Maplewood History: A Surprising Discovery…About The Sutton Plow


You Sutton family descendants are going to love this one.

At some time in the distant past, I searched for information about an iron plowshare that had been invented and manufactured by Maplewood’s own original pioneer, James Compton Sutton Sr.  Of course, Mr. Sutton, who passed away in 1877, could not possibly imagine that his beautiful farm would one day become the lovely town of Maplewood that we know today.  I suspect that he would not be happy about it.  Other than a few small parcels for members of his family, his farm was intact when he died.

Followers of this blog may recall that Willliam Lyman Thomas, the author of the 1911 History of St. Louis County, was the son-in-law of  JCS having married his daughter Kate.  I believe that it was in WLT’s history book where I first learned of the Sutton Plow.  I was excited by this and hoped to discover the original patent and an actual specimen perhaps in a farm museum collection.  So far, I have not been able to do either.

I was able to find a patent for a Removable Plow Point granted to a man named James Sutton.  But the date on it is from 1897.  Our James Sutton died in 1877.  Also, this other James Sutton was living in Arkansas.

Now here is the kicker.  Last Wednesday, I met and had a nice conversation with the former St. Louis City alderman Dan McGuire.  From Dan I learned that the flag of St. Louis County has the image of a plow in its design.  So does the seal for that matter.  It is common knowledge that the first meetings of the new government of the county after the split from the City of St. Louis were held at the Sutton mansion.

James Compton Sutton was a politically important and well respected man.  The separation from the city occurred in January of 1877.  He passed away in July.  The plow represented on the county’s flag and seal are none other than the Sutton plow, the invention of old James.

Who said, “Will wonders never cease?”

From the Facebook page of St. Louis County
From a National Register nomination by Kris Zapalac
From the 1911 History of St. Louis County by W.L.Thomas
Sutton Mansion. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library
Sutton Mansion, 7453 Manchester. Courtesy of Laura Varilek.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I think
Published on January 30, 1877
A patent for a Sutton plow improvement but not the one I’m looking for.

I had no luck searching for the patent for the Sutton plow mentioned in the many articles above.  Perhaps one of you deep divers can do better?

It is amazing to me that after 22+ years of researching the history of our small town that this very interesting and important fact had not come to my attention until now.  What next?

One answer to that question is…summer. 86 degrees tomorrow.  Enjoy.

Doug Houser   April 29, 2024




    • Molly, much thanks for sending the link. I looked at that patent. James A. Sutton of Packwood, Iowa was the inventor. How strange. I wonder if he’s connected to our Sutton family somehow?

  1. Doug you are keeping the family legacy alive! This is wonderful! I have been part of three patents, it must be in my genes to do so! Laura’s and my Grandpa Russell was quite the inventor/artist as well. I believe James would have been in grandfather.

    • Thank you for the compliment, Laura. And thanks for the many wonderful contributions that you have made to this effort.

  2. Great job, Doug!! The plow on the flag and the plow for which the Arkansas Sutton invented a plow-point appear to be two different types of plows. The former throws dirt to one side, whereas the latter throws dirt to both sides. Correct me if I’m wrong! The patent for the plow-point mentions a “plow-shovel”. Perhaps that is the patent one should be looking for.


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