Tag Archives: St. Charles County Historical Society

How do I learn the history of my house?

When one buys an old home, they buy history! No matter if it is in a town, or a big city or out in the country, if its old – its historic in their eyes! I’ve been working on a project writing the history of 150 buildings on Saint Charles Main Street and even though I’ve been writing and researching for over 30 years – every experience teaches me more! Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned over the years on how to learn the history of your house, or farm, or cemetery…

You start with the legal history of the property. Its like the skeleton, and I’m not talking about ghosts! But to begin, you have to know the first owner, and each subsequent owner of the property and the dates that they owned it. Now if you are lucky enough to have one of those good old fashioned abstracts around, that the deed company provided when the property changed hands, this is great. What you want to create is the same thing, the transfer each time the property changed hands, who it was sold to, what was on the property, and when exactly this happened. This creates a timeline of the property. When buying a property the title company is doing this research but its expensive, but well worth it. This can take quite a bit of time in the County Recorder of Deeds office. In St. Charles County (MO) one can research the deeds online at https://stcharles.landrecordsonline.com/index.html at almost any time of day! This is a great advancement through technology. You will want to read the actual deed and make a copy to refer to. These old deeds can tell you a lot whether it was Main Street or a cemetery!

Once you have developed your timeline of who owned the property and those dates you will want to know more about those people!! That is the flesh and blood of the story. The lives of the people who lived or died on your property. There are so many sources for this information!!! You can spend forever developing the story of your property just researching the lives of all the people who lived there. You may even want to consider Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places if it qualifies, and it hasn’t already been done. Check first to see if its listed and if its eligible at https://dnr.mo.gov/shpo/ where there is a great group of people ready to answer questions!

Further steps in developing the history of your property:

  • Death and Taxes are the two things you can’t escape. Those records in St. Charles County (MO) can be found at https://lookups.sccmo.org/assessor where all the public records for property can be found. If its in St. Charles County they’ve got it. You will find the Deeds literally in the Recorder of Deeds office in the new St. Charles County Administration building on Second Street in St. Charles.
  • Newspaper articles can be found at either https://www.newspapers.com/ for a cost or many can be found in the archives of the State Historical Society of Missouri where they have microfilmed thousands of newspapers. To find out what newspapers they have see http://shsmo.org/newspaper/ or check out some of the great collections of newspapers at the St. Charles City-County Public Library at the Kathryn Linnemann branch through http://www.youranswerplace.org/ which is also free. What are you looking for? If the owner died a tragic death you will find it in his obituary, or if the house suffered damage in the cyclone of 1876, or maybe he did something famous that put him in the newspaper.
  • If you proficient in genealogy and have an Ancestry.com account try searching the families that lived there in the Public Family Trees. If you find your people, contact the owners of that tree. They will love knowing and having pictures of their ancestors house! You will want to connect with earlier families that lived in your house because only they can give you pictures of the Christmas tree in front of the mantle or Grandpa on the front porch. They are a resource like no other!

And a lot more information you are going to go in search of can be found at the St. Charles County Historical Society at 101 South Main in St. Charles. They are open Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays and Saturdays from 10am until 3 pm! You can go online too and visit them at https://scchs.org/ There you will find a wealth of information and volunteers that are great and willing to help you! Here is what you will find there, and some of this is for the entire St. Charles County…

  • Tax books! Nothing tells a story better than when the value of a property doubles or even triples because Grandpa built his house.
  • Abstracts from the old Emmons Abstract Company are fantastic and can help create that skeleton.
  • Property files which they keep on each address.
  • Photographs that can be searched of the families and sometimes the properties too.
  • Family files that help you flesh out those people that lived in your house.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps that show what your house looked like in certain years. They have all the St. Charles ones, but for those of you in O’Fallon here is a link http://dl.mospace.umsystem.edu/mu/islandora/object/mu%3A138917
  • Along the way you may even start to discover that an earlier resident was the Sheriff or did something really amazing or important and they will also be able to tell you a little more about that probably.
  • For those of you who just love old houses too I hear they are having a House Tour on September 9, 2017.

There is also an O’Fallon Historical Society at http://www.ofallonmohistory.org/ and a Wentzville Historical Society on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Wentzville-Historical-Society-125569122083/ and the Boone-Duden Historical Society in southern St. Charles County at http://www.boone-duden.com/ as well.

This will just get you started! Soon you will be posting on one of the local Facebook pages about St. Charles County  like St. Charles history of the past and events of today and telling all of your friends “Guess what happened in my house!” Let me know if you want help too, because I happen to know several great researchers.

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Original Plat of Saint Charles

The Story of an Old Map

Everyone loves old maps. They do a lot more than give directions. Historic maps can share what a place looked like at a certain point in time and transport us back to another era. There are some maps can do more – they can share a story as well. This is the story of a map that takes people back in time, to the City of St. Charles historic past, all the way back to its’ original plat.

A few years ago, while working at the St. Charles County Historical Society in 2010, a crinkled and faded was found. The secretary at that time, Cleta Flynn, was introducing me to some of the more reclusive collections tucked away in corners of the historic building, the City’s original Market House. Saying “if you like old maps, this large map case has a lot of interesting old ones.” I found one that was taped, creased, folded and flattened (something us archivists hate) that appeared to have not seen daylight in a hundred years – which was good for the map – but rather sad.

