Maplewood History: Rarer Than Rare – Mind blowing JC Sutton Artifacts Resurface


Totally unexpected, rare artifacts from the farm of James Compton Sutton, Sr. for your viewing pleasure!

A little over a year ago I made two related posts, the first of which was titled, Rarer Than Rare.  The subject was not only an astonishing photograph of James Compton Sutton, unseen by anyone in our town for probably over 100 years, but also an assortment of Sutton family and community related, images, documents and artifacts.  I consider these two posts to be so amazing that I want you to take another look at them.  You don’t have to read the whole thing but just so you appreciate what you are about to see.

Rarer than Rare

Rarer Than Rare – A Followup

This stuff is scarce, scarcer than scarce.  Yet, here we are… able to view a few more important artifacts from the history of our town!  And we never would have seen any of this were it not for the generosity of Ms. Laura Varilek.  Thank you, Ma’am.

This is the first image of James Compton Sutton, Sr. that I ever knew of. It is from the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County.


A little over three years ago I made a post titled, “The Thrill Is Not Gone.” (Apologies to BB King).  The subject was a collection of images and artifacts from a Sutton descendant, Dan Shelton.  Amongst them was only the second image I had ever seen of  James Sutton, Sr. and his wife, Ann L. Wells.  This knocked my socks off.  It truly did.  I just don’t expect to find things this rare.

We owe Dan Shelton much thanks for this superb image of James Compton Sutton, Sr. and his wife, Ann L. Wells.


Then, as I mentioned above, a little over a year ago, contact was made with another descendant of the Sutton family, Laura Varilek.  Once again, I was blown away by the artifacts that she and her branch of the family have preserved.  Included with them was this absolutely fabulous image of Sutton, Sr., the third known.

Unfortunately we don’t have a date on any of these Sutton images. James Sr. passed in 1877 – 31 years before the 1909 Plat Book was published.  Much thanks to Laura Varilek for sharing this image.


These three images of James, Sr. make a nice lead in to the most recent images that Ms. Varilek has generously shared.  She is a great-great granddaughter of Sarah Wilgus Sutton Humphreys Harrison and a great-granddaughter of her daughter, Sarah S. Harrison Holmes.  The next images are of a sterling silver hairbrush that belonged to one of those Sarah’s.

There is some sort of a stamp on the handle. I wonder if this could be used to help date this brush?


Ms. Varilek says that along with the hairbrush she found these other items at her parents home.  Some have labels identifying them as having come from the farm of James C. Sutton.

First up is this sickle. I have actually tried to use one of these. All I can say is it must not have been sharp. The label on the handle reads, “Used on James C. Sutton farm, St. Louis Co. 1833-77.
I suppose this smith-made item could have a lot of different uses. Somewhere in my dim memory I have seen one like it called a pot hook.  I welcome any other opinions as to what this may have been used for.


These next three images go together so keep that in mind.  I could have connected them with Photoshop but it might have reduced the size since it would have made a long horizontal image.

The horseshoe is easy to recognize but can you guess what the others may have been used for?
I don’t know what any of these were for.
Finally, why would these horseshoes have been welded together and nickel-plated? It is a mystery to me.
Here is a closer look at that first horseshoe. The label reads, “Lofty Gold Dust Race Horse owned by Jas. C. Sutton (date illegible) 1833 or 53 maybe, St. Louis Co., Mo.”
In that first image with multiple objects, this is right next to the horseshoe. All that can be made out on the torn label is “…ron …used on…St. Louis, Co.” Does this give it away?
This one is what you came to see. It is a branding iron once owned by James Compton Sutton, Sr. Is that cool or what?


It will be hard to top that one.  A branding iron once owned by the premier pioneer settler of our community!  Holy smokes!  It’s his initials.  Followers of this site ought to know that James Sutton was, by trade, a blacksmith!  He may have made this iron!  Seriously, he could have but I doubt it.  I suspect that by the time he was wealthy enough to be fielding these race horses, he most likely had someone else doing the iron work but you never know.

Thanks again to Laura Varilek for these amazing images.  We truly appreciate your taking the time to photograph these items and sending us the images.  If you would like to find a new home for these items, might I suggest the Missouri Historical Society that operates the History Museum in Forest Park.  I’d be happy to connect you with someone there.

If you can, send something to help the poor folks in Ukraine.

Doug Houser     April 11, 2022