History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

 History of St. Louis

Her First Settlement � Arrival of the First Steamboat � Removal of the Capital to Jefferson City � When Incorporated � Population by Decades � First Lighted by Gas � Death of one of her Founders, Pierre Chouteau � Cemeteries Financial Crash � Bondholders and Coupon-clippers � Value of Real and Personal Property � Manufactures � Criticism.

It was nearly a century and a quarter ago that St. Louis's first arrival proclaimed the site of this future metropolis of the Mississippi Valley. In 1762 M. Pierre Laclede Liguest and his two companions, Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, landed upon the site which was destined to become a great city. They were the avant-couriers and principal members of a company which had certain privileges secured to them by the Governor of the Territory of Louisiana, which then included the whole of Missouri; that of trading with the Indians, and which was known as the Louisiana Fur Company, with the privilege further granted of establishing such posts as their business might demand west of the Mississippi and on the Missouri rivers. They had been on a prospecting tour and know something of the country, and on February 15, 1774, Laclede with the above named companions, took possession of the ground which is now the city of St. Louis. They established a trading post, took formal possession of the country, and called their post St. Louis. In 1768 Captain Rios took possession of the post as a part of Spanish territory ceded to it by France by the treaty of Paris, and it remained under the control of successive Spanish Governors until March 10, 1804. The Spanish government, by the treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800, retroceded the territory to France, and, by purchase, France ceded the whole country to the United States, April 30, 1803. In October of the same year Congress passed an act approving the purchase, and authorizing the President to take possession of the country or Territory of Louisiana. This was done February 15, 1804, when Captain Amos Stoddard, of the United Staes army, and the agent of the United States, received from Don Carlos Dehault Delassus, a surrender of the post of St. Louis and the Territory of Upper Louisiana. On the 10th of March the keys to the Government house and the archives and public property were turned over or delivered to the representative of the United States, the Spanish flag was lowered, the stars and stripes thrown to the breeze, accompanied with the roar of artillery and music, and the transfer was complete. In 1805 St. Louis had its first post-office established, and the place was incorporated as a town in 1809. It did not grow very fast, but was the recognized headquarters for the territory of the west and northwest. The French, from Indiana and other points had settled there, and the town was decidedly French in its character and population. The Missouri Fur Company, which had its headquarters there, was organized in 1808, of which Pierre Chouteau was the head. His associates were Manuel Lisa, Wm. Clark, Sylvester Labadie, and others, and such familiar names as the Astors, Bent, Sublette, Cabanne, General Ashly and Robert Campbell were prominently identified with the town and its progress. The first paper was issued July 2, 1808. [86-89]






In 1812 the Territory of Louisiana, or that part north, was changed and named the Territory of Missouri, and was given Territorial rights, with a representation on the floor of Congress. St. Louis was the seat of the Territorial government until 1820, and the first legislature met in that town, and part of its proceedings was the removal of the seat of the government to St. Charles, where it remained until located at Jefferson City in 1826. In 1822 St. Louis began to take on more style, and was incorporated as a city December 9th of that year. There had been a bank established in 1817, and quite a large number of business houses were built and occupied, and a number of loan offices chartered. When St. Louis became an American city her population was 925; this was in 1804. When the Territory was named Missouri, and she was the seat of government, in 1812, her population had reached 2,000. William Deckers laid the first pavement in 1818. A ferry boat had been started in 1804. The first steamboat arrived in 1817. It was a low-pressure steamboat, built at Pittsburgh, and named the General Pike. It arrived August 2d, and was greeted by the entire population, who gazed upon her with wonder and astonishiment. The Indians were a badly scared crowd, and could not be induced to come near it. The first steamboat stemmed the tide of the Missouri in May, 1819, and the same year the first steamboat from New Orleans put in an appearance at St. Louis. It was twenty-seven days en route. [89]






In 1820 the population had reached 4,928, and when incorporated in 1822 was believed to number about 5,000, not much immigration having come in. The boundary lines of the city when she received her charter were defined as follows: The line commencing at the middle of Mill Creek just below the gas works, thence west to Seventh Street, and up Seventh Street to a point due west of "Roy's Tower," thence to the river. The city plat embraced 385 acres of ground.