Keeping the old map handy for the next few years, it would be used for study from time to time. Trying to unlock its secrets, mapthe map did not appear to have any date on it, nor did it have a signature to recognize who had drawn this treasure trove of information. Realizing it was a map of St. Charles, and that it was old (which could be recognized by its ink and paper) we became determined to learn more. It was old, but just how old? And who had drawn it? And why? What was its’ purpose and who was the information for? This wasn’t a map for directions.

The map clearly laid out St. Charles as a grid of streets and cross streets, giving their names. The street names were old and historic – Barbour, Chauncey, Pike and Clay. Over the years we would pull the map out whenever a researcher needed information about early St. Charles. The names of the owners in each of these blocks became very important. It became obvious that if we were to know just when the map was made, perhaps knowing when the owners should be found on such a map, we could possibly discern a date. And so every time we were able, we used the map, taking great care.

Finally we were able to pin the map down to the era of circa 1817, give or take a few years. That is when knowing its importance and wanting to make certain of its preservation, the map was sent off for conservation by Lisa Fox, Head Conservator at the Missouri State Archives. She and her wonderful team worked their magic, carefully removing the old tape, creases, and dirt to reveal an even more magical piece of history. The map, approximately fourteen by seventy-two inches was then digitized in order to enable everyone to delve into its history.

Because of this great work, the map is carefully preserved, yet made available to everyone. Since then, I wanted to know more of the maps other great mysteries. Who was its’ creator and why? Sometimes, when trying to discover the stories found in old documents and maps, you have to travel to the time in which the people lived. So I went to the City’s Record Book A and on Page 8 found this:

Authorizing and ordering the limits of the Town of St. Charles to be estendd [sic] according to the original plan of said town and providing for and ordering a certain proportion of the town commons to be surveyed and divided into lots and regularly numbered which saw lots so surveyed and numbered, together with the Town lots as Extended surveyed & numbered were ordered to be Leased at public sale by the Clerk of the board on the 10th day of September 1821.

City Council Book A Page 8
City of St. Charles Minutes, Book A, Page 8 Microfilm Reel 977.839 Kathryn Linnemann Library

 

Up until 1818, they had been working with a map drawn by Soulard, according to their Minutes. Then there is a bit of a gap,  and then is the above entry. As they immediately start selling and leasing these additional lots, which are NOT shown on this map, this indicates that this map is perhaps the one they started with. During this same time period, they have also employed the surveyors Prospect K. Robbins and Nathan Boone. Five pages later, Prospect K. Robbins is paid $20 for surveying completed on the 18th of  September 1821. Both Robbins and Boone had worked together before, as a 3 man team was needed – Chain man, Link Man and Surveyor. The third team member may have been James Findley who had settled in Troy when it was founded, as early deeds for this same time period refer to a map made by Findley.

And as you begin to understand the history, the next question becomes “why?” The old map that I was using told me a)the layout of the streets and gave a name and a survey number of the owners of the land. It told me about people who owned land in St. Charles. St. Charles had just become the temporary State Capitol and people were flooding in. The names of the streets running parallel to the Missouri River are Main, Second, High and Fourth. The cross streets run from Barbour, which is the original southern city limits to Tecumseh Street on the north. Buildings are not shown, and the land measurement used is the old French foot. The name of the owner, if the lot is owned by someone other than the City, is referred to as a survey number in a personal Surveyor’s book.

When the map was restored and processed by the State Archives conservator in 2013, the dates I had suggested of circa 1820 were also confirmed in their examination of the paper and ink used. Lynn Morrow, with the Missouri State Archives had examined the map before retiring that year. He also suggested that a friend of his in St. Charles, Robert Myers, might be able to shed more light on the mysteries of the old map. When Robert and I met, I took along a copy of “the map”. When the map had been returned to the Archives, I had obtained a print copy for my own research at the same time I had had one made for the Society. Theirs hangs on the wall in the archives. Mine has become well traveled.

Seeing “the old map” Myers asked “if I had ever seen the map in the City offices?” to which I responded no. Formerly Myers had worked for the City of St. Charles and presently works for St. Charles County. He graciously set up an appointment for me to see this other map, and where I would also meet Chuck Lovelace. Not knowing what to expect, I was totally shocked when I was shown a framed copy of another very old map that was almost identical! And it had a seal that attested to being a true and authentic hand drawn (in 1871) copy of “The Original Plat of the City of St. Charles”.While this new map discovered is wonderful with much darker ink, and even more information, it was further confirmation of the first map’s identity. The information on this map, matched exactly, block by block. This was the Original Plat, perhaps a working copy for the surveyor, although which one drew it we don’t know yet.

Working to compare the handwriting of Auguste Chouteau, Antoine Soulard, Nathan Boone, Prospect Robbins and Joseph Evans (who did receive $50 from the City on July 13, 1822 for surveying) has not yet provided an “aha!” moment yet. The closest so far are Nathan Boone and Prospect Robbins.

This map transports us back to town of St. Charles that has emerged from the early settlement founded by Louis Blanchette in 1769. It has grown past its territorial days as a fur traders outpost, and reached a new glory as important State figures walk these same streets we do today. These people were important in that day as the street names affirm: Barbour, Pike, Clay, Madison and Jefferson. There is so much to yet be learned.