool chest that was absolutely stuffed to the brim with letters and documents, some dating back to the 1830s.
In June of 2004, Maplewoodian Greg Rannells, a direct descendant of Charles and Mary, was allowed inside the old family home. He took the images featured in this post and was kind enough to let me copy them. Before receiving these from Greg neither I nor anyone else involved with the effort to save Woodside had seen the inside of it. As the reader can see it was in rough shape but surprising to those of us who love old houses was how much of the original fabric remained. The years spent as a nursing home had caused a few modifications to be made, of course. But beneath the later year add-ons much of the 1848 home remained. Readers unfamiliar with this story can find out much more about it from the following links. Woodside and the Rannells Family
Edward “Ned” Rannells of Woodside
The Historic Papers of Woodside 1838-1914
On Edward “Ned” Rannells
Jeremiah and Ann Aston Warder
Or by purchasing one of my books. Maplewood History, Volume Two is available at Scheidt Hardware at 7320 Manchester. Volume One is available at the Chamber of Commerce just a few doors west at 7326A, 314-781-8588. There is a steep flight of stairs inside but you probably need the exercise. It’ll be worth it. If you’re not up to the stairs, just holler and I’m sure they will toss down a copy for you provided you leave the correct amount of cash or I imagine they may have one of those other much more modern ways of exchanging money which I don’t know anything about but I can’t say for sure. Let me know.
When smoke spewing Big Boy #4014 blasted through Maplewood on August 30 thrilling hundreds of steam engine buffs, railroad fans and curious onlookers; it was a reenactment of an evolution of an event that probably first occurred 167 years ago. I don’t know yet exactly when the first steam engine passed through James Sutton’s farm as the Pacific Railroad pushed west. It may have been 1854. According to the Summer 1994 issue of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, Historical and Technical Society, Inc., “the Pacific Railroad built through the area” (meaning the Sutton farm) in 1853. According to information from Joe Sonderman’s Facebook page, Vintage St. Louis & Route 66, this first engine reached “Sulphur Springs, (Cheltenham) … present day Hampton and Manchester” on December 9, 1853.
Triptych definition is – a picture (such as an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side by side. Not long ago some of the folks at the Schlafly Bottleworks asked if I would be interested in helping to design a display based upon the history of Maplewood for the inside of their brewery. I was and I did. What I came up with is a triptych of composite photographs of scenes that could be seen at some time in the past from their front door. These images are meant to be hung side by side and read from left to right or in your case top to bottom. These images are 16×20 inches which means what you’ll see on your telephone has to be greatly reduced. I hope they display well for you.
One of the many interesting things that have happened out of the effort to save Woodside involved the Rannells family papers. This collection is a wide variety of legal papers, household and farm receipts, cancelled checks and documents of many different kinds. The papers of Charles Rannells dated from 1838 to 1865. There are also many papers that were generated from the activities of his wife, Mary Warder Rannells and his son, Edward W. Rannells. Edward’s are the latest with the most recent dating from 1914. Charles passed in 1877, Mary in 1896 and Edward in 1920.
Long summer days and beautiful weather (to a heatophile) conspire to keep me away from my computer until the last hour or two before I turn in. As I mentioned in my last post, I have accumulated a large amount of information on one of our earliest pioneer families, the Rannells. It is my intention to post as much of this material as I can. For this reason I thought it worthwhile to refresh my readers’ memories by posting these pages from my latest book Maplewood History, Volume Two. Please keep in mind that the more of you who spring for a copy of my latest book, the less this adventure will wind up costing me when it is all said and done. Your purchase will be helping me to pay for this retirement hobby of mine that I am sharing with you. Due to my lack of experience with or understanding of eBay, my book is no longer available on that site. I don’t know what venue would be the best way to sell it over the internet. If you do, I’d appreciate the advice. I also don’t know anything about these more modern ways of exchanging money that I have heard just a little about. Meanwhile, I better get to bed so I can get up early enough to be at the pool when it opens at 11 this morning. As always, I appreciate your interest and support.