The first church was built in 1824, and was of the Presbyterian denomination. The second was an Episcopal Church, erected in 1825. A new court-house was built in 1827, and also a market-house. These old-time landmarks have long since disappeared, and no mark is left to tell the tale of their being. The spot or location is recorded, but what that availeth is not of comprehension to the generation of to-day. [91]


The first brick house is said to have been erected in 1814. The first mayor of the city was Wm. C. Lane. The St. Louis University was founded in 1829; the Catholic Cathedral was completed in 1832 and consecrated by Bishop Rosetti.

In 1833 the population of St. Louis was about six thousand, and the taxable property, real and personal, aggregated $2,745,000. St. Louis, like all other cities, felt the blighting effects of the financial crash of 1837, still her progress was not wholly checked. Her vitality was great, and her resources spread over the territory, in many cases, out of the reach of the troubles of the times. Her fair trade was immense, and the crash had little to do with that, so that while she felt the depression in her financial circles, her commercial prosperity was in no wise checked. There is very little more in the history of St. Louis to record than the noting of her general prosperity and steady onward progress for the next decade.

Her population in 1840 had risen to 16,469, and in 1844, 34,140. The population had more than doubled in four years. Fine buildings had arisen in place of the old fair warehouses of the early French settlers. Stately residences appeared in the suburbs; and in all that gave promise of a great and influential city, she had advanced and was advancing rapidly. The Mercantile Library was founded in 1848, and gas had been introduced the year previous, the city being first lighted on the night of November 4, 1847. In the great cholera year, 1849, the disease assumed an epidemic form, and of that dread scourge the people had a fearful experience. The progress of St. Louis had been handsomely commemorated on the eighty-third anniversary of its founding, the date being February 15, 1847. Among the living, and the only survivor of the memorable trio who first landed and located the city, was the venerable Pierre Chouteau, who, with his brother, had accompanied Laclede Liguest, to locate a trading-post for the fur company of which they were members. He was a prominent figure in the celebration, and though at an advanced age, he was in the enjoyment of his full faculties, and was keenly alive to the wonderful progress of the city in the eighty-three years of its life. In 1849, the epidemic year, all that was mortal of Pierre Chouteau was consigned to its last resting-place, and with him all living memory ceased of the first settlement and of the rise and progress of the city. From that date history could record but written facts; the oral record had ceased to exist. His elder brother, Auguste Chouteau, had preceded him to the mystic beyond, having departed this life in February, 1829.






The city limits had been greatly extended in 1841, embracing an area of two thousand six hundred and thirty acres, instead of the three hundred and eighty-five acres in December, 1822. This showed the wonderful growth of the city, which, even then, was contracted, and its suburbs were fast filling up.

The Institution for the Blind was incorporated in 1851, and the population had increased to 94,000 in 1852. [92]


St. Louis took pride in her "cities of the dead," for she has several cemeteries with wooded dales and sylvan retreats, well suited as the last resting-place of those whose remains are deposited in the "Silent City." We will speak here of only two, because of the care taken of them, their size, and their rich and diversified surroundings, which give them a lonely, yet pleasant, look to all who visit them. The Bellefontaine was purchased by an association of gentlemen who secured an act of incorporation in 1849, and at once commenced the improvement of the ground. In 1850 the first sale of lots took place. The cemetery comprises two hundred and twenty acres of land. The Calvary Cemetery has 320 acres, of which 100 are laid out and improved. This resting-place of the dead was purchased in 1852, by the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Louis, and like the first above mentioned, is a lovely and secluded spot, well suited for the purpose intended.


In 1854 the terrible accident, known as the Gasconade Bridge disaster, occurred, when many prominent citizens of St. Louis lost their lives.


In 1857 the financial crash had a greater effect upon St. Louis than the one of 1837. Her merchants had been prosperous and extended their line of credits, and the rapidly growing city had brought many new and venturesome people, who, believing in its future, had embarked in business enterprises which required a few more years of steady rise and progress to place them on a stable foundation. These, of course, went down in the general crash, but the stream was only temporarily dammed, and the debris was soon cleared away. The flood-tide had set toward the west, and the greater the crash, the greater swelled the tide of immigration toward the setting sun.

