Maplewood History: Emma Thomas Grumley

From the collection of Chrissie Hayes McConnell, descendant of William Lyman Thomas & Kate Thomas. Photographed by Doug Houser May 3, 2018

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.  Kittie’s birth also happens to have been very close to when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer made his very serious last miscalculation at the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory. But this is about Emma.

We have more information about Emma than any of the other Thomas daughters.  This is mainly due to some of Emma’s personal items having been preserved by her great-granddaughter.  Among those items is a handwritten journal of Emma’s. In it she has recorded her day-to-day adventures from June of 1891 through April 1895. I have read quite a bit of it.  Ordinarily reading a young woman’s journal is not something I’d do on a bet (This is a joke. Don’t overreact.).

What saves it is the distance in time from the present along with the fact that Emma wrote well.  She records many anecdotes along with her description of a lifestyle here in our community very different from anything we’ve known.  I’ll try and post some of her musings later. Or interested parties can contact me and I’ll send you my photographs of the pages in her journal.

I’m not sure how many posts I’ll make of these Emma artifacts but when I’m done you’ll hopefully know as much about her as I do.

Thanks again to the Thomas family descendants who have provided us all with such an interesting look at past life in our community.

From William Lyman Thomas’ History of St. Louis County, Bartold School 1888. This school, named for Bartold Valley (located today at the intersection of Hanley and Manchester) once stood directly across Manchester from Maplewood’s present city hall. There is an apartment complex on this site today. WLT, ever the promoter of his family and community, no doubt included this photo because two of his children are in it. Emma and Kittie. The text follows.
From History of St. Louis County.  The Bruno family had a farm that included part of Maplewood roughly north of Lohmeyer and east of Big Bend Blvd.  The Bruno family home still exists on (what else?) Bruno Ave just a door or so west of Oakview Terrace…I think.  I actually got that wrong a few posts back.  Alert readers will remember.  Ella M. Smith was the teacher.  Ella T. Smith was Emma’s older sister’s married name.  Confused?  It gets worse.
From WLT’s 1901 scrapbook. Emma signed at the top. I don’t know who Uncle Bob was. Kate signed calling herself Granny. Kittie signed below Kate. Frank Smith, I believe was eldest sister Ella’s husband. Note that Ella signed as Ella S… Her middle initial is listed differently in many records. Most puzzling is WLT called her Ella T. Smith in his own book.

From Emma’s journal. This excerpt is from 1891. Let me know if you can’t read this.
Ed Rannells is from the family that built Woodside. In 1908 he was one of the two judges who voted in favor of the incorporation of the City of Maplewood. Ed was born in 1854. He would have been much older than Emma. Notice she calls him Mr. Ed Rannells.
I really like this picture of Emma. It shows some of her spirit.
From the back of the previous photo.  He looks like he may have been a beau. Keep in mind this photo is from May of 1898.
A close up.
I have no information about this relic. It may have had something to do with a job she had. She mentions in her journal working in a couple of offices in downtown St. Louis. Apparently I didn’t photograph the contents. An oversight.
Remember the photo from May of 1898? As this invitation makes clear if Mr. H.J. Sturgis from Neosho had any intentions as far as Emma was concerned, he didn’t move fast enough.  Regarding Mr. Grumley…he’s about a mover!

The 1899 Mobile and Ohio Christmas card.  These folks certainly pull out all the stops during the holidays.  You have to wonder what the company party was like.
Inside the Christmas card. Grumley’s at the top of the Rate Department list. Nice catch, Emma.


To be continued.





  1. Doug, Let me correct myself: Mr. Hayes said he lived in Kirkwood. (Knew it wasn’t far.) The Gumblys (clearly) were from his mother’s side. Connection to your history/locations above? Rereading jogged my memory.