Longtime followers of this space may remember that for about 17 years I and many others were involved in several schemes that were designed to keep Woodside, Maplewood’s oldest home, standing. Due to the efforts of many, Woodside has not only survived but has been beautifully restored by her new owners. Over the course of that long project, I met many members of the Rannells family whose ancestors built Woodside. They generously shared a very large amount of the historic documents, artifacts and images that they had carefully preserved. I intend now to post as much of this material as I possibly can. I think a good way to bring everyone up to speed is by posting a couple of chapters from my latest book, Maplewood History, Volume Two, copies of which are still available from me or Scheidt Hardware (True Value to you newcomers) and on eBay.
Aren’t those pretty? If you like the looks of these pages, you can get all 177 of them neatly contained within a softcover for only $35 or a hardcover for only $50. If you live close enough, I’ll be happy to deliver. Or you may just want to make it over to Scheidt Hardware at 7320 Manchester. The books were available on eBay but have disappeared. I think I’ll try listing them on Amazon. And remember I designed these books to become valuable collector’s items. They are printed and assembled by some of the best folks in the area. Only the highest quality paper was used.
In 2002, Larry Giles paid a visit to a commercial art studio in Soulard named Fishing Creek. Recently retired, I was interning there with the idea of possibly becoming a sculptor. The Fishing Creek folks were bartering with Larry for some recycled steel trusses that they used to add a second floor in one of their buildings. We had never met but I had followed his projects for decades in the newspapers. Following that initial meeting, I got to know and become friends with Larry who was surely one of the most amazing individuals that I will ever meet. He was an architectural salvor and savior. Put simply he acquired a vast collection of the most important architectural artifacts from many of the most important buildings that were ever built in St. Louis and beyond. Eventually he consolidated his vast array of treasures at one location in Sauget, Illinois as a nonprofit named the National Building Arts Center whose mission is to educate the public on all aspects of the building arts. I am not exaggerating to say Larry was a genius many times over. One might think that removing parts from crumbling buildings is coarse, dirty work and it is. It is also complicated, very dangerous and can be very high off the ground as well. Many of the projects that he conducted (and it was mostly him) are mind blowing in scope.
Theo. Weber and family moved to Maplewood from Kirkwood about 1903. My first post contains the images and documents that pertain to the Kirkwood years. This second post has mostly images from their years in Maplewood. If you haven’t seen my first post on this fantastic collection you should do that now. Part One. One of the last images in my first post is one of Lillian Weber made in the “Summer of 1902.” On the back she has written, “20 years old, Kirkwood – Mo, Main St.” The image of their home and business in Maplewood, that set me off on this adventure, has “Built 1903” written on the face of it. Let’s start with that image again.
That is 21 images and I still have quite a few more to post. Even though I promised another blockbuster image this time, it will just have to wait until next post, The Amazing Lillian Weber Herold Collection – Part Three.
A short time ago Dan Fitzgerald at the Brentwood Historical Society forwarded to me two images he had received from a descendant of Lillian Weber Herold. They knocked my eyes plumb out! So to speak anyway. Dan was kind enough to connect me with this descendant who in turn was kind and trusting enough to share with me and my readers one of the largest and best organized collections of family photos and documents that I have ever seen. These images are so important and so rare that I feel a deep responsibility to present the images in the best manner possible. For this opportunity I am truly grateful to the owner and I know you will be as well.
OK, now I’m revving up for the Grand Finale of Part One of my two posts about The Amazing Collection of Lillian Weber Herold. What follows is one of the two images that really knocked my socks off! If I were an archaeologist, this would be the Roman helmet or the gold coins.
Now if you like this sort of thing as much as I do, you might want to take your socks off before you look at this next image. Lillian’s descendant went back to the collection. Have a look at what turned up.