The era of a healthy, and it would seem, permanent prosperity, again dawned upon the metropolis of the Mississippi Valley in 1861, and this time not even the civil war, which then began to cast its baleful shadow over the Union, checked its onward career, and at the opening of this terrible drama St. Louis claimed a population of 187,000 souls. The war added to its financial and commercial prosperity, for it became the entrepot of supplies for the army of the southwest, and the headquarters of army operations. The valuation of real estate and personal property, which had only been a little rising two, and a half millions of dollars in 1833, was now, in 1860, $73,765,670. [93]

What the war added was more in the line of its financial and commercial development than in the spreading of its area or the building up of its waste places, but when war's fierce alarm had ceased the tide began to flow westward, and with it came the building mania, for homes and houses had to be provided for the rush of newcomers.

Chicago, which had nearly monopolized the railroads as an objective point, seemed now to have secured all that would pay, and St. Louis became the focus of all eyes. Kansas, Colorado and the Southwest began to loom up in its agricultural and mineral resources; the vast quantities of land which had been voted by venal congressmen to great railroad corporations were now thrown upon the market, and Kansas became a leading State for the attraction of the emigrant. In this more railroads were necessary, and the great crossing of the Mississippi was at St. Louis. Then the bridging of that great river commenced, Capt. Eads having made known his plans for the important work soon after the close of the war. The jubilee was not enjoyed, however, until 1874, when, on July 4th, the bridge was completed and open to the railway companies. This was another era which marked a rapid progress in the future city of the valley. Sixteen separate and distinct lines of railway centered at St. Louis with completion of the bridge, and from those lines and the river traffic, St. Louis was evidently sure of her future. [94]






It was only when a concentration of wealth took a new departure that the glorious future which appeared so near became so far. The energy and enterprise of the people had, in a large measure, previous to the war, been used toward building up the city, and embarking in manufactures, etc., but soon after the war that wealth was turned into government bonds and the energy and enterprise were concentrated by these rich holders in cutting coupons off of these same bonds every three months, and with few exceptions they are still at the exhaustive work. Whatever of advanced progress has been given to St. Louis the past ten years, outside of her Allens, Stannards, and perhaps a score of others, has been by the new arrivals. It was, in '69 or '70, that her local papers were prospecting on the enervating influence that a hundred first-class funerals would have on the material prosperity of the "Future Great." The light and airy business of coupon-clipping had become epidemic, and millions of dollars which ought to have been invested in manufacturing and other enterprises, were sunk in the maelstrom of government bonds, and, so far as the material advancement of the city was concerned, might as well have been buried in the ocean. Still St. Louis improved, for new arrivals of the progressive order, seeing an opening, would drop in, and those who could not clip coupons for a business worked on as their limited capital would permit. And so it was found that in 1870 real estate had reached $119,080,800, while personal property was $147,969,660. In 1875 the value of real estate had advanced $12,000,000, reaching the gross sum of $131,141,000, and personal property $166,999,660, a gain of nearly $20,000,000 in five years. The valuation January 1, 1879, was, of real estate, $140,976,540, and personal property, $172,829,980, or a total valuation of real and personal property of $313,806,520, with a population of about 340,000. Great advancement had taken place in blocks of magnificent buildings, in the increase of her wholesale trade, in the area of her city limits, in the enlargement of her working population, so that the coupon-clippers who had stood at the front in 1870 now held a rear position, and were rather looked down upon as drones of society, wrapped in self and the vanity of self-importance, and of little use to the progress or to the detriment of the great city. Railroads run to every point of the compass. Her tunnel and the union depot had become a fixed fact, macadamized roads led to all parts of the country, miles upon miles of streets were paved and sidewalks laid with substantial brick or stone, street cars to every part of the city, and the river-front flashing with traffic, which, in point of development, has exceeded the most sanguine expectation of those who had believed in its future, while the expressions of those who had built their fith on the railroads depriving a free water-course of the wealth of her offering has been simply one of astonishment. [95]






