Maplewood History: Shady Greenwood – Part Three


Let’s recap where we left off in Part Two.  As you may recall things began to head south on our man, Alfred W. Syrett, around the beginning of 1905 or possibly even a little earlier. In early February, an article reported that the sheriff had seized his home.  It seems attachment proceedings against him had been instituted by one of his partners in the Maple Green Company that had laid out the subdivision of Greenwood.

Meanwhile Syrett had disappeared.  His wife said he went to Chicago. But around Feb. 28, he told Captain McNamee (another partner of his in the Maple Green Co.) that he was headed to Jefferson City.  An article published on March 10, said he had been brought back from San Francisco.  By then there were eight charges against him including forgery, grand larceny and embezzlement.

Skip ahead to January 22, 1908 when an article in the STL Post-Dispatch was published with a drawing of his head.  He had just been brought back from San Francisco again having led detectives on a two year search through America, England and Canada. Three hundred people were accusing him of various crimes.  The earliest date mentioned was in August of 1903 when he sold the same properties to two different parties, one a doctor and the other the Bank of Maplewood.  This was a ruse he apparently used many times.

That same article reported that when he was arrested at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco he had in his company a pretty girl who had been working at the Antler Hotel in Colorado Springs when he met her.  This while his wife and children were staying with her parents in St. Louis.  An indignant Syrett claimed that the charge that he had “married a chambermaid in Frisco” was “a malicious falsehood.”  The nerve of some people!

The papers were pretty quiet about Syrett until the following article showed up on November 1, 1910.  Bear in mind that $100,000 in 1910 would be worth about $2,750,000 today.

On November 3, the following article about some of the police records having disappeared was published.  Interesting, especially since some of the policemen were partners in a few of his projects.

The next article was published in the St. Louis Star and Times the following day, November the 4th.

On November 29, the STL Post-Dispatch ran the following:

In the next article, that appeared in the St. Louis Star and Times on December 10, it seems that Syrett’s luck finally ran out.

Syrett was arrested first in 1905.  It took five years to put him in jail.  Now leap ahead five years to April 14, 1915 when the STL Post-Dispatch ran the next article.

This is hard to believe. He is at it again. And once again he has disappeared. His poor wife and children. What they must have gone through is difficult to imagine. Over a year later on June 21, 1916, this article from the STL Post-Dispatch reports that he has surfaced again.  This time in Detroit.

I don’t really know where this story ends.  But this next article, from October 2, 1920 in the STL Post-Dispatch, is where I’m going to end it.  Over four years passed between the last two articles.  Unbelievably, Syrett is still at it.  He certainly does make it tough on all of those who have misbehaved, served their time, learned from the experience and are determined not to repeat their past mistakes.  He is not one of them.

Believe it or not, I did not post every article that I found on Syrett.  It must seem like I did to the reader.  There is a lot more material on this plunger (as he was called in one of the articles) if one cares to look.

My next post will be on the Greenwood Historic District. Then we will revisit the Fraser Park neighborhood to take a look at the fascinating Mikkel Johansen home.  Little was know about this lovely home prior to the Fraser Park posts.  I like the way this blog generates its own material.  That’s the way it has been going for over a decade.  Tiny Maplewood.  400+ blog posts.

This is my least favorite time of year.  I hope everyone is able to stay warm.

Be careful.  Wear your two masks.  I’m not kidding.  My wife and I both are.  I am 71 years old and I do not want to get this virus.

We got many interesting comments on these Syrett posts.  Much thanks to everyone who took the time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Doug Houser           February 14, 2012




  1. What a totally fascinating saga! This could make a book or movie. Thank you for all your hard work of digging and piecing together this story of a stellar swindler and then sharing it with us all!

  2. Fascinating series. As a Greenwood resident, I’m really enjoying all of this One question from the clippings: where would 3871 Market be now? I know a lot of land/property in that part of the city was razed for highways.

  3. Many years ago, when I was a very young teller, I learned a valuable lesson. We had a group of bad checks passed, the guy was slick, drove a beautiful car, gold rings on his fingers. But was slimy as a worm, we caught him in the act, and he was arrested. Two weeks later, a man who I would describe as a biker, complete with tattoo’s and leather jacket, at a time before it was normal attire, came in and asked that if he paid back all the money that had been swindled, would we consider dropping the charges. He said the man was his father and had always been like this. He didn’t want his dad back in jail. I learned that day that you cannot judge anyone based on what they look like, and to always double check the overly friendly, and people who try to impress you with slick talk. Thanks Doug very interesting articles.

  4. I agree, Mark, especially this fellow. He had a real talent as a property developer and a salesman. Just wasn’t enough, I guess. Kurt Vonnegut said, “Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.” Syrett was a charmer. That nobody can deny.

    • I have to wonder if it had to do with the times and the wife’s situation or if he was that much of a charmer that his wife stayed with him. It was not like it was not a reoccurring pattern. Must have been something to the guy that I just don’t quite understand.

  5. have often thought about guys like this that if they had applied all that energy that it took to be devious and lying and thinking up schemes to a honest job he could have done so well for himself. I cannot understand how he could continue to keep up the line of storytelling that he must have had going on constantly in his head.
    And then there is the family, now up to 5 children. He must have been quite the charmer for his wife to continue to stay with him.

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