Just a little while ago, my good friend, Joellen McDonald, the historian of Richmond Heights, forwarded a request. She had been contacted by James Devine who grew up in Richmond Heights and lived on Hiawatha for 25 years. James had sent her the following image and was wondering just what it was. After looking at it for a short time, I realized that it must be a fire tag. Where I grew up in Jefferson County the nearest fire department was at Shady Valley. It was staffed by unpaid volunteers. Since it was not supported by taxes the department had to support itself through the sale of fire tags. These small tin tags had the year on them so the firefighters could tell if they were current or not. It was a good idea to nail these tags on your fence or a tree somewhere away from the house. Woe to the homeowners whose homes caught fire and who had not bought a tag. There were numerous instances where the firefighters let the homes burn because they lacked tags. I remember one such instance myself. In my very dim memory, which could be wrong, the fire chief of Shady Valley was pilloried for letting a home burn. This was a fellow who I worked part time for at a gas station. I have a memory of him being very upset.
This article ran on July 25, 2005 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Thanks to Nancy Fennell Hawkins for sending me the clipping of this article. I’m betting there are still a lot of folks around who remember the Laux Bakery in Maplewood. Much thanks to Joe Holleman who wrote this article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
When the artist, Margaret Keller, and her husband, Rick Puller, bought their late Victorian home in Fraser Park 25 years ago, they knew they were getting a high quality home but little else. It was one of their neighbors, Dick Walker, who had lived across the street for many decades who gave them an interesting clue to the history of their new/old digs. He told them that it had been built by a shoe manufacturer named Johansen. He even had a 1997 catalog with information that the company had been founded in 1876. Dick also thought that Mr. Johansen once had a building behind the home in which shoes were made and had loaded shoes on the railroad right there. Margaret, who has a background in historic preservation, was intrigued. From the Maplewood City Directory of 1912, she learned that a family of Johansens lived at 7211 Moller. Her address is 7215. More searching revealed that the much newer home of her next door neighbor was built on what was once the lawn of the Johansen’s home at 7211. About 1950 the address was changed. The new home got 7211 and the older one became 7215. A little while ago, Margaret and I got on the subject of graining. That is the process of making a piece of wood (or whatever) look like it is a piece of a different kind of wood than what it actually is. There are numerous reasons why one might want to do this.
Let’s recap where we left off in Part Two. As you may recall things began to head south on our man, Alfred W. Syrett, around the beginning of 1905 or possibly even a little earlier. In early February, an article reported that the sheriff had seized his home. It seems attachment proceedings against him had been instituted by one of his partners in the Maple Green Company that had laid out the subdivision of Greenwood. Meanwhile Syrett had disappeared. His wife said he went to Chicago. But around Feb. 28, he told Captain McNamee (another partner of his in the Maple Green Co.) that he was headed to Jefferson City. An article published on March 10, said he had been brought back from San Francisco. By then there were eight charges against him including forgery, grand larceny and embezzlement.
My last post, Shady Greenwood – Part One, ended with an article from the 1904 Suburban Journal extolling the rapid transformation of the Greenwood subdivision from an overgrown “tangled bit of underbrush with a few scattered houses here and there…” to a thoroughly modern well-populated suburb with all of the appointments one would expect in the very short space of three years. One man in particular stood out and was described as the “prime mover” of this miraculous conversion of jungle to city. His name was Alfred W. Syrett. Mr. Syrett, born in England, moved first to Chicago where he stayed for seven years. He moved to St. Louis in 1896. By the time the laudatory article appeared in the Christmas issue of the 1904 Suburban Journal, he had been working for the Mississippi Valley Trust Co. for less than a year. He was the head of their Sales Department, I assume, involved with the subdivision of large pieces of property into smaller lots for sale to individuals wanting to build homes for themselves and their families. Keep in mind that the article was published in December 1904. How quickly things can change.
