History of St. Louis, Missouri
From: History of Daviess County, Missouri
Birdsall & Dean
Kansas City, Missouri 1882
It was nearly a century and a quarter ago that St: Louis's first arrival proclaimed the site of the future metropolis
of the Mississippi Valley. In 1762 M. Pierre Laclede Liquesto 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 knew 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 States army, and the agent
of the United States, received from Don Carlos Default Delapus, a surrender of the post of St. Louis and the Territory
of tipper 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.
BOUNDARIES AND INCORPORATION
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 brick house was 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
EXTENSION OF CITY LIMITS.
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.
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, Dent down in the general crash, but the
stream was only temporaily 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.
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. Eadshaving made known his plans for thisimportant 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 opened to the railway companies. This was another era which marked a rapid Progresso 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.
BONDHOLDERS AND COUPON-CLIPPERS.
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 Aliens, 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 cass 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 faith on the railroads depriving a free water course of the wealth of her offering has been simply one of astonishment.
ST. LOUIS PARKS.
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. Corondelet Park has an area of 183.17 acres, O'Fallan 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.
BUILDINGS AND BANKS.
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 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 cast resources or such rapid and cheap facilities for distribution. Elven
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, 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.
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 center of the continent: The center or receiving point for the greatest amount of cereals any city can handle, and the stock center also of the country, St. Louis may, with the opportunities within her grasp, well be called the "Future Great."
CHAPTER OF CRITICISM
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 today one of the railway kings of
the country, Jay Gould, of New York, has grasped the scepter 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.
Debt of St. Louis, January 1, 1881, $22,507,000; rate of taxation on the $100, $1.75.
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