Any lineup of famous Maplewoodians would have to include Willard McGregor. I have to include him even though I posted every single piece of information that I have about him last year on March the 19th. Even so he truly is worth taking another look at. Like Ray and Tom Kennedy, he became known in his spheres of interest, painting and music, in a far wider community than our small one here. All three hobnobbed with other artists who were also widely known. Is that part of the definition of being famous?
In 1934, Ray and Tom Kennedy opened the Kennedy Conservatory of Music in downtown Maplewood. They sold musical instruments and taught students how to play them. They and their instructors gave singing and dancing lessons. They also taught dramatics. Tom Kennedy took an interest in photography and opened his own studio.
Who are our most famous Maplewoodians? Who are the folks that have resided in our lovely village and then gone out and done well for themselves in the wider world? I have a few names in mind but I am going to keep them to myself until the readers of this space have had a chance to respond. Let there be no misunderstanding, George Clooney made a movie here but that doesn’t count. He never lived here.
Among the many items in this fabulous trove of Maplewoodiana that once belonged to William Lyman Thomas are these images that I have put into a file called “People” because I don’t know anything about most of them. Hopefully someone out there will see someone familiar and enlighten the rest of us. There is much to be learned from the comments on Maplewood History, as the readers of this space have seen time and time again. If you are just tuning in, we all have been given the gift of being allowed to closely scrutinize a large and very important collection of Maplewoodiana that once belonged to the very active and mentally nimble William Lyman Thomas. Since there is no sense in writing just to be writing, I’ll stop now.
“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.