Greenwood, the southernmost subdivision of Maplewood, is wonderfully situated. Bounded by two railroads and Deer Creek, it is a self-contained neighborhood of tall leafy trees along quiet streets. It’s a good place to take a walk as the architecture is diverse and interesting. Given that it is 100% developed and surrounded by the barriers mentioned there are unlikely to be any unwelcome incursions of the retail sort that others have had to tolerate given their proximity to some of the major thoroughfares. With all of those shady streets one might be inclined to think that’s where the name Greenwood originated, but that would be wrong. According to the retired historian of STL County, Esley Hamilton, “By 1891 Langhome Investment and Improvement Company (whose officers included Moses Greenwood Jr. as vice president) reassembled a number of the inherited Sutton tracts into a single parcel and created the Greenwood subdivision.” Moses named the tract after himself but an English syndicate may have given the streets their English and European names. Greenwood, once beautiful farmland and now a neighborhood of peaceful streets, was once home to a character as shady as any of the streets are today. It sure seems that the owners were pulling out all the stops to sell the Greenwood lots in this ad on June 11, 1891. “60 Trains A Day, It Must Be Sold, Unique and Unparalleled, Only Electric Light Auction of Lots Ever Held On Earth.” Whew! Notice that “M. (Moses) Greenwood, Jr. Representing English Syndicate” gets recognition at the bottom right. So how did that auction go?
All I know is what I read in the papers. Will Rogers. That was a line he used many times and with many variations. The article often referred to as containing the first use of that line ran in the New York Times on September 30, 1923. But Rogers was a syndicated columnist whose humorous takes on world events once ran in as many as 600 newspapers. He apparently opened his stage performances the same way. I could say the same thing about one of Maplewood’s earliest subdivisions, Fraser Park. Of course, my “papers” these days are ephemeral points of light that disappear as soon as I hit the switch. I’m not complaining. This sort of research is much easier than it used to be.
Articles on caves are always very popular. My previous posts about our Maplewood caves (Sutton, Ellendale, Cool Cave Tavern at the Bartold location) have drawn some interesting responses from readers that caused me to do a bit more searching through the old newspapers. Recently I discovered a fascinating article that I think many of you will be excited to learn about. Let’s start with a comment that a Mr. Brian Peters posted in 2012 in response to an article I had run about the Sutton Cave. Brian Peters
8:09 pm on Monday, June 25, 2012
I brought this story up to my father, and SURPRISE TO ME.
Generally I confine my investigations to within the boundaries of our fair city, but now and then a subject of exceptional interest comes along so I make an exception. This is one of those as were my last two posts about the De Soto Run bicycle challenge. I really strayed beyond our borders for those two. I was able to confirm that John W. Rannells, who once occupied the same terra firma as we do now, won a bicycle race. I was not able to determine that he ever rode the De Soto Run. I did discover that I had unknowingly ridden a very small part of the De Soto Run when I was a child living nearby. Therefore the only Maplewood connection to the De Soto Run is me. That’s it. So far. Regular readers will recognize by now Mary Piles’ name. She has contributed much to this space in her role as the curator of things historical at CNB-STL. Just like me she often finds things of interest that have nothing to do with whatever she was actually searching for. This post is one of those. Very cool, Mary. What a loss. The original house on that site was very beautiful. Is that image from the National Archives? Thank you for sharing this with us. Christmas is almost upon us. For the first 70 years of my life, my parents were part of our family’s annual celebration. This is the first year that neither of them will be here.
If you are familiar with ginkgo trees you know that the leaves all turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. Then the tree drops them…(in what seems like) all at once. Every year about this time my wife and I, and I’m sure others, try to keep an eye on the landmark ginkgo tree at 7380 Flora. The yellow carpet created by the falling leaves is worth the walk to see as well. The McGregor legend says that a treasured family matriarch, Evelyn, bought the tree at Shaw’s Garden (Missouri Botanical to you younger folks) and planted it in front of her home. As we have record that the McGregor’s bought the home in 1922, it seems likely to assume the ginkgo will soon be approaching 100 years on this planet. A cakewalk for it. Ginkgos have been known to live 1000 years. If you would like to revisit the posts on the McGregor family, here are two. A Serendipitous Encounter with the McGregor Family Home and History
The McGregor Bakery and the Family Behind It
As followers of this space probably already know I used the carpet of leaves from Evelyn McGregor’s ginkgo on the soft cover of my new book, Maplewood History – Volume Two. If that seems curious, I used maple leaves as well. My goal is to increase awareness of this very special tree. It is as much a part of our history as most of our buildings. I am sure there are many other trees that qualify. We must remain mindful of them and not lose them needlessly. If you couldn’t get over to see Evelyn’s ginkgo’s display this year, here are a few of the photos I took today.