In one respect St. Louis has exhibited commendable sense in having secured a number of parks, breathing-places for her industrial population and pleasant drives for her wealthy citizens. There are no less than seventeen of these beautiful places, many of them small, but so scattered about the city as to be convenient to all her citizens. Her great park, which is called "Forest Park," has 1,372 acres, and the city has expended in purchases, laying out and beautifying the grounds, nearly one million of dollars. Carondelet Park has an area of 183.17 acres; O'Fallon Park has an area of 158.32 acres, and Tower Grove Park 270 acres. These are the largest; the others represent but a small number of acres each. Of the smaller ones, Lafayette Park leads with twenty-six acres, while the smallest, Jackson Place, has less than two acres.


There were 1,318 brick and 369 frame buildings put up in 1878, at a cost of $3,000,000. A very fine custom-house is approaching completion. They had, January 1, 1879, twenty-nine banks in St. Louis, five of which were national banks. The combined capital of all was $12,406,019. This shows a healthy progress, but one of not more than ordinary in the line of building improvements. It should have reached ten millions to show that advanced progress becoming a city which claims it is destined to become the central sun of the great Mississippi Valley.

In 1878 there were 2,291 arrivals of steamboats, and 2,348 departures. The commerce of the river was some half a million of dollars. The new barge lines and the wheat movement down the Mississippi for the year 1881, including her other river traffic, will undoubtedly double the business of 1878. The figures are not in, but the first half year has made a wonderful increase. Her commerce is steadily improving. There is not an article of domestic produce but has rapidly advanced in the amount received the past few years. The cereals and stock, cattle, sheep, and hogs, also the roots and vegetables, have rapidly grown in quantity. St. Louis is the greatest mule market in the world. [97]

In its public buildings, the United States custom-house stands first�a massive building of white granite, occupying a whole square, and when finished will have cost $6,000,000. The business in the custom department will exceed two million dollars the first year of its opening. The Chamber of Commerce is another magnificent structure just completed at a cost of $1,800,000. The county court-house, which also takes a square of ground, and is built in the shape of a Greek cross, with a fine dome, cost $2,000,000. The county building known as the "Four Courts," and the city prison, is a beautiful three-story-and-a-half basement structure, which cost $1,250,000. The Polytechnic Institute cost $800,000, and the magnificent Southern Hotel, finished, and occupied May, 1881, cost $1 250,000 for building, and furniture.





There are public buildings of lesser note, many private structures of magnificent proportions, with a wealth of beautiful surroundings; theaters, hotels, etc., all that go to make up a great city; school-houses of ample proportions; churches beautiful in architectural design of Grecian, Doric, and Gothic, many of them being very costly in their build. One hundred and seventy-one churches are found within her limits, and the denominations cover all that claim the Protestant or Catholic faith. The Cathedral on Walnut Street is the oldest church edifice, but not the most costly, in the city.

The public school library was founded in 1872, and numbers 36,000 volumes. The Mercantile Library has 42,090 volumes, and contains not only many valuable literary works, but many choice works of art. [98]


In this line St. Louis is fast reaching a commanding situation. So long as railroads commanded the freighting facilities of the city, and the great highway to the sea which Providence had placed at her door was ignored for man's more expensive route by rail, St. Louis remained but an infant in manufacturing enterprises�and these had succumbed in many instances to the power of monopolies, or to the tariff of freight which took off all the profits, and her more eastern competitors were the gainers. But in the last two years Nature's great highway to the, sea has begun to be utilized, and St. Louis has all at once opened her eyes to the fact that she has a free railway of water to the sea, the equal of twenty railroads by land, and it only needs the cars (the barges) to revolutionize the carrying trade of the Mississippi and Missouri valleys. The track is free to all. He who can build the cars can have the track ready at all times for use. The Father of Waters lies at her door; a mountain of iron is but a few miles away; coal, also, lies nearly at her gates; and while she has slept the sleep of years, these vast opportunities might have made her, ere this, the equal of any manufacturing city on the globe. She will become such, for no other city can show such vast resources or such rapid and cheap facilities for distribution. Even the coupon-clippers are waking up, and believe there are higher and nobler aims for man than the lavish expenditure of wealth in indolence and selfish pleasure. The surplus wealth of St. Louis, if invested in manufacturing enterprises, would make her the wonder of the continent. She may realize this some day; when she does, she will wonder at the stupidity and folly that has controlled her for so many years. Foundries, machine-shops, rolling-mills, cotton and woolen factories, car-shops, these and a thousand other industries are but waiting for the magic touch of an enterprising people to give them life. [99]





