Maplewood History: Being Made Or At Least Re-Lived


Sarah Harrison’s Family Came to Town

Recently, I was pleased to entertain the first, as far as I know, out-of-town, Maplewood History-inspired tourists to this lovely village of ours.  They even stayed in a Maplewood VRBO on Lanham which I didn’t even know that we had.  Actually, it may be in the City of St. Louis but if it is, it just is by a few feet.

Laura Varilek, a longtime follower and contributor to this space, arrived from Rapid City, South Dakota.  She was joined by her I-don’t-know-what-number cousin (correction: uncle) from Denver, William Holmes.  Both Laura and Will are descended from our pioneer family of James Compton and Ann Wells Sutton.  Additionally, they are both descendants of James’ and Ann’s child, Sarah Wilgus Humphreys Harrison.

Sarah Harrison has gotten a fair amount of press on this site.  I wonder if anyone would remember why?  I won’t keep you in suspense.  It’s because Sarah’s home was one of the first four residences on the real estate that once was the Sutton farm and later became the City of Maplewood.  When Sarah’s home was built in 1891, she might not have ever heard of Maplewood.  Even if she had, she most likely would not have been pleased to know that some day most of the farm once owned by her Dad would be named Maplewood.

She would probably have been of the same mind as her brother-in-law, William Lyman Thomas, who felt that the name of the town should have been City of Sutton because “there were many more Suttons on the farm than there were Maples.”

Sarah Harrison’s life and mansion have been the subject of at least a few posts.  Her mansion deserves attention, discussion and examination because of the unusual situation it is in at present.  Just as many others had done, the J.B. Smith Funeral Home began its operation in the building that had once been Sarah’s mansion.  Over the many decades it has been in business much modernization of the building has taken place.  About the only part of the building that is unchanged from Sarah’s time is the second floor.

And this is where I headed with Laura and Will.

Circa 1935.
From 1958.

If you would like to see how Sarah Harrison’s home became today’s J.B. Smith Funeral Home, you can do so with this link.

What follows are the pages from my Maplewood History book, Volume One, a fresh copy of which may be had from Scheidt Hardware still at 7320 Manchester right where they have been for the last 106 years.

Recently, Shane from J.B. Smith’s kindly allowed Sarah Harrison’s direct descendants to tour the upstairs at the funeral home which is miraculously nearly as it was in Sarah’s time.  Will Holmes flew in from Denver.  Laura Varilek came all the way from Rapid City, South Dakota.  They are the first of, what I hope, will be a long line of Maplewood History inspired tourists.

Laura has contributed much to this site before.  She preserves many items that once belonged to her great, great, great grandfather, James Compton Sutton.  Here are links to Laura’s contributions.

Rare than Rare – Mind blowing JC Sutton Artifacts Resurface

Think those are fantastic?  Wait until you see what she brought with her this time.  Next post.

Doug Houser        November 13, 2022



  1. Hi Doug, We were so appreciative of all you did for us on this visit. Thank you for arranging this visit to the funeral home. Will Holmes is my uncle. His father, who is my grandfather, grew up in this house. It was an unbelievable experience to be able to be in the same house as my ancestors. Thank you for all you do for this community’s history.
    Laura Varilek

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