How Maplewood Started

Community Center in 1941
In the year 1752, which is over 250 years ago, a man named Charles Gratiot left Lausanne, Switzerland and came to America. By 1777 he had established himself as the principal merchant of Cahokia now in Illinois. Soon Gratiot decided to move across the river to St. Louis in Spanish territory. It was here that he married Victorie Chouteau, daughter of Madame Marie Therese Chouteau, one of St. Louis's founding families. Gratiot and his family thereafter lived at the northwest corner of First and Chestnut Streets.

One of Gratiot's ledgers is still in existence. He wrote down, with a goosequill pen and in a beautiful hand, transactions of that early day and in it, can still be read, sales of almost every type of merchandise, from sacks of flour to flagons of rum. But Gratiot was not content to be merely a merchant. He wanted to accumulate as much land as possible while it could still be obtained for the asking from the Spanish Government, and in 1798 we see by the original document still preserved in our Historical Society in Forest Park, where Gratiot petitioned the Lieutenant Governor to grant him a tract no less than a league, or three miles square. This league square extends from Kingshighway to Big Bend Road and from the middle of Forest Park almost to Arsenal Street and thus includes much of our present day Maplewood.

On this 5,440 acres Gratiot promised to and no doubt did raise wheat, hemp, corn, and tobacco. He died in 1817 leaving his real estate to his children. Two years later, in 1819, a New Jersey man named James Sutton came to St. Louis to assist his brother, John Sutton, with a blacksmith's shop established at Second and Spruce Street in St. Louis. The brothers Sutton were not only horseshoers, but were also clever iron manufacturers as well. They made iron nails and induced people to use them instead of the wooden pegs that had previously held the timbers of a house together. They proved that iron tires on wooden cart wheels were really worth the price as were also iron plowshares, harrow teeth, iron railings, iron locks, and many other metal items that we now take for granted. They wrought the iron railing in front of our State Bank and convinced the authorities that iron locks instead of wooden beams should be used on the doors of the new jail at the southeast corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets.

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