The year 1882 opens auspiciously for a new life. St. Louis now begins to consider the question of progress from a more enlightened standpoint, and with a look of intelligent action. It may take a little time yet to drive sleep from her eyelids and sloth from her limbs, but  it looks now more than ever as though she would accomplish this and wake up to the full fruition of her great opportunities�in fact, to her manifest destiny. Missouri ought to be proud of St. Louis, but that cannot be while sloth lies at the portals of her gates and the dry-rot of old fogyism guides her present course.

The brewery business of St. Louis is one of her leading departments of trade. She has the largest establishment in the world for bottling beer, a building two hundred feet long and thirty feet broad. The manufacture, of wine is another important business which has assumed immense proportions. Distilling, rectifying and wholesale dealing in liquors is another branch that adds a large revenue to the taxable wealth of the city. There is nothing in the manufacturers' line but what could sustain a healthy growth in St. Louis, if even plain business sense is at command. Her future may be said to be all before her, for her manufacturing interests are yet in their infancy. She can become the manufacturing centre of the continent. The centre or receiving point for the greatest amount of cereals any city can handle, and the stock centre also of the country, St. Louis may, with the opportunities within her grasp, well be called the "Future Great." [101]


But the name "Future Great " is used at this time by her rivals in tones of derision. That she should have ignored so many years the great and bountiful resources nature has so lavishly bestowed upon her, aye! it would seem, even spurned them through an ignorance as dense as it is wonderful, is very strange, and has brought a stigma of disgrace upon the character of her people. This action on her part has not escaped the notice of men of wealth, of towering ambition, of nerve force and of unlimited energy, and to-day one of the railway kings of the country, Jay Gould, of New York, has grasped the sceptre of her commercial life and rules with a grasp of steel, and through his iron roadways run the commercial life-blood which flows through the arteries of her business life. That this neglect of her great opportunities should have placed it in the power of one man to become the arbiter of her fate is as humiliating as it has proved costly. Millions have poured into the coffers of Jay Gould, who, seeing this vast wealth of resources lying idle or uncared for, had the nerve to seize and the far-seeing judgment and enterprise to add them to his own personal gains. The world can admire the bold energy of the man, and the genius that can grasp and guide the commercial destinies of an Empire, but it is none the less a blot upon the fair name, capital and enterprise of a great city, and should mantle the cheek of every St. Louisian with shame. The writer feels all that he has here written, but his pride as a Missourian cannot blind him to the faults of her people.





St. Louis is an old city and there has been much written of her extraordinary progress, and yet whatever that progress is, has been caused far more by her people being compelled to take advantage of the opportunities within their reach than making such by their own energy and enterprise. If she has grown in population and in wealth, it is because she could not help herself. After forty years of life, as late as 1812, the currency of St. Louis was still confined to peltries, trinkets, maple sugar, honey, beeswax, venison, hams, etc., in fact, all barter and trade, and yet those who have compiled her local history talk wildly of her destiny and prophesy wonders for her in the near future. It is best to look at St. Louis as she is to-day. It is to be hoped that her future growth may not take pattern after her past, and that the now men who have taken her commercial future into their keeping, will still exhibit that towering genius for the development of St. Louis that has characterized them in their eastern home. [102-103]

The future of St. Louis would seem to be one of a rapidly growing city, not only in population, but in commercial and financial strength, as though founded upon a rock. This is the present outlook. While the genius of Gould and his associates has secured millions of dollars by their business ventures, there are other millions still left to build up and add to her prosperity and greatness if rightly managed.