    • Hi Pickett, I met Bill Hayes too. I think it was earlier than 2008. He was a very nice fellow. He actually told me of this family trove that I have been mining lately. He also said that he had put his handprint in the wet mortar of the foundation of the home you mention on Elm when he was a child. It didn’t survive a modern tuckpointing job unfortunately. The home is actually made of concrete blocks. They have a rusticated face on one side to suggest stone. This was a very modern form of construction at that time. It had a big advantage over frame construction in that it is fireproof. There was an architect you may be familiar with who built (from memory) at least one (and probably more) poured concrete house early in the 20th century. Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s said the owners of the home were so confident in their buildings ability to withstand fire that they didn’t interrupt their dinner when a small one broke out somewhere else on the premises. There is another building of the same construction on the north side of the 7400 block of Flora. Much thanks for your recollections.

  2. Hi, Doug, I see that my sister has already replied regarding the stone Grumley house on Elm. It is built on the east end of Elm, 8th house on the north side. Only grey stone home on the block. I met Mr. Hayes about 10 years ago (quite old at the time living in Webster Groves) saying that his grandmother (Mrs. Grumley in stone home on Elm). We were selling the 2008 Maplewood history book at block party on Sutton when he stopped by. He shared that his grandfather had built that home…an early one on the block. (Must have been before the 1904 ones of my neighbors near the house.) It would be great to get that house marked historically—quite a substantial stone home as well as a connection to Sutton’s, Thomases, etc. I remember Mrs. Grumbly as a sweet little lady. And, yes, a Bruno son and his wife were “very” old folks and neighbors two houses west of the Grumbly home. He was a “mailman” before he retired here in Maplewood. Loved the summer tomatoes Mrs. Bruno gave us in summer. We knew we four kids could never get away with anything even in our own back yard next the the kind but vigilant neighbor!

  3. I’m crazy about the photograph Mr. Chubbuck made in the Crescent Hotel. It’s a gem. Needless to say I’m really enjoying your presentation of these Thomas family mementos, but this photo seems especially vivid and wonderful, Doug.

    • I agree, Tom. It is a wonderful image. The couples bodies are touching with their legs inclined towards each other which seems to suggest a closeness. I have no idea who Sturgis was. I wonder if he was a suitor. There is no doubt who the photographer was interested in…Emma. He placed her face smack in the center of the photo. Also I think we can assume the photographer was a professional by his printed name, town etc. on the back of the image. If that is so it seems to our modern eye that perhaps he should have noticed that a table top was taking up about 1/4 of the space. Best of all, there is Emma herself. She is relaxed and comfortable. She seems to be suppressing a smile. She comes through as a friendly person. One with whom I would love to have a conversation. It is nice to be able to give her some exposure 120 years after that image was made.

  4. I grew up on Elm in Maplewood. A elderly Mrs. Grumley lived 3 doors down. My mother would send me down with various food items from time to time. An elderly couple, the Brunos lived next door to us. He was the grandson of the owner of the Bruno farm. I have many memories of chatting with them over the fence. After Mr. Bruno died and Mrs. Bruno moved, Mrs. Bruno gave me her brass bed with horseshoe mattress and her vanity. A few years later I cried when her family asked my mother for it to be returned.

    • M. Cramer, That elderly lady was probably Emma if your recollection is before 1963 which is when she passed. Thank you for your memory of the Brunos as well. Now could you tell me and the rest of the readers just what is a horseshoe mattress?

        • Gary, I’d be curious to know that myself. The last years of their lives Kate and William had moved to a house on Flora. I’m fairly certain they left Ellendale Home Place about 1904. Thomas died in 1918 almost a year after Kate passed. I wonder if the family held off selling the front yard for development until after he was gone. At least part of the block was developed by a man named Swink. Thomas knew him. He lived nearby. Scheidt Hardware (called Wohlwend Hardware at first) began on that block in 1907 so there was at least one building that early. Swink was president of the Maplewood Bank which was at the other end of the block. Also there is an early 20th century house in what was the front yard between Ellendale Home Place and the commercial buildings. I’ll have to find out when that was built. I’ll try to put all of this in an upcoming post. Good question. Thanks.

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