The tremendous energy of Gould has astonished the sleepy St. Louisians as much as if they had been treading upon live coals, and in waking up they have discovered that their sleep and indolence have cost them several millions. Gould, Keene, Dillon, Sage and their associates do not work for nothing, and the people who claim the "Future Great" as their abiding place should lose no time in taking a firm hold of the present and guiding her toward the great destiny, which awaits her, with the winning cards in their own hands. The New Yorkers have shown them a will and a way, and now let them practice the lesson it has cost them so much to learn.





It has been over a century since St. Louis took a start into life, and it is quite that since the ring of the pioneer's axe and the sharp crack of his rifle reverberated through her streets. The slow progress of pioneer life has departed and modern civilization, with the light of genius for its guide, is rapidly progressing and recording history for future generations. When in 1817 the first steamboat landed at St. Louis, the possibilities of what the future might be began to dawn upon the minds of her people, and that year many be well proclaimed as the dividing line between the old and the new era of St. Louis's destiny. From that day she looked forward, not backward, and while up to that time she seemed to have lived in the past, it was the future before her that then riveted her attention. She kept up a lively step to the music of progress for several years, and the Father of Waters and the mighty Missouri with their fleets of water-craft attested her enterprise, and she grew apace. But in a few years she again fell asleep, and slept until the snort of the iron horse awoke her rudely from slumber. She hid grown even while she slept, because the great water-way which passed her door had become the pathway of a mighty business. But this grand highway to the sea which had nourished her while she slept was at once forgotten or relegated to the rear, and her awakened energies were given to the prancing steed whose breath was fire, that made the earth tremble at his strength, and whose speed was like the wines of the wind. The railroad fever had taken possession of the Queen City of the Valley. She grew apace and for years she has reveled in the new love, and the grand old Father of Waters which had nurtured her into life was forgotten. But she has again awakened from her quiet dreams, and the iron horse which had lulled her to repose was found while bringing millions to her door to have taken millions more away. And in this year of 1882 she opens her eyes to her true destiny, and the grand Old Father of Waters, which she had striven to drive from her, was once more recognized as the very foundation or bed-rock of her commercial life, the power that was to keep in check the absorption of her wealth, from the monopolizing influence and insatiable maw of the railway kings. She now proudly points to the grand old river, and the fleets of barges borne upon its bosom filled with the wealth of an empire, and calls on her sister, Chicago, to look at this glorious sight. The "Garden City" has already snuffed the battle from afar, and is ready to struggle for a commercial supremacy in which there are literally millions, for nature has done the work, and St. Louis will win. The "City by the Lake" is deserving, and had she the opportunities which have lain so long, dormant in possession of her rival, would have been to-day the wonder of the world. But it is the rugged path that brings out man's energy and endurance, not the smooth road. So it is with cities. And so the majestic Mississippi flows on, bearing upon its waters the riches of the valley, and pouring into the lap of the Queen City upon its banks millions upon millions of wealth. If the spirit of 1882 shall continue, then St. Louis will soon become the pride of the State. In reality she will be the "Future Great" of the American Continent. She that stands on the bank of this great inland sea, the commerce of an empire flowing at her feet, her sails in every clime and country, she is indeed to become a great city, the arbiter of the commercial world and the Queen City whose wealth, commanding influence, culture and refinement will attest the greatness of her people and command the homage of the world. Such is to be the "Future Great" city, St. Louis. [105]


Debt of St. Louis, January 1, 1881, $22,507,000; rate of taxation on the $100, $1.75.

The receipts of all kinds of grain, 51,958,177 bushels.

Twenty-four flouring-mills manufactured 2,077,625 barrels of flour in 1880.

The receipts of cotton for 1880 were 496,570 bales.

There were 12,846,169 pounds of tobacco manufactured into plug, fine-out and smoking tobacco.

There were 330,935,973 feet of lumber received in 1880.

St. Louis received for the year 1880, 41,892,356 bushels of coal. Seven elevators have a total capacity of 5,650,000 bushels, and three more are being erected and one other enlarged.

The aggregate of bank clearing for 1880 amounted to $1,422,918,978.

The post-office distributed in 1880, 43,781,844 pieces, weighing 4,250,000 pounds. Post-office orders issued numbered 53,337, and represented $879,943.90.

The value of school property is $2,851,133.

The steel bridge cost $13,000,000, and tunnel $1,500,000. [106]

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